It’s taken filmmaker Frank Darabont three trips to the Stephen King well to get really horrific. The director of less-frightening King fare “The Shawshank Redemption” and “The Green Mile” hopes to scare up some box-office bucks this November with “The Mist.”
In his first interview since wrapping an exhausting shoot in Louisiana, Darabont spoke to MTV News about throwing out his director’s handbook for this King page-turner. He also opened up about “Indiana Jones,” “Fahrenheit 451″ and why you’ll never catch him at a screening of “Hostel.”
MTV: You just finished shooting last week — how are you feeling?
Frank Darabont: I feel like road kill, dude. It was six-day weeks — run and gun. This was half the schedule I’d ever had for a feature. It was a wonderful and horrible experience. I wanted to take everything I knew about directing a movie and turn it on its head. And I actually volunteered to jump into the fire. “Sure, I’ll do this really, really fast and let all the ragged edges show! I’ll play a little jazz.” At a certain point in your life, you’re like, “Screw it. I want to try a different way.”
MTV: How would you describe the visual approach?
Darabont: It’s a bit of a documentary, vérité approach. I was very inspired by “28 Days Later” — that a filmmaker with the chops and credibility of Danny Boyle would say, “Screw it, I’m just going to make a really interesting little gut-punch horror movie.”
MTV: What was the initial attraction of “The Mist”?
Darabont: I’ve always loved this story. One of the things Stephen does well is that he puts people in a trapped situation, a pressure cooker, and then he observes human nature. On the surface, it’s a completely unpretentious monster movie: A bunch of people are trapped in a rural supermarket by this mist, and there are horrible creatures in the mist that will kill you. But that’s the frosting on the cake. The story itself is what happens to the people inside the market, how they react, how the social dynamic unravels, how civilization falls on its ass because ultimately the monsters that are the scariest are your friends and neighbors. That’s what I was interested in: How do people rise to the occasion or not, how do they help each other or tear each other apart?
MTV: Would you say Thomas Jane is your leading man, or is this more of an ensemble?
Darabont: Tom is definitely the lead of the film, but it really does play as an ensemble piece. It’s not unlike “The Green Mile,” where, yes, Tom Hanks was the lead, but really the movie was an ensemble tapestry.
MTV: What can we expect from those literal monsters inside the mist?
Darabont: We’re going to have the monsters rendered by CafeFX, the guys who did all the CGI work in “Pan’s Labyrinth.” It’s challenging now to try to design a monster that doesn’t look like somebody else’s monster. But I think we’ve come up with some really cool stuff.
MTV: Do you anticipate an R rating?
Darabont: I’m pretty convinced it would have to be, yeah. There’s no way on earth this will ever be PG-13. It’s just too intense.
MTV: You obviously are a great lover of the horror genre. What do you think of films like “Hostel” and “Saw”?
Darabont: The torture-porn thing is pretty distasteful. I’m just not into it. Horror unfortunately tends to go in these cycles where it puts itself back in this ghetto. I just don’t find anything amusing about people getting tortured. I wish we weren’t making these movies. I think it degrades the culture. I think it diminishes the human spirit.
MTV: This marks your third Stephen King adaptation. What else do you have on tap?
Darabont: I have the rights to two of his stories. One is “The Long Walk,” which is a tremendously bizarre and powerful little piece. The other is “The Monkey,” a very old-school chiller. They’re both very human character pieces. I suspect I’ll make them on even lower budgets than “The Mist.” Hopefully I’ll be able to get to one or both this year.
MTV: Are you focused entirely on directing now, rather than writing for other filmmakers?
Darabont: Absolutely. I spent 20 years of my career primarily being a writer for hire. I had a few bad experiences to reinforce the decision that had been forming to get the hell out. I can’t be chained to my computer anymore, not for the paycheck.
MTV: Would you say one of those bad experiences is the time you spent writing the aborted “Indiana Jones 4″ script?
Darabont: “Indy” is definitely in that category, topping the list. It showed me how badly things can go. I spent a year of very determined effort on something I was very excited about, working very closely with Steven Spielberg and coming up with a result that I and he felt was terrific. He wanted to direct it as his next movie, and then suddenly the whole thing goes down in flames because George Lucas doesn’t like the script (see “George Lucas Says Indiana Jones Will Return In May 2008″ ).
MTV: Did you ever speak to George Lucas directly?
Darabont: Yes! I told him he was crazy. I said, “You have a fantastic script. I think you’re insane, George.” You can say things like that to George, and he doesn’t even blink. He’s one of the most stubborn men I know.
MTV: Do you know if any remnant of that story lives in the one they’re about to start filming?
Darabont: I have no idea if there’s a shred of it left. It was a tremendous disappointment and a waste of a year.
MTV: I would think part of you still wants to share that script with the world.
Darabont: I would love it, but it’s not my material to disseminate. At this point, I don’t give much of a damn what George thinks, but I wouldn’t want to harm my friendship with Steven.
MTV: Where are you with your long-in-the-works plan to direct “Fahrenheit 451″?
Darabont: Man, I am hoping that it’s my next one. That’s the movie I’ve wanted to make since I was 9 years old. I don’t view it as a remake. I don’t think the  Truffaut film even came close. I’m pretending it didn’t exist. It’s really my adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s great book. And I think I may be on the verge of a breakthrough in getting it made.
MTV: Does that mean there might be some casting to announce soon?
Darabont: There might be. I’m not at liberty to say. When it happens, I think people will be pretty excited about it.
MTV: Does it feel like now is an appropriate time for a tale like “Fahrenheit”?
Darabont: The time has never been better for “Fahrenheit 451.” I think the message is something we need to hear. Anybody who believes authority should be questioned needs this movie. There’s a reason that novel has been in print for over half a century. It’s one of the most vital antiauthoritarian stories ever written. It also happens to be a really wildly galloping yarn. This would be on the bigger end of the scale for me.
Check out everything we’ve got on “The Mist.”
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