Sunday, April 12, 2015

John Carpenter's Firestarter. What could have been...

John Carpenter's Firestarter. What could have been…

Just recently, I was completely blown away watching John Carpenter's highly underatted Assault On Precinct 13. A film I hadn't had the pleasure of watching until then. I'm a MASSIVE and I mean MASSIVE Carpenter fan, so being able to watch one of his first films, completely surprised,  not knowing barley anything about it, I have to say it was one of the best times I've ever had watching a cult classic.

I've been on a Carpenter kick lately. In fact as I'm writing this I'm watching Big Trouble In Little China. For a brief time, Carpenter truly was unstoppable. His films were fun, terrifying, and a great time whenever they are viewed. One of the biggest things that stood out for me watching Precinct was the late Darwin Joston's performance as Napoleon, the convict who stands side by side with the police officers when the station is being attacked. Joston stole the show in this movie as the smooth talking, charming, anti-hero. I couldn't believe this was the same guy who played the doctor in Carpenter's The Fog a few years later who utters one of my favorite lines from the movie "Dick Baxter died in the ocean." This guy sadly didn't get the career he deserved, and passed away in 1998. One thing that really caught my interest was the fact that around the time production of Christine was finishing, Universal wanted Carpenter to direct yet another successful Stephen King novel which was Firestarter.

King in the 1980's was by far the most popular writer. He was cranking out classic novel after classic novel and anybody who was anybody in Hollywood was dying to get their hands on his stories to be made into feature films. So far Salem's Lot, Carrie, The Shinning, The Dead Zone, and Christine had been adapted for the big screen. Each film were huge hits in their own right and became instant classics. Carpenter meanwhile was on fire. After Assault, he directed the iconic 1978 slasher classic Halloween, then The Fog. Before Christine, he had finished filming the remake of the 1950's sci-fi film The Thing From Another World, which he shortened as simply The Thing. With mind blowing special effects, Carpenter finished this film for Universal and began production on Christine just as the novel was released in hard-cover. With two titans of the horror world coming together, even before the film was released to the public, Christine was all ready known as being an instant hit. So it would only make sense that Carpenter would come back to work on King's next novel.


Nope, wrong.

Around the time Christine was finishing production, The Thing was released and as crazy as this sounds was a huge flop at the box office. (To think it's one of the most beloved horror films of all time now, and known as one of the greatest remakes ever made.) Goes to show you how instantly ahead of his time Carpenter was. Had the film been released maybe just a few years later it would have gotten the insane cult following the film now has today. Well, Universal was in a complete panic over this box office failure and got cold feet for poor Carpenter. Here they decided that they wouldn't offer him the Firestarter product.

What's the biggest tragedy of this missed opportunity is the fact Carpenter had Joston in mind as Rainbird, the Native American hit man hired by the government to befriend young Charlie only to betray her. Instead, after Carpenter wasn't given the chance to direct Firestarter, the movie was given to Mark L. Lester, a new up and coming director had had just finished Class of 1984. Carpenter did Starman (…) and then Big Trouble In Little China which was yet another box office flop, and is now one of Carpenter's most loved films from fans from all over. I really don't blame the man for getting pissed and going back to his roots and making the movies he wanted to make (Prince Of Darkness, They Live, ect.)

Now don't get me wrong, I really like Firestarter. In fact, dare I saw it I like the movie even better than the actual book. The book has an insane story and the haunting score is one of my favorites (I own it on vinyl) Tangerine Dream could do no wrong in the 1980's for me.

Still, it's a little laughable that they casted George C. Scott as Rainbird. Nothing against this brilliant actor. In fact, the movie is packed full of talented actors, and of course young adorable and most likely coked up Drew Barrymore. Still, I feel Carpenter would of made more correct choices such as Joston as Rainbird and of course Andrew. In fact, I would have done anything to watch Joston as Rainbird. For those who have read the novel, they know how sick and twisted his side of his friendship with Charlie is. Watching Joston act beside Barrymore would have been amazing.

Sadly, it isn't true.

I know Carpenter wouldn't have just casted Oscar winning actors just to cast them. Who knows, maybe he would have used some of his regulars in this film. I mean even Kurt would have made a great Andrew.

Like I said, I LOVE Tangerine Dream's soundtrack, but I can only dream about what Carpenter's own written music for the film would have been.

Just one of those times where a brilliant director missed the chance when it really all came down to money and business. Firestarter is still one hell of a movie, and a favorite of mine but a fan girl can always dream of what could have happened if Carpenter was in control.


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