Wow, what a hell of a way to start off my 2013. Not only was I able to catch a viewing of John Dies At The End before its limited theatrical release January 25th thanks to an early wide-release Video On Demand campaign, but then I was gifted the opportunity to sit down with director Don Coscarelli and producer/actor Paul Giamatti for an exclusive interview.
I mean, these two guys are legendary in my book. Coscarelli is responsible for every Phantasm film, as well as a few other gems including the cult worshiped “Bruce Campbell playing Elvis” film, Bubba Ho-Tep. Giamatti is a Oscar-nominated actor who has played everyone from John Adams to Santa Claus, earning himself instant recognition around Hollywood.
As for the interview, I had an absolute blast. The two personalities made a fantastic team and were so easy to talk to, exemplified by Don sitting next to me and shooting the breeze while he was waiting for his first interviewer to show up (always be on time kids!). Join me in my exclusive interview with the two stars as we discuss the crazy adaptation they created with John Dies At The End, progress on Bubba Nosferatu: Curse Of The She Vampires, and if the two would take the crazy drug called Soy Sauce knowing the full effects outlined in their film.
We Got This Covered: Alright, so let’s start with the obvious question – what drew you to adapting the insane story of John Dies At The End and did you view it as a challenge?
Don Coscarelli: It was a huge challenge because of the size of the novel. There’s 350 pages and we wrote a 95 page screenplay, so a lot got left behind proportionality. I like to think we got the best parts in the movie and I was able to hopefully concoct a dramatic through-line that I think people should be able to understand. I know some people say it’s a little crazy, but I had gotten an e-mail from Amazon that told me I would love this book, and I guess their algorithms there are right because they assessed my personality and said I would like John Dies At The End so I read it – and it was great.
We Got This Covered: For either of you, was there a specific moment in the book that grabbed you and really made you want to be part of this specific adaptation?
Paul Giamatti: I can say definitely when I read the script. I didn’t read the book until afterwards, because I usually don’t. I’ll just look at the script because it’s easier for me and I’m too easily confused saying “but wait a minute, this happened in the book, why isn’t it happening here” and etcetera.
The thing that really sold me that I loved, and still love, and is my favorite thing in the movie, and I’m always going on about how this is done and they must be tired of hearing be talk about it, but it’s the monologue the Rastafarian has about dreams. I was just like “I want to be in a movie where somebody says this stuff. It’s so fucking great. I’ve got to do this movie just so I can see somebody do this.” The guy…Tai?
Don Coscarelli: Tai Bennett, the actor, yup.
Paul Giamatti: Tai does it awesomely. He did it exactly like I’d hoped it would come across, and it’s so great. I thought “Any movie that has anyone saying this in it, and the movie stops while somebody delivers this bizarre monologue? I’ve got to do this.”
We Got This Covered: Don, was there a single stand-out moment for you?
Don Coscarelli: There are many, many, many moments – that’s the richness of the source material. Was it the talking dog? The monster made out of freezer meats?
Paul Giamatti: The _____ door knob?
Don Coscarelli: Oh, the _____ door knob!
Paul Giamatti: Actually, I probably shouldn’t mention that and give it away, it’s a nice little surprise….
We Got This Covered: [Laughs] I’ll censor that so the surprise isn’t ruined for anyone.
Don Conscaralli: But yeah, [I love how it’s] the drug that chooses you. I mean there’s a lot of thematic parts in there that are pretty wonderful.
We Got This Covered: So as a director, how does it feel to get someone like Paul, as “battle tested” as he is…
Don Coscarelli: [Chuckles] Battle tested, yes.
Paul Giamatti: Yeah, that’s a good way to put it!
We Got This Covered: So again, how good does it feel to get someone like Paul to sign on to a film like John Dies At The End?
Don Coscarelli: Paul is the greatest living actor on the planet [Paul laughs] and I firmly believe that, I’m not kidding. To have him in my movie with all of those other things just adds a bizarre legitimacy…
Paul Giamatti: Well I feel like it legitimizes me as well, but there’s also the other guys in this too who are just amazing dudes. Glynn Turman alone is amazing, and to get Clancy…
Don Coscarelli: Turman is a wonderful actor. He’s actually a guy I tracked because I’d been a fan of his back when he was in Cooley High decades ago, and then he was on The Wire and I was following him on that and I said “Oh he would be great for this” and I kept him in mind. Then he did this episode of In Treatment and I watched it and he was just brilliant, and I’m like “That’s the guy I’m getting.” Then he was nominated for an Emmy, and then he won it, and I thought “Oh God I’ve lost him.” But luckily the script has an effect on actors. The thing is there are wonderful monologues for everybody.
Paul Giamatti: It’s got great heart. You can’t believe you’re about to do what you’re being called upon to do.
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