Published at: July 26, 2007, 4:50 a.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here.
So, yeah. This was a helluva way to kick off my Comic-Con coverage, a phone interview with Rob Zombie.
If you’ve been following the site, I’ve had a notorious disagreement with him over the direction of his HALLOWEEN remake. I reviewed the script in January. It wasn’t a positive review, but it wasn’t as viscous as some made it out to be. I’m still a big fan of what Zombie did in THE DEVIL’S REJECTS.
But still, I’d heard he didn’t take too kindly to the criticism, as constructive as it was.
So, I was surprised that they wanted to get me on the phone with him so badly. Here’s our talk… hope you enjoy. See you on the backend!
Rob Zombie: Hey there, how’s it going?
Quint: Hey, man. So yeah… I was a little surprised that I was being asked to talk to you about this… I’d figured you’d hate my guts…
Rob Zombie: Why, what did you do?
Quint: Well I write as Quint on the site. I reviewed your script.
Rob Zombie: Oh, I never even saw it. I don’t even know. I keep hearing how mad I was and I was like “I’m not mad. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Quint: Good, because a lot of that I thought was blown out of proportion, because even though I had disagreements with what I read, I’m still a big fan of DEVIL’S REJECTS and I’m a big fan of your works, so…
Rob Zombie: Oh thanks, but no I didn’t even read it. I think people like to start trouble… I even posted something on my myspace page saying “I’m not mad about this thing! I don’t even know what anyone’s talking about!” When I was working, I just didn’t look at anything online… too much craziness and you know, even when something is 100% false it somehow bothers you anyways and I’m like “oh, I just don’t worry about this kind of stuff,” so I was really just kind of oblivious to it all.
Quint: Oh cool, then…
Rob Zombie: So no matter what you said, I don’t even know what it was, so…
Quint: I think probably the biggest disagreement that we would have and what I’m most curious about is the approach to Michael Myers as a character. Obviously you’re really attracted to finding a “why” for his evil or at least giving a deeper background to why he became the way he is and I think a lot of fans were probably the most worried about that. So I was wondering what the attraction was for you to explore the source for Myer’s evil.
Rob Zombie: Well, basically for me, the idea of firing up this movie with this character, Michael Myers, was exciting, but then I was like “It needs more,” because if you just do what we’ve already seen, it does become like all the remakes that we all complain about… “Why did you bother? We already saw that movie…” To me those were some of the most interesting missing elements. In the original Dr. Loomis would always sort of refer to… about the old days of what happened with Michael and we never saw any of it. We never really got any insight into it, but the idea is I was never really trying to explain “why,” because what I found fascinating… I mean I don’t know… there are so many versions of so many scripts, I don’t know which one anyone ever saw or was complaining about, but in researching…
I did a lot of research as if “what if Michael Myers was a real person? What would he be?” You know, he would be basically a psychopath, a textbook psychopath, and there really is no “why” for a psychopath. That’s what I found fascinating. They don’t have a situation that turns them into that. They’re basically born that way. So really the young Michael stuff is not why he is like that, because there is nothing… it’s not like “Oh, he had a bad childhood, so he became bad,” because that’s not the case. He could’ve had a wonderful childhood or a bad childhood. You could have a wonderful childhood and become psychotic. You could have a horrible childhood and become a saint. That doesn’t make sense, so that wasn’t the approach. It was just seeing him, the mystery of him unravel and yet he still remains a mystery. I mean as much as we see of him through his life, it doesn’t explain any reason why he became what he became what he became and I thought that’s what was kind of fascinating. Everyone’s like “oh, there’s going to be a ‘why.’ This happened… somebody stole his bicycle when he was 12 years old and now he’s a killer!” You know, there’s none of that shit in the movie.
Quint: Yeah, well that’s good. As a fan of Carpenter’s original you must have an understanding of why people are afraid of too much change. It’s weird. It’s a precarious balance when you’re doing a remake which is why they should be entered in very lightly, because you don’t want to give what you’ve seen before, but you want to stay true to…
Rob Zombie: Well it’s a delicate balance that can work. I used to be a little more like “oh, why do they remake things? Blah blah blah…” and then I was like “Shit man, there are a lot of remakes I really like.” They’re just not normally in the horror genre.
Rob Zombie: And then the ones that you do like, say anything from SCARFACE to CAPE FEAR, you kind of forget about…
Quint: Yeah, like MALTESE FALCON…
Rob Zombie: It is a delicate balance at all times and you have to be conscious of it, because if you’re just going in to do the same exact movie with different actors, sure why bother? If you’re trying to make it look the same and feel the same… why bother? What I wanted to do was keep… make it a totally different experience, so within the first five minutes of this movie you’re going to go “there’s no sense sitting it here comparing the other…” It’s so different, there’s nothing to compare.
