In the first half of my chat with 30 Days of Night producers Sam (Spider-Man, Evil Dead, Darkman) Raimi and Rob (Evil Dead, The Grudge, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys) Tapert, the guys reminisced about their introduction to horror films, Raimi discussed the influences behind the Spider-Man films, and Spider-Man 4 and Hobbit rumors were addressed.
Now, in the second half, Raimi discusses the evolution of his directorial style and tries to sell you a used car, while Tapert dishes on 30 Days’ sequel prospects. Queensland residents can find the article that resulted from this interview in next week’s Scene Magazine.
You’re known for your inventiveness, obviously, but especially since A Simple Plan, all your inventive techniques seem to be in service of the story. Is that something you have to be conscious of? Do you ever come up with a great camera angle or creative flourish and say, ‘well, hang on, that would overpower the story here’?
Sam: Yes! Absolutely. That’s a constant situation I’m dealing with. I remember after I made The Quick and the Dead, I felt somewhat empty afterwards. Because mostly, it was just about the style and the flourish, which wasn’t really connected enough with the characters. So I took a little break from the movies for a few years and worked with Rob on the Xena and Hercules series that he did, and a series called American Gothic.
When my wife came upon the book A Simple Plan she said ‘this is a great story’, and I read it and I agreed. But I only wanted to pursue it if I could come up with a stylistic approach that I would feel comfortable with. That was one where, for the first time, I tried to put the camera in the proper place, versus the most exciting place, and that’s a very big difference. And I would let the actors tell the story. So I worked in that fashion on that picture, and I learned a lot about what I had been missing. And ever since, I’ve been learning lots about film making, and trying to apply the style where appropriate. I’ve been trying to find a balance.
Yeah. It seems to have worked so far. When someone goes to see a movie that Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert have worked on, ideally, what’s the best response you want people to have?
Rob: They don’t ask for their money back? (Laughs) We’re in the entertainment business, so I think to the degree that the audience feels like they’ve had an entertaining experience, and they’ve felt emotionally charged, physically charged, and that it has exceeded whatever expectations they came into the theatre with, that’s all we could ask for.
Do you set out to create cult classics? When you were making Evil Dead, did you think that there’d be a small group of people that it would really appeal to, or do you not think too much about the audience when you’re making the film?
Rob: I think you want to know the audience that you’re making the movie for, meaning, who are you expecting to entertain with this movie? So if you’re making a horror film, like when we made Evil Dead, we said the one thing we didn’t want to be guilty of was boring the audience. We had sat through so many pictures that failed, that were just a poster, basically, and delivered nothing else.
I don’t think anybody sets out to make a classic, they only set out to make something that will entertain those who come to see it. Certainly, as big fanboys ourselves who still see a lot of movies, we ask ourselves, ‘would we be entertained if we went to the theatre and saw this movie?’
Sam: We never expected Evil Dead or Evil Dead 2 to have such a long life. We were just trying to make something good enough, at the time, to actually be accepted for a week to play at the drive-in theatre.
(Laughs) I think it’s safe to say you exceeded those expectations.
Sam: Thank you.
Rob, you must be so proud of how 30 Days of Night turned out, considering how involved you were in it. Do you see it as the sort of thing where you can now move on and do sequels and it becomes a franchise?
Rob: You know what, I think it’s too early to tell on that account. Domestically the box office wasn’t… I think people were entertained and the cine-scores were pretty darn good, but I think box-office wise, Sony would be hard pressed to say ‘we’ve gotta go spend that same amount of money again to make the movie’. But you know, with Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2… none of those movies made anybody a great deal of money, but they stood the test of time. On this particular one, we’ll see how time treats it.
Yeah. I’ve always wondered that, actually, Rob: after Evil Dead 2 came out and you were trying to get money for Evil Dead 3 (Army of Darkness), which had a relatively decent budget behind it… how did you get that money, given that, as you say, nobody got rich out of the first two?
Rob: Evil Dead 3 was Dino (De Laurentis), and I think he was in a good place to sell it in his unique style.
Sam: Because he sold Evil Dead 2 for us, and he had a good experience on that. He made some money on that, on foreign sales. He had his own distribution company, so he was really aware of how much it’d made for all the different buyers he had sold it to.
Yeah. Sam, with your producing and directing, and Rob with your producing, do you have as much time these days to spend with the family, the wife and kids, as you’d like?
