The Hog takes on Rob Zombie about his new gig as writer/director of the new HALLOWEEN.
Joy Hog: Let me begin by saying that normally when I hear about a film I love being remade, I, um…
Rob Zombie: …Cringe? [Laughs]
JH: Yes, a little.
RZ: Me, too.
JH: But when I heard your name attached to the remake of Halloween, it brightened my spirits a little bit. With a film-going public that’s, fairly or unfairly, becoming embittered by the idea of a remake, how did you approach this project?
RZ: Well, you know, I feel the same way, but I think what it comes down to is just having passion for the project. I think a lot of these remakes, you can tell their just another job, that no one’s really wanting passionately to remake a certain movie. That’s why I wanted, with Halloween, to do more than just remake John Carpenter’s movie, because to me that seemed totally pointless. That’s why I figured if most of the movie is new, if the first act is young Michael Myers leading up to him murdering, and then act two is all Smith’s Grove Sanitarium and his incarceration and him growing into an adult while behind bars. So you could watch the first hour of this movie and be, like, “What am I watching?” It doesn’t turn into the classic Halloween—and even at the end, I kept some of the classic characters and situations, but I always wanted to change them up and make them different, and it ends differently, and just plays out in a different way.
JH: What was different about Halloween for you then? Is it something that actively sought out or had thought about in the past?
RZ: Never even thought about it. Never even crossed my mind. And even when it came up at first, I was kind of “ehh” about it. Until I really wrapped my head around it, I didn’t really know if it was a good idea. But the thing I did like about it, which I think a lot of remakes don’t have, is if you’re remaking Amityville Horror or The Fog or something, you don’t have a central figure that carries over. What’s great about Halloween is you have Michael Myers. You know, if someone says, “Oh, they’re making Frankenstein,” you go, “Oh, of course! Frankenstein!” or “King Kong!” You don’t question it so much, because there’s the central figure that remains the same. All these other movies are just situations, and what I like about Halloween is that Michael Myers is an iconic monster, and even though thirty years has gone by, I can still have Michael Myers essentially being exactly the same as he ever was. He didn’t age. It’s like remaking The Omen, but you still have young Gregory Peck around. You’re like, “Oh, this is great!” and that’s what it’s like having Michael Myers. I changed him a little bit, made him a little grittier, but essentially he’s the exact same character. So that’s why I think it’s kind of different.
JH: Did you at any point feel restrained by the 1978 film or the sequels? Did you ever have contact with John Carpenter about the project?
RZ: I talked to John Carpenter before we started just to tell him the project was happening. I never talked to him in a creative way about what he thought. His thoughts were basically, you know, “Just go do your own thing, man,” and that was all he really had to say. But it was always a balancing act, because you want to make it different enough so that it stand on its own as a completely different movie, but there are pieces that you want to have in it. It’s like remaking Jaws, but deciding, “Eh, it’s not a shark.” Because if you change it completely then people go, “Why the fuck do you even call it Halloween?” you know? So I wanted to keep a few iconic bits, but basically change everything.
JH: When you were writing the script, since Michael is largely silent, did you find yourself giving peripheral characters a lot more humorous lines to add moments of levity to the story?
RZ: No, because this movie I wanted to make much less humorous than the other movies, and actually the whole beginning with young Michael and Smith’s Grove is very humorless. Only in slight moments with the young girls, because they’re oblivious to what’s happening around them, they don’t know that there’s any danger, there might be some funny, human moments. But unlike Devil’s Rejects, which has a lot of black humor, the humor in the depravity of it all, I didn’t think that was appropriate here, because it’s such a different type of story. I wanted to play it much more serious. Those characters in Devil’s Rejects are sort of hyper-real. They feel real, but they’re kind of over-the-top, and this was way more down and not so crazy.
JH: Considering the fact the 1978 film is largely bloodless, did you find it necessary to add more blood and gore to appease a modern audience?
RZ: I really didn’t think about it. I just wanted to use enough blood when necessary so that it would seem real. I didn’t want to do anything gory or extreme, because it just didn’t seem right, and it was usually in the aftermath of something.
