Ever since its premiere earlier this month in Toronto, Richard Stanley’s Color Out of Space has been eliciting an array of reactions, and to this writer, it is undoubtedly one of the wildest films I’ve seen in 2019, which is why this writer was so excited to speak with Stanley on the heels of the film’s US premiere at the 2019 Fantastic Fest.
Based on the short story by H. P. Lovecraft, Stanley discussed how his involvement in Color Out of Space came about because of another Lovecraftian project he worked on years ago. “Like everything in life, how this came about was random and strange. It came out of me and making a Lovecraft [adaptation] in short film about four or five years ago, a film called The Mother of Toads, which became the first part of an anthology movie called The Theatre Bizarre. It turned out that the backer of Theatre Bizarre felt that the Mother of Toads segment was their favorite of the pieces in the anthology, and they said, ‘I'll pay you to write a feature-length screenplay based on "The Colour Out of Space." I want you to write something which is set in one location, in the backwoods,’ and that set the ball in motion.”
“By the time I'd finished writing the screenplay with my partner Scarlett Amaris, the person who'd suggested it had already pretty much gone bankrupt and so the script was left floating around for quite some time. Then, during the shooting of Mandy, Nic was talking with the producer on Mandy, Josh Waller, and vocalized his love for H.P. Lovecraft. He remembered that there was a Lovecraft script floating around somewhere, and he got Nic together with the screenplay.”
“At one point, I think they physically drove out to Las Vegas, and cornered Nic in the bar somewhere and dialed my phone number, which was at like three in the morning, South of France time. But on the other end of the line was Mr. Cage, and it was that discussion that enabled it to happen. What’s interesting is that I think I originally wrote it for some Hugh Grant actor guy [laughs].”
For Stanley, Cage became the perfect vessel to embody the character of Nathan Gardner, a father contending with the ill effects from a meteorite that has crashed in his yard, which is not only affecting him and his family, but his beloved alpacas as well. Many reviews have cited Cage’s performance as being over the top, but Richard sees Nicolas’ work in the film very differently.
“I think Nic's very misunderstood, especially by the critics. The audiences seem to get him. I’ve noticed while watching the film that people are laughing, they're engaged, and they are being pulled along by the movie when they watch it. But critics seem to always be complaining about how over the top Nic is, which I don’t agree with.”
“In reality, we worked out his character and performance for weeks, maybe months, in advance. Nic went through the scripts and highlighted different areas where he thought that he could bring something extra to it. We talked about everything way in advance. We decided on all of the main moments when Nathan would utterly wig out. Once we were locked into that, whatever eruption of hysteria that would come out on the screen would repeat from the same energy and timing from every single camera angle. There was certainly nothing uncontrolled about it.”
“This is a movie which is partly dealing with the death of one's family and the destruction of one's loved ones and one's inability to do anything about that. It's me dealing with the death of my mother from cancer. She took 10 years to die and for Nic, it was his way of dealing with when he lost his dad. His characterization of Nathan in the film increasingly slips into a ghastly caricature of his own father. That voice and the mannerisms are August Coppola, Nic's dad, which many fans will recognize from his performance in Vampire's Kiss back in the day. And sure, it's crazy and it's silly and fun to watch, but it's also traumatic for him to be plugged into the stuff that made Nic become an actor to begin with. It's just like I'm trying to process whatever the hell it was that my mum did to me as a kid to make me into the genre person I've ended up becoming with this film. It’s all cathartic.”
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