Devotion To The Craft: A Few Minutes with Writer/Director Richard Stanley Talking All Things ‘Color Out of Space’

Posted in Interviews, Movies, Theatrical by - January 28, 2020
Devotion To The Craft: A Few Minutes with Writer/Director Richard Stanley Talking All Things ‘Color Out of Space’

It’s always a treat to be able to dive into the madness that we see on screen…

Color Out Of Space takes us to the standard American family when after a meteorite lands in the front yard of their farm, Nathan Gardner (Nicolas Cage) and his family find themselves battling a mutant extraterrestrial organism as it infects their minds and bodies, transforming their quiet rural life into a Technicolor nightmare.

While some audiences may have seen this bow at the Toronto International Film Festival this past fall, the warped universes of H.P. Lovecraft are now on display for the masses a theatres everywhere and who better to bring them to us then the team of Nicolas Cage and writer/director Richard Stanley.

I got the distinct pleasure to sit down with Stanley in advance of the release of the film which is in theatres now.  We talked about his love of Lovecraft, the nature of his work, working with Nicolas Cage as he’s embraced the horror genre in recent years and so very much more.

Dave Voigt: Obviously the stories of H.P. Lovecraft have been made into films before but what was it about Color Out of Space that drew you to it to make it into a film?

Richard Stanley:  Well as a lifelong Lovecraft fan, I’ve always been a little angry that they aren’t actually more screen adaptations of his work, specifically the core, classic stories that his reputation rests on.  Color Out of Space is actually his personal favourites, so I decided that we had to go for it and try and do it justice.  Beyond that, this story is probably one of the most accessible for low budget filmmakers because it’s set on the single farm and concerns the annihilation of a single family.  It isn’t set on Venus or at the bottom of the Marianas Trench or in Antarctica like some of his other stories and it felt like we had a fair chance to do it justice.

The thread of being fascinated with the unknown is one that really runs through his work but also that as a species the unknown would truly destroy our minds in many ways.  Is that a theme inside it the genre that you enjoy playing with?

Basically, Lovecraft is one of those rare authors who can actually destabilize your reality if you spend too much time reading them.  If you sit down for 3-4 days and read nothing but Lovecraft or Philip K Dick it can actually affect how you interpret reality and I’ve always had a deep respect for his work.  I think that the Lovecraft mythos has really permeated 21st Century culture in a spectacular way as so many of his concepts and ideas are spread all across the globe and it was important to me to try and give some form to chaos of the his universes.

Can you talk a little about working with Nicolas Cage because in years past you’d never really associate him with the genre but in the past few years he’s really embraced and is bringing more eyes than ever on to the material.

You know I think Nic at heart has always been a genre fan and to be quite honest, him being a Lovecraft fan is really one of the primary reasons that this project actually came about.  I personally think that Nic really has a fantastic sense of comic timing and he fit so well here because I really do feel that so much of my work can play like a deadpan apocalyptic comedy and Nic’s timing and sensibilities are completely in keeping with that.  I think that the more he steps away from the action hero and more conventional type parts and leans into these character parts that he’s been playing, I think that he has a legitimate chance to become the next Vincent Price.  There’s something about his ‘gallows’ humor that I just can’t help but appreciate.

I’m always curious because in a film like this, you are directing actors who have to react to things that aren’t always in the frame.  Is that more freeing on your end to try and have it be in “the mind’s eye” as you direct or do you need to be story boarded and have a general idea of what things will look like and play as once they hit the screen.

Over the years I like to think that I’ve arrived at what I like to call the ‘Columbo’ approach.  Whereas I storyboard the hell out of the film and plan every detail like where things are going to be and how the lighting of it will look for a long time in advance and then I arrive on set with absolutely no idea what I am doing and get to walk through the scene without expectations, see what the cast members can bring to the table and try to keep as light of a touch on the proceedings as I possibly can.

9 times out of 10 you’re going to shoot as you’ve planned and storyboarded it anyway but you want to be able to leave yourself open for what the other cast members can bring to the table.  It’s an organic process and to be honest if you try and come into something with a hard and fast idea on how to do something it always play pretty lifelessly.  It’s important to try play outside the lines a little bit and with your collaborators on set because that’s when you can find something really interesting.

How have you found the crowd reactions now that the festival tour is long over and it’s playing for the masses now because something I really enjoy about it is that it’s a film that really demands that you see it on as large of a screen as you possibly can.

I’m very pleased to hear that because certainly I’ve always been a person who aspired to make films for public, big screen entertainment.  I’m resigned to the fact that most people will be watching this on their computers or devices but the soundtrack does work really well on headphones, so if you have to be foolish enough to watch it that way we wanted to enhance the experience as much as we possibly could…

IT DID!  I just watched again a couple of hours ago that way! (Laughs)

(Laughs) I’m very glad to hear that! (Laughs) Because I’ll tell you Dave the ultimate point of all this insanity at the end of the day is to entertain folk and getting to see people laugh and enjoy themselves at all the right moments has just pleased me to no end.

You’ve always been a filmmaker that has had to work within budgetary constraints without scads of resources at your disposal and with this film I was so struck with the production design and how beautifully shot the entire thing was and I’d love to know just about how important to make sure films like this look great, without those kind of unlimited resources that some movies these days have.

Throughout my life, I’ve always tried to maintain a certain standard of technical excellence.  I think that when you go and do something you really have to put your best foot forward and do it the right way.  I’ve always been a believer that the world will probably come to end surrounded by these beautiful images of splendour that might have been around when the world was created.  I’m really pleased that we take the audience on a pretty interesting visual journey in this.  Steve Annis our Director of Photography who I collaborated on with this has made a really interesting visual piece out of all this and I couldn’t be happier.

If you had to sell this to someone who knows nothing of H.P. Lovecraft, Nicolas or even your previous work, how would you describe Color Out of Space?

An apocalyptic family orientated black comedy, with the classic American family on the brink of extinction.

Color Out of Space is in theatres now.

This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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