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

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

Dread - John Bolton

Revelations : "On Books of Blood - so the Dread deal survives this new deal then?"

Clive : "Yes, absolutely."

Revelations : "How's that one moving?"

Clive : "Moving well, I think - I have high hopes for it. It's a really superb script and it's a story which I always thought lent itself to a cinematic adaptation. It doesn't have a supernatural element to it, of course, which for certain kinds of people in the studios it's a reassuring element. Supernatural horror either works for people in studios or it doesn't; there's no middle ground. People either get it or they don't. Whereas you can sort of say anything in Dread could have happened. The other end of the spectrum would be handing In The Hills, The Cities to somebody in the studios and saying, 'Let's make a movie!' I think every single one of them would say, 'You are kidding - get out of here, you mad homosexual!'"

Revelations : "I don't know how you sold these Books of Blood but the graphic novels did part of the work, because they did visualise..."

Clive : "Well they did, but you know what, we never showed the graphic novels to the folks, because we feel like we have to hold that in abeyance until we actually get out and start making these movies - we don't want to start influencing the people who are going to take these stories in their own direction. I mean, I think the truth is a cinematic life is very different from a comic book life, is very different from a literary life and that's something Ithink most people now completely understand. I went over the weekend to see Stepford Wives and you know that was a novel originally - an Ira Levin novel - which I read and then it became a movie, directed The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin - 1972 1st edition The Stepford Wives dir. Bryan Forbes, 1975 The Stepford Wives dir. Frank Oz, 2004 I think by Bryan Forbes, which is a pretty scary movie - for its time, I don't think it would be faintly scary now, perhaps it would, I don't know - and now, of course, it's a gay comedy, directed, appropriately, by Frank Oz with Paul Rudnick writing the script! I mean, I don't know if Ira Levin's revolving in his grave (I don't know if Ira Levin's alive, I don't know - in which case I hope he isn't revolving in his grave!) But it's interesting to see how a piece of material adapts to its time. I mean, we find the idea that a bunch of women (or a bunch of men, indeed) would fall for the basic precept of Stepford Wives kind of lunatic now. So it has to be played as a piece of high camp; that's the only thing you can do - you have to get Bette Midler and Glenn Close in..."

Revelations : "Oh please, no!"

Clive : "Well, it actually works better than it sounds! But my point is, you can't really make it scary anymore because the idea of a bunch of women being turned into robots and learning how to Hoover and cook cakes is so deliriously silly now that it doesn't carry any kind of threat to us. You know, when feminism was on the rise I think, which is when Levin wrote the novel, I think feminism was trying to stake its claim to part of the social soul - the idea that a bunch of men would revenge themselves upon this fight the women were having for self-hood by taking self-hood away mechanically and turning their wives into robots really had a kind of visceral thrill to it. And it was pop-writing, but it was pop-writing that was well aware of what it was doing; it was attending to what the social atmosphere was like, what the culture was doing. Now, of course, what can you do? You put Glenn Close in a sort of Betty Crocker outfit and she has her face done up within an inch of its life and then she does that thing with her eyes that she does in Fatal Attraction... oh dear! What else can you do?"

Revelations : "So - I take it we're not going to see a high-camp version of The Midnight Meat Train, then?"

Clive : "No. That's the first movie we're going to do and it's scary as shit. And the reason it's the first movie we're going to do is to sort of put our mark in the sand."

Revelations : "Which is exactly why it led off the short story collection in the first place."

Clive : "Exactly right, exactly right. It was always - from its title onwards - it was always, 'OK - here we go - I'm not here to make you laugh, I'm not here to reassure you...' I always thought that was a strong horror title - you know, like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: there are two words in that title, 'chainsaw' and 'massacre', and the two words 'midnight ' and 'meat' - they are words that signify you're going to see some no-holds-barred horror. No-holds-barred horror - and I wanted to do that, just going back to the Hellraiser thing one last time, it's that feeling, that little frisson that you get when you're really crossing a boundary that I've got again writing this story - Oh God, yeah! Feel that! I don't have to worry about special effects, I don't have to worry about whether we'll do it CGI or physical - I just write it - yay!"

