|“30 Days of Night” now playing|
It was a little over five years ago that I first met Steve Niles. In early March of 2002, Niles wrote me asking if I’d be interested in doing a story on some of his then current projects, “Fused” and “Hellspawn.” After agreeing to the interview, he wrote back and suggested we do it in person because, and I quote, “I have another book I want to show you.”
Steve and I met at a little Thai place in Toluca Lake, California for lunch; me with my recorder in hand, he with his portfolio under his arm. We sat down, enjoyed some satay and Pad Thai and talked about “Fused;” his work for Todd McFarlane on “Hellspawn;” and a little character named Cal MacDonald. But it wasn’t until we were done with our lunch and our interview that he pulled out the portfolio with the complete first issue of “30 Days of Night.”
Steve gave me the pitch: a small town above the Arctic Circle in Alaska experiences 30 days of complete darkness each year, but this year something new happens. The vampires come out and very, very bad things happen to the inhabitants of this town called Barrow.
The pitch grabbed me and when I finally opened the portfolio and saw the art from the then unknown Ben Templesmith, I was blown away. These weren’t the vampires I remembered from books and films. These creatures were nasty, rabid things that were the product of nightmares, not the debonair creatures of the night I was used to.
Naturally, I fired up that recorder once again and Niles and I did more of that interview thing, this time focusing on “30 Days of Night,” which ultimately became the first published interview on the book.
The rest, as they say, is history. The book was optioned in July of 2002 and finally landed in cinemas last weekend, where it sat at the top of the pack at the box-office, capping off a tremendous 2007 for comics at the Cineplex. But that’s not the whole story.
Since “30 Days of Night” debuted in comic shops, Niles’ life and career have changed dramatically. He went from an unknown to an underground sensation in comics and finally to the toast of Hollywood, all in a very short period of time. The journey he’s taken with “30 Days” has had many great high points and a number of lows, but in the end Niles found a new level of happiness and satisfaction with his life and career.
This latest interview is a frank and open discussion of that trip Niles has taken with “30 Days of Night.” We considered returning to that same Thai restaurant, but sadly the management changed and the food, well, it’s just not as good as we remember it being.
I want to begin by taking you back to that part of your life prior to the release of “30 Days of Night,” when you were trying to get this story off the ground. “30 Days” began just as a pitched idea, right?
Right. And it was a pretty open pitch, too. I did try to sell it as a movie, but I also tried to sell it to Vertigo and Dark Horse and places like that. And they all said no. [Vertigo Executive Director] Karen Berger has virtually passed on everything that I’ve now sold as a movie, so she’s become sort of my good luck charm! Actually, it just happened recently. There was a thing that got a lukewarm reception and now I’m doing it with Glenn Fabry at Wildstorm. So, Karen, please keep rejecting my stuff! [laughs]
“30 Days” really all started as just a little story idea. At the time, when I though of it, I wasn’t even thinking of making movies. It wasn’t until I got to LA that people began convincing me to explore the film angle. This was around 1997, after I got laid off from Disney.
|“30 Days of Night” graphic novel collection|
What were you doing at Disney?
Honestly, nothing. They hired me to write videogames, but they forgot to hire anyone to actually make the videogames.
Okay, so you were pitching “30 Days” and it sounds like you went around with this for a while because IDW didn’t publish the book until 2002.
That’s right. I had it around for a long time. What happened is I just gave Ted Adams at IDW all my rejected pitches and he picked this one off the list.
How long had you known Ted Adams?
He was an intern at Eclipse Comics where I was an editor back in the ’80s.
So you’ve had a long personal relationship with him, which is how this book landed in his lap.
Yeah, he and Beau Smith got me the job with McFarlane and then they rescued me from McFarlane. It’s been an interesting turn of work that really helped me out.
Did Ted ever tell you what he saw in this project that made him choose this over any other?
I remember him simply saying, “Wow, Vampires in Alaska sounds good. It could be a movie.” So, we did the comic and the rest is history.
Ted really was taking a big risk picking up this book because, at the time, no one was doing horror comics.
