On John Carpenter + Career Retrospective Interview

On John Carpenter + Career Retrospective Interview

The night of October 31, 1987 was chilly in Marion, Iowa, a town as close to “Haddonfield” as you are likely to find. Halloween has always been my favorite day of the year, compounded when falling on a Saturday, and ’87 offered that rare collision of wonderful. That evening I, dressed as a “punk” with spiked hair and a ripped t-shirt, was dropped off at my pal Matt’s house for an evening of trick-or-treating. Once I transitioned from the Universal monster classics to more contemporary genre film fare, Matt was my gateway tour guide as the kid lucky enough to have a subscription to Fangoria magazine. We hurried up and down the streets of his neighborhood filling our bags, rushing to make it home in time for his favorite film, HALLOWEEN II, on television. We got back just in time to plant ourselves in front of his t.v. and see the pumpkin peeling away, revealing the skull inside, and for the next hour I was frozen. My Dad arrived to get me about half way through and found me thoroughly spooked.

My original copy of the novelization.
My copy of the novelization.

Several days later I was at my buddy Al’s place looking through his brother’s audio cassettes, and came across the original HALLOWEEN soundtrack from Verese Sarabande Records and borrowed it. Shortly thereafter I came across the novelization of the film at the tiny used bookstore off our town square, and spent that afternoon reading it while listening to the score. I hadn’t seen much of the first film outside of what was featured at the beginning of HALLOWEEN II, but I knew it inside and out. I was hooked. And terrified. I returned the cassette post haste and the book has been sitting unread on my shelf ever since. But despite the initial jitters, I have had a substantial relationship with HALLOWEEN, and more importantly, with its creator John Carpenter.

Fast forward past me following the HALLOWEEN sequels over the years, past me hosting an official HALLOWEEN H2O viewing party in 1998, to 2010 and the kid who once coveted pouring over the pages of Fangoria was now a writer for the magazine, having his first conversation with Carpenter. We discussed CHRISTINE, and the article got the cover (albeit with a painting depicting John morphing into THE THING that didn’t exactly tie in with my piece). In 2011 I stepped into the role of Vice President of New Media at Trancas International Films, the parent company of the HALLOWEEN franchise, a position I would hold for several years. I interviewed John again in early 2012 , this time on THE THING for Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine. The piece ran with gorgeous cover art from John Gallagher.

Also in 2012 I shot John doing a congratulatory video greeting for Jamie Lee Curtis, who was being awarded the Humanitarian of the Year award at the inaugural Halloween Gala for the sCare Foundation, the non-profit I co-founded along with Malek Akkad. In October of that year I spearheaded the national and international theatrical re-release of the original HALLOWEEN, which included the documentary short I wrote and directed titled YOU CAN’T KILL THE BOGEYMAN. John and I were interviewed by the Los Angeles Times, and the film had a release wider than ever before, including playing theatrically in the UK for the first time. That same year Fangoria released a John Carpenter issue in their limited edition Legends series of magazines, complete with a career-spanning interview I conducted (below). I also contributed pieces on STARMAN and VAMPIRES. The issue sold out immediately.

In mid 2013 I talked to John and Sandy Carpenter King about possibly teaming with Scream Factory to release their 1993 anthology film BODY BAGS on Blu-ray. The film had been sitting in John’s archives since Artisan’s mishandled, trimmed VHS/DVD release happened shortly after the film premiered on Showtime, and was a lost gem. Everyone got on board, and we put together a solid release, sporting a stunning new uncut transfer. In addition including a new commentary featuring John, Sandy, Stacy Keach, and Robert Carradine, along with a thorough documentary I directed featuring all of the above. The disc landed in the midst of an all out Carpenter blitz from Scream Factory, who has given the royal treatment to a great number of his films. In August I interviewed John on camera again, this time for Scream’s release of PRINCE OF DARKNESS, and had a great, candid conversation about the production.

In late summer 2013 I approached the city of South Pasadena about officially celebrating Carpenter’s impact on the area due to the fact that John shot

During the BODY BAGS commentary recording sessions. Los Angeles, 2013.
During the BODY BAGS commentary recording sessions. Los Angeles, 2013.

much of HALLOWEEN (and portions of a number of other films) there, the locations for which remain popular tourist stops. After several months of working with the city council, and with great assistance from library director Steve Fjelsted, October 31st was officially christened “John Carpenter Night” in a proclamation entered into city records. The ceremony took place on October 6th, and in addition to kind words from mayor Richard D. Schneider, John spoke eloquently about his experiences shooting there. A beautiful event and important recognition.

