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David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Eye To Eye With the Pang Brothers

John Hodgman of The Daily Show visited Danny and Oxide Pang on the set of THE MESSENGERS, their forthcoming English-language horror movie, to write this profile for the New York Times Magazine.
Though it’s not exactly news that Asian horror directors have crossed over with U.S. audiences (J-horror gave way to K-horror. The Pangs come from Hong Kong.) The New York Times piece focuses on the Pangs collaboration with Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert’s Ghost House Productions. Though Raimi’s biggest success was in mainstream film (SPIDER-MAN) and TV (XENA, WARRIOR PRINCESS), Ghost House has allowed him to get back to the genre that he began with. Interestingly, many of the international filmmakers he’s now working with were influenced by his earliest work on the EVIL DEAD movies.

For all aspiring screenwriters, the formula for thrills is right here on the page: “Initially, Raimi and Tapert thought they would give a Ghost House movie a very specific, recognizable structure, going back to the formula they had teased out of the drive-in. “We did start with a very hard formula of five sequences of six minutes of suspense,” Raimi recalled, “no less than 18 scares. Because we knew that three or four would be cut, and three or four wouldn’t work, but we’d end up with 10 or 11 really jolting, leap-out-of-your-seat moments for the audience.”
Hodgman also illustrates something that I’ve often wondered about: how do directing teams divide their work? With the Pangs, there are Oxide days and Danny days — they alternate who is in charge.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon