‘Color Out Of Space’ starts Lovecraft resurgence: Interview with Richard Stanley

by MICHAEL BERGERON

A mysterious object from outer space lands in a remote area of Massachusetts. So begins the fateful tale of a rural family that raises alpacas in “Color Out of Space,” an adaption of the H. P. Lovecraft story of the same name by Richard Stanley.

“Color Out of Space” stars Nicolas Cage, Joely Richardson, Madeleine Arthur and Tommy Chong.

Stanley shot the film in Portugal. “We had to shoot at the end of January last year, and New England was impossible so we had to find a place to match the Arkham backwoods,” says Stanley in a phone interview right before the film’s release.

“There’s an area where we found a micro-climate, where the trees have leaves, plus we had to shoot somewhere where we could get alpacas.”

While there have been previous film versions of Lovecraft stories such as 1965’s “Die, Monster, Die!” with Boris Karloff and the 1985 “Re-Animator,” Stanley promises that 2020 “is going to be the year of the Old Ones.”

Other projects have recently mined Lovecraft territory. The material is public domain.

“The ‘Game of Throne’ directors have a Lovecraft project and Jordan Peele has ‘Lovecraft Country’ [an eight-episode series mini-series] ready to hit,” says Stanley.

While Cage and family start to descend into an otherworldly madness caused by a mysterious meteor their idyllic farm turns into a colorful alien landscape courtesy of scenic department paint, colorful plants and a tasteful combination of CGI effects. “I like to find a sweet spot between practical and computer effects.”

Stanley was raised on Lovecraft. His mother read him the stories when he was young.

While Lovecraft was virtually unknown in his lifetime a couple of well-researched biographies illuminate his life complete with flaws – mainly his blatant racism. One is the 1975 published “Lovecraft: A Biography” by science fiction writer L. Sprague de Camp and more importantly S. T. Joshi’s “H. P. Lovecraft: A Life,” published in 1996.

It’s been years since Stanley made a narrative feature film. Stanley was the original director of the 1996 version of “The Island of Dr. Moreau.” The film went from a genre flick to a Bruce Willis vehicle only to see Willis bail. The budget escalated into tens of millions and then Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer joined the cast and Stanley got the boot.

“After ‘Island of Dr. Moreau’ no one in Hollywood would return my calls. At the same time, New Line Cinema was forced to pay me in full for the movie so I had no need to work for a living – for a while,” says Stanley

Stanley used the time to travel the world. At one point he was living in the French Pyrenees and working as a mountain guide.

He also made documentaries on such diverse topics as 2002’s “The White Darkness,” which explored Haitian voodoo and 2001’s “The Secret Glory.” The latter examined “occult beliefs within the SS and Nazis in the 1930s.”

But Stanley is back in the saddle again with his Lovecraft saga and already working on the second film of a trilogy as well as setting up a Lovecraft universe. “I’m working on ‘The Dunwich Horror’ set in the same place, Arkham County, but a few years later,” says Stanley. “Cage obviously won’t be back.”

Stanley also has the third film in pre-production but won’t reveal the title. “With all the other Lovecraft films coming out I want to keep a low profile on the trajectory my trilogy is taking at this point.”

— interview conducted in January 2020.

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