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Feature: Riding The Bullet

Horrors! Director Mick Garris, of several Stephen King mini-series, talks about taking the helm of the latest big-screen King adaptation

Director Mick Garris is no stranger to Stephen King’s world famous universe of Horrors. He directed ABC’s mini-series adaptations of The Stand and The Shining, as well as Columbia Pictures’ 1992 Horror Sleepwalkers. His latest directorial venture into King’s world is Riding the Bullet, a big-screen adaptation of King’s ghostly short story of the same name. The tale, which débuted in 2000 as a downloadable e-book, is now part of Everything’s Eventual – the novelist’s collection of short stories. At the time of this writing, the film is slated for a Hallowe’en release.

“The story really struck a chord with me because I have experienced personal loss in my own family,” says Garris about the project, which is being produced by the Los Angeles based The Motion Picture Corporation of America. “Everyone died from withering illnesses, so I was confronted with mortality. King’s story is about someone who is confronted with mortality at a young age – I felt a solid kinship to the character and storyline. It was a subject close to my heart and mind.”

Filmed in Vancouver during the final weeks of 2003, the movie, scripted by Garris tells of college student Alan Parker (Jonathan Jackson), an art student obsessed with dark images who decides to hitch-hike a ride home to see his mother (Barbara Hershey), who is suffering from a stroke. On the road he accepts a ride from the seemingly friendly George Staub (David Arquette), who, unbeknownst to Alan, is really a supernatural being who’s out to collect souls and cause hell on Earth.

“In the story we don’t know too much about Alan’s history,” says Garris, “but in the film, he is an art student obsessed with images of death and the beauty of death. Alan, who lost his father at age six, is on the verge of breaking up with his girlfriend and he’s haunted by his very dark artwork. In fact it’s his dark past which allows a certain life-and-death choice to resonate very strongly throughout the film. I don’t want to say too much as this time, but when people see the film they’ll understand what I’m talking about.”

“The story is also about imagination,” Garris adds. “A specific event plays out one way, but Alan imagines it playing out differently. However, we don’t immediately realize that it’s his imagination. The same dark imagination which drives his art is also the driving force behind the movie. We play with the idea that imagination drives one’s reality until that person is confronted by the reality itself.”

The project’s principal challenge lay in the ability to successfully transform a short story into a full-length feature film.

Garris explains, “The shooting script is more than 100 pages. It’s faithful to the story, but the original tale is less than half the movie. I’ve incorporated my own story around King’s. Originally we didn’t know too much about Alan’s history – I am giving him a life. Then I am yanking that life away on his hitch-hiking journey.”

For Garris, the task became the necessity to combine a frightening ghost story with emotional Human drama.

“Most of King’s books are scary but emotionally based – a combination which doesn’t materialize too often in his movies.

by Simon Bacal

Get the full interview in:
Shivers #115

Photo © MPCA
Feature © Visual Imagination 2004. Not for reproduction

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Shivers #115
September 2004
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