Friday, March 2, 2012

Exclusive Interview: Todd Farmer Talks Halloween 3D, Compound Fracture And More

As a horror and sci-fi fanatic, Todd Farmer is one of my personal heroes and he's also one of the go-to-guys when Hollywood comes calling for a new and exciting movie script. He has been behind some of our favorites like Jason X (which rocked!), both Messengers movies, My Bloody Valentine and the freaking awesome Drive Angry.  

Farmer not only writes for the horror fans but he'll also show up in some of our favorite movies and scenes from time to time as well. He frequently teams up with director Patrick Lussier to punch out some of these awesome genre gems we have grown to love. Check out my latest Versus as Todd Farmer  talks about the importance of a script,which movie franchise he'd like to tackle and even sex scenes.  He shares some detailed info on what he's currently working on, from writing to acting and everything in between including the Hellraiser reboot.

Alien Bee - What can you tell me on the status of Halloween III?
Todd Farmer - The only status I can tell you is old status.  There's a release date of Oct 2012.  The older status is that Lussier and I wrote a screenplay that was to follow Rob's H2 back in Aug of 09 but we couldn't get that made before going into production on Drive Angry.  We have been in and out of discussions since.  It was decided the next chapter would likely NOT follow ZH2.  But what that next chapter will be has been the big question.  Remake, reboot, sequel, found footage?  All have been discussed.
Patrick and I pushed for a reboot.  We wanted to tell a story within the story.  A Michael story.  A shape story.  A remake seems pointless to me since Carpenter's is flawless to us.  And Rob just did a remake.  But that's just our opinion.  A sequel is fine but it comes with baggage.  It means as a storyteller you have to reveal which movie or chapter in the franchise preceded your story. That works for the die-hard fan but this is a business about making money.  To make money you really need to go outside the fanbase.  Not impossible but certainly problematic.  And I really don't like the found footage idea.  I may be wrong but found footage only works when you can believe it possible.  Blair Witch was scary because the marketing campaign lied to me.  I thought it might be real and so that was scary.  Paranormal Activity was the same.  Certainly the first one.  People believed.  How do you believe a found footage Michael Myers?  We know he's fiction.  That's like a found footage Santa movie.  Not ruling it out as nothing is impossible in Hollywood but it's not my first love.
As a result Patrick and I thought reboot was the way to go.  We know the origin, no need to rehash that.  We wanted to tell a story within a well established franchise.  We asked the question, what would Nolan do?  We thought that a nice way to approach it.  Nolan treated Batman with respect.  We wanted to do that with Michael.  Not sure what will happen but Patrick and I love the franchise and want the best for it, regardless of who's at the helm.
Alien Bee - What happened to the Hellraiser reboot? 
Todd Farmer - After Drive Angry we assumed we'd go back to Halloween but we were asked to look at Hellraiser instead.  Dimension wanted a remake.  What we pitched was a reboot.  A story that existed within the story.  We weren't remaking Clive.  We were telling a story that took place in the same world.  They were asked for large budget with an epic feel.  That's what we delivered.  A 40 page outline.  It was an adult story with adult issues.  The studio came back to us asking if we could make it younger.  Therefore rather than a Husband and Wife story we tweaked it to be a Father and Daughter story.  We added younger friends.  We handed in a second 40 page outline.  Finally we were asked to do something more in tone with the latest Final Destination (as that was the big movie at the time).
Now, let's pause for a moment to talk about what I do for a living.  At first glance, Hellraiser does not seem like a movie that should be mentioned within the same sentence as Final Destination.  Nothing against either.  But we're talking apples and oranges.  That said, had we walked away the studio would not have been hurt.  They simply would have asked another writer and/or team to do a Final Destination take.  My job as a modern day Hollywood storyteller is to tell the BEST story possible within the restraints placed upon me.  That said, we went back to the HellCave and created the BEST version of Hellraiser FD possible.  We turned in a 20 page outline.  And for reasons that are not mine to share we were asked to take another look at Halloween.  Hellraiser was shelved.  I do not know what the status is at the moment.
Alien Bee - As a writer, how important is the story to you as far as a horror movie goes?
Todd Farmer - As important as breathing is to being human.  Story is everything.   Stephen King is known as a horror writer.  But the man tells great stories with real characters.  Real people within extraordinary circumstances.  Story and character should always come first.
Alien Bee - If the suits would stay out of your way, do you think you and say (Patrick Lussier) could successfully reboot a Hellraiser, Halloween or any other fan favorite franchise/movie and get them back into theaters?
Todd Farmer - Yes. 
Alien Bee - Ok, Compound Fracture looks like it'll be a lot of testosterone adrenaline fun, Tell me a little about this, your character.