All this was in effort to pay tribute to a true master of the craft. It is crucial to celebrate the icons among us. The creative minds who transcend their mediums by having a profound impact on everything they touch. John Carpenter is one such icon, and his imprint on cinema and music will forever resonate. I am honored to have done so much with him over time and am humbled to have the opportunity to call him a friend.

The following is the complete feature interview from the aforementioned Fangoria Legends issue from 2012. The introduction is also included, where I explain my word association format for the conversation, reviewing every film he has been involved with, key people and elements in his life, and a touching final couple of comments on the “icon” vs the “private” John Carpenter.

Thank you for reading. Enjoy!

– – – – – – – –

We close with an intimate conversation with the Prince of Darkness, playing a game of word association relating to his life and career. The day of our get-together finds Carpenter the recent sufferer of a detached retina, and in between surgeries to restore his vision. Despite his discomfort, the resulting one-on-one tells the tale of the outcast Southern boy turned cinema icon, with brief, insightful, and often funny, commentary from the mouth of madness himself. All genres. All titles. Nothing held back. This is John Carpenter on John Carpenter.

JUSTIN BEAHM: Let’s start in Bowling Green, Kentucky…
JOHN CARPENTER: Bowling Green was where I grew up from the time I was five years old to eighteen. I was pretty much an outcast, especially with the girls. They didn’t want anything to do with me. I’m too weird. I grew up watching movies at the Capital and State theaters downtown, which is where I fell in love with movies.

BEAHM:  When was the filmmaker seed planted?
CARPENTER: I remember the day I wanted to become a director was when I was eight years old. I went to see FORBIDDEN PLANET, and it was just astonishing. I thought it was something I wanted to do. Around this time, I started noticing a guy by the name of Roger Corman, who seemed to be involved in all the films I liked the most. His films were engrossing with an incredibly fast tempo. This one man fascinated me, and that’s where I formulated my early impressions of what a director does.

BEAHM: EC Comics…
CARPENTER: Loved them. I came into contact with them very early. They were forbidden, thought to cause juvenile delinquency, so there was something special about getting your hands on them. I especially liked the science fiction. They were great, grim, stories.

BEAHM: Your first film camera…
CARPENTER: It was a German camera that my father used called a Eumig. Piece of shit 8mm camera, but instead of an automatic shutter, it had a regular shutter, so you had to take light readings to get your exposure. It had a single frame, so I did some stop-motion animation, badly. I got my friends to act in little scenes from movies that were playing.

BEAHM: REVENGE OF THE COLOSSAL BEASTS (1962)
CARPENTER: A title that I made up out of the movies I had been seeing. It wasn’t a movie I finished, and nobody will ever see it. Ever [laughs].

BEAHM: The rest of your early shorts: TERROR FROM SPACE (1963); WARRIOR AND THE DEMON, SORCERER FROM OUTER SPACE, GORGO VERSUS GODZILLA, GORGON THE SPACE MONSTER, and CAPTAIN VOYEUR (all 1969)…
CARPENTER: I came up with titles reminiscent of the movies I loved when I was a kid in the 50s. Usually science fiction creatures, monsters, outer space. There wasn’t much to them, and most of them were just a scene.

BEAHM: THE RESURRECTION OF BRONCHO BILLY (1970)
CARPENTER: This was a student film at USC, and I was part of a five man crew. I was the editor and did the music. It was a chaotic shoot. The director and producer hated each other, and there would be these protracted arguments about the ambiance of this film. It was ridiculous, but we won an Academy Award. One of the guys from the production, not me, got to go to the ceremony, and the next day, Bernard Canter, the head of the cinema department at that time, brought the Oscar to show the rest of us in a paper bag. That was my closest brush with Oscar. In a paper bag.

BEAHM: LAST FOXTROT IN BURBANK (1973)
CARPENTER: Charles Band hired me as an editor on this thing, a sexual spoof of the Brando movie Last Tango in Paris. There was all this awful X-rated footage. I cut together parts of it, then they went back to re-shoot stuff and recut it all.