I know it. Guess who my favorite person in the world is? What he let us do was whatever we wanted. Ben could draw what he wanted, I could write what I wanted. When people say to me that I broke the bubble of what horror comics are, well, it was just being given a little bit of freedom. I know as a horror writer up till then it was always, “Hey man, we’re doing a horror anthology and it’s a play on the old EC books.” Every. Single. Time. Enough with the EC already, guys!
I think there were a couple of things that helped “30 Days” pop out and catch hold and you just hit upon one of them. It wasn’t like anything that had come out before in horror comics. It wasn’t trying to emulate something from the past.
We were really just lost in our own little world.
It almost seems your own naiveté regarding the genre in comics – not the genre itself, but the genre as it applies to comics – is really what helped propel you into this position.
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My, well, we’ll call it naiveté instead of rampant stupidity, helped me in so many unexpected ways. I always used to be so bummed that I was a comic book outsider looking over the fence at everybody playing in the big DC/Marvel sandbox. I used to be real bummed out about that, even after “30 Days” was released, but then I realized, “Wow, I wrote 40 books and I own them all!” It kind of worked out.
Everyone thinks you were this overnight sensation with “30 Days of Night” because prior to that no on really knew who you were, no offense intended, despite the fact you had been struggling in the industry for almost a decade, self-publishing a lot of your own work.
Well, my Mom knew who I was!
And I’m sure she loved you.
Then, suddenly you come along and “reinvent” horror comics, but you had to work very hard to get to that point. I want to back up a bit and talk about your life prior to “30 Days of Night.” You were about to move to Phoenix, AZ right before this book was published, right?
Well, I was working for Todd McFarlane Entertainment and Todd didn’t want to have an entertainment company here in Los Angeles, and technically I was working for his entertainment company, so he made me an offer for a full time job working for McFarlane Entertainment where I’d basically be running McFarlane Entertainment, but part of the deal meant it included all of my properties – “30 Days of Night,” Cal MacDonald, “Freaks of the Heartland,” etc. So, I walked. I had no job and no real prospects. People were just beginning to buzz about “30 Days of Night,” but my future was looking more like I was headed back to working retail again. I didn’t want to live in Phoenix and didn’t want to sign over my entire library. I can just imagine it – “30 Days” with Spawn in it.
All that said, I’ve spoken with Todd recently about it and he knows I made the right decision. No insult intended towards Todd, it just wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life.
How soon after you said no to McFarlane did things start to pop for you?
I’d say there was at least three months worth of eating ramen where I really wasn’t sure I had made the best decision. That was the weirdest part, not being sure I had done the right thing. At the time I was walking out of McFarlane with really shaky legs.
|“30 Days of Night” pages 2 and 3|
Move forward to “30 Days of Night” going into production as a comic. You met Ben Templesmith while doing “Hellspawn” for McFarlane via the Spawn.com message boards.
Right. That’s how Ben got the “Hellspawn” gig. Ted Adams knew we had an insane approval process at McFarlane. We’d finish an issue then sit around twiddling our thumbs for two weeks, which is when Ted Adams called.
Okay, so now the two of you have been put together and it’s time to do the hard work of making comics. Let’s talk about those early days and the unique look of “30 Days of Night,” specifically the vampires. How much of that look was you instructing Ben and how much of it was Ben just running with things?
I wrote the script and Ben did the art. The one thing we agreed on, and it’s in the script, is these vampires are supposed to be nasty looking. I didn’t do sketches for him. The vampire and the way they look, that’s Ben’s art. In my descriptions I described them as nasty, feral, rotten, stinking vampires, more like rats than they are bats. I think that’s the term I kept using.
He certainly captured that. With this book, you really presented an entirely new look for vampires – they were no longer the romantic vampires of Anne Rice movies and books.
That was a joke between me and him. I’d say, “Let’s make them look all Eurotrash and shit.” Like, wouldn’t it be funny if they looked like they just came out of some super creepy German disco or something like that.
This is all something I happily share with Ben. When this whole thing went down, IDW gave me the choice on just a 50/50 deal with IDW. That was the first time I really thought about it and thought the artist must be cut in on this stuff. What they contribute is too important and they get treated like shit in this industry, so that’s when I started doing the third/third/third deals, which is what I do to this day, even with books like “Simon Dark” at DC Comics, which I created a full year before Scott Hampton joined the project. Once he joined, his contribution created the book. I called DC and told them I wanted to split the rights with Scott Hampton and their response was, “What?” [laughs] They told me I’d need to send them a letter saying that. Okay, here I am, being Mr. Troublemaker. Can’t do anything like everybody else.
