Screenwriters Michael Roesch and Peter Scheerer began their working relationship with director Uwe Boll some five years ago when he was setting out to helm Sanctimony. Like so many scribes, Roesch and Scheerer paid their dues and as we know, if ya pay your dues, stick with this wacky biz we call filmmaking, eventually your break will come. Eventually. This month sees the first of two projects penned by this screenwriting team making it to the screen. Alone in the Dark is in theaters now; later this year the doors will be re-opened on House of the Dead (with Michael Hurst behind the camera).
Dread Central was able to track down the writing pair recently to briefly chat about the former project which stars Christian Slater as Edward Carnby, a character who made his introduction solving spooky mysteries on the computer scene in the Alone in the Dark video game. Since that first game’s debut Carnby’s exploits resurfaced in sequels and even a short-lived comic book.
Ryan Rotten: Did this project come about as a production deal where you and Peter were hired on to write the script or did you two write it on spec and then shop it around?
Michael Roesch: When Uwe started the development for Alone in the Dark in early 2003, we were working on the script for House of the Dead 2. On the day we had finished it, we sent it out to Uwe and the producers. Everybody loved this script, and they called us on the same day, and hired us for Alone in the Dark.
Peter Scheerer: So instead of having a break we wrote both scripts back to back!
RR: The character of Edward Carnby joins the ranks of past and present “paranormal/supernatural” investigators – from Carl Kolchak to Hellboy to Constantine. What was the most important aspect about creating a memorable character? Did you go back to flesh out Carnby’s personality?
PS: Yes, we used several elements of the game for Carnby’s personality, but it was extremely important to expand the character. You have to show Carnby’s needs and desires, his relationship with other persons and we wanted to see the “normal” live of a “paranormal/supernatural” investigator, which is in fact not normal.
MR: We also took several elements of the back story of the game and expanded them.
RR: Speaking of the game, I have to ask: Obviously you guys are fans, right? Or were you unfamiliar with the material then caught on to the game…
MR: We knew the game, but had not played it completely. After we got hired Peter started to play and didn’t stop till he had completed the game. I like video games very much, but Peter is a really avid gamer, and has played every game you can imagine.
PS: Alone in the Dark is a classic game, and it was great fun to play it again while we were writing the script.
RR: Similar to Carnby’s persona, you had to expand the universe of Alone in the Dark to accommodate an actual story-driven film too…
PS: The movie is telling a new adventure, a story set after the last game. So we took elements from the game, like the main characters, but also expanded other things.
MR: For example, in the game you hear about Bureau 713 and that Carnby was a former member of it. In the movie Bureau 713 has a much bigger role. A Special Forces unit which fights against creatures – that is way too interesting not to show more of it!
RR: Agreed, and from what I’ve seen, the movie looks creature-heavy…you guys have any favorite monsters movies of your own?
PS: Aliens, Predator, the old Jack Arnold movies.
MR: Aliens is a fantastic movie, it’s my favorite creature movie.
RR: I heard that Uwe and Co. were aiming for a PG-13 rating for Alone‘s release. Was the initial script geared towards this audience or was it much harder-edged? Was there anything that got cut either in the script stage or post-production that was really cool?
MR: The movie is R-rated. I have heard the rumors about PG-13, but it was never planned for that rating. Uwe planned the movie for a R-rating from the beginning. He is a fan of hard horror movies. I can hardly imagine him planning a horror movie for PG-13!
PS: But anyway, the rating is more a decision made by the director than by the screenwriters. You can shoot the same script as well for PG 13 as for a R-rating. For example, when we write “He blows his head away”, then you can only show the blood splattering against a wall, and you have PG-13. Or, you can show the head exploding with all the brain and blood flying around, and you are happy to get an R-rating and not NC-17.
RR: Did either of you have involvement in Alone during the pre-production (aside from penning the script) or principal photography process? Were re-writes at all necessary to fit Christian Slater’s persona?
MR: We were not involved in the production of this movie, only in screenwriting, but we visited the set for some days. It was fun! We haven’t done a re-write for the actors, but the actors and Uwe changed a lot of things. Both Stephen Dorff and Christian Slater changed a lot in their characters and in their lines.
PS: Uwe mixed our draft with a different draft of a Canadian writer [Elan Mastai] and he also wrote a new ending. As Michael said, the actors changed a lot of things, too. So a lot of people were involved in the development process. It will be really interesting to see how much remained from our draft.
RR: Since Boll’s an avid gamer himself, what kind of participation in the screenwriting process did he have, if any at all? What did he want to see carried over from game to film?
PS: Uwe was involved very close in the screenwriting process. We discussed which elements he wanted to have in the movie. Then we wrote several treatments, before we started to write the script. When we get hired for a script, we are writing the script for the director, so it’s important to write it in a way he likes it.
MR: Uwe wanted to keep the mood of the game and the main characters. The plan was to tell a new adventure in the life of Edward Carnby, a story which is set a year after the last game.
RR: Is there potential for further Carnby adventures, do you guys have anything in mind that you’d like to see?
MR: Absolutely. Edward Carnby is a great character.
Peter: We have no specific story in mind right now, but it would be an interesting possibility to go into another direction, for example to stay closer to the game in a sequel.
Many thanks to Michael, Peter, Uwe and the Lions Gate team! Continue the Alone in the Dark love and read the Foywonder’s interview with director Uwe Boll right here!
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