But, there’s enough classic elements that you’ll go “wow, these moments are harkening back to what I loved about the original.” You know what I loved about the original, I loved the feeling that it was Halloween. I loved Michael Myers. There were a lot of elements to it… just in the atmosphere that… you can retain without making it seem like just a carbon copy.
Quint: I’m definitely going to go in with as open a mind as possible, but I’ve always thought… it’s always been hard for me to separate a remake from the original and I never really thought it was fair to be asked to do so, because that’s the whole point of a remake or a sequel. I couldn’t do it with Zack Snyder’s DAWN OF THE DEAD. I could recognize it as a really good zombie movie, but as a remake it was lacking. And it might just be a personal thing for me, but it’s really hard for me to disassociate…
Rob Zombie: Well, it’s impossible. It’s impossible for anyone. I mean you can watch… Someone can remake a movie and make it 10 times better and I’m still going to like the original movie that gave me the original experience better. It’s just a fact of life. DAWN OF THE DEAD, for me, no matter how good the remake was, the experience of seeing the original when it came out that blew my mind, that was… that’s life. [laughs]
It’s just the way it goes, but then I always hear kids where they see the remake first and then you show them the original, sometimes they’re like “I don’t see what’s so special about this.”
Quint: Yeah, yeah, they’ll focus on the dated aspects of it, not the story.
Rob Zombie: Well then sometimes it’s hard if you can’t even disassociate it in your own mind.
The experience of seeing it at that time… and then sometime you can’t even explain it. I’ve shown people movies and I’m like “this is the greatest movie ever” and they’re like “this movie sucks…” Its like “what are you, fucking insane???” But they’re not bringing the mental baggage to the film that I am. It’s just some low budget crappy movie to them… to me somehow it was a life changing experience.
Quint: I have some favorite movies like that, like SLEEPAWAY CAMP, where most people just look at it as real cheesy, but for some reason…
Rob Zombie: Oh yeah, OMEGA MAN was a big one for me. It was such a significant movie when I was a kid. You show it to kids now and its like “this movie sucks.
Rob Zombie: “Why would you even watch this?”
Quint: You’re like “fuck you guys, Chuck Heston rules!”
Rob Zombie: So yeah, I totally get it.
Quint: Well are you in L.A. right now? You’re not in San Diego yet?
Rob Zombie: I’ve got to work every second and I can’t go to San Diego until two seconds before panel time, because we’re still sound mixing and stuff, so…
Quint: I’d imagine you’re showing something at your panel. Are you looking forward to talking to the fans and showing…
Rob Zombie: Yeah, I am and I’m not, because there’s weird things, like when you’re going to show somebody one scene, you’re like “shit, what do I show them?” Sometimes if you take anything out of context it’s like “well, that’ll give the wrong impression… that’ll give the wrong impression,” so yeah, I’m kind of agonizing over what to show.
Quint: Well I don’t want to put any more worries into you or any, you know, false hope, but COMIC-CON is such a… I know that you’ve been here before right?
Rob Zombie: Oh yeah, yeah.
Quint: They can be the most amazing audience… give you the best feedback in the world, but if they don’t like something they also don’t mind holding back. There’s no filter, so I can imagine being…
Rob Zombie: Yeah, I mean nothing about it worries me, because I’ve… you know, the same thing with REJECTS. When REJECTS was done, I was like “I love this film. I’m good, no matter what anyone says, it doesn’t matter to me.”
You know and that’s how I feel now and that’s the only way you can approach things and I think that if you do things with self doubt like “oh my God, somebody said something I better change it…” that’s why you get so many movies that look like they’re so bland and made by a committee. You have to be focused that you’re doing what you’re doing. It’s the only way to make things.
Quint: Yeah, well I think one thing that we can definitely agree on is your casting of Malcolm McDowell as Sam Loomis. I think that it takes a lot to fill Donald Pleasence’s shoes, but McDowell, I felt was pretty inspired casting. What was he like to work with? Did he really embrace the…
Rob Zombie: Malcolm was great. I love Malcolm. I’ve always loved him as an actor and as a guy. He’s like the greatest guy in the world… easy going… just fun and it was a total pleasure and that was one of the things that was funny. Even friends of mine, when they’re like “I don’t see how you could possibly remake this movie! Who could possibly take over Donald Pleasence?” I go “What about Malcolm McDowell?” They go “Well that might be true. It might work.” Of course you don’t know… but when people would see stuff, they’d go “oh yeah, well I guess that’ll work too.” It’s funny how everyone’s so convinced at something and slowly they go “well, Tyler Mane? That’s the worst idea I’ve ever heard.” When they see him they’re like “yeah, he does look pretty fucking good doesn’t he?” It’s funny.
