Go here for Part I of this interview, where screenwriter Eric Heisserer discusses how he broke in and goes into detail about a number of the creative decisions made in his script for the recent remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street. Today, Eric talks a little about his plans for The Thing remake and Final Destination 5.
I saw an interesting quote from you regarding your thoughts on using CGI in The Thing: “I don’t know what kind of authority I had as the writer, but I came in wanting them to make this a practical effect movie. I wasn’t going to write something that was going to be a CGI-fest. I held their feet to the fire on that. That may be what got me the job, or it may be that I wanted to protect the original as much as possible and to create a companion piece that we felt would work seamlessly as a double feature with Carpenter’s The Thing.”
You don’t often hear about writers dictating those sorts of terms to the studio, particularly in a system where the writer seems to be the most replaceable person on the production. Did it take a lot of guts to make that statement? Did your agent know you were going to take such a hard line, and was he discouraging you from putting yourself out there? And be honest, were you surprised when the studio said, “Okay?”
Well, let me clarify here: I came in making those demands, and the producers smiled and said basically “You’re hired.” They didn’t say “Okay” in the sense that they were heeding my demands. I felt they were already thinking the same thing, so it was a matter of meeting a kindred spirit when I showed up at their door. But the studio never makes a decision like that based on what the writer demanded. The studio decides what is the least expensive or the strategically wisest move, and does that thing. Our responsibility was to present a story with effects that could be achieved conventionally as often as possible.
I understand that on The Thing, they threw out the entire previous draft by Ron Moore and had you start from scratch. Can you discuss the advantages and disadvantages of working like this as opposed to rewriting an existing draft, as I assume you did on Nightmare?
It’s like being the first writer on, except odds are good you’ll still share credit with the first writer. I tried not to think about the politics of that scenario and just focused on building the best story I could. Ron Moore is an amazing writer who is a master at writing drama framed in a science fiction setting or concept. Just because the studio chose to start over—that doesn’t mean anything, really. My job was still to give them a movie that worked. Something they could go shoot.
How did you end up with this assignment? After Nightmare were you tagged as “the horror reboot guy?”
I don’t know if I was seen as the reboot guy, but my Nightmare script work did get me in the room for The Thing. At that point it was up to me. And what did I do? Make demands! In hindsight it was downright foolish, but I have such a love for Carpenter’s movie, and I didn’t want to see this prequel done wrong.
Do you see yourself working in other genres, or is horror your passion?
I would love to expand. Oddly enough, the work I did at Bruckheimer before I got the Elm Street gig—those jobs were all big-budget science fiction action/adventure movies. Big summer fare. Alien Wars and The Host (not the Korean monster movie, but a sci-fi novel by Peter Emschwiller) were about as far from creepy horror as you can get. I’d love to get back to that kind of epic storytelling soon.
Tripp Stryker very much approved of Mary Elizabeth Winstead as your leading lady. I can’t print his exact words, but they roughly translated to the fact that he’s excited by the casting and he hopes to see a lot of her in the movie.
I imagine Tripp will be going to see Scott Pilgrim a lot.
I might have to make him do a review of that.
I know that Final Destination 5 is still in the very early stages, but you told Twitter that you got the job with a two-word pitch: “Lasik Surgery.” I’m coming up on 10 years since I had my lasik surgery and I still had a very visceral reaction just hearing the premise of that death. May I assume you have been in that very nerve-wracking procedure?
Me? No. Oh no. Not at all. That eye procedure terrifies me. That’s why I pitched it. I try to write what scares me first and foremost.
Are there any real-life experiences you plan on drawing from for the elaborate death scenes the franchise is known for?
Yes. More things in everyday life that creep me out. I can’t spoil any more or else I will invoke the wrath of (producer) Craig Perry, but suffice it to say I don’t think the Lasik surgery sequence will be the most cringe-worthy.
Is there anything you feel was missing from the last few FD films that you’re hoping to revive in yours?
Yes! There was so much cool suspense, character development, and sense of mystery in the first Final Destination. Then you look at the fourth movie and it’s almost a porn version of the first—just one death sequence after another. And you know, it was still fun, I can’t lie, but for me it lacked a lot of what made the first movie so good. What I’m trying to do with this fifth film is make it work on its own; make it a supernatural thriller first, and a Final Destination movie second. It will have all the trademark elements fans love from the series, but hopefully it will surprise them, too. At least, that’s my hope…
Thanks again to Eric Heisserer for all his time!