Scott Cooper is an interesting filmmaker. He’s traversed a variety of genres, from musical (Crazy Heart) to gangster film (Black Mass) to dark drama (Out of the Furnace), but through it all there’s an inherent honesty that makes these films distinctly Cooper’s. He’s flirted with other kinds of genres before as he was attached to direct an adaptation of Stephen King’s The Stand at one point, and now he’s poised to make his debut in the horror genre with Antlers. Based on a short story, the film follows an elementary school teacher who takes in a troubled student that harbors a mysterious family secret with deadly consequences.
The project was announced a few months ago with Guillermo del Toro producing, and it gained new notoriety last week when Fox Searchlight announced a new overall deal that will see del Toro producing a slate of films for the Shape of Water studio. The first of those films could be Antlers, and when Collider’s own Steve Weintraub recently spoke with Cooper for the Blu-ray release of his Western Hostiles on April 24th, the filmmaker teased his take on Antlers and what fans can expect.
To begin, Cooper said there are actually two projects vying for first position as his next film: Antlers and his Martin Luther King Jr. assassination drama Hellhound on His Trail:
“Antlers I’m developing with Guillermo, I’ve been working on that as well as a screenplay called Hellhound on His Trail about the assassination of Dr. King and the manhunt for James Earl Ray.”
As for which is his next movie, Cooper said Antlers may have the edge and teased a tone in line with some exciting horror classics:
“Well I’m currently developing Antlers, [it and Hellhound on His Trail] are both kind of moving in sync, but it feels like Antlers might take the pole position. I’m working with the writers now before I start writing on it. But I’m in the process of really developing that with Guillermo and it’s been a lot of fun, and very different for me. I was so influenced early on by the work of John Carpenter, like Halloween, or certainly The Exorcist which is a favorite of mine, or even Tarkovsky’s Stalker. So I’m able to bring all of that into one film which is exciting.”
Cooper says it’s his unfamiliarity with the horror genre that partially spurred del Toro to tap him for Antlers:
“[Guillermo] said I’ve obviously never seen you direct a horror film, but there’s a lot of horrific moments in your movies, so I’m more interested in someone who doesn’t work in that genre to step into it. Which is I guess a bit like Friedkin in a sense, having not directing in that genre before he took on The Exorcist. So I find that exciting, I’ve made my musical of sorts and my personal film with Out of the Furnace and my anti-gangster gangster movie, and then the Western… [Guillermo is] fantastic and so supportive and wildly imaginative, so it’s really been a great collaboration. I’m very fortunate that he asked me to do this.”
Having directed a horror film before isn’t a prerequisite for making a great horror film, as evidenced by John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place, and one imagines Cooper’s sensibilities will result in a very visceral kind of movie.
Finally, if you missed what Cooper told us about HBO passing on a Shadow Country adaptation from with Jeff Bridges and David Milch, click here to check it out.
Look for Steve’s full interview with Cooper on Collider soon.