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One of my fondest memories of this entire process was when I got to write Ben Templesmith and tell him I had a $40,000 check for him. It was over IM and there was like a five minute pause. “Ben? BEN?” He must have just flipped backwards when he got that! $40k for a kid living in Perth, doing his second ever comic gig – that’s cool. That felt very good and it’s the right thing to do. I don’t always get along with all the artists I work with, but who gets along with everyone they work with?
I’m kidding. But, you know, sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t, but at the end of the day at least I feel like everyone’s getting a fair shake.
Let’s transport you back to the moment when “30 Days of Night” became an underground sensation. With the release of the TPB, it meant you had arrived because that thing was a huge seller for IDW. That said, what did this arrival mean to your comics career? Following “30 Days of Night” you were still mostly doing creator-owned work.
Well, I had been writing since I was around 13 years old. I had a huge back log of work, including two novels in a drawer, pitches, scripts, ideas, so once somebody gave me half a chance I just dove in. I couldn’t wait. I went a little nuts after “30 Days of Night” hit and up until about five minutes ago I would say yes to everything I was offered, on top of doing all the creator-owned stuff. I kind of lucked out. Some of it worked, some of it did not. But I still love working like that. To me, doing the movie and selling the movie and if the movie’s a success hopefully means it’ll be possible for me to do more work and, honestly, comics is where I want my focus to be.
Alright, so now everybody in Hollywood loves you and the bidding process on the rights begin. At what point did the studios actually get interested?
When the ad in Previews hit. That was so strange. We got so psyched out because everyone was freaking out about the concept and Ted would call me to say, “Retailers are freaking out! They think this is a great concept and would make a great movie.” Then the orders came in and they were shit ! We got like 4,000 orders. Everyone liked the idea, but not enough to buy the book. Then all the hype started and then the orders started to go up. It was the weirdest thing.
When you were pitching the studios, a bidding war broke out, did it not?
Yeah. I believe it boiled down to DreamWorks, MGM and Columbia with Sam Raimi attached. Hearing Sam Raimi’s name for me was all it took.
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I was being told amounts and offers and it was crazy. It was pretty much, “We’ll give you a million dollars and a free car!!!!” But when I heard Sam Raimi, my brain basically shut off. I said, “I don’t even know what amount or which studio, just go with Raimi.” Form that point forward, I stepped away from the negotiations and just said, “Let me know how much I’m getting paid.” Like, can I substitute ramen for canned soup finally? [laughs]
So, here you are, in an enviable position by any measurement. I remember it being an odd time for you when the option was announced and it was bought for $1.2 Million
Right, everyone thought it was all deposited in my account, which was not the case. I got a fraction of that – I got a big chunk and took care of an IRS bill that had been plaguing me since I was 19 and I could pay off all my debts, including those I still owed on from my first comics company. Suddenly I was writing checks like crazy to anyone I had begged, borrowed and stolen from over the years to try and get independent comics done. The only purchase I made that was sort of a silly purchase was the ’73 Nova.
A fine choice for an extravagance.
Now, while everything looked great on the outside, those five years between publication of “30 Days of Night” and now had a number of high and low points along the way.
You went through a divorce.
Yeah, I did, and that turned out to be only a small part of the nightmare. Divorces, next to funerals, are the most stressful thing you can go through anyway. It was very unpleasant and it was going to be a big change in my life, but then this is the part in “Behind the Music” they call the price of fame. This is the downfall. I got in a situation where I made some really nasty phone calls to someone who was messing with me and they kind of took advantage of my situation as, I guess, a public figure.
Those phone calls were to an artist named Matt Busch.
Right. Now, I’ve never thought of myself as a public figure, I’m a comics writer. But, anyway, he put these awful messages of me online for everybody to hear and my life became a living hell for a while. I don’t even know how long it was. It felt like six months, but it probably wasn’t. In an odd sort of way, not only did I wind up meeting the greatest human I’ve ever met in my life through that process, but I was also forced into like this fucking vortex, like black hole where I think maybe you and two other people actually talked to me. People weren’t mad at me; they just didn’t know what to do. It was so god awful embarrassing to have my personal life all over the Internet.
