Before Drive Angry, screenwriter Todd Farmer was probably best known for two things: his screenplay for Jason X, which put the Friday the 13th franchise in space, and for his prolonged sex scene in My Bloody Valentine, which he also scripted. So the man has a sense of humor. He also has a sense of story, which came as a surprise in his first few movies but now can be taken as read. The talented Mr. Farmer sat down with me to discuss the Blu-Ray release of Drive Angry, out on May 31st, and to give the latest news on his upcoming high-profile projects: Halloween III and the Hellraiser remake.
Be sure to come back tomorrow for our interview with Drive Angry director Patrick Lussier, who has beans of his own to spill on those two new movies as well!
Crave Online: Drive Angry. I really liked it.
Todd Farmer: Well, thank you.
Crave Online: Thank you.
Todd Farmer: We had fun.
Crave Online: I could tell you had fun. A lot of your scripts seem to be in the spirit of “Good Fun,” which I feel is lacking in a lot of horror cinema these days.
Todd Farmer: We would agree. We’d just come out of My Bloody Valentine, and Valentine we had a blast on, and when we first started talking about it we thought we might make it in post on My Bloody Valentine. But when that didn’t happen we just went ahead and wrote the script and it sort of took off from there.
Crave Online: I don’t know if I’m crazy here, but I saw a lot of potential influences on Drive Angry. I saw some Race with the Devil in there. Where did the idea start from?
Todd Farmer: Patrick [Lussier] came to me and he wanted to do something. 3D was brand new back then. My Bloody Valentine was the first live-action. And so we wanted to do something else in 3D so we said, “What would be fun?” And Patrick said, “What if we did a car movie, so we could have all the car movement and all that stuff in 3D?” And so that’s where it originated. I probably would have never thought of it. We also sort of added in elements of High Plains Drifter which was a movie we both loved. Dean Riesner, one of the fellows who wrote it, when I was starting out was sort of a mentor of mine. So it was sort of a reason to fall back on that. It’s a car movie with High Plains Drifter. It seemed like the right combination. That’s kind of how it started.
Crave Online: It’s a good combination. One of the things I like about the film is Nicolas Cage’s character. Obviously he’s laser-focused on his goal but every time there’s a spare second he’s just living.
Todd Farmer: It’s interesting because we never said anything to Nic about High Plains Drifter, but it was clear that he was channeling The Stranger. Later we did talk about it and it was kind of funny. But I think [William] Fichtner and Cage brought an element of, “We’ve been away for a long time. We forgot how fun this world can be.” And so I love Nic’s performance. He was fantastic on set. The first day he got there he sat down and just started doing the dialogue. He knew every line. […] He just made it his own. He was wonderful.
Crave Online: You have a cameo in Drive Angry that was eerily similar to your cameo in My Bloody Valentine. [In both films, Farmer has an explicit sex scene with a woman, which turns into a big, nude fight.]
Todd Farmer: Bloody Valentine was a fluke. Bloody Valentine was because we were running out of time, and Patrick basically said, “Would you do it?” and I said “Yes.” This we did on purpose. This we did as sort of a funny wink at Valentine. It’s actually a real role. It’s actually a meaty role. I act with everybody except Billy Burke. Amber beats me up, Fichtner beats me up, Nic beats me up… Everybodybeats me up in this movie. And I get to take my pants off.
Crave Online: Any excuse, right?
Todd Farmer: Right!
Crave Online: I actually wanted to take you back… Your first movie, and correct me if I’m wrong, was Jason X [which put the Friday the 13th franchise in space].
Todd Farmer: Yes. Just to clarify. Jason was here, and I put him up there.
Crave Online: (Laughs) – I just want to clarify: Jason X rules.
Todd Farmer: Oh thank you, sir.
Crave Online: I have been a very vocal supporter of that film since the day it came out. It was a very clever take on that franchise. And it really made me excited to see what else you had coming as a writer.
Todd Farmer: It’s fun. The situation was that Freddy vs. Jason was in development hell, and we decided to do another [Jason movie] but we didn’t want to step on the toes of what Freddy vs. Jason was doing. Chronologically, we didn’t want to screw it up. So we moved the movie into the future, and I have always loved Alien and Aliens, and I thought, “What if you took out the aliens and you put in Jason?” Now, tonally that’s not what we ended up with. But years later, tonally, what we have is pretty fun.
Crave Online: It’s full of a lot of interesting ideas, which is something I think of a lot of Jason movies can’t say. You’ve got nanotechnology and that really brilliant hologram sequence, which I quote constantly: “Hey Jason, do you want to drink some beers? Or smoke some pot? Or have pre-marital sex? Mmm… We love pre-marital sex!”
Todd Farmer: Those were fun.
Crave Online: That wasn’t a question, I was just geeking out. Going back to Drive Angry, were you thinking about the 3D in advance on that film while you were writing it, or were you not focused on that at the time?
