Here, in some exclusive excerpts from John Carpenter - The Prince of Darkness a new book consisting of interviews with cult director John Carpenter, is the man in his own words . . .


I was always a big fan of “absurdist” humor and Luis Bunuel. What I liked most about, say, Waiting for Godot or those kind of works was not their intellectual content but the fact that they were extremely humorous to me. The idea that everybody is waiting for this Godot to arrive and that he’s not coming today, the pointlessness of all that, struck my funny bones. Waiting for Godot on the contrary never illuminated man’s condition to me.

These guys are blowing up planets to create supernovas and I can’t think of anything more mindlessly destructive. They are bored, their machines are falling apart, and even though it was a complete fantasy, it seems to me that Dark Star was telling some kind of truth regarding our lives.

Waiting for Godot in outer space” was the best made-up I could come up with.


We shot Escape from New York in the summer of 1980 in St. Louis during an intense heatwave. The temperature would “drop” to 95° at midnight. Two National Guard helicopters, painted to look like U.S. Police Force choppers, had to land in a square. Fully costumed National Guardsmen then had to jump out and run down the alley. It was so hot that the extras were falling to the pavement, twisting ankles. One guy broke his arm. I do recall also an episode involving Lee Van Cleef. Lee flew in from Los Angeles for a one-night shoot, then flew out the next day. When I watched the rushes I discovered to my horror that some of Lee’s close-ups were out of focus. But we couldn’t re-shoot – he had already left town – and we couldn’t afford to get him back. So I was forced to use the out-of-focus close-ups in the movie.


Anyway, the studio showed the movie [The Thing] to a focus group. After this kind of screening you have a little discussion with the people invited and they tell you what they thought of it. I attended the screening – I never did it again. For some of them, the emotional content of the movie was too strong, for others the monster was too strong, for another the hopelessness of the story was too strong. Then one telling moment happened. I was talking to all these kids when this young lady who was about sixteen or seventeen years old said, “What happened in the end? [SPOILER ALERT: At the end, the two surviving human characters are sitting in the snow waiting for death to come – and maybe for one to reveal to the other that he is “the thing”. END SPOILER!] Who was ‘the thing’? What happened up there?” And I answered, “Well, that’s the whole point! You never find out. You have to use your imagination.” Then she replied, “Oh, God! I hate that.” That’s when I realized we were doomed because I had forgotten one of the obvious rules: The audience hates uncertainty.


I met with Tom Cruise. He was very charming. He wanted to do the movie but he had to go make Ridley Scott’s Legend – and Legend turned out to be way over budget and schedule. We would have had to wait a year. I would have made the movie with him – I had no problem with that. He was good.


Next: John Carpenter on They Live, Memoirs of an Invisible Man, Village of the Damned, Escape from L.A. and Ghosts of Mars

John Carpenter: The Prince of Darkness
by Gilles Boulenger
$19.95 paper  
296 pages, 6x9, B&W photos, plus 24-page color section
ISBN: 1-879505-67-3

Silman-James Press
(distributed by SCB Distributors)
Pub. date August 2003




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