JH: Do you feel that your background as a musician affects the way you direct a scene or make a film? Do you play music on set or have specific cues in mind while you’re writing and directing?
RZ: I think some people do play music on-set. I never do that, but I think that helps in terms of score. I don’t know that it changes me as a director in any way, but I know a lot of directors don’t know music, and you can tell when you’re watching the movie that they’ve hired some music supervisor who’s maybe putting in music that seems kind of inappropriate. I think that directors that are well versed in music, it helps a lot, and you can see that with someone like Scorsese or Tarantino who use it to really bring the movies to life. But I don’t know if my music background really helps. It helps when I’m working with a composer like Tyler Bates, because I let him do his thing, but it’s easy to work with him and discuss, because I know what he’s doing. So, it helps a lot on that front.
JH: You’ve crossed over very successfully from music to movies like few others in recent memory have been able to do. Is filmmaking something you always had on your agenda? Do you compartmentalize and say, “Now I’m doing music, now I’m doing film,” or does it all fall under the same umbrella for you?
RZ: It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do, and I do compartmentalize it, because for example when I was doing Halloween there was no music, no other thoughts of anything. And I had another movie going at the same time, The Haunted World of El Superbeasto, and I even put that on a shelf, just, “I don’t even want to hear about it,” you know. I just feel like unless you’re 100% dedicated to what you’re trying to do, things will get in the way, and you’ll feel it later. You’ll feel like, “Oh, I wasn’t paying enough attention that day,” or, “I wasn’t focused enough,” because it’s such an intense thing and you have to be so focused that it’s not possible, for me anyway, to jump between different projects at the same time.
JH: Where are you at this point with El Superbeasto?
RZ: It’s basically done, except for the music and the sound effects, but the animation is done. I watched it over the weekend, and it’s f***ing crazy.
JH: Is that set for a theatrical release?
RZ: I think so, yeah. It’s a weird project. It started off small as this bizarre direct-to-video movie, but as we went along it kept growing and growing, and then it became a theatrical, and then Paul Giamatti came onboard along with a bunch of other people, and it kept expanding. I don’t think it’s a movie that could have a wide release, because it’s just so…so insane. [Laughs] I mean, hopefully that can get an R rating, because that thing is way more over-the-top. Right now, it’s probably an NC-17, but I don’t want to cut it to get an R. I’d rather just release it in a few theaters and have people go and see it and go, “What the f*** is this?”
JH: I’ve read somewhere that Malcolm McDowell, who plays Dr. Loomis, has signed on to three Halloween pictures. Is this something you’re interested in doing again?
RZ: I’m done. I just wanted to do one. Maybe someday, but after doing this, whatever I do next, I want to do from scratch. I mean, who knows? Something might come up. Someone might say, “We’ve got this great book and we want…” you know? After Devil’s Rejects, I went through a whole lot of different projects that didn’t happen, and then Halloween popped up, so it’s pretty unpredictable what’s going to happen. But the plan as of right now is to do my own thing. But the plans always change. [Laughs]
JH: I guess my last question is, did you use the same Shatner mask as the original?
RZ: [Laughs] Yeah, we did. I mean, we didn’t use the actual Star Trek Shatner mask, because I think they’re all corroded, but (Special Makeup Effects Artist) Wayne Toth got as much photo reference as possible on the original mask and he tried his damndest to make it as perfect as possible. And that mask is a f***er to work on, because even when he had photos from the original movie, depending on upon how it was lit, it looks so different. Sometimes it looks really sleek, and sometimes it looks kind of fat if it’s underlit. So he worked like crazy on it, and he got it really, really—
[A well-dressed gentleman enters with a mammoth platter of cookies]
Cookie Bringer: I was instructed to bring these in.
RZ: Holy shit! [Laughs] –But, yeah, I wanted it to look as much like the first movie as possible, because I thought that it looked perfect. I didn’t see that it needed to change any. I can’t wait for people to see it… Want a cookie? [Laughs]
[interview by John Merchant]