The great ginger one first posted this pretty complete transcript of the John Carpenter Q&A section on the cool news website.


Here's what John Carpenter said up at DRAGONCON, everyone give Quint a kudo or two for a great job transcribing all this. HEY Universal, Give JOHN the greenlight on Creature From The Black Lagoon!!!

Quint here. I've been told by both Father Geek and Sir Harry of the Round Pizza that there have been requests for a transcript of the John Carpenter panel at Dragon*Con in Atlanta. Never fear, Quint is here. Yes, I got almost all of the Carpenter Q&A recorded.

I say almost, because I cut out early to get in line for the autograph session that followed the panel. When I handed the recording device over to Tom Joad, well, he accidently turned it off for a question. That question I believe was about what he thought of H20. He said that he hadn't seen it and then asked what the audience thought of it. After a roar of, "It was cool," "It was ok," and "It sucked!" he changed stratagies and asked for a hand count. The result was about 50/50. He ultimately said that he hopes they keep making more movies because each time they do, he gets one hell of a big check.

Carpenter basically just did a Q&A. He came out and said, "I don't have anything to say. Does anybody have any questions?" Then the questions just rolled out from the audience from there. Here it is, enjoy:

Question: (Mummble, mummble, mummble) (Think schoolteacher in Peanuts)

Answer: The question was: This gentleman liked the music that I made with Alan Halworth (probably very misspelled, sorry) and he wondered why I stopped the association. After a while I was looking for a new creative partner in music, ok. Somebody who could bring me a little bit more than Alan did. Alan did somethings really well, but other things are what I needed, so I looked around for someone else. Anybody else?

Q: Say you had like a blank check to, like, make any film that you've ever wanted to do, like, is there like some kind of John Carpenter dream project that you've always wanted to do, but could never like get figured out or just like... the sky's the limit. You could do anything in the world, what would you do or is there like something kicking around in your head that you're like dying to see on screen or something? (Remeber, the audience asked these questions, not me!!)

A: Love your enthusiam. At one time I wanted to make... there's a very famous Science Fiction novel called The Star's My Destination by Alfred Bester (again, probably misspelled). So I worked on that as a screenplay, but I came to realize as a director, for myself it was unfilmable. You can't do what he did in the novel. So I said, "You know what? I think I'll give up on dream projects." Anyone else?

Q: Whatever happended to Nancy Loomis?

A: Nancy got out of the acting... Nancy Loomis was one of the actors in Halloween and The Fog... Nancy got out of the movie business, acting business. (Pulls out a pack of cigaretts and a lighter) Don't tell anybody I'm smoking this, alright? (Audience laughs)

Q: (Same guy) You used to have actors that would come back a lot, like Clint Eastwood's done a lot, like some of them you haven't seen in quite a while. That was one of my favorites back then before you became really famous with Halloween and all the other stuff.

A: Yes. (Lots of laughs)

Q: I see a really big Sam Peckinpah influence in the clips I saw (Of Vampires. Before the Q&A, they showed the Vampires trailer and a couple of clips) and I've always wondered... I'd just love to see a John Carpenter western. Could it ever happen?

A: A real live western? Well, you got all these horses in westerns. They all crap on the street and somebody has to clean it up. They also have a hard time hitting their mark... seriously. They have a hard time coming up and stopping and an actor delivering a line. You'd have to cheat, you'd have to cut in..... No, I'm just teasing. I don't think so. I don't think so. Yes you're right, this is heavily influenced by Sam Peckinpah. It's kinda like The Wild Bunch meets Vlad the Impaler.

Q: My question is this: Profanity in a movie, when used properly, can really add emphasis to a scene, but if it's over done its a boring misplacement of time. We only usually have an hour and half to see a movie and if we have 10 minutes of the boring, same old dialogue we lose part of the 90 minutes we have. How do you as a director decide where to put it, where to place the emphasis?

A: I think that when you are a younger director or writer and you're trying to write characters that are tough or that are in dangerous situations, you over use profanity because it's easy. It's real simple to have people saying, "Fuck" all the time. Simple. It always gets a response out of some members of the audience. The hard thing to do is to write adult-meaningful dialogue, but the older you get, the more you try to do that.

Q: I would advise the gentleman if he hasn't seen your western, it's called Assault On Precint 13 and it's a great film. How satisfied were you with the response on Escape From L.A.? My understanding that Kurt Russell kinda initiated that project.

