In the ten years we've known him, screenwriter Todd Farmer has gone from being a hired gun on the tenth entry in the long-running Friday the 13th franchise (Jason X) to crafting original scripts attracting the likes of Nicolas Cage and Thomas Jane. When we last spoke with him, his faithful and blood-drenched remake, My Bloody Valentine 3-D, was just about to open to the moviegoing public... and a new era in 3-D cinema was about to be born. His latest project, Drive Angry 3-D, opens in theaters everywhere this Friday.
Interview by: Wes R.
Oh, The Horror!: Thanks for chatting with us again, Todd. Can’t believe it’s actually been ten years now since we first met. It suddenly hit me... ten years! Wow. Jason X is about to start little league, and before you know it, it’ll be buying beer and cigs.
Todd Farmer: Wow. Ten years. We go all the way back to the old Fridaythe13th forums. Back when you were a virgin.
OTH: So, what sparked the idea for Drive Angry 3-D?
TF: The idea was Patrick (Lussier)'s. We just assumed that due to our My Bloody Valentine 3-D success that we would do a MBV sequel. And since MBV was a throwback to the slasher flick, Patrick suggested it would be fun to do a throwback to the 1970s road movie. We were gonna tell Lionsgate that we wanted to do a down and dirty road movie on an 18 day shoot with a small budget while we were in post on the MBV sequel. BUT... Lionsgate, the company that was founded on sequels, decided they did not want to be in the sequel business. So we wrote the movie on spec instead.
OTH: The last time we spoke, you mentioned some of the horror movies that inspired you in the writing of My Bloody Valentine 3-D. What were some of the films that inspired you for Drive Angry?
TF: Our influences were Vanishing Point, Race with the Devil, Duel, High Plains Drifter, Terminator and the title came from Bill and Phil's short drive in Groundhog Day.
OTH: Do you see Drive Angry 3-D as more of a supernatural movie with action overtones or an action movie with supernatural overtones?
TF: The genre's a bit unique. Not sure it fits in a standard box. It's certainly got action, but it's very character driven. Very funny. Very gory. With an offensive amount of T&A. We had one of those big waste of time marketing research screenings where some numbnut who thought far more of himself than I did asked a bunch of questions and drew the conclusion that we were an action, comedy horror. Whatever that means.
OTH: The action genre has been dead... or at least stagnant... for a number of years now. Drive Angry has been described as kind of a throwback to the old action drive-in/exploitation fare of yesteryear. The Expendables and Machete have also tried to re-capture this “anything goes”, fun action movie spirit. What, in your opinion, killed the action genre? And was it difficult to write, knowing that audiences for “loud”, fun action movies aren’t what they once were?
TF: The old days of Die Hard and Lethal Weapon have gone away unless you are doing a sequel or remake of those movies. But Hollywood can no longer justify the high budget risk for an action movie. We get away with it in Drive Angry because as I mentioned before, we're character driven. Between fast cars and big guns we have Nic and Amber. We have the love of my life, Bill Fichtner. We have Rock God, Billy Burke. We have David Morse and Tom Atkins. With that cast you want to spend some time with them. Then, you blow stuff up and have sex with stuff.
OTH: Seeing the trailer, Milton seems like the kind of no-nonsense character that someone like Charles Bronson would’ve played. Nic Cage certainly has solid action movie credentials (Face/Off, The Rock, ConAir) in his own right. Did you write the film with Cage in mind to star? What did he bring to the role?
TF: I mentioned High Plains Drifter before. Truth is, I had a much younger Eastwood in my head while writing. What's funny is that neither Patrick nor I ever mentioned the High Plains Drifter influence. But the first day Nic showed up, he made it no secret that he was channeling Eastwood's The Stranger. Nic always said he'd never played a character like this and that's what drew him to the role. He was simply perfect from day one. I would happily work with him again.
OTH: It’ll be hard to top your cameos in Jason X and My Bloody Valentine 3-D, but what's your cameo like in Drive Angry?
TF: I top my cameos in Jason X and My Bloody Valentine.
OTH: Does Tom Atkins get to yell at you?
TF: I did not get to act opposite Tom. But he did smack me around off-camera.