Revelations : "Can we stay on Books of Blood for just a second? How many films is that in the deal?"

Clive : "Well, we're looking at eight right now - two a year, very possibly."

Revelations : "Eight named?"

Clive : "No, they're not eight named, there's a selection, yes, but we're really going for the hard-core horror ones. I don't think you'll see Yattering And Jack in there."

Revelations : "Which is why the Dread deal wasn't threatened, presumably?"

Clive : "Right, well Dread was also pre-sold, or Fox still had it way before this deal came along."

Revelations : "Would we know the writers on these projects?"

Clive : "No - I don't think you would - we're really trying to break out young writers, young directors and maybe even young composers - this is our time to call to the battle all those people out there who want to make horror movies. And maybe they've made something on 8mm or 16mm or high-definition and now we're ready to trust them with a movie, and that's what we're trying to do. I was trusted with a movie all those years ago..."

Revelations : "So if you can give someone else a break..."

Clive : "Yeah, exactly - we're very much of that mind."

Revelations : "We haven't heard anything on Damnation Game for a long time - is that still live?"

Clive : "Well, it seems like it's not going to be at Warner Bros. anymore. It's definitely going to be a movie; curiously, though it started earlier than the other things, it's further off than the others. Just because of Warner's change of people - the people who bought it were removed from office, for various reasons which I can't talk about, and they were gone. One day we called them up and they were gone! I know it sounds weird, but it really is the way this town works and there are so many reasons why people are removed and there's so much politics, so much politics."

Revelations : "In some ways it's laughable, it's like one big game, but it's also someone's livelihood..."

Clive : "I don't laugh - I don't find it remotely funny, either from their point of view or from mine as a creator. As a creator, it's actually incredibly irksome to be developing something with somebody and taking it in a particular direction because you're trying to fit their taste and they have a particular take on the material and they have particular questions about the material that they want answered. And then of course when the new person comes in, of course they have a completely different set of questions, a completely different take and it's profoundly irritating, no two ways about it. And it's also, unfortunately, the way this town works - it works like musical chairs."

The Boxing Match in History of the Devil, 1980/81

Revelations : "We've not heard you speak on record about The History Of The Devil - how is it shaping up?"

Clive : "Well, Peter Filardi, who wrote - I guess people who come to Revelations will know him best for Flatliners, actually. And his producing team came to me with a vision of wanting to do History Of The Devil as a six-hour mini-series - which I thought was a really cool idea. They really had a passion for the material and a real take on it and I always thought there was a cool way to expand that narrative and tell all these stories, all those little stories of the Devil's playing, fiddling in the workings of history in some more expanded form, that audiences would enjoy. So that's what they're aiming to do. So we're hoping that will all move forward. I think Peter right now is writing - I think it'll take him a long time to write six hours, so we probably won't see anything for six to nine months."

Revelations : "It seems so much more appropriate to work it into that length of time rather than trying to squeeze it into a one-off two-hour production."

Clive : "Absolutely - I completely agree. I think it's potentially an immensely rich narrative and it's a dream role for somebody. I mean, to play all those manifestations of evil, all those kinds of evil in six hours, because the Devil gets to shape-change, in a way. I always said to Doug, 'Play the Devil as Andy Warhol,' in the way that Andy (well, I only met him once but everybody says this about him) he seemed to be a blank slate in a way - a tabula rasa - upon which anything could be scrawled and you can imagine anything about him could be true. And I said, 'Doug - try that,' and he did his own version which was incredibly successful; he did his own, English take on that - curiously, wilfully bland. And then, of course, during the scenes, during the flashbacks, he could be many things: he could be an angry child at the beginning; he could be a born aristocrat when he creates Jack Easter; there are all these various forms which he could take through the individual stories. And, most chillingly, when he played the man accounting the numbers of dead in the Second World War, in the Holocaust - he became some terrifying accountant, with a book, numbering the dead - I thought it was a brilliant performance. It remains in my head, crystalline after all these years. What is it? 25 years? And I saw it a lot, I saw it a lot in a lot of different stages but it really was a magnificent performance. There were also some wonderful things from Olly Parker in that play and Mary Roscoe and Phil Rimmer - touching things from Phil, some very touching things from Phil; he did a wonderful Mendoza, the little boxer who's up against Jack Easter. Mendoza was the great, great, great, great, great grandfather of Peter Sellers - believe it or not - an unbelievably boring piece of information! He was the first Jewish boxer, he was the first guy who really introduced moves into boxing and he was a very interesting character and all the fights that I name in the show were actually fights that he fought in - except the fight against Jack Easter. Yeah, he was a very interesting character and Phil got something very poignant and interesting out of him. Olly got something magnificent out of Jack Easter."