BEAHM: Charles Band…
CARPENTER: He is a strange character. His dad was Albert Band, the director and producer. He would break into Italian once and a while because he grew up over there or something. He was always making movies, skating on the edge of the business. He had a distribution company at one time, Empire Pictures. He is one of those guys who never experiences failure, because he just moves on to the next thing. They say when the atomic bomb goes off, all that will be left will be cockroaches, and I think the other survivor will be Charlie Band.

BEAHM: DARK STAR (1974)
CARPENTER: This was a project I started at USC that became a feature because of the friendship and participation of Dan O’Bannon. Dan was a classmate of mine, and was back for a semester in 1970, but he ran out of money and was having to go home. We were going to work on Dark Star, so I gave him a place to live, and then five years later, it was released in theaters. We were student filmmakers, and thought we were hot shit. It was an endless odyssey of trying to get this motherfucker finished. When it was finally done, I had the bright idea that, because I was such a genius, as soon as anyone saw this film, a limo was going to pick me up and take me off to a soundstage to start directing. That didn’t happen. No one gave a shit. That was the first bad review I got, in the Daily Variety. Ayye. They didn’t see any of my genius, apparently [laughs].

BEAHM: Dan O’Bannon…
CARPENTER: Early, very close, friend. Dan was a complicated man, and enormously talented. He was acerbically funny, and there was an edge to him. He liked to humiliate people, which is unfortunate. He had a lot of ghosts, like we all do, a lot of demons in the closet.

BEAHM: Did you stay close with Dan until his passing?
CARPENTER: We broke off our friendship in 1975 because Dan wanted to be a director. The last thing I needed was to work with an actor/editor/writer, who also wanted to be a director. He bad mouthed me over the years, but every once in a while he would call me up to renew our friendship. He called me just before Alien was released, at which point he was addicted to opium, and was going on about how he loved to go over to Europe and Amsterdam to buy girls over there. Other than the addiction, he seemed to be doing alright. Then he turned against me again. He came back later when we were to collaborate on a special edition of DARK STAR, which was the last time I heard from him.

ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13

BEAHM: ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 (1974)
CARPENTER: That was the first movie I made in 35mm, in Panavision, and the first movie I made straight through, meaning it was my first feature schedule. A friend and an acquaintance of his put in the money, and I wrote and directed it. That was the longest I have ever shot. It was rough. I was the editor on that, and strung it together, then a couple of friends added some footage. I remember after Assault was shown at a film festival, one reviewer commented, “This movie is an example of how not to make a thriller, and the man responsible is John Carpenter.”

BEAHM: Panavision…
CARPENTER: My love! My cinematic love! Nothing looks better than 35mm or 70mm film running through a camera with Panavision anamorphic lenses. Nothing. Magic.

BEAHM: Debra Hill…
CARPENTER: My script supervisor on ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13, who became my girlfriend, and who I made a producer on Halloween. She had a talent for producing. She understood making movies and putting together talent.

Dean Cundey and Carpenter

BEAHM: Dean Cundey…
CARPENTER: Debra introduced me to Dean, who is a tremendously talented cameraman. Kind of a strange guy to deal with, and can be sarcastic on the set, but wow, what a cameraman. He and I discovered the Panavision anamorphic fast lenses together on ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK. It was a moment of pure joy when we discovered we could open the lenses to 2.2 or 1.8, and could shoot a scene in the middle of Ventura Boulevard. at midnight. You couldn’t do that before. You’d have had to pour light all over the place. It changed how we made film.

BEAHM: EYES OF LAURA MARS (1978)
CARPENTER: Early screenplay purchased by John Peters at Columbia Pictures. I wrote two early drafts of the screenplay, and then they moved on to David Zelag Goodman, who rewrote me. Irvin Kershner directed it, and I haven’t seen it in so long, I don’t even remember what it is like. I do remember they fucked up the vision thing. If you’re seeing through someone else’s eyes and you don’t see through your own eyes, you’d fall down immediately. You’d have vertigo and lose your balance. It would be a weird physical sensation, and they didn’t have any of that going on. They also should have shot it with a Panaglide. It also shouldn’t have been handheld, but hell, I didn’t make it.

BEAHM: SOMEONE’S WATCHING ME! (1978)
CARPENTER: My first studio shoot for Warner Brothers, on a soundstage with a crew, and I was green. It was amazing. I met my first wife, Adrienne Barbeau, on that shoot, and Lauren Hutton gave the performance of her career in that movie. We shot that in no time at all, eighteen days or something, and for hardly any money. It was based on a true life story, about something that happened in Chicago. I learned a lot on that set. Two weeks later I was shooting Halloween.

