Arguably one of the most influential horror directors of his time, Wes Craven is perhaps best known for crafting some of the most original slasher films in the history of the genre. It goes without saying, then, that the man is directly responsible for a good majority of my nightmares as a kid, and while the 2005 thriller “Red Eye” was a minor departure for the director, it doesn’t even come close to his latest project: “Paris Je T’aime,” a collection of films by 18 of the industry’s best directors all examining the City of Light and its magical allure. While out promoting the film’s DVD release, the Master of Horror sat down to chat with Bullz-Eye about his love for romantic comedies, the future of the horror genre, and why he would never direct a remake of his own film.
Wes Craven: Hello?
Bullz-Eye: Hello, Wes?
BE: Hi, how are you doing?
WC: I’m doing well, thank you. How are you?
BE: Very well. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me. I know I’m on a bit of a short leash so I’ll go ahead and get started. I was wondering how a man best known for his horror films gets involved in a French film about love.
WC: Um, well… I guess I’ve been doing horror films for a long, long time – with the exception of “Music of the Heart” – so, it was an opportunity to use my craft or chops, or whatever you want to call it, in a different set of genre. And, you know, it’s a part of me that I usually don’t get to address very directly in a film, obviously, but it’s a part of me. I’m romantic, I have a sense of humor, and it’s always been a bit of a frustration, so in this case, it was pleasant to be able to go out and do that.
BE: You wrote the segment as well, so did you find it difficult being confined to only five minutes for, really, one of the more complicated relationships in the film?
WC: (laughs) Well thank you. They actually gave me five minutes and 30 seconds, I believe, and it would have been hard to get it down below that. It was pretty tough, but I knew writing it that it had to be roughly five pages, so it wasn’t terribly difficult.
BE: I noticed Alexander Payne (director of “Sideways”) showed up as the ghost of Oscar Wilde. Was that a casting decision on your part, or was it a matter of Payne’s own involvement with directing a segment for the movie?
WC: He actually put a pitch in for it, and I just heard through all these people that Alexander Payne wanted to play Oscar Wilde, and I had a meeting with him – I’d never met him (I didn’t even know what he looked like, frankly), but I’d seen his work – and he said “You can dub me.” (laughs) That was kind of a dealmaker, because I knew that his voice was nothing like Oscar Wilde, who was really Irish. And it worked out beautifully.
BE: Was there a specific reason you chose Wilde as the ghost of the story?
WC: It was strange. It kind of snuck up on me. I originally wrote something for Jim Morrison, and it was a very different kind of story – but they were all stories about getting married and one or the other having second thoughts – but we couldn’t get anywhere near getting the rights to use even his name, let alone the gravesite. And that took about a month or a month and a half early on of legal efforts on the part of the people who were mounting all this, and then rather later – when I was finishing “Red Eye” and doing a press tour – I wrote one for Edith Piaf, and much more quickly we realized we weren’t going to get the rights to use her name either in time. And so literally in two hours, about two days before we were going to shoot, I wrote the one that we shot, and I think it turned out to be the nicest and the freshest one of the three.
BE: I’m assuming you’ve seen the completed film the whole way through…
WC: Yes, I have…
BE: …and I was wondering when you saw Vincenzo Natali’s segment with Elijah Wood and the vampires, if you said to yourself, “Why didn’t I think of that?”
WC: No, I thought it was very nice and original, and quite beautiful. I was struck by just how gorgeous it was, and how moving in a very minimalist kind of way – because there’s very little dialogue and it’s very cinematic – so I was quite pleased. It was a very magical piece.
BE: I agree. It caught me completely off guard.
BE: You mentioned “Music of the Heart” earlier, and really, with the exception of that and “Red Eye,” you’ve rarely strayed from the horror genre. Is that something you’d like to do more in the future, and do you currently have any plans to?
WC: Lemme see. I think my next film, if it gets off the ground, will be a little bit more “Red Eye” and little bit less of… it’s certainly not a slasher film, but it does involve murders and so forth, so it will be something of a hybrid I think. If I had my choice, I would go out and do all different sorts of films, but I’m also a realist, and I like to work, so the fact that I’ve been able to work extensively in the genre – and it’s a genre I enjoy – it ended up with me doing mostly those kinds of films. But I saw with “Music of the Heart,” frankly, how difficult it was to sell a film once it was directed by somebody who was so well known for horror. We kept my name in the background and sold it on Meryl Streep’s name, so I can understand that it might be a long curve that I would have to make to establish myself. But I also feel like I could get there.
BE: I think we’d all like to see you branch out, but I also understand the hindrances of trying to do so. And with movies like “Saw” and “Hostel” pushing the envelope further every year, do you ever worry about the direction the horror genre’s going in?
WC: No, because it’s like wherever it goes, it has its side trips and it has its excesses, but, you know, I had a hard time getting myself to go see “Saw.” I don’t like watching somebody suffer like that – but the funny thing was that when I saw it, I thought it was very entertaining and well done. And I haven’t had time to see the sequels (mostly because I’ve just been working a lot), but I think to a certain extent that they just sort of become inhuman and maybe they’re missing something that they could be doing, but it’s pretty difficult to judge that sort of thing, because it’s coming from a very uncharted territory of the creative mind in general. I mean, with “Last House on the Left,” people thought that I was just sort of gutter slime for making that film for years and years, and so sometimes these films have a very long half-life before they’re seen as legitimate at all. I try not to judge.
BE: You’ve been credited for more or less reviving the genre in the mid-80s with “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” and then 12 years later you did it again with “Scream.” Next year marks that film’s 12-year anniversary, but do you have any films lined up that you expect to do the same for the genre?
WC: Maybe. (laughs) Who knows, you know? I think it’s very dangerous to say that “this one’s going to do this,” because then you just begin to fall over all over yourself trying to be special or profound, you know, so I try to just do them as well as I can, but not think too much about their importance. I remember when I did “Shocker” I was like “Okay, I’m going to invent the next Freddy Krueger,” and that didn’t happen at all. (laughs) I think the important thing it to just keep making films.
BE: Now, there are rumors floating around that an updated “Shocker” is in the works. Is that true, or is just that, a rumor?
WC: They’re not rumors, but it’s just very early on. We have interest from Universal to remake “Shocker” and “The People Under the Stairs,” but it’s nothing we’re going to be doing this coming year, but it is something that could conceivably happen soon.
BE: If you were to direct that movie, would you be the first director to remake his own film?
WC: Nope. I’m going to try not to be that director. (laughs) That’s where I draw the line. You know, if some other guy wants to go out there and do a new version – like Alexander Aja did – but I don’t want to go out and try to redo my film.
Publicist: Jason, you have one minute left.
BE: Okay, I’ll make this my last question. With so many comic books and graphic novels being retooled for the big screen, have you had any desire to be involved in a remake of “Swamp Thing?”
WC: No. (laughs)
BE: You’re done with that?
WC: You know, I don’t think it’s what I’m best at frankly, and I didn’t grow up on comic books like a lot of those guys have, so I don’t have the knowledge and everything else, and I think I’m just better off doing things from my own mind.
BE: Thanks again for your time, and good luck with your next film.
WC: Okay, say nice things about “Paris Je T’aime.”
BE: Will do, goodbye.
WC: Thanks, bye.