We open up a BAG OF BONES with Director MICK GARRIS
Interview by R.S. Rhine
(All rights reserved by G&C Magazine)
G&C: Congratulations Mick on your directing the 'Bag of Bones' miniseries premiering on A&E on December 11th. What do you think this Stephen King miniseries will add or change of the horror genre and how satisfied are you with the end product?
MG: Well, I don't know about changing the course of horror cinema history, but it will add to the canon of King, that's for sure. It's really a ghost story for adults, as it's very emotional and passionate. I hope it's as frightening as the story has the potential to be, but if it is, it's because all of the best King stories and adaptations are: because they're about people we understand and identify with, people who are more than just surface creatures to be terrified.
G&C: How long did it take for you to get Bag of Bones made... a TV miniseries none-the-less?
MG: Well, it took five years to get it set up, after lots of miscues and misdirections. Everything worth doing seems to take a long time to get it going, at least in my experience, and as this is a bit different from most genre stories, it seemed to take an even more circuitous route. Miniseries have almost disappeared from the television landscape, so this was a very unique situation, especially for a network not used to dabbling in this genre.
G&C: What attracted you to directing Bag of Bones and shepherding it through five years? Why is a best selling Stephen King novel, directed by you (one of the most successful TV miniseries directors ever) so challenging to get produced?
MG: Well, a lot of the miniseries centers around one character, often alone, and it's not a teenager. Say 'Stephen King' at most studios, and they expect something to sell to a young audience. This is about a writer, an adult, and it's about passion and loss and sorrow, about new romance and more mature relationships. We just had to find the right home, and the right climate for it, and I think we've found it with a very enthusiastic A&E. Don't get me wrong, I'm not one of those guys who says "this isn't a horror movie!" It is, a ghost story, with lots of tension and horror and effects. But at its core, it's about more than the jumps.
G&C: Do you ever get tired of directing Stephen King stories (as if) -- or is it a dream come true ever time you get that call? What is it like to work with King and how involved is he in the script and production? Does he like to visit the set? Please give us some insight into the legendary author, his personality and quirks.
MG: Who could ever be unhappy getting to work with the canon of one of his favorite authors? And a good friend, at that? In this case, he isn't a producer, and was only involved in a cursory way, and from a distance. He hasn't visited a set of mine since before the accident, though for a while he was going to play Buddy Jellison. King is a very funny, very generous, very enthusiastic cheerleader when he's on the set. He loves the process, and loves to watch it all unfold. Like a kid with a new set of Lego blocks. And most importantly, he knows the difference between books and movies, and understands how both of them have different tools. Steve is very youthful and fun to be with. i love having him on the set, and miss having been able to share that with him for the last several years.
G&C: You have been involved in several Stephen King Miniseries, my favorite being 'The Stand.' Which were your favorite King films to make and which came out the best in your estimation?
MG: Well, it's hard for me to be the best arbiter of my own work. Writing, painting, composing or filmmaking, it's all about communicating with an audience. The audience will judge. THE STAND was certainly the most successful so far, and since TV has changed so much since we made it back in 1994, it's unlikely there will be anything to get a broader audience in the future. One of my personal favorites was little old RIDING THE BULLET, which was completely unsuccessful. But it was a very personal movie for me, so a bit of a heartbreak. I really like how THE SHINING came out, and I don't want to curse it or anything, but I'm really happy with BAG OF BONES.
G&C: You spent five Months filming in Nova Scotia. What did the weather add to the story and wouldn't it have been easier to shoot on a Hollywood backlot? And what are the highs and lows of filming in Novia Scotia?
MG: It would always be easier to shoot on a backlot in Hollywood. But it would be very tough to do what we did in Nova Scotia in California. And though I was born in LA, I haven't shot anything here in town in a dozen years or so. Nova Scotia's topography and locations were really quite lush and green and beautiful, and some of the places we shot were really one of a kind. The lake house in the book, for example, was really well realized by an actual lakeside home that we shot extensively. The lake locations, the Dark Score fair farm we worked at, the cliff... we really couldn't have found that here. There's not a deep pool of experienced technicians in Nova Scotia, but we ended up with a very talented and dedicated crew. The weather sucked, quite simply. During preproduction, we literally had 35 days straight of rain, if you can believe it. It was much better during production, but it changed constantly. Which can either add to the atmosphere, which it did, often, or be a pain in the ass, which it also was.
G&C: How lucky do you feel you were to snag Pierce Brosnon for the lead and what does he add to his role? Who else was up for the part? Why did you fight so hard for Brosnon?
MG: Didn't really need to do much fighting once it got under way. He was great. Working with Pierce was one of the best experiences I've ever had with an actor. He really attacked this role fearlessly; it really goes deep and emotional. I'm a huge fan. He brings an intelligence and dignity and power into this, and you really believe him as a writer... as well as a man with a broken heart. His interaction with the world of the supernatural in this is completely natural and believable. And he's really a hell of a nice man.
G&C: Which other of the actors do you feel give stand out performances in Bag of Bones?
MG: This may well be the best cast with which I've ever worked. Melissa George is absolutely lovely and winning as Mattie Devore. Her intelligence is obvious, and coupled with her physical beauty, she's really something special. We've worked together before, and it's really great to work with her. Annabeth Gish, who is also a friend, is terrific and grounded and real-world sexy as Jo Noonan, Pierce's wife. Matt Frewer is in this too: the sixth time I've worked with him. His role is not giant, but it's really wonderful and nuanced and not like you're used to him. Little Caitlin Carmichael was the canniest child actor with whom I've ever worked. I really couldn't be happier with this cast; there wasn't a diva amongst them, and that's rarely the case. Not to sound like a press kit or anything, but they really were all pretty terrific. It's one of the most important parts of making the film, working with the actors, and something I really enjoy.
G&C: You are the 'king' of Stephen King TV movies. How has that evolved and why do you think you have become Stephen King's 'go to' guy for miniseries?
MG: Well, it's been luck, I guess, and timing. There are plenty of people who have made multiple King projects--Frank Darabont, Rob Reiner, Craig Baxley--and it really is a great thing to be able to work with these stories that have such personal appeal to me. I think Steve and I have similar backgrounds, and a similar work ethic, as well as common uncommon interests. I hope to be lucky enough to keep doing it.
G&C: What's next for Mick Garris and will we be seeing any more future episodes of your amazing Masters of Horror series?
MG: Well, no more MASTERS OF HORROR, that's for sure. I think we did it and did it well, and it was one of the best experiences of my life, professionally and otherwise. But it's done. What's next? Who knows? I've been tied up in my little bag of bones for the last six months, and I'm now just starting to crawl out of the sack.
G&C: I think you mean 'bag.' Thanks Mick for your time, our chats on the hikes we take, and keeping death alive!
Now Everyone tune in Sunday December 11th on A&E for Bag of Bones! Watch the trailer and behind-the-scenes here: youtu.be/7ru4JFOFYlc