With Adrienne Barbeau

BEAHM: Adrianne…
CARPENTER: She was an actress, and I had forgotten the cardinal rule: never marry an actress. We fell in love, and weren’t right for each other. However, we survived for a while and had a great kid. She is remarried, has twins, and is very happy. I am happy for her.

BEAHM: ZUMA BEACH (1978)
CARPENTER: I wrote that for a producer who just said he wanted a beach movie. He ended up selling it to Warner Brothers, and soon Suzanne Somers was starring in it. I was going to direct it, for about ten seconds, but one of my mentors, Richard Kobritz, who later produced Christine, helped me see I didn’t want to do it. It was vastly rewritten, so I really shouldn’t have taken credit for it, but I was a little asshole in those days.

BEAHM: HALLOWEEN (1978)
CARPENTER: Born out of a meeting that Debra and I had in England with Moustapha Akkad, who was going to put in some seed money in low budget features. He had hooked up with Irwin Yablans, who had come up with this idea for The Babysitter Murders. He wanted something that every teenager in America could relate to. I said yes, as long as I got final cut and could put my name above the title. Moustapha had gone to UCLA and had directed a couple of movies, so he was a smart man. We had a meeting and moved forward. Shot the movie in something like twenty days.

It became the movie I am most known for, but early on, boy did it get bad reviews. I have always gotten bad reviews, especially early on. On HALLOWEEN, people were saying things like, “Carpenter is not gifted with actors,” and so on. I was starting to question if I was in the right business, but the film did okay.

BEAHM: Moustapha Akkad…
CARPENTER: He took HALLOWEEN and rode that baby for years. He had an annuity coming from that thing. By the time I last talked to him, around 2004, he had forgotten Donald Pleasence’s name, referring to him as, “that British gentleman,” and explained how to get through night shoots. He explained that the secret to longevity on set was to take a nap every day.

BEAHM: Jamie Lee Curtis…
CARPENTER: Jamie Lee read for us on HALLOWEEN, and was a contract player over at Universal, and they let her do the movie. She was terrific, really innocent in those days, and gung ho. She knew everything to do. The world and the business caught up with Jamie a couple of years later. I came back and directed a couple of scenes intended to expand HALLOWEEN for television, and by then she had changed a bit. Wonderful lady.

BEAHM: ELVIS (1979)
CARPENTER: My earliest memory of Elvis was the gigantic screenplay. Everybody in town had turned this thing down because they thought it was going to be a piece of shit. I loved Elvis, and was a big fan. We got this guy I didn’t know named Kurt Russell to play Elvis. That was baptism by fire. We had 180 pages of script, 88 speaking parts, and 150 different locations, all in 30 days. I would never want to work that hard again. I would fall asleep in dailies every day, so I don’t even remember seeing many of them.

BEAHM: Did you shoot at Graceland?
CARPENTER: No, but we went through it. Wow, what a dump. This is where the King lived? We found a location in Long Beach that worked for Graceland.

BEAHM: Kurt Russell…
CARPENTER: I didn’t know much about him, but once we started working together, I was blown away by his enormous amount of talent. Not only

With Kurt Russell (photo: Empire)
With Kurt Russell in 2013 (photo: Empire)

talent, but old fashioned actor discipline. He memorized lines, knew to hit his marks, and understood the mechanics of making films. After that I knew he could play anything. We’re still close friends. Great guy.

BEAHM: THE FOG (1980)
CARPENTER: I signed a two picture deal with Avco/Embassy, and this was the first, a little ghost story. We shot it in Point Reyes in Inverness, California, which was such paradise, I bought a little house up there. I remember mixing it the first time, and thinking it was a piece of shit, so we went back and reshot a bunch of things. Every movie you do, you try to get a little extra time at the end to shoot inserts and little things. You want that in your back pocket, because you never know what you might need. For this one, we had extensive rewrites and reshoots.

BEAHM: Tom Atkins…
CARPENTER: Tom was a friend of Adrienne’s, and a really good actor. Around the same time as THE FOG, he was in a movie called THE NINTH CONFIGURATION, directed by William Peter Blatty, that he was excellent in.