Todd Farmer: Well, it’s funny. Only recently have I changed my answer. I used to say, and I still believe this from my end of the writing partnership, for me it’s always about character and story first. But I was thinking back on it and any time I would write a… Take the scene where Frank and The Accountant meet up. There was something The Accountant used to do differently. And Patrick said, “You know, that’s not really ‘3D.’ What if we had a baseball bat and he breaks the bat, throws the bat…” And suddenly you’ve got elements of 3D. So Patrick, being more visual, being the director, he was always focused on 3D from the very beginning. So that’s what made the partnership kind of work because we were both coming at it from different places, neither place better than the other, but you put them together and we’re much better as a team. So the answer is, “One of us was always thinking 3D.”
Crave Online: Now, there’s a lot of unexplained elements in Drive Angry, a lot of things that are alluded to in terms of what’s going on in hell. Were you consciously setting up a sequel or were you just trying to make the world feel lived in?
Todd Farmer: A little bit of both. We certainly have a sequel completely planned out. It was the same situation, a little bit bigger, and in the sequel you would certainly see hell. You would see how world that operates, that we set up. And you know, we purposefully kept it ambiguous because actually I think a lot of that stuff works better in the audience’s mind than it does putting it on screen. We never intended for you to see hell in this one. In fact when we first wrote the script, nobody would know that Nic was from hell probably until page 70 in the script. Even then we never came out and said it.
Crave Online: Actually, I saw it with a friend who hadn’t seen any of the trailers or anything, and he was actually very surprised when they finally clarified it pretty far in the movie. I think it still works.
Todd Farmer: Oh, you hadn’t seen…?
Crave Online: I had, but my fellow who co-hosts the Crave Online movie podcast with me, he tries to completely divorce himself from all trailers. He actually had no idea what was going on, but in a good way. He liked it a lot.
Todd Farmer: Oh, I’m the same way. I don’t watch anything. I’ll watch the stuff for my films but, no, I stay away. I don’t understand that, because I know I’m going to go see Cowboys & Aliens. Why would I want to watch every trailer that’s online? I’m just going to wait and see the movie.
Crave Online: Has there been any serious talk about doing a sequel to Drive Angry?
Todd Farmer: I think at this point it would really depend on how well the DVD did. But you know, right now we’re living in an industry that’s focused on sequels and remakes and toys, and I understand that from a marketing standpoint. That stuff’s sacred. But I certainly do like the original, and I hope that we would be able to continue the story. That was the intention when we wrote it.
Crave Online: You’re working on a couple of sequels and remakes yourself now.
Todd Farmer: Yes.
Crave Online: You’ve currently got Halloween II and the Hellraiser remake coming up.
Todd Farmer: Yeah. Right now Dimension’s focus is on Hellraiser. The plan is make that film and then hopefully follow it up with Halloween. Halloween was something we were going to shoot before Drive Angry. We wrote it before we shot Drive Angry, but the schedule was too crazy. There was no way were going to shoot before, and at this point, with everything that was going on afterwards, the focus just leaned on to Hellraiser, so that’s where we’re at now.
Crave Online: Let’s talk about Halloween first. Since this is Halloween III, was there any discussion about just remaking Season of the Witch?
Todd Farmer: I think the rights are different there. I’m not privy to how it works, but I don’t think the Season of the Witch rights are at Dimension, but I may be wrong. But no, the idea was always to continue Rob Zombie’s story, but [at] least from Patrick and I, our standpoint was to return it to more of a John Carpenter tone… without cheating.
Crave Online: What were your thoughts on Zombie’s take on the franchise? They were really polarizing on some audiences.
Todd Farmer: Look, I put Jason in space…
Crave Online: (Laughs)
Todd Farmer: …if someone comes along and does something different with the franchise I’m all for that. I mean, he took Michael Myers and turned Michael Myers into a T-Rex. And certainly that’s an interpretation, and I respect that interpretation. [But] for me, Halloween was one of those movies that made me who I am. Halloween, Jaws… And so for me the idea to work on this movie, and then take on Rob’s story, and sort of twist so that it returns to John Carpenter’s world, was fascinating and fun. And I love the script.
Crave Online: That sounds excellent. Let’s talk about Hellraiser real fast, if you don’t mind. Hellraiser’s always been an interesting franchise to me because the franchise really evolved from what it started as.
Todd Farmer: Right.
Crave Online: What started as a family in a house with a corpse in the attic turned into this big, epic religious mythology. And I’m sure you’ve seen the later Straight-to-Video ones. Then it just got weird. What’s your take on the new Hellraiser?
Todd Farmer: The idea was that we were never going to remake Clive [Barker]’s movie. Clive’s movie is a very personal story to him. But we love the world. I guess the idea – this is the wrong genre, as an example – but we’re basically doing what TRON and TRON Legacy did. So you’ve got the original, and then you’ve got what we’re doing, which is years and years and years later but coming at it from sort of a different angle.
Crave Online: But it is in continuity with the originals?
Todd Farmer: Yes.
Crave Online: Oh, that’s exciting. We’re at our last question. Todd, is there anything you want to say to the fans before I let you go?
Todd Farmer: As far as the Drive Angry DVD and Blu-Ray is concerned, I’ve worked on several at this point, I’ve got to tell you what they did with this is fantastic. I’ve never seen so many cool extras on a Blu-Ray like this. There’s a thing that tabulates how people get killed during the movie. I had a blast. I hope everybody gets to enjoy it this time.
Crave Online: I hope so too.
Drive Angry premieres on DVD and Blu-Ray on May 31st!