Exclusive: Writer/Director Scott Stewart on Dark Skies, Upcoming Projects and More
Next week Scott Stewart’s Dark Skies starring Keri Russell lands on DVD and Blu-ray, and since we missed chatting with him when the film was in theaters earlier this year, we caught up with him now that his latest is making its home release debut.
During our exclusive interview with Stewart, we discussed his approach to the alien-infused story of a singular family terrorized, why you can’t fight a force of nature, his upcoming projects (which include both film and television work) and much more.
Dread Central: Thanks so much for chatting today, Scott; I was curious if you’d start off by discussing why you decided to do a very different kind of alien movie with Dark Skies than we usually see and made it into more of an intimate family drama than a huge sci-fi spectacle, which is what most people would expect?
Scott Stewart: That’s really what I was after all along on this project; I’d done some big effects movies like Legion and Priest so when I began working on Dark Skies, I made it my own personal challenge to do something completely out of the box and make something that was more character-based and driven.
Characters had to be front and center in Dark Skies or the story wouldn’t have worked at all. I think it’s always interesting when you try and tell genre stories outside of the ‘normal’ genre realm, and so I used the alien invasion as a metaphor for everything that was happening to this family and to their deconstruction as a solid unit.
I’ve seen movies like Battle Los Angeles and War of the Worlds and knew I wasn’t going to be able to top either of those in terms of scope and action so I thought it would be far more effective to make ‘The Greys’ into these kind of boogeymen who show up in your house without warning and how their appearance can take away any sort of semblance of normalcy without warning.
Dread Central: I also thought the context of their lives made the story far more interesting; this wasn’t a perfect, happy family that was dealing with aliens but one that was struggling with a lot of things that most of us are struggling with too, like paying bills and keeping our heads above water.
Scott Stewart: Yeah, I definitely think people can relate to that feeling of losing control of their lives and their finances because of everything that’s happened with the economy the last several years. I wanted to exploit those ideas in Dark Skies- that control is only a thinly-veiled illusion for most of us and how the suburbs that have come to represent a place of ‘safety’ can easily be a mirage for many. I also wanted there to be this play on real, tangible fear and neurotic fear and how those two can really play against each other.
The thing for me always was that The Greys are a force of nature; you can’t reason with a force of nature, you can’t escape it and you can’t win either. The only thing you can do is accept it and figure out how to deal with it, which is what happens to this family. There was never going to be a happy ending for them.
Dread Central: I thought Keri and Josh felt pretty natural in Dark Skies; what was it about them that you thought would make them a perfect fit for these roles?
Scott Stewart: Casting was all about naturality; Keri’s just fantastic all-around and Josh (Hamilton) was such a great and funny guy to work with. What’s kind of interesting to me is that at one point in the movie his character is holding a gun and everyone talks about how unnatural he looks with it or how awkward, but it was supposed to be that way. His character is a guy who has never held a gun before, who’s not a macho guy at all either, and when it comes time for him to ‘man up,’ he just looks ridiculous. That felt authentic to me. I know Josh had the ability to play that scene differently, but I told him not to- I told him to fight every instinct and just be a normal, awkward guy who has probably never had a violent conflict before in his life until now.
There’s also that moment where he gets into a fight with the neighbor, and I have to admit it’s like the most awkward fight ever, but it’s supposed to be like that. It’s just two dads, not superheroes, fighting on the front lawn so I just wanted them to kind of go at it and see what happened. I even told all the stunt coordinators to stay away. This wasn’t going to be an ‘artful’ scene by any means, and that’s how I wanted it to play out- like a normal guy who’s been pushed too far but isn’t really great at pushing back either.
Dread Central: I saw that you recently worked on the pilot episode of “Defiance”; how was your experience on that? Are you planning more television projects, or are you working on some films now?
Scott Stewart: A little of both actually. I had a great time working on “Defiance,” and it was really great to see how much success the pilot and the series are enjoying because of the fans. It was also interesting to be part of a writing team and watch how things unfolded between everyone. But I do have another show that I’m working on that I should be able to share news on soon, and there’s also another sci-fi movie that I’m working on as well, but it’s completely different than Dark Skies. There’s also another TV pilot that I’m currently writing that is tangentially related to the genre, but that’s all I can say. I just think it’s cool that I still get to keep telling unique stories on different kinds of platforms, whether it’s on television or in a movie theater, and that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do as a storyteller.
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