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Like a phantom in one of his screen works, John Carpenter
disappeared into thin air following the disappointing GHOSTS OF MARS back in
2001. During that time, the horror genre took on a more gruesome and graphic turn
with films such as SAW and HOSTEL, abandoning traditional storytelling and
going for a more in-your-face route with gore and torture.
Fans have become disillusioned with the endless tormented
screams, dismemberments and over-the-top bloodbaths that permeate the fear biz
today. A fever is sweeping through the once-loyal masses, and the only cure…is
more Carpenter! The HALLOWEEN creator has heard the cries and now brings us his
newest fright fest, THE WARD (available on VOD this Wednesday and in theaters
July 8 from ARC Entertainment). Starring scream queen Amber Heard (DRIVE ANGRY,
ZOMBIELAND, THE STEPFATHER), who also served as a producer on the film, THE
WARD is a chilling ghost story where the crazies are the victims and OK, yes,
there will be blood. We got the opportunity to sit down with Carpenter and find
out what he’s been doing for the last 10 years, discuss his own personal battle
with his faith in the horror genre and why he feels he’s back and ready to hit
the bloody halls running. With him is Heard, who tells us about her experience
FANGORIA: What creatively attracted you to doing a ghost
story like THE WARD?
JOHN CARPENTER: Well, I hadn’t made a movie since 2001 and I
had to stop…because, frankly, I got burned out on the business. I just didn’t
wanna do any more. As a matter of fact, I thought about quitting. It was, of
course, Amber Heard [pictured above with Carpenter and Mamie Gummer] who got
me, brought me back from the dead. But also, this movie was perfect. I started
on my road back when I did two MASTERS OF HORROR episodes, and it was actually
fun again. I didn’t have much responsibility. I just sorta showed up, it was an
hour’s worth of footage so it wasn’t a giant shoot and I had a great time. THE
WARD came along and it had everything. It was an ensemble cast, it had a
limited location, a small budget and there was a claustrophobic feel to it. And
I thought, “This is OK. This is great for my first time back really directing a
FANG: What burned you out on the process?
CARPENTER: The movie business, dude. I’ve been doing this
for 40-something-odd years. I’d been doing it back to back to back to back. Not
only directing it, but sometimes writing it and doing the music. What you give
up is your private life. You have no life. I just thought, “I can’t do this
anymore.” It didn’t help that GHOSTS OF MARS tanked like the Titanic…
FANG: What were the tools of trade you used on THE WARD? Did
you stick to the stuff you were most familiar with or did you try a lot of new
CARPENTER: [Laughs] We didn’t have any money for new
equipment and techniques. We barely had any money for the makeup and hair. We
had a lot of struggles on this film because it was a tiny movie. And—
AMBER HEARD: A lot of women.
CARPENTER: A lot of very beautiful and talented actresses.
And there’s nothing better, if you’re gonna be in an asylum with a bunch of
crazy people, if they’re all beautiful Hollywood actresses. It’s awesome. No,
it’s all about storytelling. OK, that’s all that directing’s about. It’s not
about equipment, it’s not about anything else. It’s just telling a story.
FANG: From either a performance or a storytelling
standpoint, were you guys trying to hark back to any past genre films? Is
Kristen’s line “I am no one” a nod to THE EXORCIST?
HEARD: I don’t think that when I go into making a movie,
personally; I don’t try and bring pieces of other movies with me. You know,
finding a character and relating to her, and making her as real as possible,
means forgetting all that stuff and just trying to find the truth in that
particular character. So I went to set and just tried to tell our story and
tried to have as much fun as possible while doing it, and luckily I got to work
with John Carpenter, who’s quite possibly the best at what he does. I jumped
into it headfirst.
FANG: Did you grow up watching Carpenter films? What makes
him the best at what he does from your vantage point?
HEARD: He’s a living legend. And he wasn’t working for a
while, so there was a gap, as we all know, in his projects. And when I heard he
was interested in making this one, I sat down with him and couldn’t believe
that I was gonna work with him. I’m a horror fan, I’m a genre fan; I like these
movies, they’re my favorite kinds of movies to make. I was actually thinking
about taking a break from genre films until I sat down with John Carpenter.
Then there was the end of that break [laughs]. So, yeah, I was honored.
FANG: Did you notice any difference between working with
Carpenter and guys like DRIVE ANGRY director Patrick Lussier and ALL THE BOYS
LOVE MANDY LANE’s Jonathan Levine?
HEARD: Yeah, I do. Patrick Lussier was a technical director.
It was about the process, it was about the machines, it was about the technology,
it was about the 3D element, it was about the explosions and special effects.
With MANDY LANE, I felt like I was working in a different world than the
director. It didn’t seem like we were working on the same project. It kind of
worked for his movie; I mean that with respect, because he did a beautiful job
on that film. But none of them are like working with John Carpenter. You’re
really in it, with John; you can’t help but be sucked into his madness at
times, and yet you still feel like you’re making a character you believe in and
want to live as. And so I felt equally as protected and free.
CARPENTER: Amber, on MANDY LANE, you felt like you and the
director were making different movies?
HEARD: Yeah. I just think we worked on parallel lines.
[Levine] didn’t give me any direction, didn’t give me any idea as to what he
envisioned my character to be. He just let me do what I was going to do and I
similarly didn’t try to cross lines with him, and it really worked. And we had
almost no real communication during the process, which definitely worked for
that particular setting.
FANG: John, are you still scared of actors sometimes?
CARPENTER: Everyone who makes a movie is scared. If they’re
making a movie, they’re lying to you if they don’t tell you that. Everybody’s
scared. They’re scared of the weight of the project, they’re scared about
failing. And you just have to get over it. I’m not scared of actors anymore. I
was when I started; that’s why I ask about it, because it’s tough when you’re a
first-time director. It’s really tough to know what to say. To walk up to
somebody and… The answer’s really simple, but of course you don’t think that
when you’re beginning.
TO BE CONTINUED
Check out our exclusive interview with Carpenter in Fango
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