Revelations : "Well, it still reads very easily today, as a script."

Clive : "Yeah - I think it's a clean read, whereas I think Frankenstein In Love, for instance - you need to get it up to start to feel whether it's playing or not. I think you can play History Of The Devil in your head, pretty well. Do you know what I mean? I think it reads, curiously, more like a book; I think it's one of the easier plays to read. The hardest to read, I think, is Colossus, which actually, of all my plays, plays best, curiously. But that's interesting, thinking about plays: Angels In America I was talking to Pete Atkins about Angels In America, which is a play that I adore and he went to read it because of my enthusiasm for it and he just did not like it at all. And I went and looked at it on the page and I realised on the page it doesn't seem like much. But again, when you get it up it's there, it's alive, interestingly only as a theatre piece. Did you get it as a movie [in the UK?]"

Revelations : "It came over - the Meryl Streep?"

Clive : "And Emma Thompson."

Revelations : "Yeah - it came on, I caught a bit of it but I didn't sit through it if that tells you anything."

Clive : "It didn't work - it just sort of sat there - it didn't want to be a piece of television and I think the interesting thing about what Peter Filardi and his gang is doing - to bring this full circle - is that they are very much thinking, 'How can we make this mind-blowing television?' And I think that's great.
"One more thing before we part - should be Weaveworld, right?"

Revelations : "Right - please!"

Clive : "That is moving with real speed now - Fox have come on. Fox TV have come on to be the other half of the funding for the thing. So my understanding is that we're really off to the races. The script is having a final pass made on it and then I think we're going to go to a director and hopefully next year we'll actually make this thing! Next year it will have been in Showtime's hands ten years! It's amazing: I'm sure there are projects that are longer in people's hands, but ten years..."

Revelations : "It is an awfully long time - we've got pages of quotes on it now."

Clive : "Oh yeah - nations have lived and died in the time!
"I'm optimistic because the people behind it have never really ever let it go and I like that. There seems to be an ongoing passion for it and I think the fact that fantasy is now so huge, in the cinematic form at least..."


Revelations : " might finally have found it's time."

Clive : "Exactly - it might have finally found the moment when people can see getting behind it with the sort of money it needs to have. So, fingers crossed."

Revelations : "Everyone will be glad to know it's still going because it goes quiet for such long periods of time."

Clive : "Trust me, trust me, you're not the only one! I get crazy because every three months I wake up, and for some reason my mental processes have stirred it up again in my brain and I go, 'What the fuck's going on with Weaveworld?' And I call my agent and we get an update and the interesting thing is the enthusiasm never dies down! But it's never in quite the right form or there's not quite enough money - sometimes it feels like real Alice in Wonderland stuff, but I think we're almost there (he said!) I think my optimism is..."

Revelations : "...laudable!"

Clive : " psychosis!"

Revelations : "We'll do a deal - whatever goes into production first, we'll choose that one for the set visit."

Clive : "There you go - you got it!"

More from Clive on remaining Abarat books
More from Clive on the Disney Abarat movies
More from Clive on Scarlet Gospels
More from Clive on Tortured Souls movie

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