Coscarelli, Master of Horror:
Giving a Hand to John Dies at the End
Coscarelli won't remember this, but we met once years ago
at a Comic-Con. Of course, Coscarelli meets many people
at conventions, and I can say he's kind, soft-spoken, gentle
and attentive to everything a fan might have to say.
to be The King.
weird, because he's also responsible for scaring the living
spit out of many of us when we were 12 and 13 -- although
I suppose I could blame Trey Nichols and Mark Maggi for
making me go see his movie at the Meridian Quad when I was
still more into Disney. For Don Coscarelli gave the world
Phantasm -- and subsequently Phantasms 2, 3 and 4 -- and
for me, closet doors were never quite safe again.
would have been enough for a legacy, but in the 21st century,
he also gave us Bubba Ho-Tep. This tall man (but not THE
Tall Man) has a bent sense of humor, and in adapting the
work of Joe R. Lansdale for the screen, it almost seems
like he re-invented himself. Except that humor was always
now he's found a new cause to champion. If any man SHOULD
direct David Wong's John Dies
at the End, we at Fanboy Planet will go out on a limb
and say it should be Coscarelli. Yet he himself is humble
about it, using his name more to promote Wong's book than
to line up his next project. Such kindness in Hollywood
should be rewarded.
light of the recent publication in hardcover of the hilarious
John Dies at the End, Coscarelli agreed to answer some questions
about his interest and his work.
McCaw: How did you discover this book?
Coscarelli: John Dies at the End was the
first project selected for me by a "bot". My guilty
pleasure is post-apocalyptic zombie novels and I had bought
a couple from a terrific small publisher called Permuted
Press. One day in my email I received a bot email from amazon
which read, "If you liked the book Dying to Live
you'll love John Dies at the End. The description
of John Dies hooked me, especially the notion of
a street drug called Soy Sauce that allows users to drift
between dimensions. I ordered it immediately.
McCaw: At what point did you look up and
say "this will be mine?"
all thank artificial intelligence.
Probably a chapter or two in when Dave is accosted by the
Rastafarian who is ready to tell him where the first nuclear
device will be detonated. The deal was definitely sealed
when Dave was able to communicate with John through a bratwurst.
McCaw: What did you do and say to convince David
Wong that you were actually Don Coscarelli?
Coscarelli: I guess David didn't believe it was
me. I can be persistent so I just kept emailing, weekly
and then daily. Days would go by and my wife would look
over and see this hang-dog expression on my face and ask
if that Wong character had ever replied. It was terrific
to finally speak with him as I really believe David (or
Jason, if you will) is one of the most talented young writers
I've ever come across. Although they write in completely
different styles and genres, it felt a lot like the first
time I spoke with the terrific Joe Lansdale.
your involvement, some parts of the novel do feel influenced
by your work - were you offering notes and ideas, or was
this just a coincidence?
will take that as a HUGE compliment. No, of course, I had
never met David until the book was long finished. However,
there is no question that we both share an interest in horror,
humor and the general absurdity of life. David's just a
more talented writer than I am!
do you have to bring to this project that no other writer/director
could give it?
am sure there are a lot of other directors who could make
a great movie out of this book. The one thing I do bring,
which I think I demonstrated to David with my adaptation
of Lansdale's Bubba Ho-tep, is that I will stay
as true as possible, within the limits of time and budget,
to his book. The largest problem is that there is a wealth
of material and it will require some serious whittling to
get it down to movie length.
novel ends promising more adventures, and again, it's also
fairly episodic - do you see this first novel as being more
than one film in and of itself, and is there a difference
in your approach if you know you're setting up a series?
firmly believe that these characters could play in a series
of films. However, I hope to get the bulk of his first novel
into the first film.
McCaw: Along those lines, how's the sequel
to Bubba Ho-tep coming along?
He wouldn't hurt a fly, right?
Coscarelli: The cast is finally set with Ron Perlman
stepping in to play Elvis and Paul Giamatti as Elvis's manager,
Colonel Tom Parker. I co-wrote the screenplay with a talented
Texas writer, Stephen Romano. I am very proud of this script.
It has never been more difficult to make an independent
film. Financing has been a challenge and we're just locking
it down now
and hope to shoot early next year. Updates on our progress
can be found at www.bubbahotep.com.
McCaw: What's the best part of working
with David Wong?
is a fellow who is loaded with sheer talent, a self-deprecating
style and a great sense of humor. Some of the additional
material he has created for the book's promotion and the
website is hilarious and shows that there are many more
great works to come from this guy.
far along is the film production?
Coscarelli: I am now finishing up the screenplay
and beginning the search for funding. Remember something
though, just because a creative work sparks my enthusiasm
does not necessarily mean that the big shots at the studios
will stand up and salute. What I value about David's work
is it's sheer originality, and that is not really the currency
Hollywood trades in.
McCaw: Who's your dream cast?
Coscarelli: Only the great Korrok knows...
hopefully, he'll tell us soon. We thank Don Coscarelli and
Jason Pargin, David Wong's secret identity, for both sharing
with us about this project. If you haven't bought the book
already -- get it! It's hilarious.