John Carpenter, director of Halloween, Dark Star, Christine,
Starman, and The Thing, stopped by the San Diego ComicCon to promote
his new movie, Ghosts of Mars, and to answer a few questions. With him
were Joanna Cassidy (Blade Runner, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?),
who plays Whitlock in the movie, and Richard Cetrone, who plays the villain,
Big Daddy Mars.
What's Ghosts of Mars about?
Carpenter: Well, Ghosts of Mars is a little action/horror movie
that takes place on Mars in the future. It's a kind of inverted retelling
of The Thing.
Are there actual ghosts on mars? Is it more of a spiritual story?
Carpenter: If you're looking for spirituality when you go to see this
move, you're going to be real disappointed. It's more like
if you remember
the movie Zulu, it's more like that. It's more like a bunch of people
who are trapped, and they're being attacked by these kind of maniacs. And
there's no spirituality involved. [pause] Either in the movie or in my life.
What was the inspiration for Ghosts of Mars?
Carpenter: There were a couple of different things. I'd wanted to
make a Mars movie since the eighties. Mars has always been a kind of powerful
influence in human affairs since ancient days. Passion, blood, war, lust
all of those things. Human beings have projected their own ideas onto Mars.
I got this book in the eighties, about what it would be like to try to colonize
Mars. And I began to think about it, realizing that, after a certain amount
of time, if the planet had been terra-formed to the point where you didn't
have to wear a helmet, where you had a breathable atmosphere and so forth,
it would essentially be like a frontier. And that led me to believe that,
well, perhaps we can kind of do a western on Mars. That whole thing was just
kind of appealing to me.
Cassidy: One of the exciting things for me to work on this film, 'cause
I always wanted to do a western, is John's respect and admiration for some
of the old western directors like John Ford. And when we first sat down together,
he told me to go out and see Red River. So you have to kind of understand
that when we went into this, I thought that one of the most fun things about
it was to be on Mars, in the future, 75 years from now, to be
around and being in the old west.
On filming in New Mexico:
Carpenter: New Mexico is one of the most beautiful places to film.
Historically, movies have been shot there, since the silent films, because
of the weather
it's just a gorgeous country. And if
you're going to do anything that is similar to a western
I would choose
New Mexico. I love it. I love going there. Plus they have great strip clubs.
There seems to be a lot of similarity between Ghosts of Mars and
your earlier film Assault on Precinct 13. Is this true?
Carpenter: Yeah, I just make the same movies over and over again.
[pause] It's true. [pause] I'm not kidding.
On the music in Ghosts of Mars:
Carpenter: I decided that, when we went into this, I wanted to kind
of change the musical sound to it. And, actually, Ice Cube was the one who
set me onto ProTools. ProTools is basically a computer system where you can
load in your basic tracks and begin to manipulate them in kind of interesting
ways. So, I started experimenting with it, and it's fascinating. It's a whole
What was it like working with Ice Cube?
Cassidy: Well, he's not like his name. He's not like a piece of ice.
He's warm and fuzzy. Has lots of people around him. Did you know that he has
done a couple of feature films on his own, and wrote them and directed them?
Cetrone: About Ice Cube? Well, if I'da had my way, the ending would
have been a little different, I can tell you that. But John I actually enjoyed
working with a lot. He came to my planet. He said, "I wanna tell your
story." But he was nice enough, so I let him and most of crew, uh, live.
I can't say that for all the actors, though. But he's a good guy. It was a
thrill to work for him. I think anybody in the industry would love to work
for John Carpenter. He has a way of making everyone feel comfortable on the
set. He has a great sense of humor. He has a quick wit. He let's you experiment.
He's open to suggestions.
Joanna, will you appear again on HBO's Six Feet Under?
Cassidy: There will be a follow up to that. I'll be back.
How did you get the part in Blade Runner?
Cassidy: That's a pretty personal question. I actually told the director
that I was the only one in town that could handle a snake.
Joanna, on what she's doing after Ghosts of Mars:
Cassidy: There's a pilot that I did for Stephen Bochco that'll be
out very shortly called Philly, which is obviously about lawyers in
Will there be an Escape
from New York special edition DVD?
Carpenter: It's going to come out with the same commentary that I
did on the LaserDisc. They just have arranged that. And they're going to do
a little behind-the-scenes documentary. So that should be out either later
this year or early next year.
Would you ever make a sequel for They Live?
Carpenter: Sure, we'd do another one. I just talked to [Roddy Piper]
recently, and we'd do one. But I don't think that the studio wants to do it,
so, you know, that's just the way it goes.
Are you involved at all with the sequel to Vampires?
Carpenter: Uh, only collecting a check. Actually, I just saw one of
the cuts of the sequel. It's turning out pretty good. The main vampire killer
in the sequel is Jon Bon Jovi, believe it or not. [pause] I swear. And he
did a great job.
Is he better than James Woods?
Carpenter: Nobody's better than James Woods.
So, James Woods will not be in the second Vampires?
Carpenter: No. No. We couldn't afford him.
Which film of yours do you think is underrated?
Carpenter: Underrated? Man, there are so many that are underrated.
Matter of fact, most of them probably are. I don't know. I mean, I think They
Live is probably underrated. The one I really enjoyed that was the least
successful was In the Mouth of Madness. That was a kind of a weirdo
intellectual movie, so nobody got it.
Will you ever do another H.P. Lovecraft type movie?
Carpenter: I'd love to. I can't convince anybody to make H.P. Lovecraft.
I've talked about it with studios. I even talked about it as a TV movie, and
nobody gets it. Nobody gets him. They don't get the stories. I said, "why
don't we do
The [Haunter] in the Dark, why don't we do something
like that, and they didn't want to do it. Why don't we do The Dunwich Horror,
remake that? No one gets it.
What are you doing after Ghosts of Mars?
Carpenter: Well, I don't have any specific plans, but I was thinking
about kind of going back to my roots and doing this kind of balls-out horror
film, like Halloween. Now, I have to make up a story. I don't have
a story. So, we'll see what happens.
On Carpenter's long association with stunt coordinator Jeff Imada:
Carpenter: I met Jeff on Big Trouble in Little China. And,
basically Jeff helped me the most on that movie, out of any of the martial
artists who were involved. He was behind the camera. He had an incredible
eye for stunts. And our personalities
. We got along really well.
Does the music video from Big Trouble in Little China embarrass
you at all?
Carpenter: You thought that the music sucked, did ya? Is that what
you're trying to say? Hey, man, come on. What do you want? I had hair in those
days. What do you want?
Is it true that Big Trouble in Little China started out as a sequel
to Buckaroo Banzai?
Carpenter: No. No, it was a western that Gary Goldman wrote. And the
studio bought it and wanted to make it modern day. So they hired W.D. Richter
to write it. So it was an assignment for him, and he dashed it off before
the writer's strike at the time, I think it was. And he made it a modern day
film. But it was not his original idea. And the original western was interesting,
but they just didn't want to make it San Francisco in the 1800s. They wanted
to update it.
Will there be a Prince of Darkness 2?
Carpenter: No, I don't think there will be. That movie made money,
but it didn't make enough, it wasn't received well enough to make a sequel.
When will a special edition DVD for The
Thing come out?
Carpenter: There is one out. There's one out. Sorry. It's good, though.
It's good. I recommend you buy it. Buy it for all your friends.
John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars will be released August 24, 2001.