BEAHM: William Peter Blatty…
CARPENTER: Oh Lord. Back in the 80s at some point, some company offered me Exorcist III, based on the book ‘Legion’ by William Peter Blatty, which was his sequel to THE EXORCIST. I got the screenplay and was shocked that it had no exorcism in it. I started meeting with Blatty, and it became clear what he really wanted to do was direct. He was trying to push me away, which he eventually did, and I didn’t direct it. I couldn’t deal with it anymore. He directed it, showed it at a preview, and the audience asked where the exorcism was, so they went and shot one, tacking it on. It felt that way, too. It needed to be about that. The whole story needed to lead up to that.

BEAHM ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981)
CARPENTER: A script I wrote back in the 70s, inspired partially by Death Wish, with that view of New York as a hellhole. I had been to New York a few times, and it was on the skids back then. Very rough. It was also based partially on a Harry Harrison novel that I can’t remember the name of right now, where they send this character into the most dangerous planet in the universe. I thought it was a great idea, so I came up with sending our character into the most dangerous place in the United States. We got Kurt as the eye patched Snake Plissken, and it really worked.

On the set of HALLOWEEN II

BEAHM: HALLOWEEN II (1981)
CARPENTER: “We are doing this movie whether you are with us or not, you can’t stop us,” is what I was told. “You can either get on board and help us, or get out of the way.” I came on board as producer, and wrote the script. All I remember about writing the script was desperation, because there really was no story. Just picked up right there where HALLOWEEN ends. I just remember drinking beer and writing it. Rick Rosenthal directed it. Once again, at the end of it, I had to go back and tinker around with it, add a couple of scenes and beef it up a bit.

BEAHM: Howard Hawks…
CARPENTER: My favorite director. His are some of the most amazing movies ever made. He is kind of unsung. Visually, he wasn’t a pioneer, but he was a pioneer in storytelling. I love him as a director.

BEAHM: THE THING (1982)
CARPENTER: An assignment. Stuart Cohen was a friend at USC, and he came to me saying they were trying to remake THE THING, and they didn’t know what to do. I suggested going back to the novella by John Campbell, and off we went. It was Universal, and bigger than anything I’d done at that point. It wasn’t something I necessarily wanted to do, because I am so in love with the original movie, but I figured out a way to do something different with it. Kurt shimmied his way into the movie, and I got the same bum crew…I am kidding…everyone was great. Rob Bottin created these amazing things, and we made one of the most ferocious monster movies ever. It was hated, and didn’t do very well. The fans hated it, and I was a pariah for a while. It got me fired from my contract, but here we are 30 years later, and it has undergone a reevaluation with people. I maintain that, if The Thing had done better, my career would have been completely different, but I can’t worry about that now.

BEAHM: E.T., the other alien movie out in the summer of 1982…
CARPENTER: The kind of movie everybody wanted to see. A happy, uplifting cry about a hydraulic alien who eats junk food. It is a positive alien movie, which to me, having growin up in the 50s, was foreign. If aliens aren’t here to kill us, what good are they?

BEAHM: HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH (1982)
CARPENTER: “Let’s do something different,” Joe Dante said. “Nigel Neil is in town, and I bet he has a good story!” So Dante and I go over and meet with Nigel Kneale, and he did have a good story. Nigel is a British author who did a lot of good stuff, QUATERMASS, and television plays. We hire him, and Joe says he doesn’t want to do it for some reason, so my friend Tommy Lee Wallace steps in as director. It comes out and the audience asks, “Where’s Michael?” and it didn’t do well, although I think it is better than it is given credit for.

BEAHM: Tommy Lee Wallace,,,
CARPENTER: Friend since grade school. I still talk to him and see him occasionally. Really talented musician and artist. One of my best friends.

Tommy Lee Wallace BTS on HALLOWEEN
Tommy Lee Wallace BTS on HALLOWEEN

BEAHM: CHRISTINE (1983)
CARPENTER: The first movie I got after THE THING. I wasn’t sure about a haunted car movie. I didn’t know if I could make that interesting and scary, but it gave me the chance to work with Dean Stockwell, Alexandra Paul, and Keith Gordon, all of which are filmmakers now. We did okay in that movie.

BEAHM: Stephen King,,,
CARPENTER: Complicated person and interesting writer. He changed horror by bringing psychic powers into things, with ‘Carrie’. His novels always had a little psychic power in them. He got me into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and I got to see The Doors inducted, which was pretty cool.

