Exclusive: Steve Niles Talks Wake the Dead and More!

Amidst the usual media-fueled hubbub of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, aside from the Kevin Smith Red State circus and Lucky McKee’s The Woman audience freak-out, a surprise announcement was made from one of the unlikeliest of places: former Guns N’ Roses/Velvet Revolver guitarist Slash.

Slash announced not only the formation of his production company, Slasher Films, but also the entity’s first property: Steve Niles’ Wake the Dead. With producers Slash and Rob Eric and director Jay Russell behind it, it looks as if the property has its best shot at seeing the silver screen nearly eight years after its being first optioned.

Niles’ Wake the Dead is a modernization of the Frankenstein legend and a property many fans have long clamored for. Niles, a longtime comic writer and author, is best known as the creator of the phenomenally successful 30 Days of Night as well as the Cal McDonald series of stories. Wake’s production team of director Jay Russell (Ladder 49, Tuck Everlasting, The Waterhorse) and veteran screenwriter James V. Hart (Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Contact, Sahara) is a seemingly incongruent choice, but, along with Niles and Slasher Films, the idea that they will bring a unique telling of the story to the screen is an exciting one.

Steve Niles spoke exclusively with Dread Central from his home and had a lot to say about bringing his much loved property to light.

Dread Central: I wanted to get started by getting some of the specifics of Wake the Dead and the recent announcement that was made. The property had been around for a while, right? I mean, I’d read that it was with Dimension for bit, correct?

SN: Oh, yeah… This is officially, I believe, its third home. It’s been that “development hell” thing. Nothing really specifically went wrong either time. The first time we had Joel Schumacher and really great writers, but we couldn’t get synced with what Dimension wanted. Then, years passed and nothing happened and the rights reverted back to me. I finally hooked up with Jay Russell and he joined the fight. He and I together… this is the second place we’ve been, and we’ve just been basically pushing a freaking boulder up a hill for five years or more now. I just really feel like now… meeting Slash… what they’re telling us, I think it really sounds like it’s gonna happen.

DC: How did Slash come into all of this? I know a lot of guys in rock are comics fans and I know you do music, so…

SN: I came out of music. I was in the DC scene… Slash and I were having this conversation at Sundance because people kept asking us, “What’s the connection between horror and punk rock, metal… rock and roll?” I finally said, “Rebellion?” They’re each forms of rebellion in their own way. God knows, your parents don’t want you listening to rock and roll or watching horror movies because they’ll warp your mind. So, you can see the connection there. I don’t know… I think it’s a natural team-up. There are a lot of guys in music doing comics. They’re not just teaming up with me.

DC: And that’s kind of been that way for a while now.

SN: I mean, Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance…

DC: A lot of comics dig horror as well. I mean, Brian Posehn… Patton Oswalt… Joe Rogan…

SN: Yeah, a lot of the comedian dudes… Yeah, yeah… I knew Brian for a little while when he was doing The Last Christmas, that Santa Claus thing. It’s no different than… I’m just a freaking little punk rock kid from Washington, DC, and I got into comics and then literally stumbled into movies like a drunk. It just happened.

DC: So, ok… Great minds think alike and you guys formed this bond based on a mutual love of horror flicks, but you have so much stuff out there… you’ve done so many titles and they’re all great… but why did the focus finally stop on Wake the Dead?

SN: You know what… we didn’t focus on it, that’s the one people keep coming back to. 30 Days of Night is the most popular thing I’ve ever done, but unfortunately the studios have decided that they don’t think it’s that big of a deal and I can’t do anything. Thankfully, I still own the rights to a bunch of my other stuff, and if this is what they’re responding to… I think the great thing with Wake the Dead is that we have a screenplay. We have a director. We have so much ready to go. Really, we just need a budget and some actors and we’re ready. So, you never know.

DC: This is really embryonic. Do you have a proposed budget?

SN: Not yet. They do, but… I’m learning the business stuff. I’ve always tried to keep my nose in the creative, but you just got to get more hands-on these days.

DC: Is there even a tentative release date?

SN: No. We are just back from Sundance, just in the middle of trying to figure it out now. We have all of the elements together; can we pull it off? The one thing I always tell people because it illustrates it best is… When I sold 30 Days of Night, I sold five or six different things immediately after that. 30 Days of Night was the only one to get made in those ten years following. So, it’s just this very big, confusing clusterfuck…

Exclusive: Steve Niles Talks Wake the Dead and More!