OTH: Even though My Bloody Valentine 3-D pretty much started the ball rolling in regard to the current fad of the wide release 3-D movie, James Cameron’s Avatar gets all the credit. Now that so many other films have adopted the 3-D medium, and utilized almost every 3-D “in your face” gag imaginable, how difficult was it to bring something fresh to Drive Angry’s 3-D experience?
TF: Cameron gets the credit to his face. But we get our fair share. In fact, we take credit that likely belongs to Journey to the Center of the Earth. It's funny, though. My Bloody Valentine 3-D's success did zip for our careers. My Google Alerts has been lighting up daily since we were released with stories of other films going 3-D. And we're always credited as starting the wave. Then after Avatar, both of us were named. So while we get the credit via the reporters and bloggers, those hiring considered us a fluke. Credited the gimmick which they all later copied. We could have whined and pouted about it, but instead we wrote Drive Angry. Shark's gotta keep moving or he drowns.
OTH: Unless I’m forgetting something, counting your brief involvement in the early development of the Hills Have Eyes and I Saw What You Did remakes, Hellraiser will be the fourth known reboot/remake you've been tied to. What, in your opinion, is the difference in a “remake” and a “reboot”? Is there even a fundamental difference at all, or is the term “reboot” simply a studio’s attempt to put a positive spin on a “remake”?
TF: Hrm. Yeah, I guess that's right. Hills shouldn't really count, though. Patrick and I pitched Wes (Craven) while he was filming Cursed. He loved it. We met later to discuss and had a blast. Then we read in the trades that someone else had been hired. As for the difference between remake and reboot, no difference. Reboot's a word some numbnut who went to college came up with to fool the masses. And it worked, too. Because here's the thing and this is a big one... While the internet is FULL of people complaining about remakes, there is ZERO denying the numbers. Remakes do far far far better than originals. Studios are bottom liners. They know this. Remake/Reboot means name recognition and name recognition is huge. You start out so far ahead of the marketing race if a portion of the masses already know the name. The fact that Patrick and I were able to make an original movie at a time like this still astounds me. But most of the jobs out there are either remakes, sequels or a movie based on a toy you played with as a kid. I have a fix, though. If you want original movies... stop going to the remakes. It's not up to me. It's not even up to the studios. It's up to you. You stopped going to torture porn so the studios stopped making them. Money talks. The end.
OTH: When can we expect you and Patrick to remake Jaws, and are there any other horror franchises you'd like to take a stab at?
TF: I would never remake Jaws. That's an easy pass. I wouldn't even take the meeting. It's Holy Ground for me. That said, I'm sure Hellraiser may be Holy Ground for some, and we are in talks for movies that are likely Holy Ground for others. I can't tell you what we are in talks on but I can tell you the ones we didn't get. We pitched Fright Night and got a pass. Then the rights lapsed and it ended up at DreamWorks so we pitched it again and got a pass. We built a pitch for The Fly but got the pass before we ever even pitched it. We pitched Ghost Rider 2, several times. Granted that's not a remake but it's okay cuz we didn't get the job. It's amazing the amount of free work you do in order to be told you can't have the job.
OTH: Switching gears now to projects you have coming up… If it’s not too early to tell, how much of your Hellraiser remake script is going to be based on Clive Barker's original novella, “The Hellbound Heart”?
TF: I love you, Wes. But I'm not talking about the story. Have you even met me? You know how anal I am about spoilers. Here's what I will tell you. I love Clive's story. Patrick loves Clive's story. It's clearly a personal story. That said, we have been commenced to begin and received the commencement check on Friday. So, it's no longer an announcement in the trades. It's real now. Money has changed hands. We will finish the first step in early March.
OTH: Well, will Pinhead be used in a similar capacity as he was in the original movie, and will any other familiar Cenobites make an appearance (i.e. Butterball, Chatterer, etc.) or will they be new creations?
TF: Yes, but we're changing it up. We're calling it "A Very Merry Hellraiser Christmas". Staring, of course, Pinehead. "If you short-change us, we'll tear your tree apaaaaaart." I stole that last line of dialog from a writer buddy but great writers steal, you know.
OTH: Okay, okay I get it... loose lips sink ships and all that. We'll chat all things Hellraiser another time. Back on track, now... despite early reports of a continuation, its been said that there will be no sequel to My Bloody Valentine 3-D. If the studio were to greenlight a sequel tomorrow, do you already have an idea in mind?
