The Movie Waffler Interview - COLOR OUT OF SPACE Director Richard Stanley | The Movie Waffler

Interview - COLOR OUT OF SPACE Director Richard Stanley

color out of space richard stanley
Richard Stanley discusses his long awaited return to directing.

Interview by Eric Hillis

With Hardware and Dust Devil, Richard Stanley established himself as one of the hottest cult filmmakers of the 1990s. But following a disastrous experience on The Island of Doctor Moreau, which resulted in his firing from the film, Stanley stepped away from feature filmmaking for over two decades.

Stanley makes a triumphant return with H.P. Lovecraft adaptation Color Out of Space, which stars Nicolas Cage as the patriarch of a family who fall victim to inexplicable side-effects following the crash-landing of a meteor on their farm.

We spoke to Stanley about his comeback.

color out of space poster

We've had a long wait for a new Richard Stanley movie. What made you choose H.P. Lovecraft's story for your comeback?

H.P. Lovecraft has long been one of my favourite authors and I cannot help but feel his work has been poorly served by cinema. His core themes have never been more relevant, given that our species is currently facing the very real possibility of self induced extinction. Lovecraft insisted his primary intention, throughout his work, was to convey an atmosphere of 'cosmicism' or 'cosmic terror' – of humanity's precarious position in the universe. My goal is nothing less than to put the 'cosmic horror' back into Lovecraft, to define and capture visual, auditory and emotional textures that literally evoke the unnamable, so that a new generation might experience these wonders and terrors with fresh eyes and ears. As any fan of weird fiction knows, Color Out of Space is a film which is not only overdue – but which needed to be made!

Are there any previous Lovecraft adaptations, or Lovecraft inspired films, that you're particularly fond of?

To date, Stuart Gordon has undeniably done the best work when it comes to bringing Lovecraft to the screen. Like most genre fans, I adored the original Re-Animator (1985), even if the completed film failed to convey the essence of Lovecraft's fictional universe. I enjoyed Stuart's work on From Beyond (1986) and Dagon (2001) and was particularly delighted by his adaptation of 'Dreams in the Witch House' for the Masters of Horror (2005) television series. At the end of the day, I cannot help but feel that the two films that perhaps come closest to capturing the mood and themes of Lovecraft's work are not direct adaptations of his stories - Andrzej Zulawski's Possession (1981) and John Carpenter's masterwork The Thing (1982).

In Lovecraft's story, the titular colour out of space is one that doesn't exist in our own spectrum. Obviously, you couldn't create a nonexistent colour for your movie. Instead you opted for a shade of purple to represent the colour. Can you tell us why you opted for this colour?

The outer limits of the human visual spectrum are ultra-violet and infra-red. The colour most frequently associated with the ultra dimensional threat portrayed in our film is magenta, a combination of these two extremes. Neurologically one might argue that magenta doesn't really exist but is simply invented by our brains as a bridge between red and violet, just as ultra-sound and infra-sound mark the limits of our auditory spectrum. These elements are a major part of the film's sonic attack and are designed to take the audience to the extremes of human perception, the closest we can reasonably come to portraying Lovecraft's ultra terrestrial universe.

Watching Color Out of Space, I at times felt like I was watching a John Carpenter movie. You opted for the same credits font Carpenter often uses and I felt the influence of The Thing and The Fog in some scenes. I'm assuming Carpenter was an influence on you?

It's no secret I've always been an admirer of Carpenter's work, especially The Thing, which, I believe, shares the same font and anamorphic framing. I understand John Carpenter once considered adapting 'The Color Out of Space' himself, but the project never got beyond a first draft. I should love to have seen what he might have done with the material.

Nicolas Cage's performance reminded me somewhat of Jack Nicholson's in The Shining. It almost seems like counter-intuitive casting, given Cage's reputation for flamboyant acting, but I can't now imagine anyone else in the role. Tell us how Cage came onboard and why you picked him.

Like myself, Nic has always been a huge fan of Lovecraft's mythos. We had been been hoping to work together ever since our paths crossed in the early '90s but until now the right project had never come along. The psychological disintegration of Nathan Gardner in Color Out of Space presented a perfect opportunity to harness the improvisational style Nic is justly famous for to a tightly structured screenplay, allowing him to take his performance to a level unseen since Vampire's Kiss (1988). It was a cathartic experience for both of us, nor can I imagine anyone else taking up the challenge with such energy and innate comic timing. He was, quite simply, the perfect choice for the part.

Finally, can you tell us how you found yourself living in London's Scala cinema in the 1980s?

When I first came to London after deserting the South African army in the mid-80s, I was flat broke and on the run from the military police. With an admission price of approximately three pounds and 50 pence, checking into an all-day/all-nighter at the Scala presented a cost effective alternative to finding a hostel or low rent B+B. Of course, I didn't get much sleep. I had too much catching up to do. Freed of the cultural straight jacket of apartheid South Africa, I was anxious to complete my education, gravitating from the B-movies of my youth to stronger stuff, binging on triple bills of Argento, Tarkovsky, Jodorowski, Bergman, Kurosawa, Fellini, Passolini and Herzog. If I didn't grow up in the Scala then I certainly came of age there. I would camp out on the front steps of the auditorium where the first few rows of seats had already been totally torn apart by the various nutters who came before me. Sometimes I would open my eyes at three in the morning and have no way of knowing if I was dreaming or not and as I learned about the art of light so the Scala brought me into contact with some of the folk who had created this formidable body of work.

Palace Pictures, the distribution company that initially operated from the offices above the auditorium, eventually gave me my first break into the business, with former Scala programmer JoAnne Seller coming aboard to produce Hardware (1990) and Dust Devil (1992). We spoke the same language back then - a polyglot of geeky mid-80s movie references - inhaled the same smoke and shared the same dreams. Without the Scala I'd probably still be sweeping floors or waiting on tables someplace. I owe that shabby, cat haunted venue everything and still believe it was the greatest cinema this world has ever seen. London simply isn't the same place without it.

Color Out of Space is in UK/ROI cinemas and On Demand February 28th, and on DVD/blu-ray April 6th.