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An interview with filmmaker Frank Darbont! Are you the next Drabont or Stephen King? Take your chance to find out be competing in one of our contest – enter HERE! A daily news article from the WriteMovies archive first published November 2006 by Daniel Robert Epstein.


Giving Himself the Green Light

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Tired of waiting around for a big-budget bankroll of Stephen King’s The Mist, filmmaker Frank Darabont is going it another way in the shadow of the Special Edition DVD of his second collaboration with the author.

By Daniel Robert Epstein

When filmmaker Frank Darabont drove up to Santa Maria, CA last week to meet with the special effects company that is going to be working with him on his upcoming low-budget adaptation of Stephen King’s The Mist, along for the ride was Constantine Nasr, camera in tow. Since Darabont plucked him away from USC at the turn of the millennium to help film on-set material for this week’s Special Edition DVD release of Green Mile, Nasr has become a leading producer of Extras and is involved now with his mentor at an even earlier stage of production.

“We’ve been actively working on this Special Edition for about two years,” Darabont explains in conversation with FilmStew. “I’m really proud of the work Constantine did on this. I think it’s a terrific and insightful array of documentary stuff.”

“I’ve always liked seeing really smart behind the scenes stuff, not necessarily the fluff that you see on Entertainment Tonight, with two minutes of, ‘Oh, here we are on the set meeting so and so glamorous movie star…’” he adds. “I was an early advocate of laserdiscs and the laserdisc format had a lot of that stuff on it. When we set this Special Edition in motion, Constantine shot a lot of new material as well, more contemporary interviews with the people involved.”

Darabont was inspired to take the low-budget, intimate approach to The Mist after watching British filmmaker Danny Boyle’s zombie thriller 28 Days. And as sort of a practice run, he went ahead and directed an episode for the upcoming sixth season of the TV series The Shield.

“The Shield is one of my all-time favorite things that’s ever been on television,” Darabont exclaims. “Shawn [Ryan] has been inviting me to come and do an episode, because he knows what a fan I am, and I finally took him up on it.”

“I’ve never had more fun directing,” he continues. “It was a seven-day shoot with a completely dialed in cast and crew. They were just amazing to work with. The new season starts in January and mine is I believe the sixth episode in, so it will air about mid-February.”

To this day, Darabont is of course still most readily associated with his first Stephen King adaptation, the 1994 prison film The Shawshank Redemption. But unlike the four-time Oscar nominee The Green Mile, which made $136 million at the domestic box office, the seven-time Academy Award nominated Shawshank scored only $28.3 million, finding redemption later on TNT and DVD.

“To put it bluntly, a hit is always better than a failure,” Darabont confesses. “It’s not even about the dough so much as just knowing that what you did has been accepted and embraced by people right off the bat. You don’t want to ever do what you do in a vacuum.”

“You’re not making your movie just for you and your mom and the dog,” he adds. “So the result of Green Mile was much more immediately satisfying than Shawshank. But Shawshank has now become something very special to people and I certainly wouldn’t dismiss the rewards of that either.”

Darabont had hoped to be talking right about now also about his miniseries TV sequel to John Carpenter’s The Thing for the Sci Fi Channel. But due to some corporate oversights, the rights were lost, leaving Darabont and his exhaustively honed script, at least for now, in the Arctic darkness.

So instead, following The Mist, he hopes to finally tackle his long-rumored treatment of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Francois Truffaut’s version came out way back in 1966, and a few short years later, as a nine-year-old, Darabont vaguely committed to the idea of some day taking a better shot.

“I don’t view it in any way as a remake,” he insists, “because as far as I’m concerned the Truffaut film just doesn’t exist. Not to put him down as a filmmaker because he was a great filmmaker, but that movie so sucked. It missed the book by such a wide margin that it doesn’t factor into my thinking. So it’s not a remake of Truffaut’s film; it’s an adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s great book.”

“I just saw Ray [Bradbury] last week,” Darabont continues. “I popped by his house and sat with him for an hour, just to chat and see how he’s doing. The physical machinery is starting to break down, certainly, but his mind is still active. He still writes every day and has published two books this year. That’s the thing that really keeps him going.”

“I’d love to be able to get this project moving and hopefully completed, while he’s still here to enjoy it. The satisfaction for me of doing that would be being able to show it to him. So keep your fingers crossed for Mr. Bradbury. We want him around until he’s 100.”

Fahrenheit 451 and The Mist will no doubt continue Darabont’s pattern of working with a healthy complement of spot on character actors. From Bob Gunton (the warden in Shawshank) to Green Mile co-stars James Cromwell and David Morse, the French-born filmmaker has always been a believer in the layers that performers of this rank can bring to the material.

“I’m a big fan of character actors,” Darabont admits. “I think in many ways they’re the glue that holds a movie together. They’re maybe not the guys who get all the glory as often times the leads do, but they’re so vital. They’re the mortar and the brick of the structure.”

“I didn’t ask either Cromwell or Morse to read for The Green Mile,” he reveals. “I just offered them the parts. Then there are some roles where you don’t know going in who you want, so then you have to hunt. That winds up being its own process and certainly, Doug Hutchinson and Michael Clarke Duncan were the key examples of that [in The Green Mile].

For his part, Darabont sits arguably as the most dynamic contemporary feature film purveyor of Stephen King’s prodigious material. He says to expect more of a hide and seek visual game in terms of The Mist’s monsters, and recalls fondly many anecdotal memories of his relationship with the prince of Bangor, Maine. Such as Darabont breathlessly heading to the Colorado set of The Shining miniseries after receiving a paperback copy of The Green Mile, another prison project for which he had been promised first dibs by the author.

“I jumped on a plane, got a rental car and drove the mountain, just like the guy in The Shining,” he recalls. “I walked into this massive old hotel, where all these extras were wandering around in ghostly attire, and I find Steve. He turns around shocked to see me and says, ‘What are you doing here?’”

“I said, ‘I’m here because I want to confirm that I want Green Mile,’” adds Darabont. “He said, ‘Okay. Great, fine.’ I said, ‘Can I read the rest of it?’ And he said, ‘No. You have to wait just like everybody else.’”

“So month by month, I went out and I bought the story and I kept praying that it wouldn’t jump off the tracks somewhere and indeed it didn’t. Later on Steve fessed up and said, ‘Well at the time the first book was published, I hadn’t actually written the sixth one yet.’ I thought, ‘What balls that man has. What a high wire act to commit to publishing a series of six books and not having finished them.’”

Sort of like Darabont’s hopes to work one day on a Special Edition DVD of his Jim Carrey film The Majestic, a 2001 follow-up to The Green Mile that made even less money domestically than Shawshank.

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