Apt Pupil Interview
Director Bryan Singer discusses his film Apt Pupil, based on the story by Stephen King.A Shivers interview by Alan Jones
selected from Shivers #61

Director Brian Singer makes it three-in-a-row from Stephen King's Different Seasons anthology with his superb screen adaptation of Apt Pupil. Stand By Me, based on The Body, and The Shawshank Redemption, based on Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, have already come from King's 1982 collection of novellas and received critical acclaim. Expect the same for Singer's provocative and compelling story of a teenager's obsession with the Holocaust and his relationship with a Nazi war criminal.

Apt Pupil Interview

In Apt Pupil, Brad (The Client) Renfro plays Todd Bowden, who discovers SS officer Kurt Dussander (Ian McKellen) is living in his Southern Californian town. In return for his silence, Todd wants details from Dussander about the torture and extermination methods used in the infamous concentration camps. How this unhealthy curiosity in Hitler's Third Reich and Gestapo atrocities takes them both on a downward spiral into deceit, blackmail and vicious murder is the thrust of Singer's scary movie about the Horror of human nature and the evil that men do.

Singer has always wanted to turn the Apt Pupil novella into a film ever since he read it at the age of 19. The 31-year-old said, "I was so disappointed when I heard it had already gone into production in 1988 [this aborted version directed by Alan Bridges, starring Nicol Williamson and Ricky Schroeder, financially collapsed three-quarters of the way through shooting]. I would never wish ill on any group of film-makers but I was not terribly disappointed when I found out they couldn't complete it. So I sought out the movie rights after discussing the idea with my old college friend Don Murphy [producer of Natural Born Killers] and found they were available. The rights had reverted back to Stephen King and because he liked The Usual Suspects he sold them to me for one dollar. Wow, I thought, now I have the opportunity to make a really ambitious movie with a challenging cutting edge concept within the usually conservative Hollywood system."

It's true that after The Usual Suspects, Singer could have made practically any film he wanted in the wake of its commercial and critical success. Could anyone else have put such strong meat as Apt Pupil on the top of a studio's agenda? "I don't know. It's a hard question to answer. I was at a particularly significant career crest and was gaining a lot of respect from certain quarters. It had collapsed once on us, anyway. We had it set up at Spelling and Paramount. They spent $1million on pre-production and had built sets when, boom!, they suddenly dropped it. We [Don Murphy and his partner Jane Hamsher] had to re-finance it again but everyone stuck with it. I had a great bunch of people around me. The actors stood by me and my editor/composer John Ottman, my production designer Richard Hoover and my cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel all waited it out. And we all started to fall in love with the material after a while -- as you do with any movie you truly care about"

Apt Pupilpic copyright Columbia Pictures
Read on in Shivers #61 as Bryan Singer discusses exploitation,Oscars and future Stephen King adaptions.
To order this issue of Shivers or subscribe, click here