Quint: What did he bring to it? Obviously you don’t want him to just be playing… Donald Pleasence playing Loomis…
Rob Zombie: He had never seen HALLOWEEN.
Quint: Oh good, so he actually had no…
Rob Zombie: So he had no reference point what so ever. He’s coming from a totally different point of view. He had never seen Halloween and he was friends with Donald Pleasence.
Quint: Well that’s awesome.
Rob Zombie: So it’s a totally different perspective from a fan of HALLOWEEN and in fact its from the exact opposite of the corner, so yeah we played him different. I mean, Dr. Loomis, in the original, doesn’t really have a character arc in the sense that we come to him after everything has happened. You know, he’s like “He’s Michael and we want to keep him locked away… blah blah blah,” but this Dr. Loomis goes through a change when we meet him early on with young Michael where he feels that there’s still somebody there he can reach and there’s something he can do and then we watch him go through his failure becoming the other guy, so it’s a very different character. They go through kind of the same journey, except we never saw the other character actually go through the journey, we just sort of heard about it in little snippets. So it’s very different.
Quint: Would you be open to doing sequels or would you be like Carpenter and back off to do your own thing?
Rob Zombie: I definitely would not do sequels, so no. Because much like I’d assume Carpenter, I wanted to make a movie with a beginning, a middle, and an end, so it’s a movie going experience. It’s not a franchise going experience, because I think that’s part of what ruins these movies too – everybody’s like “well what are you going to do for part 2?” I don’t give a shit about a part 2 or 3, 4, 5. I want to make one great movie and then whatever happens happens. If you just go in there with that sort of thought process, you’re not going to do anything. You’re going to be so scared, like “oh but what about…” You can’t worry about that. What about what makes this fucking movie work?
Rob Zombie: Why not focus on that for a change.
Quint: So what’s next? Are you going to be doing another original property after this or…
Rob Zombie: Yeah I have some things… a couple other things I’m working on. I’m not exactly sure what will be next, so you know. I’m still finishing this one, so I really haven’t given that much thought to next thing, but…
Quint: Well, would you want to keep in the genre stuff? Is that where you feel comfortable or would you…
Rob Zombie: Not forever. Probably the next movie will be, but I don’t want to do that forever. I want to be able to do all kinds of different movies and different types of things.
Quint: What would you want to branch out to? More of an action-y thing? More of a drama?
Rob Zombie: Well I mean my favorite types of movies are sort of gritty seventies crime movies and things of that nature. I like small character movies that have sort of an edge to them like something like anything from STRAIGHT TIME to HARDCORE, you know those… I like that genre of film probably the best.
Quint: Kind of a Paul Schrader-y thing…
Rob Zombie: Yeah, that’s sort of like… yeah and so that’s sort of something that’s kind of disappeared.
Quint: Strangely enough, I think that outside of Schrader himself, you know, because he’s still putting out movies every once in a while, but I get that sort of same feeling from DEVIL’S REJECTS.
Rob Zombie: DEVIL’S REJECTS… that’s not a horror movie of mine. I’d never consider it a horror movie. I thought of it just like this modern day western. You know it’s a sheriff tracking three outlaws.
Quint: It’s very gritty and you leave it feeling a little dirty, like a Paul Schrader movie where its just…
Rob Zombie: Those are the movies that I really grew up on and those are the horror movies I liked the best too. That’s why I was such a fan of the original CHAINSAW MASSACRE, because it felt like one of those movies. It felt like this… I like movies where you follow… It’s like a slice of life with just some horrible situation. Those were always my favorites.
Quint: Yeah, cool and well I think that’s about all I have, so thanks so much for talking the time to talk to me.
Rob Zombie: Sure.
Quint: Cool, have a good day.
Rob Zombie: Alright man, take it easy.
So, that’s it. He claims to have never read my original review… but I could have sworn he mentioned me personally in an interview with Bloody-Disgusting and it’s not what I’ve heard from various people close to the production. But whatever. In the end it really doesn’t matter. From the beginning, I just wanted him to make a good movie. If that’s what I get, I’ll be happy.
I still have some core disagreements with him about Myers, but I’ll have to see what he’s got cooking.
It was a good start to the Con considering I was imagining the worst case scenarios here… either a quick hang-up when he was told who he was talking to or a long, heated debate.
Got tons of cool shit lined up. I mean, I get to talk to Peter fucking Fonda tomorrow. How cool is that?!?
Be back for some of that goodness.