R.L. Stine -- the prolific author of the "Goosebumps" series, among others -- is nothing like the cranky version of him played by Jack Black in the recent movie. When MTV News sat down with the writer at YALLFest in Charleston, we found that he's funny, easygoing, and ready to chat about how the movie came about -- and how to set up the perfect twist.
MTV News: How involved were you in coming up with the idea for the "Goosebumps" movie?
R.L. Stine: I had nothing to do with it. Nothing.
We had a movie deal for "Goosebumps" twenty years ago, and Tim Burton was actually supposed to be the producer back then, but he never did anything. So for twenty years, I didn’t even think about it - you figure it’s not happening.
I think what happened in the interim is they made a deal with Sony, and they were saying, “Which books should we film?" And they’d have a script written but wouldn’t be happy with it. And then a couple of years ago, these writers came up with this idea: “Let’s not do just one book. Why don’t we do them all in one movie? Let’s take all the early original monsters and put them all in one film!” And then they decided I would be a character and my monsters would be escaping from the books. And suddenly they had a script that they liked and then the movie happened. But I was not part of it.
MTV: Since you weren’t part of the script process, what was your reaction when you found out you were one of the main characters?
Stine: I was shocked because I hadn’t talked to the movie people in years and years. Deborah Forte, one of the producers of the film, called me and said, “We’re thinking of making you the main character of the movie. Can I send the script over for you to look at?” Of course I was totally shocked. Why would they do that? *laughs* Why? That’s actually how I got to see the script. If I wasn’t in it, I don’t know if they would ever have shown it to me. No one wants the author around.
So then we made a deal for them to use me as a character. And then I had some input. I had some say in how they treated me.
MTV: I wondered about that because movie Stine is a bit grumpy in the beginning.
Stine: Oh, he’s mean. He’s really mean. I hate when he throws the kid’s phone away. I hate that. *laughs (a bit gleefully)*
MTV: So you had some input on the script after they finally looped you in?
Stine: Yes, there were some Stephen King jokes I asked them to take out. They left two in, which everyone loves. But there was another one where they actually listened to me and took it out. It’s not my personality to brag, like where Jack is bragging about how many books he sold. It’s not like me at all. And I think people realize that. That it’s a movie character. It’s not really me.
MTV: You said at the keynote this morning that your son wanted Morgan Freeman to play you, which definitely would have been an interesting choice. Did you get any input into casting at all?
Stine: No, I had none. They were thinking of Jack Black and talking with him. I’m on Twitter all the time, and I said, “What do you think about Jack Black to play me in the 'Goosebumps' movie?” And a lot of people tweeted back and said, “Oh, he’s wonderful. He’s hilarious. Oh, your movie will be great. He’s fabulous.” And then some people tweeted back and said, “You’re doomed. He’s horrible. He’s awful.” And then a few people tweeted and said, “Well, why don’t you play yourself? You should play you. Who could play you better than you?” So I went to my wife Jane and said, “Jane, a lot of people think I should play myself in the 'Goosebumps' movie.” And she said, “You’re too old to play yourself.” Horrifying moment. Horrifying. Too old to play yourself. And it’s true. It is so true. But Jack did a great job.
MTV: Did Jack come to you for advice on how to play you?
Stine: Yes. I’d never met him, but he flew into NY, actually in a blizzard, and we had lunch and talked about it. I think he came just to look at me, you know. And he said, “Well, what in the script is true about you?” And I said, “Nothing. Jack, there’s not one true thing in the script.” He said, “Alright, I’m gonna do a sinister version of you.” Sinister, that was his idea. And then when it came time to actually film it, he decided to play it as Orson Welles with that accent. I’m from Ohio; I don’t sound like that. But it worked out; he’s funny.
MTV: Was it weird watching Jack play you or is the character so different that it didn’t really matter?
Stine: He’s so different, but it’s a very weird thing to be a character in a movie. It’s very odd. But it’s fun. It’s really a nice thing. It’s been great.
MTV: Art imitates life with Jack playing a grumpy version of you, but if it were to flip so that life imitated art, which of your monsters would you like to see come to life?
Stine: I don’t want any of them to come to life. No, I don’t want to see them.
MTV: So then which one would be the worst to come to life? Slappy is pretty evil in the movie.
Stine: Maybe. I don’t know. He’s just a dummy. *laughs* My favorites in the movie are the lawn gnomes. I love them. I love that sorta clank clank they made when they were walking.
MTV: Did any monsters not make the cut that you wish had made it into the movie?
Stine: Well, the haunted mask isn’t in the film. And there is a clown, but Murder the Clown is a favorite character of mine, and he didn’t make it. But we gotta save something for the sequel. If we used every monster, then what are we gonna do, we’ve done it all.
MTV: At one point in the movie, Jack Black as you says, “Every story ever told can be broken down into three parts: the beginning, the middle ... and the twist.” I think the ‘twist’ twist is why so many of us have loved your books. Is this an actual saying of yours?
Stine: No, but that’s my favorite line in the movie. So I wish I said it. It really is my favorite line.
MTV: Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Stine: I’m glad to being doing "Fear Street" again. I’m happy to be killing teenagers again – it’s always fun.