JOHN DIES AT THE END: Interview with Director Don Coscarelli

One of my most cherished memories is seeing Bubba Ho-Tep premiere at Midnight Madness back when the screenings took place at the sadly departed Uptown Theatre on Yonge St.  Director Don Coscarelli and Bruce "Elvis" Campbell were both present at the screening and it as amazing to see on the Uptown's titanic screen.  But I was just as excited that the film was based on a Joe R. Lansdale story.

Coscarelli is returning to Midnight Madness just over a decade later with another movie based on another novel, David Wong's John Dies At The End.  I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to ask Coscarelli a few questions.

What draws you to a short story or novel and what about makes you think it would be interesting as a film?
When I read a short story and I'm pissed it's short, and I'm hungry for more, that's usually when I start wondering if it's filmable. That's exactly what happened with BUBBA HO-TEP. What's interesting was the source novel for my most recent film, JOHN DIES AT THE END, was a long 350 pages...and I was pissed when it was over. I immediately started thinking about filming it. Both stories share some common traits which drew me to them, including elements you don't usually find in horror, such as a focus on friendship, and an outrageous and unexpected sense of humor.

What are some of the challenges in working with someone else's story and prose or adapting their prose to a visual medium?

Length is always a big issue. BUBBA HO-TEP was very short, so I had to add material to get it to feature length. With JOHN DIES AT THE END it was the opposite. It was a sprawling, epic novel with so much great material that I was always struggling with tightening it. There is no question in my mind though that to adapt a work such as one of these, that one needs to fully buy into the original author's work. If you're not going to treat the source material as your "Bible", why make the movie?

Your stories often take place at an intersection between the mundane and the dreamlike, surreal or absurd. What are some of the challenges of maintaining the right balance and what do you find appealing about the juxtaposition?

I like to laugh. I think humor is one of the most underrated aspects of human existence. What's life without it? That's why I'm always looking for it when I'm creating my movies. As to the dreamlike and surreal, I'm just naturally drawn to looking at things from different perspectives.

I recently watched your Trailers From Hell commentary on Godzilla, King of the Monsters. I was wondering if you see any influence from Godzilla, Ishiro Honda or Akira Ifukube on your own filmmaking or writing? If so, what might they be?

Despite just loving Godzilla as a monster and his massive size, what haunted me most when I saw it as a child was a sentimental power it had, especially when Serizawa sacrificed himself for his fellow citizens as he set off the oxygen bomb under Tokyo bay. Certainly BUBBA HO-TEP has some similar themes when President Kennedy and Elvis sacrifice themselves for the sake of their fellow rest home residents!

Every now and then there's a news story about Bubba Nosferatu that keeps hope alive for a sequel to Bubba Ho-Tep. Are there any developments you'd be willing to share?
There's no question that fans want more adventures of Elvis battling the supernatural. I do too! Bubba Nosferatu was a great script and I'm sorry the project crashed and burned as it were. However, much like Elvis, I share a positive, can-do attitude and am thinking that the time might be right again to just get get off my ass and take care of business. Time to TCB, baby!

Thanks to Don Coscarelli for taking the time to answer my questions.

Sat., Sept. 15, 11:59pm:  RYERSON
Sun., Sept. 16, 5pm:   CINEPLEX YONGE & DUNDAS 2

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