Todd Farmer - Renae and Tyler sent me the script... I forget when as my brain doesn't work linear like normal people.  Within the last year.  Thing is, I get sent scripts all the time.  Most are... bless their hearts, lousy.  This was not lousy.  It was unique.  It was a haunted house story where the ghost was on the outside trying to get in.  A siege story with a ghost.  And it was smart.  The characters were smart.  The story was smart.  On top of that the budget was tight but the screenplay dealt was written in a way that you'd never know that.  It all read very naturally.
Story and character will always come first.  Therefore I offered to help in anyway I could.  I gave notes.  I wasn't nice.  I gave my opinion.  Some they used.  Some they didn't.  But Tyler and Renae always made the screenplay better.  Down the road they offered me a role.  I was thrilled.  As production drew near I offered my time.  Whatever they needed.  When we got started I was one part P.A. and one part Craft Services.  I'm not much on ego when it comes to making a movie.
It's a strong story with a strong cast in Tyler, Muse, Derek, Renae, Leslie and Dan.  But the biggest thing to remember is this is a movie made by people.  No studio.  No committee.  People who love movies making a movie.  Isn't that how it should be?
Alien Bee - Tell me about your animated film Heavenly Sword.
Todd Farmer - Heavenly Sword is based on the video game by the same name.  I played the game start to finish on the PS3 and loved it.  The video game itself was known for having a very good story so I was thrilled when David Wohl and Brad Foxhoven asked me to adapt it.  The hero, Nariko, was voiced in the game by Anna Torv from Fringe, who returns to offer her beautiful voice to my silly words.  I'm actually very excited to see the finished product.
Alien Bee - You've been in some pretty cool scenes in a few movies as well, with Betsy Rue in My bloody Valentine and Christa Campbell in Drive Angry. Do you ever have to keep yourself from smiling BIG during a scene like this? I had to ask.
 Todd Farmer - I loved getting naked with Betsy and Christa.  Wait.  Hang on.  That came out wrong.  Let me explain.  If we're honest, shooting a sex scene is so NOT sexy.  Sex is intimate and loving and dirty and kinky but to simulate that in front of twenty to forty crew members can be a bit unnerving.  The reason I loved getting naked with Betsy and Christa is that they are professionals.  Remember, I'm story and character first.  Even in bed my friends.  Both scenes are pivotal in each movie.  Betsy's scene marks the return of the killer after ten years.  The scene was structured as a crazy misdirect complete with tiny dog, little person and raw sex.  It was designed so that the audience would forget they are watching a scary movie allowing them to be shocked when the kill actually happened.   I think it worked.  Christa's scene was just as important.  This was the scene that propelled the lead (Amber Heard) on her journey.  Had Piper not found Christa and I shctooping then the story would have ended there.
One of the questions I'm asked most is, "Were you and Betsy/Christa really doing it?"  Long pause then.  Yes.  Of course.  We were really really sexing it.  Morons.
Alien Bee - What franchise or movie would you like to tackle?
Todd Farmer - Obviously I was pretty stoked about Halloween.  It's one of the movies that made me what I am today.  Halloween, Jaws, Alien/Aliens and Star Wars.  We had the sequel to Valentine worked out and that would have been fun.  We could have told some fun stories in that world.  Same goes for Drive Angry.   In the end, I just want to keep telling stories.  It's what I love to do.  The day that stops being fun is the day I'll move on.Can you tell me about any other project right now? Do you have a script laying around that you'd like to see get made?
At any given moment I have a dozen projects in different stages of development.   Patrick and I are about to start a screenplay but too early to speak details.  We have several outlines and/or pitches that we are pursuing.  Patrick has two TV shows which if all works out I'll join.  We also have some TV pitches we're partnered on.  I have a slate of movies to make in Australia, some I wrote solo and some I'll write with Patrick.  It's a nutty business out there right now so you have no choice but to keep your eggs in many baskets if you want to survive.
Alien Bee - Speaking of testosterone. If I were to say Thomas Jane to you, what would you say?
Todd Farmer - Please tell me there isn't another body we have to dispose of.  Hang on.  I'll get my shovel and the bone saw.
Alien Bee - I've told you this before (in my review) but Drive Angry is one of the greatest movies ever!
Todd Farmer - Glad you dug it.  Obviously we loved it.  Shame it did so poorly at the box office.  It's a movie you either love or hate.  That seems to be my thing.  I'm not very good at making vanilla.  But Drive Angry has been huge in DVD and digital so I'm happy people are finding it.  
Alien Bee - Jason X got a bad wrap! It's awesome and different from the rest of the movies in that franchise!
 Todd Farmer - The goal was both awesome and different so that's a win.   Again, another that is either loved or hated.  I always saw a darker movie going into it but I have no regrets.  Once I knew we weren't making the F13 version of Alien then I embraced the journey.  Of the autograph requests that come in, Jason X is still king.  And that pleases me.  
Alien Bee - Would you like to say anything to all the fanatics checking this out?
Todd Farmer - Get off my lawn. 

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