Interview: Rupert Wainwright, The Fog
British director Rupert Wainwright (Stigmata) spoke to LOVEFiLM from the set of his remake of John Carpenter's 1980 horror movie The Fog. As before, California's coastal town of Bodega Bay is engulfed in a thick pea-souper and the population starts dropping. This time Selma Blair is the nighttime radio DJ who sounds the alarm (originally played by Carpenter's wife Adrienne Barbeau) and Tom Welling (Smallville) and Maggie Grace (Lost) replace Tom Atkins and Jamie Lee Curtis.
LOVEFiLM: So how does it feel having John Carpenter on your shoulder as executive producer?
Rupert Wainwright: John's not that involved actually. He's only here for three or four days of the shoot. I took him out for a drink and he said, "It's your movie now". He's a weird bird. I love some of the earlier movies. He used to have his finger on what the American public wants - he invented a genre, really: the cool slasher movie. But that's been so radically overdone now.
LF: How do you rate the original The Fog?
RW: It's a good one to remake because it's half a good film. I don't think it's John Carpenter's proudest moment - with good reason. Our version is a lot richer. I don't know if it's going to be better, but it is more ambitious. The film is 36 hours in the life of a community, and the tricky part is if you explain too much what is going on it just kills it. It's all about the puzzle; nothing should come clear until the very end. It's like threading the eye of a needle. If we get it, then great.
LF: Carpenter's movie was rated X. You are contracted to deliver a PG-13. Does that make it harder?
RW: I think John was torn between being the classy filmmaker and the goremeister, going back and forth in the two versions he shot. And he think he may be over-compensated in the gore in the end. I'm much happier with a PG-13. If you do an R horror film it has to be a hard R. In a PG-13 world you have to sell mystery, not violence.
I'm much more interested in a movie like The Ring, which is really just suggestive. I think a lot of us did some re-examining after the Columbine high school shooting. In Stigmata we had a scene of Patricia slashing her wrists, and she shoved the knife right through the wrist. I remember at the time we were editing there was a news story about a girl in high school in England slashing her arms, and I looked at this scene and thought if one girl does that because of this movie it's not worth it. So I cut that voluntarily - toned it down. I think life imitates art much more than the other way round.
LF: What else did you learn from doing Stigmata?
RW: I think that audiences want a full meal. They want scares and they want laughs. But if you cynically package it they can smell it - like this House of Wax remake. But White Noise they were intrigued by. On Stigmata, we did four days of pick-ups to get the movie right. We did two days for the studio, and two days for me. I had to pay to re-edit the movie my way and re-test it, and when it tested 15% higher they repaid me. Then a new regime came in at the studio and they pitched it with "It'll scare the hell into you". The worst tagline I've ever heard.
LF: And can you tell about The Fog? Does it feel right?
RW: What was it James Cameron said when he was making Titanic? That it could be a chocolate-covered cheeseburger?