A: Kurt wanted to make a sequel to this for quite a while. We had talked about it and he got to the point in his career where he is now, where he is the star. He commands a certain amount of box office and commands a certain salary and so forth. So he seduced me into getting back into Escape-land. We had a good time making the film. It was difficult... I think the biggest problem with that movie was that I had one day to edit the film after I saw it entirely put together. That's because, nowadays, in modern filmmaking, they give you a release date before you shoot. So they say, "You're gonna have to have this out by August the 9th." So you kill yourself to have it out by August the 9th, but you have no time to sit back and look at the movie and say, "I could trim this, I could make this go faster, I could make this a little bit better." I accepted the challenge, so it's my fault, basically. I'm not trying to blame anybody, I just wish I had more time on it.

Q: (Same guy) Any chance of a director's cut of it?

A: There's always a chance!

Q: (Same guy) One final question. I think there's no question that we're all gonna go run screaming to see Vampires, so you don't have to sell us on that, but what else have you got in the pipeline?

A: Absolutely nothing. I'm on vacation!

Q: Remakes of films generally bite. They're not usually as good as the originals. You remade The Thing better than the original. (Carpenter shakes his head and says, "No, not at all," to this) I remember seeing a script called John Carpenter's Creature From the Black Lagoon. Are you considering that as a remake?

A: At one point, I was working on remaking Creature From the Black Lagoon, but it turned out that it cost too much at the time for the studio to make. It would cost $40-45 million. Studio wanted it for $10 million, so we never made it. And I don't agree with you. I think the original Thing From Another World was a terrific movie.

Q: I read the Vampire$ the book. I was just wondering why there were like 8 characters who were left out of the movie?

A: Too many characters! On a movie you have to focus down on a few people you can like or get involved with as an audience, so I threw out as many as possible, or killed them off early on, so I could focus on the 4 people that you see.

Q: (Same gal) I see a theme of seige movies in your films. You don't have people who go on roadtrips and have nice lives. They gotta go, they gotta assualt something, they gotta get out. Is this just something you like doing in film?

A: I did not understand anything that you just said. I'm so sorry. I can't hear you.

Q: Ok, (louder) a lot of your films seem like seige films where you go in, assault, kick some ass, then get out. Is this something you like doing in film, or is this just how the stories end up?

A: I do like seige movies, there's no doubt about it. I'm a big fan of Howard Hawks and he did a couple of seige pictures. Maybe that's how I feel in my life, under seige. Anybody else?

Q: I'm a huge fan of yours and I love the remake of The Thing and I was wondering if you'd ever consider doing a Thing 2. You know, bring back Kurt Russell, pick up where the other one left off, where they're out there. You don't really know how it ended.

A: Are you familiar with the Dark Horse comic series on The Thing? I think that was pretty good. I think I could do that. That would be a great sequel. I know that the producer of The Thing went to Universal recently and pitched them the idea of making The Thing 2, but he said, "Imagine it! These teenagers arrive in Antarctica....." (Jeers from the audience) So I don't think that's gonna work!

Q: Big Trouble In Little China, to me, was one of the best films I've ever seen. That was another one, to me, I felt that you were setting up to go back to in the future. Did you ever feel the need or desire to go back to that storyline and kinda tie it up?

A: No. I don't think there's a sequel there. It lives on it's own. I know that they were thinking about doing a TV movie sequel. Bigger Trouble In Little China or something like that. I don't think so. That poor guy's running his buns off over here trying to get the microphone around!

Q: I also have a Big Trouble In Little China question. When you look at most movies, you kinda understand where most directors where coming from. How'd you even think of that idea? It's the most bizarre thing I've ever seen.

A: Well, I've always been a fan of Hong Kong movies. Kung Fu films, Chinese Ghost Stories, all kinds of wild crap that comes out of China as Hong Kong cinema. Some of that stuff is pretty outrageous. This was a chance to make a movie where your lead, who is a caucasion, doesn't know what the hell he's doing and he's taken down into this weird world, he doesn't know where he's going. Just to have some fun. It was also a chance to make a big-budget kung fu film and I couldn't turn that down.

Q: I've been reading about Vampires doing gangbuster business in France. Why did we have to wait so long to see it here?

A: The company that made the movie, Largo Entertainment, is a foreign sales company. The way they arrange money is they sell the foreign rights first, so France's release schedule was first, ok? Back in the December there was a screening for the domestic release for the studios. They all went to see it. It ended up in a bidding war between Sony and 20th Century Fox. Sony won. By the time Sony won, the French release was already out. That's the story.

