In Anticipation Of The Deluge : A Moment At The River's Edge

The Sixth Revelatory Interview - part two
By Phil & Sarah Stokes, 1 / 12 July 2004

Revelations : "Right - let's link beautifully here: 5 -year-olds... wide eyes... Disney movies..."

Odom's Spire - a time out of time

Clive : "There you go!"

Revelations : "What's happening with Abarat?"

Clive : "Well, John Harrison - the last I heard, I should have the script in my hand the next week or so - so we'll see. I like John immensely and I have great faith in his loyalty to my vision, because he did the Dune project and he's approached this scale of thinking before and I think did immensely well with Frank Herbert's world and I have great hopes that he'll do the same with Abarat. Perhaps this time next week I'll be able to tell you more."

Revelations : "And he was a Disney choice, Clive, was he?"

Clive : "Yes, I didn't know him. He was a Disney choice, but he was kind of offered up to me a little bit - like, 'What do you think about John Harrison?' and because of the Dune experience, or Children of Dune, I was like, 'Yeah! Damn right - that's a great idea!'"

Frank Herbert's Children of Dune

Revelations : "And what sort of remit do you, and or Disney, give him?"

Clive : "Well, he spent several parts of days with me, going around the paintings, talking through not only what was on the walls but also what I thought was going to happen to these characters as time went by - to cast my imagination forward from the two books that we do, into whatever the third and the fourth might bring. And I can only do that in a very limited way because of the way I'm working - I haven't painted those books yet! So I don't know that much, but there are some things I know and I was able to offer him some insights. And I was certainly able to give him the feel for what excited me about this whole project in the first place - what had brought me to islands and time and a time out of time and the Fantomaya and all the various elements that plugged into my experiences as a child going to Tiree and Guernsey - two islands which featured hugely in my childhood imaginings.The whole idea of being able to jump through time and then go to a place where time doesn't even exist is something that's very acute right now, being in a state of jet lag! That's the way you feel! You're not plugged into the way the hours work and I made a note to myself two years ago, saying, 'Candy should feel something like jet lag,' and I think that when she gets to move through the islands at a really fast rate (as she'll be required to do in the third and fourth books) that's got to affect her. I mean, jumping from hour to hour, you're getting very strong feelings of what each hour will bring, but they're not in the right order! And it's that weird thing of when you have, for some reason, disturbed sleep, or when you sleep in the middle of the day - you know, when you're really tired and you sleep for a couple of hours in the middle of the day and you lose two hours, you know? This strange sense of being dislocated - I shared a lot of that stuff with John and I think he was excited to have whatever I could give him. What Disney said to him, I do not know, I was not party to. Those conversations were between John and Disney and John didn't choose to share them with me, and that's right Chronicles of Riddick and proper. He's a man who's coming to this with three things in his head: who I am, who his employers are - Disney, and who he is as a writer with his own imaginings and his own vision and his own version of what this is (probably I put those in reverse order - probably I should put him first!). He's a very smart, sensitive man and I'm cautiously optimistic that we're going to have something exciting out of this."

Revelations : "And is the plan still for a trilogy?"

Clive : "So far - and I think the first will have to work in order to get the others. I mean, Chronicles of Riddick, which just came out here, was planned, I think, to be the first of a trilogy and because it didn't survive more than a week, I guess they cancelled the idea of it being a trilogy. Which is a pain in the ass for people like me, who would have loved to have seen a bunch of movies like that. But, you know, it is a business and, I'm talking about movies being a business before they are an art, way before they are an art. The great thing with Joanna Cotler and my friends and supporters at HarperCollins, over a long period of time now - obviously primarily Jane Johnson, Joanna - they have bought into my vision of a quartet. And they know, even from the experience of selling Tolkien and C.S.Lewis, that these kinds of books earn their real place in people's hearts and on the bookshelves over tens of years. Well, you know it's fifty years since the first Narnia books were published and they're still - they're making The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe just now and I think it's Disney that's making that."

Revelations : "I think that's for Christmas 2005."

C.S.Lewis - The Lion, The Witch and The 
Wardrobe, first edition, 1950 Abarat I - UK paperback 'Narnia' cover

Clive : "There you go - so we're in an interesting time. It's lovely to feel with Joanna and Jane that I've got two people there who are completely supportive of my long-term goals as a creator; as they're not locked into, 'What's the next thing going to be, Clive?' because that would make me crazy. I know I've got a third book of The Art and the second book of Galilee to write and two more Abarat books and it excites me that those things are there somewhere in the menu of things that I have to choose from as I continue my writing and painting career. It's lovely to feel that there's important (and I mean important in the sense of important to me) important stuff to do; stuff that really moves me. Characters to pick up and bring to a conclusion and stories to tell, stories that audiences, readers worldwide have got an interest in - as I found out when I got into Holland and a whole bunch of people were going, 'Where's the third book of The Art?' and I felt, 'Yeah, yeah, I gotta get on with these books!' "

Disney's The Lion, The Witch and The 

Revelations : "We can tell you, that's not exclusive to Holland!"