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Many, many sites picked up on those recordings, including a member of my own site, Rich Johnston. I heard a lot of pain in those messages. It was a hard thing for me to get my head around and I think that was the same reaction everyone who heard those messages had because they were quite shocking.
Because I was the stupid one who left those messages, what nobody ever heard was the other side of the conversation and the threats made to me, the messages about my ex and about my current girlfriend which were awful and sexually graphic. It was him and a bunch of other guys ganging up on me. When those messages surfaced, everyone was actively asking me why I wouldn’t speak out, but I didn’t feel like at that point it was a good idea. I felt I would just be feeding the flames and I just wanted it to die. Now I have no problem talking about it, but I hope people realize that wasn’t the whole story, just one guy flipping out for no reason.
You were in a really dark place.
Yeah and that guy picked the worst time to fuck with me. Also, I can generally keep my shit together, but when people start threatening my family or friends, it’s a different thing. Threaten me, that’s fine, but anyone close to me and I loose it. I hate that about myself, but I think there are worse traits one can have.
Have you and Busch talked at all since?
We made peace over the phone and decided to let live and let live.
What’s interesting though is, well, talk about thinning the heard. Through that entire process of getting so much attention, I had so many people around me all of the sudden, I had no idea who was really my friend and who was just a Hollywood hanger-on, whatever you want to call it. When the phone calls came out, the room cleared quick. It was actually hilarious. People were picking up their hats and coats and excusing themselves without even saying a word. Now I look around and can see clearly who my friends are.
What do you think helped pull you out of that place you found yourself in?
Just time. I really was in a bad marriage and I needed to get out of that. I was almost at the Hollywood asshole stage. My life had started to become about how big my house was, what kind of car I had and what I could afford to do, and I never thought that way in my life before. I undid all that, got back to driving crappy cars and paying rent, and I’m a happy guy.
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What’s interesting is without “30 Days of Night,” none of this may have happened. You may still have ended up divorced, but …
Right, it probably would have been a bit more typical. Nobody would have run messages by me because nobody would have cared.
The book has been a blessing and a curse.
Yeah, a little, but so much more a blessing than a curse. Yeah, that was a really bad time, but looking back on it I think more good came out of it. I’m like, boy, you’ll never see me lose my temper like that again. It was very embarrassing and I had to apologize to a lot of people. Since then I’ve been really calm, lost a lot of weight and have a really happy life with Sara.
Your girlfriend, Sara Wilkinson. Have you forgiven yourself about that period?
Partially. I probably need a little more time. I think people sometimes forgive themselves too quickly.
One aspect of this whole thing, aside from how it was all brought to the surface, was how willing people were to pounce on me. I had a lot of creators contact me to say they wouldn’t allow the messages to run on their boards; people who believe like I do that the comic industry is too small for us to be killing each other. There were a lot of people, including really close friends of mine and creators I’ve worked with, who posted those messages on their boards, which I thought was really awful.
I think the person who pissed me off the most, though, was Rich Johnston. I know he’s kind of the Rona Barrett of the comics industry and does the gossip thing, but he’s also a writer, too, which bugs me. He gossips about people and kind of goes after their jobs during the day, but by night he’s trying to take their work. It feels to me like a director trying to be a critic. But, whatever, I just feel like Rich Johnston’s a big poop.
A big poop, is he?
Yes, that’s the exact quote! [laughs] I’m sorry to use such language, but I think he’s a grand poop.
Like I said, I feel like this industry is just too small. My vision of the comics industry is kind of… a guy and girl walks by a comic shop, glancing over and seeing a bunch of nerds fighting over HeroClix, then keep walking. I wouldn’t go in there! So, we’re kind of in this industry where we’re all kicking each others asses all the time. It’s too bad. I don’t think I let any names slip, but unless I’m really pissed at someone, I won’t mention a name. I won’t even mention the creators who posted those messages. It’s not how I work. I may think a certain creator is a shithead, but they have every right to do what they want to do and to have a fair shake at working. I just want comics to succeed and I’m not going to attack creators who I don’t think write superheroes right or whatever. It doesn’t matter. It’s irrelevant.
