Usually I hate Hollywood celebrity interviews because (a) it
reveals that the person being interviewed is either an idiot or an ego
maniac and/or (b) celebrities usually lie about whatever movie they had
just been involved with.
celebrity being interviewed might think it’s the biggest pile of crud
since Battlefield Earth, but they are
contractually obliged to be positive about the film in question. Also, no
use in badmouthing, let’s say, John Travolta as the scientologist stooge
that he is because you might just have to work with the man again. So
don’t go burning down any bridges . . .
Oh all right, if you’re somehow involved with Hollywood that means you’re
probably an ego maniac in any case. So excuse me my naivety there!
If I dislike celebrity interviews so much, then why am I recommending
John Carpenter: the Prince of Darkness by Gilles Boulenger then? After
all, the book is nothing but one long extended interview with cult
director John Carpenter . . .
Well, that is because Carpenter comes of as neither an idiot or an egoist.
Also he seems quite candid most of the time badmouthing some people in the
industry, especially producers – not a very clever thing for a director to
John Carpenter? The man is a virtual trade mark in himself. Even before he
attained his status as cult director, he was being marketed as one. Long
before the 1980s saw Steven Spielberg’s name appearing prominently on
posters, Carpenter’s name was clearly affixed to movie posters in cinema
If you’re a fan of Carpenter’s work then you’ll definitely be interested
in reading this book. It is also however recommended to more casual genre
fans and anyone interested in Hollywood. I found it quite engrossing even
though I can’t really remember the last time I was actually excited about
a new Carpenter film even though I do occasionally wax lyrical about some
of his older efforts.
The interviews never focus too much on the technical side of directing so
anyone studying directing might be disappointed in that department.
However, the interviews are logically ordered (first his childhood and
early beginnings with subsequent chapters focusing on individual movies).
The questions are informed although one gets the idea that interviewer
Gilles Boulenger is more conversational than he is confrontational. A few
tougher questions would have been nice (“just why is
Ghosts of Mars so bad?” is one). Also, one sometimes gets the “I have
to be nice about Michael Douglas in this interview because I would like to
work with him again some day”.
On the whole however, Carpenter seems to be on the level. In fact, I
enjoyed the book so much that I made me decide to make September John
Carpenter month and check out some of his efforts on DVD again. So watch
out for some new DVD reviews later this month . . .
After a promising start in the mid-1970s Carpenter’s career went through
several highs and lows throughout the decades that followed. An auteur –
he directed, edited, writes and even most famously writes the music for
his films – Carpenter is actually an anachronism today, out of step with
current Hollywood trends.
For instance, you won’t in any of the flashy Michael Bay use of music and
editing for his films. Carpenter may not tackle any “high art” like
Bergman or Tarkovsky, but his use of wide lens photography and music is
distinctly his – quite an achievement in era where most Hollywood movies
look and feel basically the same . . .
Unfortunately Carpenter probably never realized his full potential as
evidenced by his promising early start. He will probably be ultimately
remembered for Halloween (his biggest box office hit) and
The Thing (probably his best movie) . . .
Next: "Quite gruesome
and gory even by today’s standards . . ."
The Prince of Darkness
by Gilles Boulenger
296 pages, 6x9, B&W photos, plus 24-page color section
(distributed by SCB Distributors)
Pub. date August 2003