Q&A: Clive Barker and Mick Garris on “THE BODY BOOK” and “THE MUMMY” That Wasn’tBooks/Art/Culture,Fearful Features,Features/Interviews,Home,Movies/TV,News John Nicol
Once again, the creative forces at Dark Regions Press have cooked up something rather nasty and exquisite—another helping of Clive Barker. Coming off their MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN Special Definitive Edition, the publisher has cranked it up a notch with THE BODY BOOK, currently available for pre-order.
This elaborate volume, being issued in three editions shipping next year, contains two of Barker’s short stories from his classic BOOKS OF BLOOD, “The Body Politic” and “In the Flesh,” plus an unproduced screenplay for an IN THE FLESH movie, insights from filmmaker Mick Garris and lots of incredible artwork. Be sure to place your order soon at www.darkregions.com, as THE BODY BOOK is sure to sell out soon. FANGORIA caught up with Barker and Garris for some quid pro quo on their latest collaboration—and, as Universal prepares to revisit THE MUMMY yet again, the two reminisce about their own proposed take on the character, one that proved to be too much for the studio…
FANGORIA: Mick, what have you contributed to THE BODY BOOK?
MICK GARRIS: Well, I discuss how QUICKSILVER HIGHWAY [his TV movie that included a “Body Politic” adaptation] came to be, my introduction to Clive and his work, what happened to the movie version of IN THE FLESH that I wrote and was going to direct for Warner Bros., etc.
FANG: Clive, your longtime collaborators Phil and Sarah Stokes are back—in what capacity?
CLIVE BARKER: Phil and Sarah provided an introduction for the book. You may have noticed that their names have appeared on many books bearing my name, and this is because they understand me better than almost anyone on the planet. They have an encyclopedic knowledge of who I am and what I’ve done. Throughout my relationship with them, they have been generous and respectful and kind in their exchanges with me. It’s one of the great friendships of my life.
Phil and Sarah make it extremely easy to be honest, and they have a great sense of taste—of what is appropriate, and what is not. They’re not people who dig in the gutter. They look to the highest possibilities, which in this day and age is increasingly rare. We live in a culture that seems to value trash talk over fact, and they’re not like that at all. Over the years, they’ve done an immensely respectful and loving job in talking about me, and I hope I’ve been able to reciprocate.
The culmination of this great, long relationship will soon come in the form of a museum they’re in the process of building. It will display many of my works, including handwritten manuscripts as well as original art and much more. I am moved beyond words, and I’m pleased to no end to be able to make this announcement here and now.
FANG: Why didn’t the IN THE FLESH feature film ever come to fruition?
GARRIS: I wrote the screenplay from Clive’s story, and it was going to be a big studio project at Warners, something Clive and I were both really excited about. The novella is creepy as hell, and very internal. I think Warners at that time—and this was a good couple of decades ago—was not very much into the horror genre. None of the studios were. From a production standpoint, it would not have been all that complicated, but I think the studio’s enthusiasm just sort of waned. Perhaps they spotted something shinier in another direction. It broke my heart; I really love that project, but it happened a long time ago. Thanks a lot for pouring salt in the wounds! Kidding, of course.
FANG: Clive, any interesting stories involving you and Mick?
BARKER: The two biggest projects we worked on were IN THE FLESH and a crack at THE MUMMY, long before Stephen Sommers cooked up his extravaganzas. Looking back, our version of THE MUMMY was precisely what the powers that were at Universal did not want. It made the Mummy story over for the late 20th century, not in terms of its effects—this was before CGI brought its dubious gifts to the process of horror filmmaking—but in terms of content. We had one particular narrative hook that we were very proud of. In the first scene, a strange boy-child is born, under circumstances—high howling winds and a ferocious thunderstorm—that suggest something unnatural is afoot. The narrative then jumps ahead 20 years or so, and we pick up the story of how sacred Egyptian artifacts are being brought to America for an exhibition that would put the Tutankhamen exhibit to shame. An uncommonly beautiful woman is threaded into the action, a seducer and murderer of mysterious origin. Of the boy-child, now presumably grown to adulthood, we get no sight. Meanwhile, our antiheroine is seducing her way through the male character, only to be revealed in the third act as the boy-child, now turned via surgery and hormones into a woman.
We loved the idea, so much so that we put the mystery surrounding this ambiguous creature and her extraordinary secret at the heart of our story. Our creation was not welcomed at Universal, needless to say. The script, which Mick had labored hard over, working in a diminutive hotel room in London, which I visited daily for story conferences, was eviscerated by the script readers and our producers. How could we expect to get away with something so weird? Nobody in America, we were told, would accept such a ridiculous premise.
A few years later, Miramax made a huge hit out of a little movie called THE CRYING GAME, which, if you remember, had a girl who was a few inches more than a girl, and got naked to prove it. I sent the receipts of THE CRYING GAME over to the folks who’d rejected our perverted—their word—version of THE MUMMY every week. I doubt they saw the irony.
But there was great fun to be had back then simply tossing these ideas back and forth with Mick. His cinematic knowledge and recall is truly impressive, so he was always able to warn me when we were treading on cliché, so we could avoid it. Of course, it was cliché the studio had wanted all along, and if we’d only had the good sense to deliver it, we probably would have got the picture made.
FANG: IN THE FLESH would have been a great story to see adapted. Any hope of future cinematic development?
GARRIS: Never say never, I guess, but it’s unlikely. Warners is notorious about not letting go of projects they developed but didn’t make. I think it’s very unlikely.
FANG: Were you excited to reunite with Barker on this project?
GARRIS: I’m always happy to work with or visit with Clive. He’s a wonderful human being, as well as one of the most brilliant and talented people I’ve ever met. He’s a very good friend, and collaborating with him is always exciting and pleasurable. Even before IN THE FLESH, we wrote a pilot for ABC together called SPIRIT CITY, U.S.A. that never got made. And our two MASTERS OF HORROR collaborations [HAECKEL’S TALE and VALERIE ON THE STAIRS] were nothing but fun. I am eager to work with him again, anytime, anyplace.