Exclusive Interview: John Carpenter

CraveOnline: The film of yours that really “got” me was In the Mouth of Madness. I saw it when I was 16, and after seeing it, I couldn’t tell what was real anymore.

John Carpenter: Oh man! Yeah, that one was excellent. I’m really happy about that.


That one is more philosophical than some of your other films. Did the weird metaphysical stuff attract you?

I was drawn to the fact that it was really Lovecraft. It wasn’t “by day,” but it was really Lovecraft. I just thought “that’s great.” Because there really hasn’t been a good Lovecraft movie. Well, mine, but that wasn’t really picked up. Mike DeLuca write the screenplay, and there’s a lot of love in it for Lovecraft, and for old horror and science fiction movies. So I’m happy we did it.


On Memoirs of an Invisible Man

That movie was not a commercial nor a critical success. That was the movie that the making of it almost made me want to quit the business! But I got to meet Sam Neill. And I loved working with Daryl Hannah. Ho boy.


Anyone you’d like to work with again? I imagine Kurt Russell…

Well, Kurt. Sam Neill. Jeff Bridges. Any of the women I’ve worked with have been wonderful. But what I’m really looking forward to, mostly, to the beginning of the NBA basketball season.


Ha! Who’s your pick?

Well, I’m a loyal Laker fan, but they’re not going to win anything this year. So I dunno. I just don’t know. There’s a lot of great teams out there. Young people. Great young players. I’d love to see Chicago win. The Miami Heat are in the running.


As an L.A. native, I kind of have to put all my money on the locals, don’t I?

[Laugh] I know. But they’re not going to win.


I heard once that you once had an idea for an Escape from Earth movie…

Yeah. That was something Kurt [Russell] and I kicked around at one point. Something he wanted to do. That’s all we had. No real story idea. Just Snake Plissken in deep space.


In addition to all your directing credits, you’ve written several. Eyes of Laura Mars is a personal favorite of mine. I have a fantasy that you have a drawer somewhere full of unproduced screenplays and teleplays. Is this a fantasy of mine, or is it true?

There is a drawer. It’s full of uncompleted screenplays. I’d have to go to work to do them. Which is not something I’m looking forward to. That doesn’t mean I won’t!


On Dark Star

I don’t think I ever want to get near that idea again. [laugh] Oh brother! Once was enough.


Once you’ve seen one beachball alien, you’ve seen them all.

Yeah. Can’t top that.


Have you ever wanted to work in serialized TV, or are you more comfortable with TV movies?

TV? Sure, sure. If people will pay me a lot of money to do very little, I’m on top of it.


That’s the dream job, isn’t it?

That’s it! Well, the dream job is to do absolutely nothing, and get paid. That’s the dream job.


I know you’re really Howard Hawks films and westerns in general. Any favorites that you don’t get to talk about a lot?

I love Rio Bravo, are you familiar with that movie? I love El Dorado. I do like a lot of westerns.

You’ve made a few westerns – Vampires, Ghosts of Mars – but they’ve always been tempered by genre conceits. Have you ever wanted to make a straightforward horse-and-hat kind of western?

They are westerns for sure, yeah. Sure, I’ve wanted to make one, but it’s just never really worked out. You know, someone would have to clean the horseshit off of the set! But that would probably be me, so, uh I don’t think I want to try… [laugh]

Originally, Big Trouble in Little China was a western. It was written originally as a cowboy who rides into 1800’s San Francisco, and it was his horse that got stolen. So it was just updated. And I didn’t have anything to do with the updating. I just read the first draft, then the update. I just directed it. It’s good that it has a lot of love. I need all the love I can get.


On future projects…

I have a bunch of things I’m working on. But I’m not working with any intensity or urgency. Like I said: there’s basketball. There’s video games. There’s life to be lived. You know, I made a lot of movies in the 1970s and 1980s, and I figured I deserve a little time off.


Can you get me a dinner with Amber Heard?

[laugh] She has a lot of potential as a young actress.


What was the first record you bought with your own money?

Oh wow! Hang on, hang on… Hang on. “Quarter to Three” by Gary U.S. Bonds. A 45. You’ll have to try to listen to it. Somewhere in the old days. 1965?

Witney Seibold is a featured contributor on the CraveOnline Film Channel, co-host of The B-Movies Podcast. You can read his weekly articles Trolling, Free Film School and The Series Project, and follow him on “Twitter” at @WitneySeibold, where he is slowly losing his mind. 


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