Laurent Bouzereau is known for his documentary films. He has worked for the almost 20 years with Steven Spielberg starting with his film, “The Making of Jaws”. He has worked on various documentaries for Stephen King films and also films like “Avatar” and “Scarface”. This month to celebrate Halloween, Laurent is introducing his latest film on TCM called, “A Night at the Movies: The Horrors of Stephen King”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat horror films with Laurent and also find out what it was like working with Stephen King.
Mike Gencarelli: Tell come up with the idea for “A Night at the Movies: The Horrors of Stephen King”?
Laurent Bouzereau: A couple of years ago I started this series with Dreamworks TV, now called Amblin TV and TCM about the history of film genres. We started with epic cinema, then thrillers and then we started to think about other genres for this year and I immediately suggested horror for Halloween. I know the genre very well. I said what would be different for this one, since with the others we interviewed a lot of people, what if I call Stephen King and ask JUST him to do it. I knew I could get a lot of people from this genre and people that I have worked with over the years but I felt that we if can get “The Man”, Stephen King…I think he could speak for everybody. So I reached out to him and he said “Yes”, so I was very excited. We spent a couple of days in New York chatting about horror. I have met him in the past, of course, but never had the pleasure and the honor to chat with him for so many hours on one subject. He is so generous and so funny. He is really like the everyday man and there is nothing you can’t ask him. He has his own opinions and it was a really lively conversation. I also think that he makes a really great point in the documentary about being the least respected genre in both literature and film. I think he has elevated that genre to such an art form. I think it was important that he was there to talk about his for this project. The show is really his definition of horror. It is really horror according to Stephen King.
MG: You are no stranger to working with Stephen King, what is your favorite piece of work by him?
LB: My favorite novel…well, I lived in New York at the time and a friend of sent me an advance copy of “IT”. It is actually going to be 25 years old this year…aging myself [laughs]. So, I was walking around the streets of New York with this book, which no one had yet, and people were stopping me in the streets. I remember going to the beach and I was getting stopped left and right, I thought I was going to get mugged because of this book. I swear to you that this is true. It enhanced my experience of reading it because I not only had a great book but I had the most awaiting book. That is where I realized Stephen King as a brand name, it was Stephen King’s book not just “that” book. So I would have to say that that book is so epic and definitely one of my favorites. If I can, I would say that “Pet Cemetery” is a close second for me as books go. It is unfair though because overall I love everything he does. In terms of film, I would have to say that “Carrie” for me is the best film. Very close second is “The Dead Zone”. I was very thrilled that Stephen King highlighted “The Dead Zone” in our film because I think it is somewhat forgotten as a film and it is not as quoted as I feel it deserves to be. It is a brilliant adaption of a very difficult book. I think that his books really transcends the genre. It really comes from the characters then coming from the effects of horror. He comes up with an incredible character and then gives him a supernatural power or an edge. That is the great gift he has a storyteller.
MG: What was the most difficult challenge in putting together this documentary?
LB: The most difficult challenge was really to condense the many hours we spend with Stephen to just one hour. The thing that I was really proud of is that I came in extremely prepared for this. I did much research for it and obviously I know his work very well. You never know we these things and what angle they are going to want to take. I had a vague idea in my head for the structure and what I wanted to caputre. I tried to always be ahead of him so there was no wasted time or energy on the subject. That was a real challenge. I didn’t have the opportunity for him to do pick-ups later on…I had one chance. Of all the scripts that I have written for documentaries, this was the easiest and I was really proud of that. I knew what I had and it was very fluent. The only regret is that I wish the show could have been three or four hours long [laughs]. Sometimes though there is value in something that is shorter and to the point. If it was four hours, it would be a discussion but within an hour it feels like a documentary…like a journey.
MG: You have worked on numerous documentaries, what drives you to continue in this field?
LB: Well, it is documentaries like this one. First of all, I have to say that working with TCM, it is the only network that I watch aside from the news. It is such an honor. They are a dream come true for people like us that love movies. I have to saw working with that team is pretty amazing. They are so supportive. Documentaries are difficult to produce, since they are very involved and there is a lot of licensing involved. I have an incredible team watching out for me and there are no compromises. It is a great collaboration. That is one of the reasons why I keep going because I work with great people. Amblin, Steve Spielberg’s company, needless to say is extremely supportive also and always there for me. With that kind of support you can only succeed…not fail. The second thing is that I have been so fortunate, I started doing this in the early 90’s, I have always worked with great filmmakers. I also have worked on really fascinating projects. So it is subject matters really interest me and it is stuff that I have studied and I feel that I have spent my entire youth preparing for. I think documentary filmmaking is really an art. I have always aspired to do it. As long as I can continue to tell stories in a non-fiction realm, I will continue to doing it [laughs].
MG: Tell us about your next project with TCM and “The World of Michael Crichton”?
LB: Around Christmas, I am working with TCM again for that genre about Christmas movies. That is great fun and I just finishing that up in the next month or so. It is completely different in nature. I think there is a dark side of Christmas in some movies. I included Joe Dante [laughs], since he made the ultimate dark Christmas movie, “Gremlins”. It is a completely different hat to wear to go from Stephen King/horror to Christmas movies, it was almost shock therapy or something [laughs]. It is just great though since when you talk about horror, it is scary and here is a lot of darkness to it. As a filmmaker to be able to jump into something much more light and this genre just has such amazing movies. It sort of counter-balances my fears and my nightmares. I have Jingle Bells in my dreams now instead of axes and knifes coming after me [laughs]. Another project that was announced that I am executive producing a series on Michael Crichton for The Science Channel and that is just starting. I knew Michael and his estate came to me and we are putting that together now. It is a kind of a happy/sad project to me working on. He was a genius and a great person. I really cherished the moments I had with him.