Clive : "I know, I know... nor indeed to your household!"

Revelations : "You should never have called it a trilogy in the first place - you gave away the gameplan!"

Clive : "I know - a terrible thing to do!
"So then, on to Tortured Souls. Well, I came home to address the notes which Universal had given me, which are not massive, on the draft which I'm now working on - it's in front of me here. And I will, that's what I will work on 'til it's delivered, which hopefully will be sometime later in the summer. It will then be Universal's choice to make it or not make it. In the meantime, I'll get on with finishing the collection of short stories while they're making up their minds, because that's never as short a process as you think it's going to be. You hope they're going to come back to you in a week, in the end it's always months and that's just the way it is; there's nothing to do about it."

Revelations : "You did have hopes to start pre-production this year - is that now more likely to be next year?"

Clive : "Next year, sure, and I don't mind that actually, to be perfectly honest. I've got..."

Revelations : "You've got plenty to do!"

Abarat 2 promotion

Clive : "Yeah, exactly. The work in terms of promotion of Abarat II will be extensive through the autumn here in America and I want to do that; I want to be as thorough as possible with that. So, I'll probably turn in the script, go on tour, come back, finish the book of short fiction and then, hopefully, Universal will be in a place where they'll either say yes or no. If they say no, I'll probably simply pick up Abarat III. If they say yes, then I'll make the movie. And I'm pretty plain about that in my head; I don't think I'm in the mood to potter around here, I'm too excited by the options that I have if they don't want to make the movie. I mean, we've put together this deal to do adaptations of The Books of Blood stories, which is going ahead."

Revelations : "Is the deal finally done now?"

Clive : "The deal is done. I came back to greenlight it, so it's now rolling forward."

Revelations : "And who's that gone to? Is that public yet?"

Clive : "Probably by next week I can tell you..."

Revelations : "Will the Books of Blood projects have any reference at all to the adaptations which were floating around a year ago?"

Clive : "No. These are scripts which have been freshly minted from, with Anthony Di Blasi and Joe Daley watching carefully over their development. So, what we have is full-length movies - not the stuff that was knocking around a year ago which were short scripts for half-hour movies. These are full-length, 90-minute, 100-minute movies and, we'll see, but I always go into these things optimistically - it's the only way to do it - and my hope is we can make some cool movies out of this material."

Storyopolis event - January 2004

Revelations : "Great. Now, Thief of Always and Kelly Asbury: how did you two come to meet?"

Clive : "I was at an event organised by Storyopolis, which is a really cool children's bookstore and actually art store as well, in the sense that it sells the artwork from illustrated books - originals, reproductions and so on - it has a little gallery attached. So Storyopolis arranged a gathering of, I think there were maybe fifteen authors who had also done illustration - maybe that wasn't the theme, maybe it was just authors. But I happened to be sitting next-door to Kelly Asbury - Kelly, who is an author of books for really young kids, is both an illustrator and a writer and his name begins with an 'A', and I began with a 'B' so we were sitting next-door Shrek 2 to one another, as everybody's in alphabetical order. And we instantly got on well - there was, it was like we'd been friends a long time, instantly. And he had, beside his work as a writer and an illustrator, he was also, is also an animator and a director of animation. He directed Spirit, which is a Dreamworks picture of a couple of years ago. He most recently directed Shrek 2, which I think is now the number five best, most successful movie, in fiscal terms, ever made - so he's kinda golden around town! Now, Shrek 2 had not come out when we first met; he was still putting the final touches both to the picture and the sound of the music and was kind of exhausted but excited by the prospect of it, of the movie's release (and his own release from the movie!). And he said he wanted to make a live-action movie next and he wanted to make something for a younger crowd. He wanted it to be live-action and I got up from my chair and went over to the shelves and took out a copy of Thief of Always (paid for it!) brought it back to Kelly and said, 'Here - how about this?' - it literally worked like that. So, this was on a Saturday; Sunday night he called me and he'd read the book: 'I'm in. I want to make this movie!' So before I came away with David to England and to Holland, Kelly and Anthony and I made a tour of the major studios and the mini-majors with the book and with an extraordinary tool which Anthony had created - which was a trailer for the movie which he'd made up of pieces of other movies - the most extraordinary thing you've ever seen. And it really helped in the selling of the movie; people instantly got what this movie would do, how to sell it, how to take it into the world. So, we had a bunch of offers..."

Proposed poster sketch for animated Thief feature

Revelations : "And you said you'll be producing that, yes?"

Clive : "I mean, I promised Kelly that I would be there for him in this process because we've become friends; I like him immensely and the project has always been important to me. I mean I saw it through its various attempts at becoming an animated project, which was really difficult in lots of regards, because it was dealing with some high-powered people like Kennedy and Marshall and a lot of opinions. And then it went to ILM and there were a lot of opinions there. And so, you know we had that whole picture storyboarded as an animation and we had songs written..."

