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When you’re talking the history of horror, there’s no one
better to chat with than Stephen King. And when you’re talking genre-film
documentaries, there’s no one better to put one together than author/filmmaker
Laurent Bouzereau. In the past decade and a half, Bouzereau has created over
250 cinema documentaries and featurettes for laserdisc/DVD/Blu-ray editions,
including landmark pieces on the making of JAWS and PSYCHO and featurettes on
the King films THE DEAD ZONE, CHRISTINE, CUJO and PET SEMATARY. Tonight, the
two come together again for A NIGHT AT THE MOVIES: THE HORRORS OF STEPHEN KING,
premiering on Turner Classic Movies at 8 p.m. ET/PT.
The hour-long special sees King waxing candid on the history
of horror, talking about his favorite movies and discussing the screen
adaptations of his work, including the long-controversial THE SHINING. (The
program will be followed by an all-night TCM marathon of classic chillers like
the original FRANKENSTEIN, FREAKS, NOSFERATU, etc.; there will be more,
including rebroadcasts of THE HORRORS OF STEPHEN KING, each Monday this month
on the network through Halloween.) Fango spoke to Bouzereau about his
conversations with the master…
FANGORIA: How did this project come about?
LAURENT BOUZEREAU: Well, I’ve been doing the NIGHT AT THE
MOVIES series for a couple of years with Turner Classic Movies and
DreamWorks/Amblin TV. I did epic cinema, I did the history of thrillers, and
then we decided to do the history of horror films. And I felt that that has
kind of been done many times, and I came up with the idea of, “Look, if we get
Stephen King, and it’s not so much the history of horror films but horror
according to Stephen King, that would be a really novel and different idea.”
And to my great amazement—because Stephen is very busy, he had a new book
coming out and I didn’t think he was going to do it—he said yes overnight.
FANG: How long did you wind up interviewing him, all told?
BOUZEREAU: For two days—very long days! I was very well-prepared,
as you can imagine; I’ve read everything he’s ever written, I’ve watched every
frame that has ever been shot, I’ve read his famous book DANSE MACABRE, in
which he outlines his discovery of horror, and I came in with a plan. We had a
really fun conversation; he could not have been more generous and more fun, and
at the same time profound. I hope it comes across in the piece. He’s just so
smart about the genre, and has a very specific view about it, and I think
people will be interested. Because I feel like aside from that book, which he
wrote many years ago, we only know him through his fiction, you know? So I felt
this was kind of a coup.
FANG: How did you handle the task of whittling down those
two days’ worth of interviews into the hour-long program?
BOUZEREAU: That’s what gets me the credit for writing the
show. My questions were very structured, in the sense that I knew we had to
talk about certain things—we had to talk about vampires, we had to talk about
zombies, etc. But he took things in different directions, and that made for a
very distinct creative bent on certain aspects of the genre. But it felt very
organic when I started putting it together. I knew the show had to be an hour
long, and that feels very restrictive when you have hours and hours of
material, but in a sense it forced me to be much more focused, you know? And to
be a little more rigorous in my choices. I was like, “OK, this is much more
iconic than that.” Maybe one day we’ll do the uncut version, because there’s
plenty of material, as you can imagine.
But overall, it was very…I don’t want to say easy, because
nothing ever is, but it came very naturally. I worked very hard with my editor,
Andy Cohen, who is also a huge film buff and was instrumental in choosing some
of the clips, because as you can imagine, there were so many movies that we had
to find the truly iconic images, and we had very little time. We put it
together in eight weeks, which is very short for a project like this.
FANG: Were there any surprises in the course of your
conversations with King?
BOUZEREAU: Yeah, everything was a surprise, to be honest
with you. I had met him in the past, and so I knew his tone; he has a great
sense of humor, and you can relate to him on a very kind of non-star level—even
though I’ve worshipped Stephen King since I first read his books. It was a
little intimidating at first, but he quickly made me very comfortable. People
always ask him the same questions, and have the feeling that he’s weird because
he writes about weird stuff, right? But I’m a fan, so I didn’t come to him
attacking the genre; I came from a loving place. And also a knowledgeable
place, where…for example, THE SHINING, which I know he doesn’t like, but I do;
I love the book, but I also enjoy the movie, even though they’re two different
things. So he disagreed with me, and that made for a great discussion. And then
with THE OMEN, I like the sequels and he doesn’t, but we were able to have a
very mutual respect for each other’s ideas.
But I would say that the thing that surprised me the most
was his words about the very short shelf life of the horror film—even the best
ones—where the first viewing is really the one that defines whether it’s a
great film or not. The second viewing is a different experience, and the third
viewing relies more on the memory of the first, you know? It’s almost like, if
you want to be morbid about it, the first dead body you see if you’re a doctor
must be kind of shocking, but the second time it’s less and the third time it’s
less than that. You become numbed a little bit, but it’s also easy to reach
back to the very first time you had that emotion, and to be reminded of what it
was like. That’s my interpretation of what he said, and that was probably the
FANG: Are you going to be tackling more horror-oriented
projects in the future?
BOUZEREAU: I’m currently developing a number of projects,
including fiction films. I would say that my taste definitely gravitates toward
the horror genre, because it’s very visual, and they’re the movies that have
impressed me the most, and I’ve been reading a lot of material recently in that
vein. But I’m one to love suspense over horror; if it’s just pure horror, it
doesn’t really attract me, and that’s why I love Stephen King, because it’s not
pure horror; it’s suspense, it’s character-driven, it’s many things, even as it
has all those horrific elements to it. To use the example of CARRIE, that’s a
twist on being bullied at school; what if the kid being bullied has a
supernatural power? THE SHINING is about writer’s block; well, what if there’s
a ghost story attached to that? So that’s great, because it comes from the
characters, and that’s what makes Stephen King unique. I continue to learn from
him, just be reading and rereading his work.
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