A Chat with Greg Nicotero About Making ‘Creepshow’ with the Best in the Biz
Even the greatest candy shop in the world has hours to maintain and deadlines to meet…
Nicotero reflects on working out the timeline for cramming so much fun into so little time, “I was pretty greedy at first because I’m like ‘We should do three stories per episode and each story should be like 17 minutes!’ and then we got into production. I was like ‘What the fuck was I thinking? We should do two’ and now we’re doing two per episode and it’s like literally three and a half days an episode to shoot. I was like ‘Who the fuck said two days?’
Many of my friends, I think it was Jeffrey Dean Morgan or Norman Reedus, was like ‘If you don’t wake up in the middle of the night with an anxiety attack you’re not you’re not reaching high enough.’ Well, I’m reaching really fucking high. I wake up every night thinking we need to get a shot of this or we need to do that.
Then The Walking Dead ended and I had about a week to fly home and catch my breath and then we were in pre-production on this and it was deciding which ones we were going to do first and choosing the main directors.
I called Joe Dante and I called Sam Raimi just to ask what they think. The challenge is that it’s three and a half days and I’m thinking I’m going to call on my friends and say hey ‘Come and shoot. You can’t stop filming for twelve hours and you can’t eat. You can’t go to the bathroom. You just gotta keep coming and go crazy’ and you know they all are.
Everybody was like ‘this sounds great.’ So I got Roxanne Benjamin and David Bruckner and Rob Schrab and John Harrison. John and I met in 1984, he was the first AD on Day of the Dead. When John directed Tales From The Dark Side: The Movie and Dune and all the other things, we all worked together. So when Creepshow came up I told him I want to embrace the spirit of the original movie.
I always felt Creepshow was way ahead of its time in terms of what George was doing as well as the visuals. I’ve been designing all the comic book panels and we’re doing the dissolves and the panning through the pages. It’s going to feel much more like a continuation than a reboot. I’m not rebooting anything. We’re not going to upgrade it or retell it. It’s really like you’re picking up another another issue of Creepshow and these are the stories inside that issue. These are the guys I have been in the trenches with all my life, so I feel like this is my chance to get to do this with them.”
When it comes to the spirit of the original Creepshow, there’s no better way to embrace it than by keeping it practical. The set is littered with dismembered parts, both human and monster, with some nostalgic pieces from ’82 stacked next to new visual props. None of which can be separated between decades visually as they all have the same horrific look.
Nicotero points outside of his office toward the warehouse housing multiple scenes, “Now you see we got monsters and all the crazy stuff, but we are so embracing the spirit of it. It’s 98 percent practical effects. All the creature work and all the makeup and the werewolves and the puppets are all practical. The funny thing is we’re shooting so fast that when one of the guys is done with a prop I tell them to just throw it on the floor in the room and grab the next one and run. So when you walked by our lock up everything is just fucking thrown everywhere. There’s no time to even pick anything up like the skin crawlers, the big bloody monsters, and all the other stuff.
We finish shooting and the prop is soaked in blood, but they just dropped it and it’s still sitting there. We don’t even have five minutes to wipe the blood off because we’re moving that fast and that’s where my world of makeup effects comes into play. It’s been fun. There’s a lot of people on the crew that have never done any work with puppets, puppeteers and rods or the boom that holds the creature and all the other kinds of practical effects. They’re used to shooting a gray ball and walking away. It’s a whole different world.
There’s a couple of wide shots that we have of a creature with the rod puppet and the boom monitor, so I hired a stop-motion animation guy and he does the wide shots. I thought that if we’re going to do it and we’re going to embrace the old school vibe, then I want to do it with stop-motion. We actually had a little scale model of it. I can’t wait for that.
I’ve done so much of that stuff, but honestly this is the first sort of non-zombie thing I’ve directed. There’s no zombies. I get to build my own scares and create these moments in a way that I’ve never done before. I’ve done it for other directors but, this is my thing now. It’s awesome.”
Interview continues on the next page…