Posted: January 1, 2003
I got an interview with Mick Garris who is working on the movie version of Riding the Bullet as we speak.
Lilja: Hi Mick. Thanks for agreeing to this interview. Actually I have been trying to get hold of you for years so I'm extremely pleased to finally do this interview.
Lilja: Who is Mick Garris? Tell me a bit about yourself and what you have done.
Mick Garris: I've always been interested in film and popular cultural. In the 70s I was a singer-songwriter in a theatrical progressive rock band. I started writing short fiction at the age of 12, though I had started drawing at an even earlier age. My father was a trained, professional artist (though never able to make his living at it), and I turned to screenwriting later on. Steven Spielberg was the first to hire me as a writer (on Amazing Stories, the TV show), and I started directing from there.
Lilja: Your version of The Shining will be released on DVD in the US in January. Was it frustrating not to be able to release it in the US earlier?
Mick Garris: I tried for years to get the DVD out. I shot a lot of behind the scenes digital video, all throughout the production. I'm a big DVD fan, and the Warner Bros. Home Video people just kind of ignored me. But we put together what I hope will be a great disc (though without the behind-the-scenes footage, which was lost). It's even letterboxed and 16:9 enhanced, with commentary from me and King and lots of the actors and technicians as well. I think it was worth the wait.
Lilja: It seams King really likes your adaptations of his work. Where you a fan of his books before you did Sleepwalkers?
Mick Garris: I've been a fan-- a HUGE fan-- of King's since Carrie. I can't believe I've been lucky enough to have directed my two favorite King projects-- Shining and Stand-- from scripts that he wrote himself.
Lilja: How did you get to work with King the first time? Where you contacted by King for Sleepwalkers or did you contact him?
Mick Garris: My agents at CAA, the agency that also handles King, put it together. Actually, I met with Columbia Pictures on Sleepwalkers and had a great meeting. They told me I had the job, but had to do a couple other meetings just because they'd already been set up. Then they hired one of the other directors! However, that fell apart, and they called me back, and the rest, for better or worse, is history.
Lilja: Since then you have done The Stand, The Shining and Quicksilver Highway that are based on King's work. This most people know but what some might not know is that you also did the music video for Michael Jackson's Ghost. I heard that King was involved in early story discussions. What happened? Why wasn't King there until the end?
Mick Garris: Michael Jackson's Ghost was a very complicated affair. King wrote the first couple of drafts of the script, after working out the idea with Michael. Then, when I was asked to direct it, I did some writing on it, myself, as King was not available to continue working on it. I directed two weeks of shooting, then the production closed down when the so-called "scandal" broke around Michael. When it was resumed three years later, I was getting ready to shoot The Shining, and not available to finish Ghosts. I suggested that Stan Winston, who had been in charge of the FX and was a friend of Michael's, should finish directing, and he did.
Lilja: Next you're doing Riding the Bullet and then Desperation, right? Tell me a bit about there two. Has there been any actor/actresses chosen yet? Will it be future movies or miniseries?
Mick Garris: Riding the Bullet is a feature film, with a limited, independent budget. I wrote the script from King's ebook, which on its own is only about a third or half a movie. We're in the casting staged now, but nobody is set in stone yet. We'll follow that with a 3-hour television version of Desperation for the ABC network, who we did Stand and Shining for.
Lilja: I know King did a script for Desperation. Is that the one you'll be using?
Mick Garris: King did three feature drafts; I will put it into the television format, then King will do a final polish. But it will be very faithful to the book.
Lilja: Is it possible that (if all goes well) Riding the Bullet will premier next year and Desperation the year after that?
Mick Garris: Yes, the hope is that Riding the Bullet will be in theatres in 2003, and Desperation will air in 2004.
Lilja: I looked through the list of your movies and saw that most of them has been made for TV. Why is that? Do you prefer to work with that format instead of the big screen or is it just a coincident?
Mick Garris: I would never choose television over feature films, but TV was the only way to do The Stand and The Shining. Most of my success has been in television, and that's where I'm able to do the best material. I am not so established in features, though that's the format I far prefer for many reasons: budget, censorship, no commercials, etc.
Lilja: If you could pick one of King's books to adapt, anyone. Which would it be and why?
Mick Garris: I've already been allowed to do my two very favorites, but I'd love to do Bag of Bones.
Lilja: Your wife Cynthia Garris has appeared in most of your King adaptations. How is it to work with her?
Mick Garris: I love working with her. It's hard to be off on location for a long time (I was away for a full year doing The Stand), and it's hard to be a set wife, away from home without anything to do but watch. This gives us a good reason to be together. And besides, she's a good actress, and I love having her around.
Lilja: You have also appeared in several of your films. Have you ever considered taking on a leading part?
Mick Garris: I'm not a good enough, nor handsome enough, actor to inflict myself onto the screens of the world for longer than a few minutes at a time.