Author Joe R. Lansdale Talks about ‘Cold in July’ and Writing

 

By Jason Harris

Joe R. Lansdale

Joe R. Lansdale

JH: The movie version of Cold in July comes out in May. Did you have any involvement with the filmmakers?

JRL: Yes, Jim Mickle, the director, and Nick Damici the writer, kept me in the loop and asked my opinions frequently. I was on the set for two weeks watching them film. It was a great experience, and as icing on the cake, I like the film. A lot.

JH: If you did have any involvement, what was your involvement and how did you feel about it?

JRL: Mainly just as an adviser. They respected me enough to make me a producer on the film. I did teach Sam Shepard a finger lock for one of the scenes.

JH: What do you think about the casting of Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepard, and Don Johnson in the roles of characters you created?

JRL: It was like they were born for those parts. I didn’t think about them as the actors, but as soon as they said their names, I thought, oh hell yeah.cold_in_july

JH: Are there anymore film adaptations in the works of your books?

JRL: There are several. The Bottoms is the only one I can talk about right now. Bill Paxton is set to direct, and there is a great script by Brent Hanely. He wrote Frailty and Bill directed it. I think we’ve got a winning team. Next actors are to be chosen. The plan right now is to shoot this fall.

JH: How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?

JRL: Sometimes I just want something common. And there are times when I feel something a little unusual is better. I’m not picking names like Bill Storm or Willie Hammer, but now and again I go for something a little exotic like Vanilla Ride.

JH: Do you have a favorite conference to attend? What is it?

JRL: ArmadilloCon in Austin, Texas. I go most years.

JH: What is your least favorite part of the publishing/writing process?

JRL: Proofing and promotion, though I have learned to embrace those things.

JH: Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?

JRL: I don’t know. I never say never, but I’m sure there are some things I wouldn’t want to write about, but I’d have to come up on that one before I’d know it.

JH: Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder for you to write than others? Love? Action? Racy?

JRL: Not really. Not if I like the story and feel it works in the context of that story.

JH: Just as your books inspire authors, what authors have inspired you to write?

JRL: Too many to name here. But among them: Jack London, Mark Twain, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont, William F. Nolan, William Goldman, Raymond Chandler, James Cain, Dashiell Hammett, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, [William] Faulkner, a little, Flannery O’Conner, a lot Glendon Swarthout, some [Larry] McMurtry, and the list goes on.

JH: What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?

JRL: Read a lot, and learn to write regularly, daily. Put your ass in a chair and write. Have a reasonable goal each day. Say one to three pages, and reach it, and if you go over, great, but try hard to reach that goal.

Editor’s Note:

THe movie version of Cold in July comes out in limited release in theaters on May 23.

You can read an earlier article about Lansdale receiving the Horror Writers’ Association’s Lifetime Achievement award here.

‘Ruby Sparks’ is Funny and Romantic

‘Ruby Sparks’ is Funny and Romantic

by Jason Harris


Ruby Sparks is a story about a writer and his relationship with his creation.

Paul Dano’s Calvin is a New York Times bestselling author who is suffering from writer’s block. Calvin is first seen in front of his typewriter not typing when his phone rings. From the look on his face, he welcomes the distraction. Later on, he blames his dog for his writing woes.

His writing problems have him going to a psychologist, portrayed by Elliot Gould, who suggests he write about his dog, Scotty, named for F. Scott Fitzgerald.

He finally becomes inspired to write from his continuous dreams about a girl, Ruby Sparks, portrayed by the movie’s screenwriter, Zoe Kazan. He writes about her instead of his dog.

The movie starts off slow, but picks up speed once Calvin starts talking about Ruby to Gould’s Dr. Rosenthal. It becomes more interesting and the dialogue is quick and funny. Ruby becomes alive, but is it only in Calvin’s mind? When Ruby is first seen making Calvin breakfast, the audience doesn’t know if she is a real person or just a figment of Calvin’s imagination. The way he’s acting, it is easy to think he’s going nuts. It’s not shown until other characters interact with her. Then it becomes real to Calvin and to the audience at the same time that Ruby Sparks is a real person.

Ruby just appears. There is no use of a time machine, spell, or prayer plot device used to explain how she came to be. The only thing that is shown is when Calvin types in his manuscript that Ruby speaks French; she does. It is easy to suspend disbelief. So it isn’t hard to think that when she magically appeared, she had a history, an apartment, and any other possession that a person has if they have been alive their entire life.