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I also notice that following all this stuff you went through, the divorce, the phone calls surfacing, that you speak much more freely about the industry as a whole.
The thing is it’s all out in the open anyway, so I think open discussion is the only thing that’s going to get us anywhere. We can all keep doing the smoke and mirrors thing about how great we’re doing, but anyone can go check the Diamond sales records and see that nobody’s doing all that great. Everybody is scrapping by. So, why don’t we stop kicking each other in the balls, playtime is over, and start working together to help each other.
I don’t know. I just wish people were a bit more helpful in this industry. Especially with Hollywood interest in comics it seems like people are kind of stepping all over each other.
Okay, so selling “30 Days of Night” and the money that came with it allowed you to take care of those debts, buy a house, buy a favorite car, etc., but did selling the comic actually make your life better?
It definitely complicated it. I definitely got a lot more attention, both positive and negative, which is what it is. But I can’t complain about it. I now have people who actually want to read my stuff and from where I’m coming from, a kid making movies by himself, in his room, there’s nothing that beats that. Just the fact that people had faith in me. There’s no clear path for a writer and to suddenly reach that is amazing. I mean, I just got a Batman title! And you know what? Everyone will shoot me in the head, but that’s as exciting as the movie coming out is to me. That let’s you know how big a nerd I am.
Well, you did get to play with Batman already once. Why is this title different for you?
Well, with “Batman: Gotham County Line,” that was what everyone expected me to do. Now I get to do what I want to do.
So the first thing was, “Hey, here’s Steve the horror writer doing Batman with a horror slant,” but this new Batman series is you getting to play with Batman as a superhero, not Batman in a horror world you’ve created.
Right. The same thing happened with “The Creeper” miniseries. I turned in the first issue, straightforward superhero, then I get the call, “Where are the monsters?” So, “Creeper” wasn’t originally going to have monsters in it, but that’s what people wanted, so I put them in. Now, luckily with Batman I’m working with Kelly Jones and he makes everyone look like a monster.
Let’s get back to making “30 Days of Night” into a film. The journey this film took was not exactly a direct route.
No, not at all.
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The movie got optioned and I remember two years later, you telling me that you never thought this thing would get made.
Yeah. Scripts were written, but there was no director. You can have everything else, but if you don’t have a director, nothing will happen. That was the key. We had my script, then we had Stuart Beattie’s script; things were looking good, but we didn’t have a director. It wasn’t until Raimi called and said, “I’ve found this guy who has this movie coming out called ‘Hard Candy.'” That’s when the ball started rolling and never stopped.
Were there any directors who said no to “30 Days of Night?”
No, but I know there were some directors said no to, but I’m not going to narc them out.
With “30 Days” being the comic that got you noticed, was it difficult for you to entrust other people with this creation, specifically?
It’s a funny thing. To me, there’s this absurdity in the background where I’m thinking it’s not like when you drop your kid off at the babysitter and there’s only a 50% chance the kid will be alive when you come home. It’s not like that, but we’ve come to accept the exact opposite when we hand our babies off to Hollywood. I feel like with this everyone just liked what they were doing and that’s where it came from. Maybe that’s what’s missing from a lot of other productions. I think a lot of people will hear, “Oh, it’s about Vampires in Alaska” and they just jump on it without acknowledging the fact there’s two characters, Eben and Stella, who are very much in love, or the mythology I built for this vampire culture. A lot of people will just latch on to one aspect of an idea and think they can throw out the rest. This wasn’t the case. The vampires in Alaska thing is fine, that’s a great set-up, but that only lasts ten seconds.
Right, that’s just the surface without any of the substance of the story.
Yeah, it’s got to have the other layers. It’s really Eben and Stella’s story, the town is also a character itself and then there’s the vampire mythology, which is a big part of the story. The whole idea of these vampires living in a world where they’re not even supposed to exist and doing something this awful.
Now, with “30 Days of Night,” they pretty much stuck to the original story, right?
There are definite tweaks and changes, but nothing so major that I think fans will feel that their thing they loved has been messed with in a bad way.
