The creative crew behind Stephen King's The Mist - Frank Darabont (writer/director), Greg Nicotero (creature design/make-up effects), and Everett Burrrell (visual effects supervisor) - joined three of the film's stars - Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden and Laurie Holden - at the 2007 San Diego Comic Con to talk about working on the effects-heavy project. Gathered together at a conference table for a press conference, The Mist group provided a peek behind the scenes at the latest film adaptation of a Stephen King story.
How did you become involved with The Mist?
Frank Darabont: “I have loved this story since 1980 when I first read it in Dark Forces Anthology edited by Kirby McCauley. I think it was published again in the Skeleton Crew two years later. But I always loved it. I always wanted to do it. In fact I remember sitting one night on the set of Nightmare on Elm Street, I want to say 3… I remember thinking, ‘Wow, my writing career seems to have started. I’d like to start thinking about a directing possibility. I want to get in touch with Stephen King and find out if he’d give me the rights to something.’
I was weighing one night: Shawshank Redemption or The Mist. Shawshank or The Mist. I decided to go for Shawshank and it turned me into a much classier guy than I had ever intended. But I never let go of the idea of making this movie because of its - I don’t know, there’s something about good, intense, pressure-cooker ensembles that I really love. This particular one is pretty unique so I finally came back around, finally came down to doing it.”
Can you talk about pulling off the special effects?
Frank Darabont: “Just before I hand it off to you [motioning toward Everett Burrell] because that really is a question for you, it was a very unique experience for me and I gather for the cast as well, to play a lot of scenes with things that weren’t actually there. I think it was kind of a first time for me directing scenes like that. ‘Okay, pretend that the thing is swooping and the thing is chewing.’ It was very interesting.”
Laurie Holden: “I felt like we were very lucky because Greg, whose amazing and Everett, they brought out these puppets, and showed us how the mouths worked and how the eyes worked. We really had a very good reference point. So when they took the puppets away and we were looking at dots and pretending to see the monsters, we really knew the size of them and how ferocious they were and if they had eight legs or how many so that was a real gift - the very fact that we had the puppets there on the set. That’s very rare. Usually it’s like, ‘Monster comes in, scream,’ so it was wonderful having them there. It helped in all of our performances.”
Greg Nicotero: “I was recently reminding Frank at one point, our first meeting on this movie was about twelve years ago when he was just initially getting ready to do it. Sort of like, ‘I’m might do The Mist next. I might do this and that,’ so we did a whole bunch of sketches and drawings. We went to his house on morning and showed him a bunch of creature designs. It was all very preliminary though we’d been friends for a long time. So then he called in October and said, ‘Okay, we got a green light for The Mist. We have to do start thinking about creature designs.’
Everybody knows that if you want to come up with great creatures, they’re not going to come up overnight. They’re not going to be the first one out of the gate. So we started sketching stuff. We went up to CaféFX and had a lot a lot of roundtable meetings about developing the creatures, developing how the stuff worked. It was a great, great experience because Frank had specific ideas about what he wanted to do. Everett and I’s history made it a really good team to say, ‘Okay, we can handle that and the visual effects can do this.’ And by building all the puppet stuff, of course the fun thing for us is every time someone comes to the set, they’d all come to the creature effects room. Everybody wants to play. They start pulling cables. The first time someone’s wife or husband or kids come in, they come right to the effects room and start puppeteering the creatures.”
Marcia Gay Harden: (Laughing) “Like mine. They’re outlawed from the room.”
Greg Nicotero: “But you know, I have to give tremendous amount of credit to Everett because I think he and his team at CafeFX have gone above and beyond even what I had hoped the creature work would look like. I mean once we wrap the film, I’m done. You know, I built the pictures and we shoot them and they go into the Raiders of the Lost Ark crate in the back of K.N.B. and then it falls into their category. It’s amazing stuff, what I’ve seen. I mean I’m blown away so I can’t imagine what people that have no idea what’s coming up will think.”
Frank Darabont: “I thought we were going to bring a spider.”
Greg Nicotero: “We were going to bring a spider, but it wouldn’t fit in the car.”
Do you intend all along to shoot it with a handheld documentary feel or did that come about after you did The Shield?
Frank Darabont: “It’s actually, I think if anything, my desire to go into a more fluid, ragged documentary kind of direction with this movie is probably what drew me to The Shield in the first place. I thought, ‘Well I don’t really have this kind of experience as a director,’ and I’m a big believer in learning and even if that means there’s a baby step or two, I believe in that kind of preparation. So I was lucky enough to do a couple of things for television last year and it was really in my mind it was always about getting into character for The Mist. I want to learn something new that I can then apply to this feature. And what I learned was so thrilling, that I took the cinematographer and the camera operators and the editor and the script supervisor from The Shield and asked them to join us on this. I dialed in so quickly to it, and those folks were so dialed into it already, you know, that it created a wonderful way to do something completely different that I’d never done before. It was really a thrill.”