Q: Are there any plans on doing like a special edition DVD or laser disc, with commentary, on Big Trouble In Little China or They Live?

A: Uh, sure. I'll do it, if they want me do it. I'm gonna do one with Vampires which'll be out the beginning of next year. James Woods and I are gonna do it. Kurt and I have talked about doing one for Big Trouble, if he can get around to it. He's busy these days. So, sure.

Q: The reason I enjoy a lot of your movies is because they're not very mainstream, anti-Hollywood, not like the cookie-cutter movies you see. A lot of your endings like They Live! or In The Mouth Of Madness are great. I was wondering if there are any alternate endings.

A: When you see the special edition of The Thing, you'll see the only alternate ending I ever shot for a movie. That was were Kurt Russell survives

Q: (Same guy) Do the producers say like, this is too dark, it's not gonna sell....

A: They always say that! (Laughs from audience and Carpenter)

Q: Did you have an ending that you personally wanted that didn't come through?

A: No, you pretty much see everything that I did. Pretty much everything.

Q: I just want to thank you for having the strength to do darker movies, with the nebulous endings, that don't answer the question...

A: Your comment's very interesting. I've thought a lot about it. I come from a different generation, I think, than a lot of the audience and the filmmakers today. When I was studying movies and watching films, back in the good old days before all of you were born, movies had endings that were darker or uncertain. But this is a modern age where audience surveys and test markets are done (Boos from the crowd and not even from Harry!) I know, I know... to determine the end of the movie you're watching. If you notice, the good guy always wins, the adulterers are always punished, mistress' are killed, good wins out over evil. It's a losing proposition if you are in the movie business. It's a business. They're about making a lot of money. I'm serious, that's the way it is. They want you going out of the theater feeling good about yourself. If you invest your emotions in a character on screen who you like, the hero or the heroine or whoever it is, and something happens to them and they die, you'll be upset. They want you to come out smiling. It's a little bit.. it's not taking your intelligence into consideration and I just don't like it. But that's the way the business is. We have to live by the rules.

Q: I've been following your career for a long time and I wanted to know if there was a difference when you were making movies with your buddies, when you had complete control, back in the mid-'70s and making movies for studios where there are a lot of execs. who want a return on their investment and also how you've kept a posessive title on every film from your student film Dark Star to Vampires.

A: That's a good question. If you do a lower budget movie, you can retain final cut because if the investor, or the studio, that if you are making a movie for a low amount of money, they'll get their investment back no matter what. So, you get a lot of creative freedom. What you don't get on a low- budget film is a whole lot of money to pour on a project. So you have to be more inventive and sometimes more creative with how you're telling the story because you don't have the money. You don't have the spectacle to put up there, ok?f In terms of a big-budget situation. Look, it's great to tackle a movie that has a lot of special effects, that's bigger in scope, that's canvas is large. It's fun for a director to do. But what you give up is that creative freedom, that personal point of view because the minute you're spending that much money, you have a responsibility to the people who put it up, to make sure there's a good shot of getting that money back. That's just being a good businessman. So, I bounce back and forth in my career from making bigger budget films to making smaller budget films. Whenever I can't stand it anymore, I'll make a little one because it's more mine. Whenever I get tired of that, I'll make a bigger budget film. It really comes down to the personalities of the people who make the movies, who are the studios. Who are they? What kind of respect do they have for the filmmakers? What are they looking for? It's those kind of questions I ask myself whenever I've made a film. I've managed to maintain my posessive credit simply by getting it early in my career. Sometimes I'll give up money for it. In other words, I'll give up part of my salary for it. It's just something I've always wanted.

Q: What was your decision about having Myers dissapear at the end of the first movie?

A: Why did I decide to have the Shape dissapear at the end of the first movie? It just seemed like the thing to do. I wanted to make him into a slightly supernatural character. I thought at the time it was something you might not expect. The first movie was designed to do the unexpected, ok? At that point in horror I knew exactly what every horror film was gonna deliever. I think The Exorcist surprised me. I didn't know where that was going, but every other movie seemed to have a formula. What I wanted to do was do something completely different to throw the audience. What do you think guys, wanna quit now or do you wanna do some more?


