Exclusive: Screenwriter Marti Noxon Talks FRIGHT NIGHT, Her Thoughts on a BUFFY Reboot & Will There Be an I AM NUMBER 4 Sequel?

     May 15, 2011

Screenwriter Marti Noxon Interview FRIGHT NIGHT slice

Last week, the trailer for the re-imagining of the 1980’s classic Fright Night hit the web, giving fans a sneak peek at what this new version would look and feel like, when it hits theaters on August 19th. After its debut, Collider spoke to screenwriter Marti Noxon in this exclusive interview about her thoughts on the trailer, if there was anything she wished they’d left out, and how well it represents the film’s tone.

Fright Night came about for Noxon when she got the idea that Las Vegas, with its deserted and desolate neighborhoods, was the perfect place for a creature of the night to hide out. Inspired by movies like The Lost Boys and Poltergeist, and with a vampire that is not sympathetic or cuddly, by any means, Noxon took the relationships from the original and balanced them with humor and sexiness, throwing in some action scenes for good measure. In this interview, she also talked about this being her first return to the vampire genre since Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the experience of getting to watch the film with test screening audiences, how the film’s car chase sequence is an homage to Near Dark, the likelihood that they’ll bring Fright Night to Comic-Con this year, her skeptical interest in a possible Buffy reboot without the involvement of creator Joss Whedon, and the fact that a sequel for I Am Number 4 (which she was a writer on) is most probably shelved for now. Check out what she had to say after the jump:

fright-night-posterHere’s the synopsis:

Senior Charlie Brewster (Anton Yelchin) finally has it all – he’s running with the popular crowd and dating the hottest girl in high school (Imogen Poots). In fact, he’s so cool that he’s even dissing his best friend Ed (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). But trouble arrives when intriguing stranger Jerry Dandrige (Colin Farrell) moves in next door. He seems like a great guy at first, but there’s something not quite right and no one, including Charlie’s mom (Toni Collette), seems to notice. After witnessing some very unusual activity, Charlie comes to an unmistakable conclusion: Jerry is a vampire preying on his neighborhood. Unable to convince anyone that he’s telling the truth, Charlie has to find a way to get rid of the monster himself, in this Craig Gillespie-helmed revamp of the comedy-horror classic.

Question: As a writer, how nervous do you get about trailers? Do you feel like they often give away too much, in trying to attract audiences?

MARTI NOXON: That’s an interesting question. Of course, when I saw the trailer that was released on Friday, I was like, “Aww, lots of time went into figuring out a couple of those moments.” But then, I also understand the commercial imperative. And, there’s still a lot of good surprises left. I tempered my initial reaction, which was, “Nooo! Days and weeks went into one of those things.” But no, I get it. We need to give them something to work with, and they didn’t give everything away. They actually didn’t give a lot away. David Tennant is all over the movie, but not in the trailer. There’s lots of fun things that remain. I comforted myself.

Was there anything specific that you wish they hadn’t put in?

NOXON: There are a couple of things, but I feel like the more I talk about them, the more people will read into them, so I should probably just keep my mouth shut. There are a couple of plot twists that are revealed, but not the really important ones. I walked myself through the movie and was like, “Oh no, they didn’t give away the big ones.” We’re so precious, us writers. We think every moment is gold. We’re so sensitive about how things are constructed, and a lot of people won’t get the exact context. I certainly often go to a movie and don’t remember exactly what the trailer had in it, except that it looked cool.

Do you feel like the trailer is a good representation of the tone of the film?

NOXON: I think that it’s a really good representation of the emotional drive, and it really focuses on Charley and his journey. Hopefully, a fun bonus for people is that there are a lot of pretty solid laughs in the movie. But, in terms of the intensity of it and the desperation and the creepiness, they nailed it.

In finding the tone of this film, did you approach this vampire as more of a predator and a killer to keep him grounded and scary?

NOXON: Yeah. From the very beginning, when we first started talking about the remake, one of the things we were excited about was that this vampire is like the shark from Jaws. He’s not cuddly. He’s not sympathetic to the other characters. He doesn’t feel their pain. He really rejoices. So, from the very beginning, we were having fun with going a little old school with the vampire. There’s a little bit of a self-referential quality. I feel like the tone of the movie is probably somewhere between Zombieland and Disturbia. It has some of the out-and-out humor of Zombieland, but it definitely gets intense and has some solid, scary stuff.

Was it fun to balance the horror, the action and the comedy, and have all of that in the film?

