Screenwriter Marti Noxon discusses Fright Night, the Twilight influence, future projects, and more.
Screenwriter Marti Noxon got her start on Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a writer/story editor/director and, naturally, moved up the Hollywood food chain rapidly. She wrote for and/or produced such shows as Angel, Private Practice, Prison Break, and Mad Men. Marti Noxon recently wrote the screenplay for the upcoming horror remake Fright Night, which hits theaters nationwide on August 19. I recently had the chance to speak with Marti Noxon over the phone. Here's what she had to say.
In going through your filmography, you have worked on some TV things and some horror projects. I was curious where the original Fright Night sat with you?
Marti Noxon: I definitely felt a Buffy connection to this one, because it definitely has a high school feel to it. It's very character driven and it has a nice blend of horror and comedy to it, that I felt that I hadn't seen enough of. I mean Zombieland was one of my favorites of the past couple of years, and, before that, Shaun of the Dead, but they don't make those kinds of genre hybrid movies anymore. The fact that I knew that the original had a lot of those elements, was an original plus.
Right away, were there things that you knew you needed to keep from the original, and things that you knew you had to make your own?
Marti Noxon: Immediately, you ask questions like, 'There are very few late-night horror talk-show hosts, so what are we going to do about Peter Vincent?' That was one, right off the bat, that I can think of. It's kind of a shame, too, because those were good times. There was that and, in the original, Jerry has this romantic side to him and an attachment too the Aimee character where, in a Twilight universe, that's really been played out. You can see we dispense with that. We wanted to create a vampire that was more of a pure predator. For us, there was kind of a streamlining of the original story. The things we wanted to keep, for sure, was the relationships between the characters were really interesting. The Evil Ed and Charlie relationship could've been explored a little bit further. To me, these things were very interesting. They were things from the first one which I thought could've been brought into now and bring some fun stuff to it.
There are obviously a few little jabs at Twilight in this movie. Do you think that franchise being what it is actually helped you steer Fright Night in the right direction?
Marti Noxon: That's interesting, maybe. It's not so much the movies. I haven't seen many of them, but more the books that I had a strong reaction to. For me, the forbidden romance I totally get, and I understand why the 14-year-old girls and the housewives and all of us really get off on that, but the lack of a strong female hero, this passive girl who reacts to any monster who comes along, really turns me off. Definitely some of my decisions were guided by that.
Can you talk a bit about this cast coming together? I know most writers don't write with cast members in mind, but did you have to rework anything when this cast came together, or did it all fit?
Marti Noxon: We did a little bit for Colin (Farrell). There was some stuff at the end that hadn't been there before. We had to give him a stronger point of view in the final sequence, so there was a little bit of rewriting there for him, but not much. What he brought, I think, so beautifully to the character was the physicality and his interesting twitches and the whole smell thing. You can tell he's taking people's scent in. I think I wrote one line about that and they just took that idea and ran with it. Certainly, they all had license to bring their own ideas to the table, and there's some really funny improv that stayed in the movie. Both Christopher Mintz-Plasse and David Tennant and all of those guys were really good at that. Some of my favorite laugh-out-loud funny moments were things they made up on the side. I couldn't have come up with the Stretch Armstrong line (Laughs). I'm not a dude. It would have never occurred to me (Laughs). I can write pretty blue, but there's only so much I can do.
Did you spend a lot of time on the set in Albequerque? Were there a lot of on-the-fly script changes that were happening?
Marti Noxon: Not as much as I would like to, actually. I have a couple of kids and I was working on a couple of other projects here, but the experience of being there was fantastic. They were incredibly welcoming and I really enjoyed it. We didn't do much rewriting. It's one of those rare things where they shot the script which was written and then they would improv. They would always get what was written, and then they would improv when they felt like it, and, later, in the editing process, they'd go, 'Hey, what do you think?' When David Tennant wants to riff, I generally think yeah, that's awesome.
Can you talk a bit about working with (director) Craig Gillespie? Like yourself, he has a very wide canon of genres he's worked in. Can you talk about what he brought to the table, in terms of his direction?
Marti Noxon: Yeah. It was interesting because at first I was kind of like, 'Huh, Lars and the Real Girl,' which I loved, but there weren't a lot of scares in that movie. Then I saw a bunch of his commercial work and it became clear that he can do anything he wants. He's so good with performance and great with actors, so the fact that he brought this cast to the table was really exciting.
It was great to see this all come together because it all came through very fast.
Marti Noxon: Yeah, me too. I've never had this experience, ever. I think we went from script to finished product in a year.
There is starting to be this negative connotation attached to even the word "remake" these days. For those who might be against the Fright Night remake, just because it's a remake, what would you like to say to counter that?
Marti Noxon: The only thing I can say is this one is certainly not done cynically. It wasn't done just because we thought there was this title that hasn't been exploited. Everyone who came to the table really loved the original and wanted to revisit that great premise of a kid living next door to a vampire, that Rear Window idea which is so potent. I would only say that we didn't approach it cynically and we tried to make a really good movie.
Is there anything that you're currently working on that you can talk about? I know you have a very extensive TV catalog under your belt. Is there any movie or TV projects you're working on?
Marti Noxon: Yeah, I am in the middle of working on a movie called Bad Baby for DreamWorks. It's sort of a John Hughes-style comedy about a little boy... basically it's like a little boy with Jack-Jack for a brother. It's a super fun, broad and slap-sticky sort of piece. I'm also casting around for my next movie thing, and I have a super-secret project that I can't talk about.
Is there any chance you'd return to Mad Men when they start up?
Marti Noxon: I don't think so. I left in good graces, thank god, but he really needed someone to be there full-time, and I'm enjoying writing movies. As long as they'll let me, I'll keep at it.
Finally, what would you say the big draw is, the big reason people should see Fright Night in theaters this weekend?
Marti Noxon: I think we are really going to benefit from lowered expectations. I can tell you that audiences have come out having had a really good time.
Excellent. That's about all I have for you, Marti. Thank you so much for your time and best of luck with that super-secret project and everything else.
Marti Noxon: OK, thank you.
You can check out Marti Noxon's horror remake Fright Night in theaters this weekend starting on August 19.
Fright Night was released August 19th, 2011 and stars Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, Toni Collette, David Tennant, Imogen Poots, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Dave Franco, Reid Ewing. The film is directed by Craig Gillespie.