Calvin now has a girlfriend. He’s happy, but not for long when his creation starts getting a mind of her own. She starts spending time with her friends. This makes him pull out his manuscript where he writes that she is miserable without him. This makes her so clingy that she doesn’t leave his side. This makes for some funny scenes from him buying movie tickets to them sitting on the couch, always with him with one arm around her. There is no personal space between them.

Before the end of the movie, Calvin comes back to his manuscript numerous times, learns some valuable relationship lessons, and writes another book. Overall, the movie is funny, entertaining, and very romantic.

This movie was directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, who brought audiences the hit Little Miss Sunshine. The movie also stars Annette Bening and Antonio Banderas.

Three out of four stars.

“The Great Gatsby” in 3D Moves to Next Summer

WARNER BROS. PICTURES moving THE GREAT GATSBY to SUMMER 2013

Baz Luhrmann’s 3D Adaptation to Get New Play Date in Sought-After Summer Frame

Warner Bros. Pictures and Village Roadshow Pictures have moved the release date of The Great Gatsby to Summer 2013. The announcement was made today by Dan Fellman, President of Domestic Distribution, and Veronika Kwan Vandenberg, President of International Distribution, Warner Bros. Pictures.

In making the announcement, Fellman stated, “Based on what we’ve seen, Baz Luhrmann’s incredible work is all we anticipated and so much more. It truly brings Fitzgerald’s American classic to life in a completely immersive, visually stunning and exciting way. We think moviegoers of all ages are going to embrace it, and it makes sense to ensure this unique film reaches the largest audience possible.”

Kwan Vandenberg confirmed, “Baz is known for being innovative, but with this film he has done something completely unexpected—making it in 3D—while capturing the emotion, the intimacy, the power and the spectacle of the time. The responses we’ve had to some of the early sneak peeks have been phenomenal, and we think ‘The Great Gatsby’ will be the perfect summer movie around the world.”

From the uniquely imaginative mind of writer/producer/director Baz Luhrmann comes the new big screen adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby. The filmmaker has created his own distinctive visual interpretation of the classic story, bringing the period to life in a way that has never been seen before, in a film starring Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role.

The Great Gatsby follows Fitzgerald-like, would-be writer Nick Carraway as he leaves the Midwest and comes to New York City in the spring of 1922, an era of loosening morals, glittering jazz, bootleg kings, and sky-rocketing stocks. Chasing his own American Dream, Nick lands next door to a mysterious, party-giving millionaire, Jay Gatsby, and across the bay from his cousin, Daisy, and her philandering, blue-blooded husband, Tom Buchanan. It is thus that Nick is drawn into the captivating world of the super rich, their illusions, loves and deceits. As Nick bears witness, within and without of the world he inhabits, he pens a tale of impossible love, incorruptible dreams and high-octane tragedy, and holds a mirror to our own modern times and struggles.

Academy Award nominee DiCaprio (J. Edgar, Aviator) plays Jay Gatsby, with Tobey Maguire starring as Nick Carraway; Oscar nominee Carey Mulligan (An Education) and Joel Edgerton as Daisy and Tom Buchanan; Isla Fisher and Jason Clarke as Myrtle and George Wilson; and newcomer Elizabeth Debicki as Jordan Baker. Indian film legend Amitabh Bachchan will play the role of Meyer Wolfsheim.

Oscar nominee Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge!) directs the film in 3D from a screenplay co-written with frequent collaborator Craig Pearce, based on Fitzgerald’s book. Luhrmann produces, along with Catherine Martin, Academy Award winner Douglas Wick (Gladiator), Lucy Fisher and Catherine Knapman. The executive producers are Academy Award winner Barrie M. Osborne (Lord of the Rings – Return of the King) and Bruce Berman.

Two-time Academy Award-winning production and costume designer Catherine Martin (Moulin Rouge!) designs as well as produces. The editors are Matt Villa, Jason Ballantine and Jonathan Redmond, and the director of photography is Simon Duggan. The music is by Craig Armstrong.

Warner Bros. Pictures presents, in association with Village Roadshow Pictures, in association with A&E Television, a Bazmark/Red Wagon Entertainment Production, a Film by Baz Luhrmann, The Great Gatsby. Opening Summer 2013, the film will be distributed in IMAX.