Q: I'm familiar with the novel that you based the movie on (Vampires) and I'm glad to see from the clips that you kept all the scenes with the whores and the booze and the drugs. We don't see a lot of our good guys that go out there and have a good time in their life, getting themselves fucked up on a regular basis, fighting evil. Do you think you could convice studios that there is a market for that, because I see 18-20 thousand people here this weekend that seem to think there's a market for that

A: Well, I think that goes back to the conversation earlier. This is a very puritanical society right now, don't you think? They look at a lot of this stuff, horror movies or whatever you want to call it, a little bit like pornography. They really do. The say, "Why are you showing these terrible things on the screen? Why are you showing these killings? Why don't you do something uplifting, with family values attatched to it?" Frankly, there's a big, giant audience out there that wants to see the same kind of movie over and over again. There's also a big audience that wants to see more dangerous stuff. So, I think there's a market for it, sure, sure.

Q: Your scores are great, which one do you like the most?

A: Which of my scores do I like the most? Basically I'm an improvisational composer. I can't read or write music. So what I do is: I cut the movie, transfer it to video tape and I synchronize the 24-track recorder in the recording studio with the movie and start playing on synthesizer. What you're hearing or seeing is an improve. I have no idea where it comes from. Probably I smoke a joint or something and start playing (Huge laughs from audience). They all sound good to me!

Q: (Same guy) Is there any one in particular that you like?

A: I like Big Trouble In Little China. I thought that was a great score. I liked it a lot.

Q: The film Halloween was sort of a watershed you had for horror films. It started the whole slasher sub-genre. I was wondering what you thought of all those films that came after it, that mimiced it, or took their cue from it.

A: I think the slasher genre comes from Psycho. That's the granddaddie of all those movies, I think. That's the one. I understand they're doing a new version of that in color (booos from audience) shot-for-shot. I don't get it. There's a good director behind it and I'm sure they'll get us a good movie out, I guess. I think the reason more people took the Halloween route was because it cost so little and made so much. I think it's a money thing. Like a lot of people said, "We can make a lot of money and I can get into show business! Let's make these horror films." I'm flattered that people look at Halloween as something cool. It's very flattering.

Q: I have a plea, more than a question. Please keep using Keith David, please!

A: Ok. I promise, I will.

Q: What do you think of the new computerized monster as compared to the old fashioned, put together monsters?

A: Boy-o-boy. Did you see Starship Troopers? That was pretty good, don't you think? That was all computerized bugs. You couldn't do that with the old fashioned monsters. Sometimes it can be great. I was a little disappointed in Godzilla, though. A little bit. It depends on the story and what you're trying to do. I don't think there's really one answer on whether to use computer generated stuff or old-fashioned stuff.

Q: First of all, thanks for everything that I've ever seen that you've done. Do you have any plans for any television work?

A: I'll do TV if they pay me.

Q: (Same gal) What would you like to do?

A: On television? On television I don't care!

Q: I love the lower budget stuff you did, like They Live and you said that you'd like to work with somebody from China. What about Jackie Chan? Now some people are laughing, but I think it's a possibility for you to come up with a good story line.

A: Jackie Chan is directs his own movies, man. I don't think so. He's a comedian. Seriously, he's a comedian. He's good too, but he's a comedian.

Q: I really like Body Bags and I was wondering if you had any plans on doing another compilation series.

A: No, no I don't. Not at this time. Anybody else? Any good questions?

Q: I was wondering if you've seen any David Fincher. He also likes the dark endings. I mean he killed off Sigourney Weaver and put Gwenyth Paltrow's head in a box. I was just wondering if you've seen his work and if you liked it.

A: I liked Seven a lot. I thought that was pretty hot.

Q: (Same gal) Is there any other director out there who you like?

A: I know it's kinda unfashionable now, but I really like some of Quentin Tarantino's stuff. I think he's pretty good. I think it's fashionable now, too, because there's a backlash against him and I think every director goes through that. You're a genius for a while, then you're a bum for a while. When they turn, boy they really turn on you. Tarantino's is a director who can do a scene. A lot of directors can't do that. He's great at that. I loved Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction a lot. Ok, one more and we'll go.

Q: I'd like to know where you came up for the concept of Halloween 3 and what happened to Debra Hill?

A: She's produced The Fisher King. She has her own career and doing pretty well. The concept for Halloween 3 came from a British writer named Nigel Neill who wrote Quartermass, Quartermass 2, 5 Million Years To Earth... he's a very inventive British writer. He came up for this idea because I wanted to get away from the same old story. It was, of course, financially a terrible mistake to do because no one liked it. See ya' later!!

JC with James Micheal Roddy

Photo Copyright James Micheal Roddy

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