BEAHM: THE PHILADELPHIA EXPERIMENT (1984)
CARPENTER: Great shaggy dog story. Absolute bullshit, but what a great story. While I was writing it, I couldn’t figure out the third act. A friend suggested the revenge of the crew against the people who put them there, but I thought it was too much like The Fog. Absolute bullshit.

BEAHM: STARMAN (1984)
CARPENTER: This was my first chance to do something different, a love story, a girl movie. I met my wife Sandy King on that movie, who was a script supervisor, and got to work with Jeff Bridges. We shot that all across the country, and it was a great experience. I had wanted to do a movie like that to prove that Carpenter wasn’t all darkness.

With Sandy King Carpenter and me (2011)
With Sandy King Carpenter and me (2011)

BEAHM: Sandy King…
CARPENTER: The love of my life. Producer, wife, everything associated with being in love with somebody.

BEAHM: Dario Argento…
CARPENTER: I’ve known him for years and consider him a friend. A wonderful man. I went to a film festival in Torino in 98 or 99, where they were showing my films, and Dario was there. He and I went to the Egyptian museum together, looking at the mummies. He is a rock star in Italy, with kids running up saying, “Dario! Dario!”

BEAHM: BLACK MOON RISING (1986)
CARPENTER: The script for this was written back around the time of Escape From New York. It was my ‘my car is stolen and I’m going to get it back’ story. I have never seen the final film.

BEAHM: BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA (1986)
CARPENTER: Larry Gordon at Fox assigned this to me. I have been a big kung fu fan for years, and it had a little of everything. It was all the best of Chinese cinema, with people flying around, and had a great, ridiculous, hero who doesn’t know he is a sidekick. He thinks he’s the hero, but he’s not. My other producer and assistant director was Larry Franco, Kurt’s brother-in-law, and every time I would get a project, Larry would send it to Kurt so he could crowbar his way in. The studio wanted him, and Kurt was great. He had great 80’s hair, and he really delivered.

BEAHM: PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1987)
CARPENTER: My experience with the studio on BIG TROUBLE convinced me I needed to get back into independent filmmaking. We made a deal for a couple pictures, and PRINCE OF DARKNESS was the first one. Metaphysical horror. Loved doing the score. I am very proud of that movie.

BEAHM: Donald Pleasence…
CARPENTER: Friend for years who scared me when I first met him on HALLOWEEN. I was a punk back then, and knew nothing about working with actors. We were at lunch and he said, “I don’t know why I am making this film, but my daughter is in a band in England and says the music to your last movie was pretty good, so I came to do it.” It turns out I understand Donald now, after several movies with him. He is just like everybody, and wants to be loved wanted. On ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, I offered him the part of the President, and he asked why I wanted him. He wants you to tell him how valuable he is to a film. In that case, I had to write him a letter, begging him to be in it. By that point he had a whole second career as the avenging psychiatrist. We were pals and hung out a bunch. I loved him. I miss him.

BEAHM: Religion…
CARPENTER: Being brought up in the bible belt South in the 50s, when I went to kindergarten, they read from the bible to us, every day. It was a stunning thing, because I listened and tried to follow the story, but it made no sense. It got me thinking, and then as I matured and studied the bible, I came to the conclusion that religions are important to the world, and destructive, but they give laws to us and meaning to people’s lives. Since I don’t believe in the supernatural, I am only an outsider. It fascinates me, because it is a human need. It fills the lives of people, and is an origin story. It’s rich.

BEAHM: George Romero…
CARPENTER: I was so impressed with NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, and we became friends. I made the mistake of saying, “Hollywood’s not bad, get and agent and come on out,” and apparently he didn’t have a good time here.

BEAHM: THEY LIVE (1988)
CARPENTER: My primal scream against the Reagan revolution, which is still going on. Nothing will stop it. I had a couple of ways of making the movie: from the point of view of the middle class, or from the point of view of the working poor. I chose to go with the poor. I have been a wrestling fan since I was a kid, and caught up with it again during the early 80s, the Vince McMahon and Hulk Hogan era. I went to Wrestlemania III, where I met Roddy Piper. I thought he could play the role. I needed someone who was weathered, and not a movie star, and Roddy had plenty of scars. I knew he could play it.

