The relationship between the work of H.P Lovecraft and the screen has been a long lasting affair. Classic films such as Re-Animator and Call Of Cthulhu all started with Lovecraft and even in pop culture shows of today, like Riverdale, the presence of the great writer is still there for all to see.
Perhaps though no filmmaker has been more equipped and qualified to bring Lovecraft’s work to the big screen in the way that Richard Stanley is. Thanks to his mother’s love for the work of Lovecraft Stanley has lived and breathed the writer’s work for his entire life. Now Stanley has brought one of his favourite Lovecraft short stories to the big screen in the form of Colour Out Of Space starring Nicolas Cage and Joely Richardson.
“I have been a massive fan of Lovecraft’s my entire life,” says Stanley as he sits down to talk to Subculture about his latest film. “I’ve been stealing ideas from his since I was a child so I figured it was important to re-pay the debt and make an official Lovecraft movie. I would love to have had his actual name on the title – like Bram Stroker’s Dracula, it probably should have been H.P. Lovecraft’s Colour Out Of Space because I did want to tilt my hat to the guy.”
“Over the years as a fan I have been very disappointed in the lack of decent adaptations that have been made,” he goes to explain. “I wish that Del Toro had done Mountains Of Madness or that James Wan had done Call Of Cthulhu so I figured that it was time that somebody did an official adaptation of one of the essential stories. Colour Out Of Space is fruit on a low hanging branch because it is all set on a single farm and is about a single family being destroyed by the ultra-dimensional threat. I figured when it came to location that was easier to produce than something set on Mars or in the depths of the Mariana Trench. We could do this on a low to medium budget which I guess is why the story presented itself.”
As we talk more about the work of Lovecraft Stanley starts to tell about the special bond that his own mother had for Lovecraft’s work. “My mother was an anthropologist and also a graphic artist in the 1960s and 1970s so she was drawing a lot of weird and trippy stuff herself,” he explains. “I think she had been an admirer of Lovecrafts since she was child herself. She started me on his more fantastic pieces of work, she used to read to me from a work called The Dream Quest Of Unknown Kadath when I was about seven years old, so there are a few of the Lovecraft stories that are strangely enough suitable for children. That inevitable though led me onto harder things so by the time I was 13 I had evolved from the stories and was involved in the role-playing games and was fully submerged in everything around it.”
As our discussion goes on I soon start to learn that the idea of turning Colour Out Of Space into a film had been with Stanley for a long time. “I think I first thought about when I was about thirteen years old,” he says. “I think I must have read the story when I was about eleven or twelve and then when I first started to muck around with a Super 8 camera I tried to adapt the story into a script, but I abandoned it because it was obviously too complicated, but it must have come into my consciousness very early on. Partly the reason for doing it now was that it was achievable with a low budget but also because of the backwoods setting, the remote forests of Lovecraft’s fictional encounters.”
The rumours that Stanley would be making Colour Out Of Space first started back in 2013 and he admits that it has been a long road to getting the film off paper and into cinemas. “Like most things in the film business there is always a cubic centimetre of chance,” he says with a small laugh. “There is always that element of luck. I came up with the screenplay with my co-writer that I was pretty happy with and I spent a few years shopping it around. I was trying to find a production partner or cast members willing to come on board and then there was a bit of a stroke of luck that the Spectre Vision producer Josh Waller was chatting to Nic Cage on the set of Mandy, and I believe the subject of H.P. Lovecraft came up.”
“Nic is extremely well read,” he says continuing. “He is also a fan of the original material and Josh remembered that there had been a Lovecraft script floating around and he pulled out the screenplay and managed to get it into Nic’s hands. Then I believe they did a verbal deal on the back of a napkin to agree to make the movie. The first I heard about it was I got a phone call from somebody claiming to be Nic Cage from somewhere in Nevada that came through to my house in France about 2 in the morning and he was claiming that he was making my movie. I didn’t believe it and I remember waking up the next morning and thinking ‘did that really happen?’ before getting on with my life.”
“Then Josh actually came to my house in France,” he explains. “Early in the morning he started banging on my door so I fixed him a coffee and he told me to get in the car and at that point I realised that we were indeed making the movie and that we only six weeks to prepare it.”
Colour Out Of Space is in cinemas now.