Did you ever wish “30 Days of Night” was made ala the “Sin City” film or say “300,” which were very faithful, almost shot-for-shot, to the original style and look of the books?
|“30 Days of Night” page 10|
No. I really think the director, David Slade, picked the perfect tempo for it. There’s a side of me that actually likes the movie more than the comic. I’m serious. It’s probably been a long time since I wrote the script and the book came out that I’ve read “30 Days of Night.” I don’t reread my work much. I don’t look back. I’ve written a screenplay and all these other stories, but I’ve never looked back. But now I’m kind of curious and I do want to compare them. What I love that Slade did is he made a horror movie I just dream of. It’s no holds bared and fairly humorless, which I kind of like. It’s a horror movie.
What sort of discussions have there been thus far regarding a sequel?
Just the vaguest discussions. If the movie makes a certain amount, it’s almost like it’s automatic with the studios these days.
Getting back to that journey you’ve taken with this movie, we both live in Los Angeles, and it was about three or four weeks ago that I noticed those black and red “30 Days of Night” posters popping up everywhere.
Oh, Holy Hell, I know!
Tell me about that first time you saw one.
I was turning the corner onto Riverside from Lankershim in North Hollywood and right there in your face is a billboard the size of an 18 wheeler and I lost control of my car! I’m not kidding! I recovered just before I almost slammed into a parked car. I was by myself, not another car near me, and it would have ended up being one of those super embarrassing “How did this happen?” type accidents.
If there had to be an accident to have, that would have been the way to do it.
Yeah, but man! It would have been so embarrassing.
I met up with David Slade the other day to give him a birthday present and when we got together he said the same exact thing happened to him. He almost wrecked his car, too.
So, when I finally got control of my car, I took a second, pulled the car over and said to myself, “Holy crap, you lucky motherfucker.” I just sat there for a moment and took it in. It’s so bizarre. I was by myself and felt like that seven year old kid in love with horror films again. It was so strange, but made me so happy.
I just hope people like it.
|Still from “30 Days of Night”|
We’re going to find out soon enough. By the way, what was that birthday present you bought David?
Bill Sienkiewicz drew David as a vampire. Ain’t that fun? Bill’s living with me right now and I’m making Bill pay his rent by doing drawings for me. I’m such a whore! Every ten minutes I’ll walk into Bills room, “Hey, Bill, could I get a Spider-Man sketch from you?”
You’ve seen the film. Thoughts?
I love it. I love it, love it, love it. But I’m very aware of the fact I’m immersed in this thing, so I’m the last person in the world who can tell you if it’s a good movie or not.
Sure, but at the same time you hear about actors who say they can’t watch themselves on camera, or writers who can’t read their own work, like you said before, but you didn’t have the same awkward experience watching the movie?
No, it’s been through other creative hands, so it’s not as big an issue. Although, when I hear my own dialog, I just get so happy. The stuff from the comic? I just freak out. But it’s not the same as if I had written the entire thing. That part is nice because I get to enjoy it on a different level.
You’ve been a life-long horror fan and this is kind of the culmination of that fandom. What did your parents think of your fascination with horror growing up? Horror wasn’t quite as mainstream when you were growing up as it is today.
|Still from “30 Days of Night”|
Really, they didn’t know what to think. That’s the simplest way to put it. They were very supportive of me, but I think they worried, too. Like, “Well, he’s sculpting. It’s a severed head, but at least he’s sculpting!” [laughs] It was always these tough decisions. “He’s playing music. It’s really loud punk rock, he’s screaming his lungs out, and he has a Mohawk, but at least he’s playing music.” I would always make these creative decisions where they’d be proud, but at the same time … you know. So, we were always kind of at odds, but my Mom had a lot of blind faith in me. She bought me my first jar of foam latex, my first base. She was always very supportive of me. My Dad liked to argue with me more.
Your father died many years ago, didn’t he?
Yeah, he passed away while running the Pittsburgh Marathon. We used to fight about our very different lifestyles all the time. He was a big health nut, while I smoke and drank. He wanted me to quit, then he goes and dies in a marathon. That’s really not the way I wanted to win that argument.
How old was he when he died?
He was only 55.
But your Mom’s still with us, right?
|Still from “30 Days of Night”|
What does she think of all this? Is she going to see the movie?
Oh, no. She won’t see it. It would kill her! She took me as a kid to see “Alien” and I remember looking over at her and she had her eyes covered the entire movie. She just took me because I couldn’t get in without a parent. She would do that all the time. Same thing with my Dad. He took me to see “Dawn of the Dead” with people throwing up in the aisles.
