Q&A: Stuart Gordon on Kickstarting Poe film, “NEVERMORE”
Old friends and beloved genre vets Stuart Gordon, Jeffrey Combs and Dennis Paoli have launched a new Kickstarter campaign in support of the film version of their amazing, lauded stage play about Edgar Allan Poe, NEVERMORE. With a goal budget of $375,000, the three are calling out to fans to help them. In an exclusive conversation with Fango, Stuart Gordon (who’s previously teamed with Combs on FROM BEYOND, RE-ANIMATOR and more) gave us some in-depth insight into this new project, the official synopsis and project description of which touches on the complex narrative about alcoholism, poetry, and poverty:
The incredible Jeffrey Combs stars as Edgar Allan Poe, haunted by spirits of the dead and the imp of the perverse as he attempts one last recitation of The Raven to save himself from a life of crushing poverty and soul destroying alcoholism. The screenplay is adapted from the script for the stage play Nevermore – which ran in Los Angeles and toured the country to sold out houses and great acclaim.
NEVERMORE is set in 1848, a year after the death of Poe’s beloved wife Virginia (and a year before his own.) He had become internationally famous as the author of ‘The Raven’ and his ‘Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque.’ But his fame did not provide fortune and so he was constantly seeking financial security and respect from the literary establishment.
This is Poe in his own words. Our text is taken from his letters and essays and we have based our evening on reviews and reports of his actual appearances. Our goal is to present a sense of the fascinating man behind the poetry and brilliant tales, a man who could be his own worst enemy, and whose life was even more bizarre and tragic than his strangest story.
FANGORIA: Why was NEVERMORE conceived as a play originally, instead of as a feature film?
STUART GORDON: We created NEVERMORE as a play after our success with THE BLACK CAT starring Jeffrey Combs as Poe for MASTERS OF HORROR. He was so believable as the great writer that I often felt like I was really hanging out with Edgar himself. We thought it would be a wonderful thing to share this experience with live audiences by recreating one of his recitals.
FANG: Combs is such an amazing character actor; tell us what you think it is that he has that makes him able to play Poe like no one else could.
GORDON: Jeffrey is a chameleon who can literally become anyone, and the variety of roles he has played in my films over the years is astonishing, not to mention the many alien races he has brought to life on STAR TREK. But Poe was a character that Jeffrey felt a special affinity for and he seemed to actually channel the troubled genius. Besides being exactly the same height as Poe, Jeffrey even has the same gray eyes that distinguished the famous poet. Early on he began speaking in the soft Virginia accent that Poe acquired during his up-bringing in Richmond. And with the wig and prosthetic nose I watched in amazement as he transformed into Mr. Poe before my very eyes.
FANG: Such a successful stage play, adapted by two veterans with a history of success in the genre, seems like an easy sell to studios. Tell us why it isn’t.
GORDON: Any historical story is a very hard sell at the studios these days. Even Steven Spielberg had difficulty getting a small budget for LINCOLN. And when you tell film executives that Poe will be reciting poetry, their eyes tend to glaze over.
FANG: How can such a period piece, with costumes, special effects both practical and virtual, and high-caliber actors like Combs be made for such a low budget?
GORDON: Making this movie for $375,000 will be a real trick and will require us to be very clever in our methods in bringing it to the screen. But I can promise you that as a labor of love, every penny will be used to enhance the production. It will be visually striking.
FANG: One of the wonderful things about your Kickstarter campaign video is seeing you and Combs together; it’s clear that you’re very good friends, comrades, and creatively harmonious. It’s wonderful to watch you interact, from a fan’s perspective.
GORDON: Jeffrey and I have been working together for over twenty-five years and as a result have become close friends. I never find myself laughing as much as I do when I work with him—ask him to do his impersonation of Paula Deen sometime. We’ve even developed a sort of short-hand that at times approximates mind-reading. But I know that anything I throw his way, no matter how insane, he will run with and come up with something far better than anything I had even hoped.
FANG: You have such a huge and loyal fan following; they’ve already contributed thousands [as of this writing, just over $31,000 has been donated] to the campaign!
GORDON: I’ve already been knocked out by the generosity of our fans, and feel that they recognize the great potential this project has to create something wonderful and lasting. And I feel obligated to do everything I can not to disappoint them.
FANG: What will be different about the film version that people who saw the stage play will look forward to?
GORDON: Film gives us the ability to widen the scope of the play so the audience will get to meet his wealthy fiancé’ Sarah Helen Whitman and his poor child bride, Virginia, as well as his actress mother and step father John Allan. We will be able to present the most complete and truthful biography of Poe ever done, warts and all.