NOXON: That’s my favorite kind of movie, in the whole world. My favorite movies ever in this genre are things like The Lost Boys and Poltergeist. Those are movies that I just study and adore because you really like everybody and you’re invested in their survival because they feel like people you’d want to hang out with. That family in Poltergeist is so relatable and warm, and then, shit starts flying, literally. That’s a sweet spot, and if we got anywhere near it, I’ll be thrilled.

The original Fright Night didn’t really have any action sequences. How did the car sequence in this film come about, and what was it like to see that constructed?

NOXON: I’m also a huge fan of the much more gritty films from the genre. I’m a huge fan of Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark. There’s an incredible sequence with a truck in that movie, and without entirely ripping it off, I was thinking about that and feeling like it had been a long time since I’d seen a mash-up of a true action sequence that wasn’t just about the power of the vampire, but real-life objects. So, I like to think of it as an homage to her great work in that movie.

Did you know that it was going to be done in one long take?

NOXON: (Director) Craig [Gillespie] told me, yeah. The last time I saw that was in Children of Men. In the film, it just creates this incredible, tense feeling.

fright-night-colin-farrell-image-4Because you had spent so much time in the vampire genre with Buffy, did you have hesitation about taking this on?

NOXON: You know what’s interesting? I haven’t done anything that was a vampire story since. I’ve done some other genre stuff, but I was burnt out on vampires. Also, that was such a good experience and a well-loved show that I was like, “Don’t go there. It will only be compared unfavorably to what you did before.” I don’t know why, but I had a very strong feeling about this one. Maybe because I’d become obsessed with this idea of a vampire who appears mundane and working-class. Also, I had spent time in Las Vegas, in the suburbs, and had just been so impressed with what a good place that would be to be a vampire, ‘cause that’s how I think. That’s just how my brain works. I was like, “My god, this would be awesome, if you were a vampire ‘cause there’s are all these empty houses and people come and go.”

So, I had started churning around in my mind an idea of setting a movie about a vampire there. And then, when they came to us with Fright Night, all those little pieces gelled, and I really liked the relationships between the characters in the original. I felt like there was a lot to explore there, and I liked that the tone of the original had comedy in it. I thought, for whatever reason, that it just felt right. And then, when they brought (director) Craig [Gillespie] on and it was cast so well with such beautiful actors, it validated whatever feeling we all had about it, which was that we could do something that was going to be surprising. When I was doing Buffy, I asked Joss, “Why did you cal it Buffy the Vampire Slayer?,” and he said, “Low expectations are always really good. When people hear that, they’re going to think it’s one thing. Hopefully, you can surprise them with more character development and more humor.” I had the same feeling about Fright Night, that we could go in a little bit under the radar and hopefully make it a more layered experience than people expect. The script was really well-liked. Not jinxing it, ‘cause who knows what will happen, but it’s really been probably the most positive experience I’ve had, from start to finish, since I worked on Buffy. Maybe me and vampires is something I’ve just got to surrender to.

fright-night-movie-image-david-tennant-01How did the script change with casting? Were any significant changes made to any of the characters, once the actors were cast?

NOXON: Remarkably, not really. We did a lot of work on set pieces and there was some reworking of it, but not much. What I will say is that some of the actors who were cast are really inspired improvisers. David Tennant, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Anton [Yelchin] were all very adept at riffing. There are some really funny moments in the movie, and some very genuine moments in the movie, that just came spontaneously on set. Normally, you resent those, if you’re a writer, but in this case, I was like, “You can’t argue with quality.” Now, people will think I wrote them.

Have you gotten to watch the film in any of the test screenings?

NOXON: Yeah, I have.

What kind of experience is that?

NOXON: Honestly, like one of the greatest of my life. I had two wonderful children, and that was awesome, but it’s a dream. The dream of doing what I do started with watching movies by Mr. Spielberg, like Close Encounters, Poltergeist and E.T. That was the beginning of my obsession. To have anything to do with his company, and then to be able to actually sit in a theater and watch people get off on anything that I had a part in, is just thrilling. When you work in television, it’s an isolating experience. You rarely ever get to watch it with an audience. That’s only happened once or twice for me, in my whole career, and I can see how you would get totally hooked on it. Although, there are the moments that you thought were going to work and they tank, and that’s humiliating because you’re sitting next to someone who makes a comment. But, when they work, it’s really addictive.

fright-night-colin-farrell-image-3After Buffy, vampires seemed to go away for awhile, but they’re back so strong right now. Why do you think vampires are so popular right now?

