Looking back on Spider-Man, what are your thoughts on the comic book movies today and do you have any interest in returning to the genre? Do you feel you had more freedom in the genre in 2002 than today?
Well, certainly in 2002, there were no there pre-determined story constraints. We weren’t operating according to somebody’s master plan. Now, sometimes a master plan is really great to have; other times, you’re just kind of filling in the blanks. Obviously, Marvel’s done a great job, and made fantastic movies, but I don’t know that I have anything
particular to offer the genre. I feel like I did it. It was cool. I liked it a lot. The movie turned out great.
But I also don’t know that they’re interested in me. I think they’re interested in an on-going system of movies, and I’m not… I like on-going systems of things, but I’d rather … I don’t know. It’s a great big machine that I’m not sure I would be a productive part of, so back then… [jokes] “Back in my day…” [Laughs.] But back then, it was exciting because it was dangerous, you know?
When we started developing it, there hadn’t been a successful comic book movie since the second Batman, and there had been a lot of really bad ones in the meantime. Comic book movies were looked down on, and then X-Men came out while we were shooting, and that was pretty exciting because it was taken more seriously. Aside from being a very good movie, it was warmly received — not just by audiences, but my critics too — and that started to change things.
And then I think Raimi’s Spider-Man really changed things. Profoundly.
It absolutely did; it was phenomenon. I saw it 12 times in theaters! How embarrassing! [Laughs.]
Nothing embarrassing about seeing it 12 times. When I was 16, or 17, Empire Strikes Back came out, and I saw it easily 15 times. A number of them in a drive-in in Waukesha, Wisconsin, which was really awesome. But, when you’re in that window… There’s this thing between like 14 and 24, where you’re really a sponge and your preferences are being formed and the things that are gonna define your aesthetic preferences for the rest of your life are coming in. And when you hit something that really speaks to an aesthetic that agrees with you, you have to go see it a lot. You got to see it over and over and over again because that’s what you like, and I’m glad you picked ours.
Why Secret Window? What drew you to this particular Stephen King story?
King is the master. I love his stuff. I love the way he writes. I love the way he writes about writing. His book On Writing and Danse Macabre, his overview on American horror fiction is essential reading. So, I love his stuff. The fact that it was his made me want to do it, but I also really like person-alone stories. That’s one of the things I love about You Should Have Left. It’s about a guy alone in a house. His wife and his kid are with him, but it’s a pretty solitary struggle. I love that stuff.
I Am Legend is one of my favorite novels of all time, and though it’s been made into a movie four times, I don’t think it’s ever been done justice — particularly not the book’s beautiful ending. It’s one of the most perfect endings for a story that I’ve ever read, and it’s never made it into the four separate versions of the movie.
But anyways, Secret Window. I love that aspect of it. I love the tone. I love the idea that you can go into a house and your grip on reality starts to loosen. I feel like I’ve been telling that story for 25 years, what can you do? You like what you like.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was in development hell for years. Given the talent and history behind it, was this project tedious?
All projects are tedious because they all have to go through numerous stages, and you have to deal with a lot of people. I would really call it a dream and a nightmare rather than tedious because obviously I love Raiders so much, I love Steven [Spielberg], and to get to work on [an Indiana Jones film], you’re really lucky.
However, you’re also cursed because everybody owns it — not you. And everybody’s got ideas about how it ought to be, and you will never be good enough for them. Now, I’m not saying everything I wrote was a work of genius and it was misunderstood by anybody who didn’t like it, but …
I liken working on that movie to when a basketball team is on the road, and somebody goes to the line to shoot free throws, and all the fans behind the basket are screaming and waving and banging those things together to try to make them miss. I kind of felt like that while I was writing it because there were a lot of opinions about what it ought to be like.
And by then, by 2007, when I was working on it, the Internet’s up and running full steam, and it was hard to tune out the noise. So, I think I did some things that are good, I think I did some things that weren’t, but it was never for a lack of trying.
Do you think we’ll ever see another adventure with Indy?
Boy, I don’t know. Your guess is as good as mine. I did several versions of the story with Steven. I feel like we got really close, in particular, with the last one, but it didn’t quite work out for Steven and Harrison. It didn’t all work out. So, I would love to see what James Mangold comes up with, and I hope there’s one because I’d love to go to it without the pressure of hoping people like it. I can just go to see if I like it.
The Mummy was set to kick off Universal’s now-reworked Dark Universe franchise. I’ve read you’re still interested in reimagining Bride of Frankenstein.
I did. I wrote it not long ago. I finished it about a month ago. I had kept with it with Universal because after the Dark Universe didn’t work out, I loved that Universal stepped back and said, “Hang on, that’s not working. Everybody stop. Everybody out of the pool. Let’s think about this for a year or two.”
I just thought that was great corporate guidance, because when do they ever say that? “Let’s think about it for a year or two.” And they did step back and said, “We think we don’t have a master plan. We want to hear what filmmakers think. And we want to try and make interesting and unusual movies that don’t cost a fortune and don’t have huge movie stars. Let’s see what that’s like.”
And so, with that in mind, I had these ideas about how I’d like to take another shot at the Bride script, and happily, they let me. So, I gave it to them about a month ago, and they really liked it, and they’re talking to directors now. Hopefully, there’s news on that soonish
Like Stir of Echoes and Secret Window, You Should Have Left follows another man haunted by his inner demons. To circle back to our discussion earlier, is this something that terrifies you personally?
I grew up in rural Wisconsin in the 1970s, and I went to Catholic school ’til I was 12, which I feel like could answer that question just on its own. I remember one of the things that scared me the most was The Exorcist. It came out when I was 11 probably. Was it 74? Oh, 73? Okay, that sounds right. So, let’s say, I was 10.
I remember I didn’t see the movie, of course, because my parents aren’t going to take me to that, but there was an ad in the paper that said, “Fact: The devil can possess any man, woman, or child of his choosing,” and it was terrifying. It was horrifying to me. I just like that they put the word “Fact” on it also. How’s that provable exactly?
But that idea, that your mind… that you could be taken… that never stopped rattling around inside my head. So, I guess I have a Warner Brothers marketing executive to thank for that. Now that I’m saying all this out loud, though, I remember that I would have been 17 when The Shining came out. So, how does that not affect me profoundly, too?