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©2006 website by Gone West

Legend of The Banned

An interview with the creator of
Masters of Horror, Mick Garris

Interview by Kevin Klemm

all rights reserved

issue #11

Mick Garris is waist deep in horror, as the director of such successful TV minis as "The Stand," "The Shining," "Sleepwalkers," "Freddy's Nightmares," "Amazing Stories," "Quicksilver Highway," and too many others to list here. Now with "Masters of Horror," the successful Showtime series that he's executive producing, Garris is literally up to his neck in blood, working with an elite mercenary squad of horror directors including: Tobe Hooper, Stuart Gordon, Joe Dante, John Landis, John Carpenter, Dario Argento and others.

So, we set off to find Mick Garris and found him in a cabin in the woods, sharpening his pen.

Let's find out how Mick Garris keeps his head above the carnage as a writer, actor director and executive producer of the many things that go bump in the night.

-- The Grin Creeper

Over at Girls and Corpses Magazine, we love the Masters of Horror series. So when our beloved Deaditor-in-Chief ran into Masters of Horror creator Mick Garris over at Dark Delicacies Book Store a couple of weeks ago, he couldn't let the opportunity pass him by. I got the assignment, and here is my interview with the OG Master of Horror himself- Mick Garris.

Girls and Corpses: You got your start shooting behind the scenes documentaries on some great classic horror films such as The Howling, and The Fog. Is that where you developed your friendships with future Masters of Horror Joe Dante and John Carpenter?

Mick Garris: I met Joe at a party at dinosaur expert and B-movie maestro Don Glut's house. I worked on publicity for THE HOWLING and THE FOG when I was at the late, lamented Avco Embassy, and that's when I met John. I worked on five films John was involved in, and that's where we got to know each other. I first met John interviewing him at the time he was composing the score for HALLOWEEN.

G&C: Was it a learning experience as well? Here you have two Directors, each at the top of their game, and you are getting to hang out on the set and watch them catch lightning in a bottle with two very pivotal horror films. What was that like

MG: It was monumental. Of course, I was really nervous and in the background, just watching them work when I was on the set. I was the least important guy there, and I knew how to stay in the shadows. The main thing I learned, though there was much to watch during the shoot, was how much of a film is really built during the pre-production phase, which I was not privy to.

G&C: You have become known as Steven King's "Go to Guy" when it comes to adapting his work for television, how did that relationship come about?

MG: Columbia originally hired another director to do SLEEPWALKERS, after coming close to hiring me for it. When the vision of that director and that of King diverged quite a bit, the studio came back to me. King was very happy with what I shot on SLEEPWALKERS (if not with what the studio and the MPAA tinkered with), and asked me if I'd be interested in doing THE STAND. The success of that, and the working relationship we had on THE STAND, was the beginning of our friendship.

G&C: Has being so closely associated with Steven King helped or hurt you in Hollywood? Did it open doors for you or do you feel it pigeon holed you as "that guy who only makes Steven King movies"?

MG: Both. But I'd rather have the chance of working with such as Stephen King and be pigeon-holed than not have the chance. I'm not very career-oriented; I love working with Steve, but yeah, I became not only a Horror Guy, but the Stephen King Horror Guy.

G&C: Speaking of Steven King, are we ever going to see a film version of "The Tailsman"?

MG: I hope so. I wrote a script that everybody was really happy with for a four-hour miniseries that could have been really something unique and hopefully wonderful. I haven't been involved in the feature machinations, but they've gone through several writers and directors.

G&C: You not only write screenplays, but you've written a short story collection "Life in the Cinema" and your first novel, "Development Hell" is about to be published by Cemetery Dance. Each one of those formats uses a different writing muscle; do you prefer one format over the other? Is one easier to write than the other?

MG: I just like writing. But screenplays, if they are to be produced, have to follow certain formulae. You have to take budget and production into account, write roles that will attract good actors. There are hundreds of people standing between the page and the screen with a screenplay. With fiction, you write for the page, and that's the be-all and end-all. The work is your own, for better or for worse.

G&C: Development Hell looks like it expands on storylines you visited in your short stories, particularly "A Life in the Cinema" and "Starfucker". Is the protagonist in "Development Hell" the same one from "Life in the Cinema"?

MG: Actually, A LIFE IN THE CINEMA and STARFUCKER are, in somewhat altered form, the first two chapters of DEVELOPMENT HELL. I really wanted to revisit that nameless character. I'd written a couple more of the stories that picked up where each preceding story left off, and Steve King told me it read like a loose novel. So, I made it a tighter one.

G&C: I've read a partial list of Directors that you have lined up for the second season of Masters of Horror. You have John Landis, Dario Argento, Tobe Hooper, John Carpenter, Ernest R. Dickerson, Brad Anderson, Tom Holland, Joe Dante, Yourself, and Stuart Gordon. Can you tell us who the remaining three Directors are going to be?

MG: Peter Medak is shooting now, and Rob Schmidt and Japanese director Norio Tsuruda will be shooting the final episode of the season in Japan.

G&C: I thought it was a brilliant idea to bring Takashi Miike onboard last season, but Showtime banned his episode (Imprint). Is Showtime afraid of an FCC clampdown like Network Television has to deal with or was it something else entirely?

MG: It's a very intense episode. Once you see it, you'll probably understand their thinking. If they FCC can fine CBS for some Janet Jackson nipple, this one might throw them into fits. But the DVD will be complete and unexpurgated.

G&C: If I can make a suggestion for Season 3, how about letting Jorg Buttgereit (Nekromantik) and Buddy Giovinazzo (Combat Shock) each helm an episode. That should make Showtime's head explode!

MG: Suggest away. We haven't had a good exploding head since SCANNERS.

G&C: You explored the taboo subject of Necrophilia in your short story "Forever Gramma", so what do you think of the equally taboo subject "Girls and Corpses Magazine? Should we be banned?

MG: You ain't worth your salt if you ain't been banned...

G&C: I feel you can't get a true measure of a man until you've been to his house, take a look at the books he reads, the films he watches, and then take a look in his refrigerator, only then will you know what kind of man he is, for you have gazed at his soul. So, Mr. Garris, what was the last book you read, what was the latest DVD you bought, and what do you have in your refrigerator?

MG: The last book I read was Scott Smith's THE RUINS (I'm reading James Crumley's THE LAST GOOD KISS now), I just bought DOUBLE INDEMNITY on DVD, and all the fixin's for a damn fine smoothie are in the fridge.

A big Thank You to Mick Garris for managing to squeeze us into his already hectic schedule and for consenting to do this interview. His new book "Development Hell" is being released by Cemetery Dance, and can be ordered from their website or Dark Delicacies. His anthology show "Masters of Horror" airs on Showtime and is available on DVD at fine retailers everywhere. Mick Garris's new book, Development Hell can be ordered at cemeterydance.com.