BEAHM: Roddy Piper…
CARPENTER: Still a friend. Rod is one of the toughest men I have ever known. I would never fuck with him. He is double tough, and would know how to kill you. He has a big heart, and is wounded like everybody. We all are, a little bit, by life. He has had more injuries than anyone I know, and is just shattered. He has great stories, and was the first to really explain the ins and outs of the wrestling business to me.

BEAHM: You have a GI Joe figure from him…
CARPENTER: [laughs] Yeah, Roddy gave me that, an even signed it.

BEAHM: EL DIABLO (1990)
CARPENTER: I wrote that western, and came close to directing it. We were going to shoot in Mexico. Here are my three rules for living: 1. never leave home unless absolutely necessary; 2. never eat fish; and 3. never go south of the border. I can’t explain why I didn’t do it, because it is a cool story with an edge, but wanting to make a western was an early dream of mine, and I didn’t want to fuck it up.

BEAHM: BLOOD RIVER (1991)
CARPENTER: Another western I wrote, this time for John Wayne’s company. Michael Wayne and Tom Kane were story editors, and this was toward the end of Wayne’s life. It was for him, but of course, he didn’t live to make it, but it was fun to write for him. Eventually made into a movie, with Will Brimley in the Wayne role.

BEAHM: MEMOIRS OF AN INVISIBLE MAN (1992)
CARPENTER: After I stopped making low budget films, I fucked around for a couple of years, and this came along for a studio. I thought it was a novel idea, and there were some fun things in there, and I was a fan of Chevy Chase. It was a tough shoot for a lot of reasons, many of which I don’t want to go into. I really wanted to quit the business at the end of that movie. I was real unhappy. I got to work with William Fraker, one of our great cinematographers, and I met Sam Neil on that shoot, so there were some positives. It didn’t do great business, probably because it wasn’t funny enough. People were expecting a comedy, but Chevy Chase wanted to be a serious movie star and leading man. He didn’t want to do comedy anymore, and he insisted he was ready for serious roles. That was the problem behind the film, in a nutshell.

BEAHM: BODY BAGS (1993)
CARPENTER: Was going to be a television series, which it could have been if I was to shoot it in Canada for little money. I shot a couple episodes, and

BODY BAGS
BODY BAGS

even acted as the host, in full makeup. That makeup helps you. You aren’t afraid of anything. You just start going. We combined them all into one film, and put it out there. It was fun.

BEAHM: SILENCE OF THE HAMS (1994)
CARPENTER: Oh God! [laughs] Aaaah. I had cast Roger Corman in BODY BAGS, and he was determined to return the favor, so he called me up saying there were some Italian filmmakers doing this movie through his company. He said they wanted me and Joe Dante to play parts in it, and for some reason I cannot explain, I decided to do it, so Joe and I had this scene. It was awful, but I think I impressed Julie Corman. She thought I was a good actor.

BEAHM: IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS (1994)
CARPENTER: The script came out of New Line from Michael DeLuca, who was the protégée of Bob Shay, and it was an adventure getting that thing set up. We shot it in Toronto with Sam Neil, once again. It was a chance to do a little Lovecraft, and was a neat story.

BEAHM: Sam Neill…
CARPENTER: I love Sam Neill. He is my kind of actor. He knows his scenes, how to play his scenes, knows how to be a movie star, and does a hell of a job. What more do you want?

BEAHM: VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED (1995)
CARPENTER: Completing a contractual obligation. I wasn’t particularly interested in doing that movie, but I had to, so we went back up to Inverness, and worked with Christopher Reeve. This was right before he had his big accident, and he gave a great performance. It isn’t one of my favorite films of mine. The opening was neat, and the barn blowing up was cool, I suppose.

BEAHM: Rip Haight…
CARPENTER: Rip Haight lives! That is my Screen Actor’s Guild nom de plume. Rick doesn’t get a lot of work. The name was a spur of the moment when I was playing a helicopter pilot in MEMOIRS OF AN INVISIBLE MAN, and they had to Taft Hartley me into the Actor’s Guild. In independent films I had done a lot of parts, but I had to join for this, and I just came up with it. I thought it was a great name because it was like Haight Ashbury. I thought he was cool.

BEAHM: Is he cool?
CARPENTER: Not particularly, anymore. And he doesn’t get any work.

ESCAPE FROM L.A.
ESCAPE FROM L.A.

