Before any attempt to humor myself with “creative” analogies came into play, someone beat me with the dare to compare two of director Frank Darabont‘s most haunting babies.
“What do you think of the similarities between The Mist and ‘The Walking Dead’?”
Of course Darabont, our ever so eloquent guest from Saturday afternoon’s 2013 Hero Complex Film Festival (following a mega screening of 2007’s The Mist), would discard any such talk. Then again, Darabont went under similar impressions with another Stephen King novel; you know, that one that turned into that little Green Mile movie with Tom something or whomever..
If you remember correctly, this also is the same guy who directed one of our great American classics in the Shawshank Redemption. That’s right. Two prison movies.
Just like the two apocalyptic adaptations at hand.
“So some guy is going to chew my ass on the internet? I’m also developing a series for TNT, ‘Lost Angels’, about 1940s LA mobsters. Then, Gangster Squad comes out! Uh-oh! But, I can’t let myself get too reverential,” concluded the Oscar-winning writer/director/producer, about many of his works often carrying similar themes or settings.
Will “The Walking Dead” — Darabont’s most recent famous former project — end in as much misery as the film screened before this Chinese Theater audience? If so, Robert Kirkman’s creation is surely going to have high shoes to fill in terms of fulfilling its own utter demise.
Since this was my first time viewing The Mist in any format, I’d have no problem placing the motion picture at the top of any “Most Fudged-Up Movie Endings” list. But, to Thomas Jane, our “surprise” guest for the evening (to which this Rev guessed), and Darabont’s ensemble cast, this dark, hurtful end to The Mist was the only one that made sense.
“Even though, if changed, we might have all gotten paid,” joked Jane.
The actor, perhaps best known for his role as Frank Castle in 2004’s The Punisher, was hungry for a dark ending. “I was always one of those people that thought ‘everybody should have died!'” Both Jane and Darabont would compare the material of The Mist to the “pressure cooker” of the twisty supernatural 60s television show, “Twilight Zone.”
“[Rod] Serling’s show was very acerbic, ironic. If you think things are bad, then f*** you,” said a smirking Darabont.
Even the beautiful and brilliant Laurie Holden, who.. ahem.. plays Andrea on “The Walking Dead” — in addition to Dale’s Jeffrey DeMunn and Carol’s Melissa McBride — felt her own out-of-body experiences on several Misty shoot dates. Holden was often unsure of her performances and even declared possible re-shoots. Darabont ecstatically declined. “Many of the scenes [in The Mist] are her best work,” the director implied, while going on to praise a cast that “fiendishly devoted [themselves] to becoming other people.”
Jane almost became that “other person,” too.
Oh, no one special.. just Rick Grimes.
“I wanted this asshole to be on ‘The Walking Dead’!,” shouted Darabont.
But, when Jane brought the pitch for “Dead” to HBO, the actor was already involved with “Hung.” Despite a warm afternoon applause for the now defunct HBO series, Jane could only imagine what it would have been like to exchange his high-school-basketball-coach-turned-gigolo for the world’s most famous zombie hunter.
“I’d still have a job, too!”
- Much like he thought of Tom Hanks for The Green Mile, Jane’s name quickly came to Darabont as he was writing The Mist. The director has been satisfied ever since. “Jane [offered] an angry cry from the heart of a humanist… I like that he’s the most rationale good guy [in the film]… And I’m not just saying that ’cause you’re here… So, if your name is Tom. Get famous.” Ironically, my guest for the screening/Q&A was a good friend — and one hell of an actor — named Tom. Just a shame the two guests didn’t look up high enough to see my ringing.. err.. waving, endorsement.
- Jane would shoot further on his take and enjoyment for working with a stellar, ensemble cast. “It’s very rare. We’d all pass the ball and run with it, [which] makes everyone better.” Darabont would go on to add that every take in the production was akin to a stage play, a much different improv approach to camera than his previous work on the rehearsed Shawshank Redemption. With The Mist, the actors never knew where the multiple cameras were, often having to dance around the cameramen “like other characters in a play, which formed some immediacy. [You] never knew when a wide shot would turn into your close-up.” This sounds an awful lot like my experience with reality TV, but we won’t go there (uh-huh, your welcome).
- Speaking of camera operators, Darabont had no problem taking many of them over from the FX hit gang unit/police drama “The Shield” (no, not the one with Phil Cousin). Since he was close to show creator Shawn Ryan — himself having directed an episode of “The Shield” — and only had 34-days to shoot one rather ambitious film, this particular crew’s frantic, documentary-inspired style to shooting proved very useful.
- More fun with zombies. Cable’s highest rated program even shares the same special effects dude with The Mist, current co-executive producer of “The Walking Dead”, Greg Nicotero. A lot of the creepy monsters in the film came from both the mind of Nicotero and heavily-influenced comic book art. Fanboys watching the flick, will even witness an ode to some of Jane’s favorite funnypages during a scene with an in-store comic rack of Eric Powell’s The Goon (who was on the set to help with the earthquake scene), Mike Mignola’s Hellboy, and Jane’s own Bad Planet. “What about The Punisher, man?” cried out one fan during the Q&A, to which Jane replied, “I f***ed up.”
- “Do you have any desire to do another Stephen King adaptation?,” asked one of our fan questioneers. Darabont belted out an enthusiastic “yeah! [King] is a master at making you care and give a shit. I’d be happy to go back to that as well. It was sweet enough to be offered Dark Tower… [but] I don’t want to spend the next 10-years of my life writing this. Darabont told King, “I love you for asking. Just give me something simpler next time.” The Dark Tower painting was even a love letter to Steve, Tower, and legendary poster artist Drew Struzan. After taking up painting lessons from Struzan for the opening scene of The Mist, Jane asked the man how he did. “You sucked.” But at least not into the mist…