TF: There will be no sequel. We went in two weeks before MBV3D came out and pitched the sequel that would have started seconds after the first ended. The execs loved it. MBV came out and made a ton of money. We just assumed a call was coming. No call. We waited months. Finally, we were told that Lionsgate had no interest in doing sequels. So, we wrote Drive Angry.
OTH: Just so our readers don’t impale me with a shotgun for not asking... what can you tell us about Halloween 3-D right now?
TF: I still don't know if it'll happen or not. Only one guy does. It's still one of my favorite projects. It was so much fun. We did not break any rules. That would have been a cheat. But we wrote a story that respected what came before us while returning us to the world of John Carpenter. It was a fanboy's wetdream. We wrote a draft in 8 days. Everyone who read it loved it. The only one who didn't read it was the one with the power to move forward. For reasons above my pay grade, it could not happen. Perhaps one day it will.
OTH: Lastly, could you give us any updates on the following projects you were tied to at one point or another...
- Clock Tower
TF: This was my least favorite gig. LOVED the Clock Tower 3 game... but those I was working for had no idea what they wanted. I was working with an executive who was faking the fact that he had no idea what he was doing in his attempt to try to impress his bosses... ugh. I shudder just thinking back. Let's talk about something else. Oh yes, the business was also changing. This new influx of writers had joined the scene. They wanted so desperately to get their footsies in the door that they were both working for cheap and doing whatever they were told. We were all getting paid so very little that it was EASY to replace us. SO... you either did what you were told or you got replaced. I did what I was told and it resulted in one of the worst screenplays ever written. After I left there were half a dozen writers to follow. Forget all of them. A buddy of mine, David Coggeshall was one, who's now on Haunting in Georgia. And others. Not sure what the state of it is now. Assume it's dead.
- The Monkey’s Paw
TF: Darkest story I've ever written. It's likely been plagued by over-development. It's a story based on the old "Monkey's Paw" three wishes short story. RKO made a movie back when dinosaurs were pooing in the La Brea tar pits, but the movie has vanished from existence. Least neither I nor RKO could find it. But it was basically a perfect retelling of the short story. Not what I pitched. I pitched something fun and twisted with a happy ending. But after too many producers' drafts, we ended up with something dark and darker. Don't get me wrong, I dig it a lot... but sheesh, the free work in this town can be exhausting. Anyway, F. Javier Gutierrez has been attached to direct. RKO used my last stop optional pass so that I could do a pass for Javier. That's never ever happened before, by the way. A company using the optional pass. This was a long time ago... back before we shot Drive Angry. Last I heard Javier was doing a pass. I wish them the best.
- I Saw What You Did remake
TF: LOVED this one! This was mine and Lussier's first real thriller! We modernized a classic... an old black and white William Castle movie. Perfect reason for a remake. We created Three Days of the Condor in high school. This was at Dark Castle. We went in with a pretty detailed pitch and told the story three or four times to Andrew Rona. He loved it and gave us the commencement to write it. This one was so much fun to write. When we turned it in, Rona told us we had delivered exactly what we'd pitched and he wished he had told us that it's not really what he wanted. He wished it had been a masked killer or a ghost. So, that one's dead.
- John Carpenter’s Psychopath
TF: Such a wonderful and twisted little story. I doubt it'll happen at this point, but it allowed me to meet Carpenter a few times and that was fun. He's royalty. Star Wars, Alien, Jaws, Halloween... He's one quarter of the movies who made me who I am.
- The Devil’s Commandos
TF: This will happen. In fact, I just finished the latest pass. Just waiting on the lawdogs to do the final contract stuff. Granted, this has taken forever. For one thing, I've been busy. For another, Tom (Jane) and I make up and break up more than most high school sweethearts. But at the moment, we are going steady again and all is right in the world. In fact, I think it'll last this time. The Devil's Commandos is just the beginning...
OTH: Well, we wish you the best of luck with Drive Angry 3-D and the rest of your projects in development. Thanks for taking the time to talk with us, Todd. As always, it's a pleasure.
TF: Wes, you make me want to be a better killer.
Drive Angry 3-D opens in theaters everywhere Friday, February 25. comments powered by Disqus Ratings:
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