My Mom’s really nice about it. She said to me, “Steve, the commercials scare me!” It’s so funny because I always tell her if she sees any movie related articles to send ’em to me for a scrap book because she reads all those magazines that I don’t read. She’ll send me stuff like, “Josh Hartnett secretly dating…” and I’ll say, “Mom, this is not movie news!” It’s always clips about Josh Hartnett dating, which is so cute, because she’ll send me stuff like “Did you hear, he broke up with …” “Mom, that’s not quite what I was looking for my scrap book!”
At this point in your professional career, you’ve navigated both comics and Hollywood pretty heavily. Which do you find easier to navigate – comics or Hollywood?
Oh, lord. It’s about equal at this point. I’ve managed to make myself enough of an outsider in both that I don’t feel secure in either.
How do you mean you’ve made yourself an outsider?
Well, my agents are always screaming at me because I like to split rights and share too much of my money with people. I like to not be motivated by fucking greed, and evidently that’s not a popular notion. I’m not really an outsider, but really who isn’t in Hollywood? In comics, yeah, I definitely feel like an outsider.
|Still from “30 Days of Night”|
What do your agents think of your comics work?
My agent, John Levin, also luckily represents Neil Gaiman, so he gets it. He loves it. He knows how important it is to me. My former agent, not so much. But John gets it. And he reads my books, which makes it even better.
You’ve sold so many properties to Hollywood, and I’d like to get an update on some of those. Let’s start with Cal Maconald.
I’m looking at offers right now and talking with people. I’m trying to get assurances that 1) I can write it, 2) that it can have an R-rating and 3) that they don’t mess with the character.
That’s understandable because of all your creations, Cal is likely the most personal character to you. You’ve been writing him the longest.
Yeah. I’ve been writing him since I was a teenager. It’s a tough thing. We’ve been sitting here talking about the journey I’ve taken all these years since “30 Days of Night” and I’m trying to think how to put this, but, like I said earlier, I really feel like I missed becoming a Hollywood asshole by an inch. You can really get sucked into this scene here and I think the one thing that’s happened in the last year or two is I’ve found a lot of happiness. I’m happy. I’m not stinking rich. It seems like all anyone tries to hang over you these days, whether it be comics or in Hollywood, is money, fame and success. But, you know, if I’m happy now, I don’t have to worry about that stuff. That’s made things go much smoother.
|Still from “30 Days of Night”|
How do you think it is you found you came to that point of peace?
Really, just getting over it. Getting over myself. Getting over the excitement of it all. Just letting things settle down. At the end of the day it’s just me in front of the fucking computer writing about monsters. It’s all about getting back to that place and I wasn’t even aware for a while that I had left it. You get so into the scene and the people you’re talking to and pitching, all these new things, when before I worked in a book store, I came home, played video gamed and wrote my stories.
I’m so happy! I did not get into this to get in front of cameras and talking about myself. Through this whole process I’ve grown sick of my own voice!
Back to the property updates. What about “The Lurkers?”
That’s in really good shape again because I finally have a new take that will work good on film. We’re just waiting for some things at Lions Gate to be settled. I might hand that off to a writer/director and work with them as a producer on that one. “30 Days” taught me that if you get the right team together you can get just about anything done.
Those are the two properties from that seem to generate the most interest. What’s happening with some of your other comics?
Well, “Wake The Dead” seems to be one people always want to do. I also get bugged about “Freaks of the Heartand” a lot, but like Cal, every time I talk with someone about it they say, “Wow, this would be a fantastic movie if we make these changes.” I end up disagreeing with those changes and so it probably won’t ever be sold as a movie.
“Freaks of the Heartland” is filled with a lot of heart and sensitivity, which is odd considering it has a giant monster in it. It seems like it’s less a horror film than a straight up drama.
I agree. It’s ultimately the story of two brothers. Some of the suggested changes people want to make, the studio suggestions have been, at times, mind numbingly stupid. That said, I’ve spoken with people about it whom I really respect and it’s just one of those things where you need to be on the same page. I’m like in this new place where over the last year I’ve decided to just take things as they come and see what happens.
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