Revelations : "And do you have these or are they lost?"

Clive : "I have the songs, I have probably five songs."

Revelations : "Was Jerry Goldsmith doing those?"

Clive : "Jerry was doing the music. Jerry chose a bunch of songwriters to come in and give up their best crack at songs, which is where those songs came from, and so they were really Jerry's choices for co-creators. You know, there are lots of really cool things about this experience - I don't want to be negative about it, I , Robin Budd..."

Revelations : "Who went on to make the Peter Pan follow-up."

Versions of Lulu for Nelvana

Clive : "...exactly - was a really fun person to work with and really enthusiastic and passionate. And to sit in a room with Jerry Goldsmith and talk about music was great - I can still be a fan-boy with the best of them! Jerry's music I've always loved, so that was really, really fun to do."

Revelations : "But we do remember the footage of you comparing drawings of Lulu..."

Clive : "Well, that was agonising!"

Revelations : "It's got to be right, hasn't it."

Clive : "Yeah - and this is where Kelly comes in because Kelly respects my vision and I respect his, so we kinda make a good team. And I think it's been great weaving Anthony into all of this, because he's also brought his own gifts to this process - this trailer has been a revelation to me. He brought it over to me on DVD, he'd burned it onto DVD, I hadn't seen any of it, 'though I suggested some movies he might like to excerpt from. I had seen nothing and I put it in and he was sitting on the sofa and I was sitting on the sofa and we're watching it and there's tears pouring down my face at the end of it and I turned to him and I said, 'You son of a bitch - how dare you make me weep about my own fucking story!' And I'm not the only one it had that effect on. He did a remarkable thing. So, that's where we are with that."

Revelations : "We're at a slight disadvantage on the next topic - Infernal Parade - because we haven't seen it yet."

Clive : "There's just that thirty second teaser - I just approved photographs, and the packaging - I just approved that stuff today, and a banner which I guess they're putting somewhere, so it's not there yet."

Revelations : "Well, we'll sit and wait for that, but the figures look great."

Clive : "The figures are going to be amazing, and what I like about this project is it's a train - it is six figures all on these almost medieval kind of cart bases with wheels, which can be hooked to one another so you can have this infernal parade of monsters, and geeks and freaks..."

Revelations : "...and gorgeous girls - we've seen the guys on the message boards going nuts for them!"

Clive : "I have too! And dwarves and all of that good stuff."

Revelations : "And these ones stand being photographed in bright light, whereas the Tortured Souls were always kind of darker figures."

Clive : "Yeah it's interesting, that, and I think that these are easily the most beautifully crafted - just on the level of sculpting - of the three sets that I've been involved with Todd on. They really are exclusive, and what's nice for me is they're a new thing; they're not really horror, it's something different. You're absolutely right, Sarah, to say beautiful women and beautiful guys, because it really is that mixture of monsters - you know, it's what you would see at a freakshow. You would see the gorgeous girl doing the burlesque, but you'd also see the man who eats chickens, you know, the geek sitting in the cage - so we've got a nice mixture of the monstrous and the strangely beautiful. There's a character called Bethany Bled and - I don't want to give too much away, but there are some very cool things coming down the path. And what's fun is they have a different feel - even the colours are different. Whereas the Tortured Souls figures were black and white, and blue, these are much warmer, or the colours are much warmer; they're much more the colours of carnival - there's browns and reds and yellows..."

Clive Barker's Infernal Parade - Tom Requiem

Revelations : "...and flag-waving."

Clive : "Yes, exactly, and dancing dwarves and all of that stuff - it's much more, it's a kind of Fellini-esque spectacle, if you will."

Revelations : "And a sneak preview of the novellas: are they like the Tortured Souls, that it's something about each character and how they came to be in the freak-show?"

Clive : "Exactly. But whereas in the Tortured Souls novella I was also describing a location - Primordium - I'm not describing a location here; I'm telling something much more like a little fable."

Revelations : "Sort of backstories."

Clive : "Yeah - which are complete and unto themselves and not connected in quite the same way . These are the stories of who these people are."

Revelations : "So were these sparked at all by writing about the freaks on Babilonium? Or is that too obvious?"

Clive : "No, it goes way back before that: it goes back to me wanting to do circuses since the first time I ever saw a circus, which was when I was five, probably. They used to bring the circus to Sefton Park in Liverpool every, I guess, summer and it was the grand, old, probably Chipperfields. And the smell of it and this kind of scary ambience of it - the clowns used to freak the hell out of me. These are all very obvious things, but there's something quite powerful about those images and ideas and so we really tried to capture some of that and I think they've done a great job. Of the three sets, these are easily my favourites. Just because they seem to jump much more from a personal dreamscape than the others do."

Click here for Part Three...

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