On May 8th, 2015 I had the pleasure of interviewing film director and writer, Mick Garris. If you’re not familiar with his work it includes such movies as : Sleepwalkers, The Shining (1997), Desperation, The Stand and Bag of Bones with an impressive list of many other films and writing credits.
I reached out to Mr. Garris when I was doing my website, then a fledgling blog about Stephen King, and took a shot and asked if he’d like to do an interview for my site. He said yes.
So without further adieu, here’s the interview I did with Mick Garris in 2015 for those that didn’t read it the first go around…
AP: You directed the made for TV version of The Shining. Which is my favorite. And I know that Stephen King wasn’t too thrilled with Stanley Kubrick’s version. What did you and King decide to do differently than the original? And how did King view this version?
MG: Well, the decision was made to do a film faithful to the book. We weren’t competing with the Kubrick film, or looking to change the way Kubrick interpreted King’s story. This is a very personal tale for King, and we wanted to get the heart of the book onscreen. To see Jack’s descent into madness, see the guilt he had over hurting his son when he was drunk, to follow the trajectory that King had set for him in the first place.
AP: How satisfied were you with the end result of your version of The Shining as a filmmaker?
MG: It’s impossible to be objective. But in terms of filmmaking, I had the best resources I’ve ever had on any project on THE SHINING, a budget that covered pretty much everything we tried to put on screen, as well as a great cast and supportive network and studio. I haven’t watched it in years, but saw some scenes at the Stanley Film Festival last week, and was very happy with how it stands up. Although there are always things you wish you could have done better, I was pleased with what I saw. I like it.
AP: You’ve done two epic novels of King’s to film. Which was harder to do as a director: The Shining or The Stand?
MG: THE STAND was much, much harder: shooting a cast of 126 speaking roles, in six states, 95 scripted locations, shooting outside in a dying world, trying to hide the living world. By far the most complicated, demanding, and longest-running project I’ve ever had. THE SHINING was very contained, with a very small cast, and we were on our sets or locations for weeks at a time. On THE STAND we were often running to two or three locations a day.
AP: You’ve done a good share of King’s adaptations. In your mind how hard is it to bring King’s work to film especially a novel like Desperation?
MG: No film is easy. We worked for seven years to do DESPERATION as a feature film. It took that long to turn it into a TV production deal. DESPERATION, like THE STAND, had a lot of location work in desolate—and very specific—locations. And so much of it in the book is internal. It was a huge challenge to make the thrust of what was behind DESPERATION clear cinematically, and to externalize what’s going on inside those characters.
AP: Do you read the books or short stories before you start the film?
MG: Several times.
AP: Some directors in adapting King’s work stray from the source material somewhat because they have a certain way they want the film to go. You stay really true to King’s work. Is it important to you as a filmmaker to stay on point with not only King’s stories but with other writers as well?
MG: It depends. Movies and books are different media; like I mentioned earlier, books are internal and movies are external. King is the first to understand that they are two different things. If a book is cinematic—as many of King’s are—they can more easily be adapted to film pretty directly. But something like RIDING THE BULLET, which was a 30-page short story, was changed a lot. I changed the time it took place, and basically created a whole new back story for Alan, and the last half of the movie isn’t really even in the book. But the idea is to capture the essence of the story that you wanted to turn into a movie in the first place. I’ve done adaptations of other books by other writers—Clive Barker and others, including my own fiction—and certain things need to be changed because you’re dealing in a different medium. But keep the baby; throw out the bathwater.
AP: When I was a kid I went and saw Sleepwalkers. Had a great time watching it. My question is: how did you get all those cats together in those scenes because it seemed like thousands?
MG: It was only 125, but they were very well trained. The handlers spent months coaching them with treats and Pavlovian buzzers and things. We worked out long before we started shooting what they needed to do, and the trainers were able to humanely coach them.
AP: What’s your feelings on several of the King movie remakes going on right now? Does your version of The Stand really need to be remade? Or do you view the remakes as just simply updating for the times?
MG: Every one is different. You know, the remake of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS was fantastic, and didn’t take anything away from the original. MALTESE FALCON was a remake. THE FLY was a remake that was superior to the original. I’m not usually a fan of remakes of movies that were good to begin with, but as new generations of filmgoers grow up, there are stories worth retelling. I met Josh Boone, who’s writing and directing THE STAND remake, and I liked him a lot. A very talented guy who knows his Stephen King inside and out. I think it has the chance to be great.
AP: Do filmmakers take exception to their work being remade after a period of time?
MG: A lot of them like it, and profit from it. Like King says about his books: no movie can fuck up a good book. It’s still there on the shelf to read anytime you want to. The same goes for remade movies, I think.
AP: I read somewhere where you’ve been tapped a few times to sit in the director’s chair for The Talisman. Is that King novel ever going to get an adaptation and why hasn’t already you think?
MG: It’s a tough one to handle. I wrote a two-part miniseries script that’s one of my favorite things I ever wrote, and was going to direct it for ABC, but it was just too expensive for them. I have no idea why it hasn’t yet been made. Steven Spielberg’s Amblin has owned it for decades, and they keep announcing it, and then it goes away. Maybe now, in the days of doable visual effects and giant fantasy films, it’s the right time.
AP: Is The Talisman something you want to do?
MG: I’d love to. Don’t know that that will ever happen, though.
AP: You and Stephen King seem to have a really good relationship together. How did you and him come together in the first place?
MG: On SLEEPWALKERS. Columbia Pictures and King selected me on the strength of my enthusiasm for his work and because they thought PSYCHO IV showed it was something I might be able to handle. We met when he came to the set for two hours for his cameo with Clive Barker and Tobe Hooper in the film. But he was so happy with the version I made that he asked me to do THE STAND. And the rest, as they say, is cinema history… at least in the Garris house.