Master of Horror Don Coscarelli has always been one to march to the beat of his own drum, and his latest film, John Dies at the End, is a perfect representation of the iconic director’s unique storytelling approach that he has seemed to embrace throughout his near 35-year long career.
At a recent press day for John Dies, Dread Central had the opportunity to speak with Coscarelli exclusively about his latest genre-bending effort and heard more about the pressure of finding the right leads for the project, what aspects of novelist David Wong’s original story he really responded to the first time he picked up the book and why it is he really relates to the younger generations of horror fans out there.
Check out our exclusive interview with Coscarelli below, and look for more on John Dies at the End soon in anticipation of its limited theatrical release on January 25th (it’s currently available on VOD).
Dread Central: Thanks so much again Don for chatting with me again about John Dies, especially since now I’ve gotten to see it. I really loved these guys- Chase and Rob- and was wondering if you could talk about having to cast those roles and what made them right for their respective characters.
Don Coscarelli: Oh sure; You know, until I found those guys it really was the most terrifying part of the whole process of making John Dies because if I couldn’t find the perfect actors for those roles, there’d be no movie to make. But then on the second day of casting, Chase came in and he was so new; he’d been to like one or two auditions and he had just had graduated from drama school even. But he was a natural; he fell right into that role (Dave) and everything he does in this movie was right there during that first audition. I pretty much had him cast after that first meeting.
And when I had Chase audition, he did a reading of the narration and as I sat there listening to him, all I could think was, “Wow, I think this movie could actually be really good” (laughs). But that was my ‘moment’- or at least my first ‘moment.’
Casting Rob as John was almost the same situation as it was with Chase; he had never done a movie before but I just knew he could get it done. He didn’t seem like the kind of guy who was going to buckle under any pressure and Rob really hit every note of John’s character just perfectly. On his first day, Rob had eight pages of dialogue against Paul (Giamatti) but I think I ended up being more nervous about it than he was (laughs).
Dread Central: I know this is the first time you’ve directed material that wasn’t your own but I can certainly see from a fan perspective why you were the right guy to tackle John Dies. So can you discuss what it was about David’s story that you felt like this was perfect material for you- what did you respond to most?
Don Coscarelli: It’s an unusual story and I think those are always the stories that I respond to, or at least the stories I’ve always liked to tell which is probably the biggest reason why I’ve always stayed independent throughout my career. I like unusual stories and John Dies has everything from inter-dimensional travel to meat monsters to talking dogs to an addictive drug, Soy Sauce, that’s kind of like its own character too- it’s practically alive because it chooses you. And all of those fantastical elements seemed like great material to make into a movie.
But at the same time John Dies also has some big ideas to it too- questions about reality and perception- what’s real and what’s not- and fate where you have all these amazing dialogue moments for these characters which is another thing I always respond to. I thought David really put some incredible perspective to this story where it felt a little different but it also felt very current and that was something I really appreciated about how David told this story.
And maybe in some respects I’m a bit immature still so I think that’s a big reason why I have always embraced the younger generation and can appreciate what they find interesting. I’m still a big kid myself (laughs).
Dread Central: Because you guys didn’t have a huge budget to fall back on and considering the wealth of material you had to work with on John Dies, were there some things that ended up not making it into the movie that you had originally wanted to?
Don Coscarelli: Oh definitely. There are some fantastic Lovecraftian monsters in the book that I couldn’t even consider doing because I just didn’t know how to manage them. Plus it would have cost a ton of money and that was money we just didn’t have to spend. There were also some subtle things that just messed with the structure that I couldn’t put into the movie and even a full other subplot that I had to lose because structurally, it just didn’t work. But there will be a couple of great monologues that will be on the Blu-Ray for the fans to enjoy.
Dread Central: I know there’s been some recent Phantasm V talk but I was wondering if you had any plans at all to continue on after John Dies with these characters and do a sequel or something?
Don Coscarelli: Oh yeah, David just wrote a sequel book called This Book Is Full of Spiders: Seriously, Dude, Don’t Touch It and it’s really great but I have to wait and see how everything goes with the release of John (Dies) first. And I definitely still want to do Phantasm V too. Looking back at when I made part IV, I really saw that as the end of the franchise but it’s really the one question that the fans always have- “When are you going to do another Phantasm?”- so I still want to figure out a way to make another one with the original actors. There really seems to be a desire for another movie for the fans so I’d love to do another for them.
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