Saturday, May 11, 2013

Ask Me a Question: The Mist

Another weekend, another genre movie filled film festival!  This week, it's the Los Angeles Times Hero Complex, going strong for the fourth year in a row.  The festival kicked off Friday night with a John Carpenter double feature of They Live and Halloween with the man himself speaking inbetween.  Unfortunately, this man has seen 14 movies in 3 weeks, hadn't slept a full night in a week and had a long day at work.  Suffice to say, I missed opening night with our hero, le John Carpenter.

Anyways, the Hero Complex Film Festival is back at the Chinese Theatres in Hollywood, site of the infamous screening of Dick Tracy in 2011 where star/director Warren Beatty held court for a whopping 90 minutes afterwards talking about the film, his career and the industry in general.  It must have been that good fortune carrying over that graced today's screening of 2007's The Mist, written and directed by Frank Darabont (Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile) and based on a short story by Stephen King.

Before the flick, Hero Complex played some clips from their previous events showcasing some of the impressive talent they've lined up over the years.  Like who?  Oh just guys like Tom Cruise, Peter Weller, Harrison Ford, Peter Jackson, Steven Spielberg, Richard Donner and the aforementioned Warren Beatty among many others.

This years moderator, Gina McIntyre, informed us to stay in our seats after as we were going to be joined by messrs Frank Darabont and last minute, special guest Thomas Jane!  I've seen The Jane at various other screenings and convention panels and let me tell you, he's the weirdcoolest guy on the planet.  A very funny and honest guy who usually isn't wearing shoes.  I had only seen The Mist once before a few years ago at the Long Beach Comic Con where The Jane sat in front of me and watched the movie with everyone else.  Pretty cool guy.

That night they showed the Black and White version (a supplement to the DVD release).  Today, The Mist would be in color.  Basically, The Mist starts with artist David Drayton (TJ) putting the finishing touches on a movie poster (actually done by renowned artist Drew Struzan).  A storm puts a tree through the studio and wreaks havoc to the Drayton family home.  In town, Drayton and his son stock up on supplies at the local grocery store when a citizen comes running in, bleeding from the nose and yelling about something in the mist.

What follows is a showcase of intense character and monster driven horror that sees Drayton and a motley crew fending off threats supernatural (courtesy of a shadowy Army base up on the mountain); as well as human when townsfolk start to crack inside the pressure cooker scenario.  Darabont finds a nice balance between the mysterious and horrific creature threat and that of devolving human nature into mob mentality violence.  The movie works for nearly it's entire running time but the ending...the ending is something else.  If you haven't seen it, let's just say it'll make you react.  Good or bad, you'll feel something at the end.  Let's just say you wouldn't walk out whistling a tune with a smile on your face.

A great cast fills the supermarket besides The Jane:  Toby Jones (Captain America), Laurie Holden (Magnificent Seven ((Michael Biehn alert!)), Marcia Gay Harden, Andre Braugher (Fantastic Four w/Silver Surfer), William Sadler (Death in Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey!) and the kid who played Sherminator in American Pie.

As the credits rolled, the audience learned something interesting, there's no score/music for much of the end credits, only the sound of helicopters and trucks passing.

The lights came up and Mr. Frank Darabont and the king of weirdcool himself, Thomas Jane (sans shoes and rocking a long, surfer haircut) were ready to rock.  It was a very informal and candid affair with both men dropping the F-bomb like they would in normal conversation which is refreshing and funny at the same time.  It was easy to see that these guys were buddies, very complimentary and congratulatory of one another.  Sometimes they would just be talking to each other instead of the moderator.

- Darabont read the short story in 1980 and came up with idea for tweaking the ending.
- The shocker of an ending is alluded to in King's original short story.  When Darabont expanded on it and pitched it to King, the author loved it and wished he would have thought of it himself.
- Because of the ending, Darabont knew the movie would be a low budget affair and planned for it.
- Feels there needs to be a movie every once in a while that DOESN'T give the audience what it wants a la John Carpenter's The Thing and George Romero's zombie pictures.
- Darabont wrote the script in 8 weeks.  Feels if  you have good ideas you shouldn't take a year to get them out.  Had same time frame on bigger budgeted The Green Mile.
- Thomas Jane read the script, loved it and the ending because it was something different, something off putting that wouldn't make audiences happy.
- The two times Darabont has written with an actor in mind and got them were Tom Hanks and TJ.
- Shot the movie like an episode of The Shield, three cameramen always on, keeping the actors on their toes because they never knew where the camera was.
- Guest directed one episode of The Shield after Ryan Murphy found out he was a fan through their mutual casting director.  FD loved the show's fast, 7 day schedule.
- Stole the camera crew and Cinematographer for The Mist and shot it in 34ish days.
- FD and TJ have a lot of mutual friends because they're both comic and art geeks.
- Both love the work of Drew Struzan and a piece of his art in the movie is a nod to him and Stephen King.
- King offered Dark Tower to Darabont but FD didn't wanna spend 10 years writing/making it and failing to live up to the greatness of the books.
- Had 2 weeks of rehearsal on Shawshank Redemption but none on The Green Mile and feels he got the same quality of performance.
- TJ wishes he played David Drayton more nebbish at the start to see more of a transformation, the animal coming out as things start to go wrong.
- FD disagreed and said he was very satisfied with TJ's performance as the rational guy.
- Darabont wanted TJ to play the lead on The Walking Dead and TJ had actually brought it to HBO separately but by the time the show picked up steam, Jane was doing Hung for HBO who were not keen on him starring in two series concurrently.
- An audience member asks if there was ever a different ending planned?  TJ doesn't quite answer the question and talks about that being life.  What if?  Turned left instead of right, picked up the phone, made that appointment, not turned down X-Men and being a movie star today...(rumor is Bryan Singer wanted to cast Jane was Wolverine but the studio wanted him to audition, TJ didn't or wasn't unavailable.  Some guy named Hugh Jackman ended up playing the Canadian Beserker)
-  FD says The Mist is a very angry movie about the intelligent, rational people in society being crushed by dumb masses.
- $4 million budget for special effects, jokes or maybe not that it was $120 million less than Pirates of the Caribbean 3.

The duo spoke about much, much more but hey, buy a ticket.  It was a great event put on by Hero Complex and I'll be back tomorrow to see Independence Day with guest Roland Emmerich, the director and co-writer (who got his American break on Universal Soldier ((Van Damme VS Dolph Lundgren!)).

Good journey!

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