BEAHM: ESCAPE FROM L.A. (1996)
CARPENTER: Kurt wanted to replay Snake because he loved that character. He came to visit me, and had been learning how to fly. We were shooting VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED in Northern California, and he flew up saying he wanted to do this. ESCAPE FROM L.A. was very similar to ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK in terms of its structure, but they are quite different other than that. I love the surfing scene, and working with Peter Fonda, and Steve Buschemi. It was a lot of work, but I enjoyed it. Since we’ve made that film, I have realized what the story should have been.

BEAHM: The Coupe de Villes…
CARPENTER: College friends who used to play acoustic guitars and sing Bee Gees songs together. We started writing our own songs eventually, and they appeared in a few movies. Everyone in the band became movie directors. We got together a few years ago, but my voice is blown from years of smoking, drinking, and directing movies, so I don’t have much of anything anymore, but the spirit of the DeVilles lives.

BEAHM: VAMPIRES (1998)
CARPENTER: This was an offer from Largo, and I got to work with the legendary James Woods, which was an experience. He gave a fantastic misogynistic performance. We sort of reinvented the vampire myth, and tried to bring it out of the castles.

BEAHM: GHOSTS OF MARS (2001)
CARPENTER: An idea from the Weinsteins, who asked for a treatment, then didn’t like it, so it ended up at Screen Gems. It was a big, epic war film. One thing I will say about it is that it got a positive review from Roger Ebert, which surprised me. It is underrated and didn’t do very well, but I like lots of things about it. After that movie, I was burned out on directing, so I stopped cold for several years. I couldn’t do it anymore. I had fallen out of love.

BEAHM: VAMPIRES: LOS MUERTOS (2002)
CARPENTER: Tommy Lee wrote and directed this in Mexico, with John Bon Jovi starring in it. Making movies in Mexico is problematic.

With Ice Cube on GHOSTS OF MARS
With Ice Cube on GHOSTS OF MARS

BEAHM: MASTERS OF HORROR – CIGARETTE BURNS (2005)
CARPENTER: Mick Garris convinced us all we’d all become billionaires if we did this series for Showtime, and of course none of us have seen anything on it. Fooled again. We all went up for eight days and shot an hour’s worth of film with a script that was really good. Udo Kier and Norman Reedus were great, my son did the score, and I am proud of it.

BEAHM: MASTERS OF HORROR – PRO-LIFE (2006)
CARPENTER: Same gig as CIGARETTE BURNS, same writers, crew, and Ron Pearlman. My son did the score again, and again, I am happy with it. It is easier to do one hour. You don’t have to work as hard.

BEAHM: The Fog (2005)
CARPENTER: Aye. David Foster decided he wanted to do a remake of The Fog, and Rupert Wainright directed it. They didn’t listen to me, and had their own story, and by that point I didn’t want to say anything. I collected a check, and it was #1 at the box office.

BEAHM: THE WARD (2010)
CARPENTER: I signed with new management, who had a script they wanted to do about these girls in a mental institution. It was a chance to work with Amber Herd in Spokane, Washington for thirty-some days. I had never worked with an all-girl cast before, so that was a first. All the girls were really talented. The movie was okay and had some nice moments.

BEAHM: DARKCHYLDE (2013)
CARPENTER: In development. The director right now is blind in one eye.

BEAHM: FANGLAND (no date)
CARPENTER: That is a script I am attached to, but I never hear anything about it. All my career nobody tells me anything. Bloody Benders is the same thing. That is a western based on a serial killer family in Illinois. There are a couple other projects, but life has intruded, so I have to wait until the eye heals.

BEAHM: The icon John Carpenter…
CARPENTER: He is just a guy who fell in love with movies and worked real hard at making them. The one thing about the icon John Carpenter that never worked for John Carpenter, was that he never got the chicks. He always had adolescent boys wanting to talk to him. He never got the groupies. You have dreams when you’re young, but they don’t necessarily come true. He made a few movies that people know.

BEAHM: The private John Carpenter…
CARPENTER: Retirement age is creeping up quickly. I have had a nice life, and am lucky in my career to have made some movies, made some money, and now I’m comfortable. Real life is intruding. Age issues. My dad is 92, so I keep an eye on him, and my mother-in-law is going through various things. This is stuff you don’t worry about when you are a kid. I play around with, “how has my career been?” but I don’t think about it too much. I love basketball and video games. What more do you want? It is time for the real John Carpenter to kick back and relax.

More on John Carpenter at TheOfficialJohnCarpenter.com