NOXON: It’s really interesting, yeah. There are a lot of heady theological, anthropological and academic studies of it. A lot of people think it has to do with anxiety, wish fulfillment and fantasy, and eternal life. There’s a whole theory that our generation feels very doomed because of global warming and the stuff that they’re just told from the very beginning, which is, “You’re fucked!” So, there may be something to this idea of being indestructible and love that never dies. All that is pretty potent. The other answer is just that they’re cool. Zombies are big as well. We have zombies coming out of our ass now. They absolutely represent the end of the world paranoia, and the idea that people are still surviving and living to fight another die.

Are there any plans to bring Fright Night to Comic-Con this year?

NOXON: We’re talking about it. I sure hope so. Talk about a nerd fantasy come to life. I would be very bummed, if we don’t do something.

The character in this version that seems to have the biggest departure from the original is that of Peter Vincent. Did those changes come entirely from you, or did some of that happen once David Tennant had been cast?

NOXON: The character is very much who he was in the script, and David just rounded him out and made him feel more human. There’s more of him, in a way, because he was so wonderful that we tried to find more for him in the film. The character definitely came out of research and the weirdness that’s going on in my head.

fright-night-movie-image-imogen-poots-anton-yelchin-hi-res-01What did you think the first time you saw the look for Peter Vincent, as well as how Jerry Dandrige (Colin Farrell) would look?

NOXON: Colin comes off like there’s a little bit of Elvis to him. He’s got this cowboy swagger to the whole thing, which was some of what I had imagined in the character, but he looks much different than I imagined the guy would look, in my head. He’s dead sexy, but he actually has that dark hair and pale skin. I was imagining him, in my head, like Ryan Reynolds and just so not a vampire, but it all worked out. And, David looks so amazing. They really exceeded my expectations. It’s really funny. He’s very rock ‘n roll sexy.

What made Anton Yelchin the perfect Charley Brewster?

NOXON: In part, he is relatable. He feels like a guy you actually would know, and he’s also very credible. One thing we really developed was this idea that Charley was a total hardcore nerd and fanboy, and into all kinds of genre stuff. But then, he grew up and got handsome and his skin cleared up, and suddenly he was running with a different crowd and now he’s got this really attractive girlfriend. He feels kind of like an imposter. He’s not feeling totally confident in the new person that he’s become. And, Anton is that guy. You can see shadows of a kid who looks like a kid, and then this man who is really becoming a man and is very attractive and could actually get the ladies. Anton really has that quality. He’s such a fine actor and he really takes you with him on that journey.

fright-night-movie-image-christopher-mintze-plasse-hi-res-01Was there a reason behind the change of Evil Ed being the character that has to convince Charley that his neighbor is a vampire, instead of it being Charley that discovers that?

NOXON: Yeah, the reason was that we wanted to really imbue these two guys with history, so that you could see that there was a real relationship there. Charley has actually moved away from the world in which he believes in that stuff, but his friend hasn’t, and that’s a source of conflict for them. It felt powerful to have his friend, who he used to be incredibly tight with, trying to wake him up to something that he’s now rejecting.

Are there specific rules in this film that are important, as far as the vampires go?

NOXON: We stayed pretty close to the old rules. Some of the fun of all these movies is how you take license and whether it feels credible. There’s an important plot point that I can’t give away, where we made up a new rule. It’s based on research and lore, but I just hadn’t seen it in a movie before. Basically, we hued pretty close to the traditional vampire lore.

fright-night-movie-image-anton-yelchin-colin-farrell-hi-res-01With vampires being so popular now that there’s even talk of a Buffy reboot, what are your thoughts about that happening without the involvement of Joss Whedon? Is that something you’d even be interested in seeing the end result of?

NOXON: Oh, man! I would feel so disloyal. I understand why they want to do it, and it would be awesome if it was awesome, but I think all of us involved with the original show are skeptical. It feels like the chances of it going south are pretty big. We’re all watching with interest. We were all a little bit like, “What?! How could you do that without Joss?” I’m sure there’s a funny metaphor, but I can’t think of it right now.

Has there been any talk of a sequel for I Am Number 4? Was it a big enough success at the box office for that to happen?

NOXON: I think that that’s on the back burner. The last I heard, they were shelving that idea for now. But, you never know. Sometimes the afterlife of movies burns brightly. They can certainly bring it back. But, right now, I don’t think there’s any immediate plans. My only real regret about that is that Number 6 was really awesome and I would have liked to have seen a lot more of her. We need another kick-ass girl heroine.

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