Friday, May 11, 2007

John Carpenter Q and A Day Two: Craven, Scar and Morricone

John Carpenter concluded his question and answer session this afternoon and while several of the same topics from yesterday were covered, many interesting new ones were also brought up.
After a nice introduction Carpenter quickly settled into the same relaxed tone as yesterday, only today to an even smaller audience. He talked a bit more about Bowling Green and he credited much of the 'evil' in his films as being directly related to his time here. Specifically he mentioned an evening in Russellville involving a girlfriend and a stepfather that had particularly stuck with him, but he didn't give any details.
Highlights of the first half were a conversation about how the unexpected success of ASSAULT ON PRECINCT THIRTEEN in England really helped set the stage for HALLOWEEN. Carpenter admitted that while THE THING was his favorite film of his own, HALLOWEEN remained his best experience. He credited the youth of almost everyone involved and the excitement of working with Donald Pleasance.
The subject of his actor's came up more today and Carpenter said that he still treasured being able to have worked with his Henry Brandon in ASSAULT, since Brandon had played Scar in THE SEARCHERS (still one of Carpenter's favorite films.) John credited the classic Hollywood directors of his youth, specifically Howard Hawks, Hitchcock and Orson Welles as being his biggest influences. When asked about the easiest to work with Kurt Russell's name immediately came up. James Woods name was mentioned when Carpenter was asked about the most difficult but John quickly added that Woods is a brilliant actor, and it seemed clear that there wasn't any real animosity. He did admit that Courtney Love gave him the biggest headache before being replaced by Natasha Henstridge in GHOSTS OF MARS due to her drug and emotional problems. Love recently sent Carpenter a written apology and he said he hoped she was continuing to do better. GHOSTS OF MARS remains one of Carpenter's most under-appreciated films and I personally love Henstridge in it asnd I can't imagine that Love could have brought the same coolness and presence to the role.
Several questions came up concerning Carpenter's peers including one asking whether he had ever felt any competition, specifically with Wes Craven. He replied no and said that he still kept in touch with Craven who had told recently told him to 'stay away' from the Weinstein group. This led into a talk on Crapenter's distaste for the 'corporate Hollywood' system and how the director as author idea was getting more and more lost.
The subject of music took up a lot of the talk today. GRINDHOUSE was brought up and Carpenter mentioned Rodriguez had wanted him to score it but he had a commitment to the MASTER'S OF HORROR program. He said he hadn't seen GRINDHOUSE but that he liked both Rodriguez and Tarantino (whom he labeled endearingly as an 'incredibly talented fanboy') and he took great interest in our audience's different opinions on GRINDHOUSE. He pointed out that if he hadn't been a director that music would have been his second choice or perhaps even an English teacher.
With the topic of music in the air I asked him about his collaboration with Morricone in THE THING and he still seemed obviously proud of it. He described going to Italy to meet with Ennio, even though Carpenter couldn't speak Italian and Morricone couldn't speak English, and getting bits of music to take back to score THE THING with. He asked me if I liked the score from THE MISSION, a personal favorite of his, and I said of course but I pointed to the Argento scores as some of my own personal favorites. I was surprised to see that Carpenter had forgotten that Morricone had done work with Argento and he asked me to name the films and he seemed particularly pleased to be reminded of them, especially BIRD WITH CRYSTAL PLUMAGE. I wish now I would have asked about Goblin's work in DEEP RED in relationship to Carpenter's score from HALLOWEEN.
A final topic that stood out was a question that brought up Carpenter's canonization in the classroom and his thoughts on it. "Better than getting my ass kicked" was a pretty perfect answer and then he said it was 'very flattering.'
His message to young aspiring filmmakers was a simple but effective one, 'just make sure you HAVE to direct', that 'halfway' wouldn't cut it.
With a final joke of, "I have to go meet my drug dealer" John Carpenter wrapped up this second session to our really small but appreciative crowd. I got to meet him afterwards and he signed my THE FOG soundtrack and was a very warm man to speak to. A friend of mine was lucky enough to get a poster from HALLOWEEN signed that had me very envious, but I am pretty happy with an autographed copy of one of may favorite scores (which I have scanned here.)

John Carpenter is receiving a much deserved honorary doctorate tomorrow from the university. In a career that has now spanned nearly 35 years and highlighted by some of the most influential and creative genre films of the modern era, John Carpenter is a true icon. It was a real pleasure to listen to him speak on these two occasions and to get share a moment and handshake with him. I hope the awards ceremony tomorrow is a memorable one for him.

****POSTSCRIPT**** Here is a photo from WKU's website of John getting his honorary degree. Congratulations, I hope it was a great day for him


Kimberly Lindbergs said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts about the second event with Carpenter! It sounds like you had a great time Jeremy and I'm glad to see that you got your record signed. It must have been fun being able to chat with him about music. I've always been impressed that he not only directed his films, but also worked on the soundtracks.

Nostalgia Kinky said...

Thanks Kimberly,
I really love the music he created for his films so I was happy to get one of my favorite scores signed.
It was also fantastic hearing up talk about Ennio Morricone, whom he obviously really loves.
Thanks for the your new Avator by the way...for some reason it baffles me as to how to get one of those on the my profile page...

Marty McKee said...

Lucky guy you are! Carpenter was a terrific filmmaker back in the day, and I wish he could get that fire back. As much as I admire early Carpenter, I don't think he's made any worthwhile films in a long time.

Nostalgia Kinky said...

Thanks for reading and commenting Marty. I do think Carpenter's best period no doubt was between "Assault" and "Starman". The films he made in that period are so good in my eyes that it has been hard for him to top them.
That said, I do quite like "In The Mouth Of Madness", "Vampires", "Cigarette Burns" and especially "Ghosts Of Mars".
I think he's got a couple of more great ones left in him if he chooses to keep directing.
As the guy who made "Halloween", "The Fog", "The Thing" and "Escape From New York" he will always be one of the greats for me.
Thanks again for the comments.