Sam: Right now, I’ve got some time to spend with my kids and my wife, and I’m really thankful for it. It has been non-stop, especially for the last 15 years, ever since I got out of TV I’ve been working non-stop. This is the first time I’ve had a couple of months off, and I’m really enjoying it. I can spend time with the kids and read to them and go through their homework more thoroughly and sleep in, it’s wonderful. I’ve been enjoying it.
And to the kids, are you ‘the guy who directed Spider-Man’ or are you just dad?
Sam: I’m just that schmoe! (Laughs) That schmoe who embarrasses them when I bring the cupcakes to school.
(Laughs) As long as we’re talking about family, you come from a family of high achievers. When you and your brothers get together, are you the top dog, or is Ivan (Sam’s brother, a screenwriter and emergency room doctor) just like ‘well, you direct blockbuster films, but I save people’s lives?’
Sam: He’s the life saver, yep! He’s the life saver and he’s the top dog. Then… then who? Then Ted, probably. He’s got the biggest mouth of the bunch. That’s how it is in real life.
Well, the Spider-Man movies wouldn’t be the same without Ted, that’s for sure. Actually, Ted’s cameos are pretty memorable in a lot of your films.
Sam: (Laughs) Thanks! I love having him in the pictures. He’s always good for a laugh, that kid.
I’ve gotta ask… do you still own the Oldsmobile (the car used by Ash in the Evil Dead films and Uncle Ben in Spider-Man, amongst other Raimi pictures)? And if so, can we look forward to seeing it in future movies?
Sam: Yes, I still have the 1973 Delta 88, the Delta Royale, and it is a classic! And it’s coming back, it’s gonna make a big appearance in the next picture that I make!
That is good! I’d heard a malicious rumur somewhere that you were thinking about selling it, is that true?
Sam: How much will you give me for it?
(Laughs) Hey, I didn’t say I was going to buy it, I just wanted to check that we will see it again.
Sam: I’d be interested in talking to one of your readers if the proper offer came in! (Laughs) No, I’d like to hang on to that thing, it’s a sentimental old piece of junk, and it’s going to make an appearance in the next picture.
Is there anything that you guys are working on, separately or together, aside from Spider-Man and 30 Days promotion?
Sam: We’re trying to figure out what the next Ghost House picture is right now. But we’ve been put in a little bit of a jam because there’s this writers strike, and we’re unable to work on a lot of our scripts right now. So we’re kind of in a holding pattern right now, but we’re very excited to work together on the next Ghost House horror picture, whatever it is.
Ghost House has given you an opportunity to bring along some up and coming directors, hasn’t it? That must be good for you as a director who’s been through that whole process.
Sam: It’s great! It’s great because we love to recognize new talent, support them and get their work seen by others. And I learn a lot, watching the dailies of these directors, whether they’re young or old, seeing how they do things. It’s enlightening to me, because I’ve never really seen other directors work. Watching the dailies day after day, you really see why they put the camera there, the changes they make from take one to take two… it’s interesting. It’s great for me, and it’s very exciting to meet these film makers and to work with them and to help them get their films on the screen.
Was it you or Rob’s choice to pick David Slade (Hard Candy) for 30 Days?
Rob: I wish either one of us could take the credit for that! I think he was brought to our attention by a Sony exec who was on our picture and thought that he would be an interesting person for us to meet and consider, based on having seen his movie at Sundance, Hard Candy. We saw his movie, really liked him, really liked the movie, took a meeting with him, and he had a very interesting take. He really was a huge fan of the graphic novel, and guided the development back towards the graphic novel. If you look at the movie and look at the graphic novel, there’s a lot of places where the imagery is very similar.
Finally, Sam, did you envy the screenwriter and director of 30 Days a bit when they were adapting that? In terms of, you know, they’re adapting a mini-series, whereas with Spider-Man, you’re adapting forty years of continuity?
Sam: No, I never envied them because it was a very difficult adaptation, I think. They had to really find the essence of the two main characters, Eben and Stella, and like any comic book adaptation, they risked the fans’ wrath if they made the wrong choice. I was just rooting for them to get it right, and to find the right combination that worked for them and for the director, and I think they did a very good job.
Well, guys, thanks very much for taking the time to talk to us today. It’s been a massive honour for me, as a Raimi and Tapert fan from quite awhile back.
Sam: Thanks so much for the kind words!
No worries. Have a great day, guys.
Sam: You too, buddy! Bye-bye!