Interview With Paul Giamatti And Don Coscarelli On John Dies At The End

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We Got This Covered: So you mentioned the other actors. Rob Mayes (John) and Chase Williamson (Dave) especially have amazing chemistry and did a phenomenal job…

Don Coscarelli: Oh we’ll pass that on to them, they like to hear that [laughs].

We Got This Covered: But truly, what was it that won them the roles of John and Dave? What did you see in them?

Don Coscarelli: The thing you have to understand is when you’re the director, you’re really like the first audience, and the thing that a lot of actors don’t understand is that the director is dying for that actor to come in and nail it. Directors aren’t there to terrorize actors or degrade them, that probably only happens when they can’t do the role. But Chase walked in, he had never done a movie before, he had just finished up college and stepped right into our casting studio, and I think it was he did a section – and I just found this tape and I’m going to put it on the DVD – but he did a reading of the narration. Listening to him perform the narration for the first time I just thought “Wow, this movie could really be good,” and I just had that moment. He had an innate quality and Dave is a very serious character with the weight of the world on his shoulders, and then you’ve got John who really has just this carefree, “everything’s good” mentality where with most bad things he can also see the good side to it.

Paul Giamatti: Rob is actually a little bit like that, he’s very funny.

Don Coscarelli: Yes he is, and I think we can learn from him.

We Got This Covered: So with that chemistry on set, were there any crazy moments or more interesting anecdotes?

Paul Giamatti: Well, no, not really, I hate to be disappointing and say it was very straight forward.

The stuff that I had to do was straight forward as well, it was just a framing thing. I just remember being amazing walking out of that Chinese restaurant set and being like “How the fuck did you manage to make this beautiful set man?!” I was constantly amazed with this thing, like “Wow man, this is amazingly beautiful!” I was just having a good time, but it was a lot to get done in a short space of time, so we were really just moving along. Chase was great, but there just weren’t a lot of hijinks – just not enough time for them. John Dies At The End was just so much fun to do, but I don’t remember anything particularly weird happening, not on the stuff I did.

We Got This Covered: Straight to business, I totally understand. With the production though, and especially adapting such a dense novel, were there any moments from the novel that you couldn’t get in the film which really stuck out? Any moments where you said “Oh man, I really wish that was there!”

Don Coscarelli: There are a so many monologues that each actor has, and certain monologues just didn’t work. I mean, they do work, it’s just the problem is how long can the audience member sit in the seat, so some had to be taken out. I just found a great monologue the other day with the Junior Gangster guy in the Mall of the Dead where he’s raving on about how “the bodies of these animals soak it in their guts and you live on the pain and cruelty of other creatures so you can clock another day,” and it’s pretty good, but that had to go. There’s another one from another one of our great actors that had to go, and that’s just really hard.

We Got This Covered: Was there anything for you Paul?

Paul Giamatti: You regret you couldn’t get the whole thing in there. The thing I’m amazed when I think about, that’s so funny to me, when [Don] first gave me the script and I read it, I thought “Holy shit, this is nuts!” It just keeps going, getting more and more insane, and I remember the most shocking thing was Don said “I don’t think this will be the hardest thing to do, a lot of this.” I’m like “What the fuck!  How can you be so…”

We’d been trying to do another script which seemed easier, the Bubba Nosferatu script, and I was like “Really? This will be easier than that?!” But you made it look easy [referring to Don], I know it wasn’t, and I’m amazed how cool you were about “Yeah, this won’t be a problem.” I’m like “Meat monster? Talking dog? How the hell are you going to do all that?”

Don Coscarelli: I didn’t know what I was talking about [laughs]. It took a full year of everything, as Paul can explain when he came down in my little editing trailer and we’re still trying to figure it out.

Paul Giamatti: It’s the process it needed to be, it was amazing [laughing].

Don Coscarelli: It was way too ambitious for us, [laughing] somehow we finished it.

We Got This Covered: So were you worried it would be a little overwhelming for some viewers?

Don Coscarelli: Well, look, I think as I’m getting a little older and looking back on my career, I’m starting to realize all of my films are a little too much for some people [laughs, Paul erupts in laughter, says “That’s hilarious man!”]. I’m starting to think my films are an intelligence test. People that get it have got something up here [points to brain] and those who don’t I don’t care about anymore.

Paul Giamatti: [Still laughing] That’s a good way to look at it man. Yeah, but this should be too much. The nature of John Dies At The End should be too much to take.

Don Coscarelli: Look, [the film] has a great sense of humor that came from the book and the thing is you can’t come in and take the whole thing with a grain of salt or be willing to role with it. Be willing to come back and revisit it in the second or third time because it does make sense – it’s all there [Paul echoes the same line]. A few months back I was watching the movie and there’s that scene with Paul and Chase and he says “So where I can find this detective!” He corroborates and Chase goes “Good luck finding him…” and I had forgotten that he blew up, so the second time around there’s some gems in there to laugh at.

We Got This Covered: Was there any worry that it may be hard to appeal to both “regular” movie watchers and fans of the novel? [Paul laughs] I obviously have to put them in different categories…

Don Coscarelli: I think generally we’ve done fine with the novel fans. There’s been some nitpicking about very minor things like they want to know why we changed the sex of the dog and changed his name…

Paul Giamatti: Really?

We Got This Covered: But there’s always going to be that nitpicking, no matter what, right?

Don Coscarelli: Right! And the reason why is because we hired a male dog and his name was Barkley and he answered to Barkley and it was easier to do that. But the great news was that David Wong was happy and he’s the one that we really want to like the thing, so I’m very happy about that.

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