John Carpenter: ‘Could I succeed if I started today? No. I’d be rejected’

The horror master, releasing a new album of film scores, talks John Wayne, why he never watches his movies, and having his work co-opted by neo-Nazis.

This interview is by  at the Guardian:-

Hi John. What have you been up to?

I’ve been playing the video game Destiny 2. It’s a sci-fi game. It’s fun.

I’ve heard of that. Isn’t it really hard and involves shooting aliens?

Oh, it is hard. That’s why I’ve dedicated my life to learning how to play it. At my age why not? It keeps me out of trouble.

It’s not that frightening now. I overcame my stage fright. That started in the 60s when I was doing a play in high school. I got up onstage and I forgot my lines in front of the entire school. That’s what my original scar was, but I’m doing much better now.

Are you going to play any music from your 80s synth-pop group the Coupe De Villes?

[Laughs] Well, no, I don’t think so. We’re promoting my Anthology album, which is music from my career from the 70s to now. We’ll be playing that mostly and a couple of tunes from the Lost Themes albums.

John Carpenter … just a poor director trying to get by in this terrible world
 John Carpenter … just a poor director trying to get by in this terrible world. Photograph: Sacred Bones

Is it true you had a John Wayne bumper sticker on your car in the 70s?

I did. I had it to irritate my friends. I really loved John Wayne as an actor; his politics were not mine, but as an actor I grew up with him. He was our symbol of masculinity. I love irritating my friends. It’s a bad thing to do.

Well, what I do in a movie is carpet the scene so that you watch them and my music supports the sequences – so it’s like a carpet in that sense. I come in and I’m like a guy who carpets your house. I put down carpet on the floor, and you walk across it and it’s very comfortable.

Is it true you never watch your old films?

Oh God, no. Don’t ever make me do that.

But your films are widely viewed as all-time classics, John.

I don’t want to see them again. I see the mistakes. That’s all I can see. It’d be torture. Are you kidding? I don’t want anything to do with them after I’m done.

The horror mogul Jason Blum recently gave us his rules for the genre, which were essentially a John Carpenter template. Why do you think your approach is still the go-to for new horror directors?

I have no clue. My attempts at self-evaluation are doomed to fail because I’m terrible at it. All I do is go off instinct. I don’t have the rules that Jason Blum has. He’s much smarter than I am. I’m just a poor director trying to get by in this terrible world.

John Carpenter – Christine

Do you miss the low-budget days of Dark Star and Halloween?

Robert Rodriguez is set to remake Escape From New York and there’s another Halloween project coming in 2018. How do you feel about people remaking your films?

I love it, if they are going to pay me money. If they pay me, it’s wonderful. If they don’t pay me, I don’t care. I think it’s unfair if they don’t pay me. I think everyone should pay me. Why not? I’m an old guy now and I need money. Send me money.

You’ve spoken about how contemporary film-makers give up creative control and the final cut too easily. Would you like to be starting out now?

It was such a different time back then and the kind of movies were different. I started when you could actually make an exploitation film, a low-budget exploitation movie and get it into theaters. Nowadays it’s so ridiculously expensive. Could I succeed if I started today? Probably not. I’d be rejected.

Harry Dean Stanton as the ‘Byronesque’ Harold “Brain” Hellman in Escape from New York alongside Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken
 Harry Dean Stanton as the ‘Byronesque’ Harold ‘Brain’ Hellman in Escape from New York, alongside Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken. Photograph: Allstar/Embassy Pictures

You grew up a huge fan of comic books. Do you think the modern adaptations do them justice?

The older I get, the less interested I am, because they’re movies about things that can’t happen. I just don’t care.

There are a lot of different things. Horror films have modernised along with our culture – Get Out, for example. Some genres can die, but I don’t think horror ever will.

What did you think when you first heard neo-Nazis were trying to claim They Live was about Jewish media control?

You recently paid your respects to Harry Dean Stanton. What made him so special?

He was an accomplished character actor and a unique man. He would come absolutely prepared for his part and ad-lib things that weren’t in the script, but which were hilarious. He did that especially on Escape From New York, he made that character his own. He saw that character as a sort of poet, like Lord Byron. I hadn’t thought of it, but it was great.

Anthology: Movie Themes 1974-1998 is out on Sacred Bones from 20 October. Carpenter starts a US tour on 29 October



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