IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Director Joe Dante Talks 'The Hole' and a 'Gremlins' Remake

Tuesday, 02 October 2012 17:44 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Director Joe Dante Talks 'The Hole' and a 'Gremlins' Remake

Here at iamROGUE, we pride ourselves on the number of legendary directors that we have had a chance to talk to over the past few years including Francis Ford Coppola, John Carpenter, Steven Spielberg, Chris Columbus, Roger Corman, Lawrence Kasdan, Woody Allen, and Oliver Stone. We can now add another iconic name to that list … Joe Dante

Dante first gained attention in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s for making several classic genre films including Piranha, and The Howling, before he was invited to direct Twilight Zone: The Movie along with Steven Spielberg, George Miller, and John Landis. But his biggest hit to date came when he directed the now classic horror comedy Gremlins, which was produced by Spielberg and based on a script by Chris Columbus

The director would later go on to helm such equally beloved films as Innerspace, The Burbs, Gremlins 2: The New Batch, Matinee, Small Soldiers, and Looney Tunes: Back in Action. Dante now returns to the genre that he practically created with a new horror-thriller entitled The Hole, which opened in Los Angeles on September 28th and is available on Blu-ray, DVD, and VOD beginning October 2nd.

The Hole, which is available in 3D, centers on a pair of brothers (Nathan Gamble and Chris Massoglia) who stumble upon a mysterious hole in their basement that leads to the darkest corridors of their fears and nightmares. In addition to Gamble (The Dark Knight) and Massoglia (Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant), the film features a great cast that includes Teri Polo (Meet the Parents), Haley Bennett (Marley & Me), Peter Shinkoda (TNT’s Falling Skies), Dick Miller (Gremlins) and legendary actor Bruce Dern (The Burbs).

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with the great Joe Dante about his work on The Hole, as well as the future of the Gremlins series and his overall career. The iconic director discussed his new movie, why he wanted to make it, how filmmaking has changed since he began, the film’s young cast, Guillermo del Toro’s true involvement with the film, reuniting with Dern and Miller, the legacy of Gremlins, a possible remake, and how he feels about young filmmakers that have inspired by his work.


Here is what the legendary filmmaker had to say:

IAR: To begin with, when you first read the script for this film, what about it spoke to your sensibilities as a filmmaker and made you want to tell this particular story as your next film?

Joe Dante: As you might imagine I get a lot of horror stuff and frankly a lot of them are pretty similar. The thing about this script was that for one thing, they were interested in me doing it, which is always pleasant. But when I read it, even though the situation wasn't exactly brand new and I had seen a similar situation in other pictures, it didn't go where I thought it was going to go. When I coupled that with the fact that the characters were really well written and talked like real people, I thought this is actually an off-beat way of approaching this kind of material and that's really what I liked about it. I hope that maybe I could do something a little bit different with this.

Obviously you have been making movies for a long time and while the process of filmmaking hasn’t changed much, the technology that is used has. Can you talk about that in terms of making this film? 

Dante: I'm old enough to have been in this business when people were still working on Moviolas. So I've seen all the changes happen and the Avid was a particularly big change. Then the whole digital thing was a huge change, which is part of the reason why I’m no longer a member of the Editor's Guild. For this movie, obviously we didn't have a lot of money so I talked them into shooting it in 3D, which meant that we would shoot it digitally. The process was not unlike other movies, but one thing that is unusually different is that when I used to make movies set in America we would shoot in Hollywood, now I make them in Vancouver when they are set in America, as does pretty much everybody else. The rules in Vancouver are such that in order to qualify for Canadian subsidies you can’t bring a lot of actors from America. Luckily this was a pretty small cast so that wasn’t a big problem, but also you have to use Canadian crew. It basically means that you are making a Canadian movie, but you are trying to tell people that it is an American movie. That was working fine for us except it was the coldest winter they had in years and we had exteriors to do. Finally we had to just bring them home back to Pasadena because there was just no way we were going to shoot these kids going into a swimming pool in Vancouver. They wouldn’t be able to jump into it because it would be frozen over.


The young actors in this film all give very strong performances, and I know that they have all been featured in big studio films in the past. Is that how you became aware of them or was it just through the normal casting process?

Dante: Well not really, I mean I had seen Nathan in the Batman movie (The Dark Knight) and I’d seen The Mist. He was quite a bit younger in those movies, but he was just terrific. He reminded me of Ethan Hawke the first time I worked with him. He was just so professional that he definitely was my first choice. But then to find Haley and Chris, I usually like to read couples that I am casting in tandem so we read a whole bunch of kids with each other and those two were paired from the beginning and they worked out perfectly. Now Chris had been in a picture called Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant, which I was trying to get to see but they never ended up being able to show it to me. So I basically just took him on the fact that he seems to be the right guy.

In the past you have been known to cast your screenwriter as an actor in the movie so that you can have them on set for re-writes, were you able to that with this film?

Dante: I would have loved to do it with Mark (Smith), but he never was able to come up there. I think he was in the Southeast somewhere.

Is it true that director Guillermo del Toro was involved in writing the script or is that just an Internet rumor?

Dante: I certainly know Guillermo but I don’t think so … oh, you know what it is, I used his composer. I used the guy from Pan’s Labyrinth (Javier Navarrette). He was very good.      

Legendary actor Bruce Dern appears in the film and you’ve worked with him several times before, what was it like reuniting with him on this project?

Dante: Yes, I worked with Bruce on The Burbs, and I worked with him on an episode of CSI, the Halloween episode I did a couple of years ago. He was also one of the voices in Small Soldiers. I love Bruce! Any excuse to work with Bruce is fine with me. I actually had the part beefed up a little bit just for him.


There is also a great cameo in the film from actor Dick Miller (Gremlins), who has appeared in most of your movies. Did you feel that it was important to have him in this film as well? 

Dante: Yes well Dick is actually kind of retired, but he came out to do this for me because there is a scene where the kid is supposed to go and get a pizza from the pizza guy and I said, “Do I have to cast an actor for this? I mean it’s just a pizza guy.” I said, “I can do it.” Then I realized, oh, wait I know what I can do, I can have Dick do it and make a little joke out of it. So that’s we did. He’s certainly my good luck charm. He’s been in almost every feature that I’ve ever done and a lot of my TV projects. I did it mainly because I was a fan and I liked watching him act. I didn’t think he was getting get enough opportunities and then we became friends. When you look at the work of a lot of directors and you go back to their old movies, you see the same faces all the time because they were all friends.

Since we are kind of on the subject of Gremlins, I saw something recently that took me by surprise. I saw a picture in a magazine of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt with all their children walking through an airport. What amazed me was that one of the younger kids had a plush Gizmo doll in their backpack, and it just made me think about the incredible legacy that Gremlins has. It’s a film that has clearly crossed over generations and I’m curious what you think about that?

Dante: (Laughing) I think it’s lovely. I hope they were talking about being in the next Gremlins movie.

Well that actually brings me to my next question, what is going on with that project? Is there still talk of making another Gremlins movie?

Dante: I have no idea what’s going on, nobody tells me anything. I can only presume. I know for a fact that there have been people that have been pitching over the years of making another Gremlins movie, but I don’t think anything has gelled with anybody yet.

Would that be a remake of the original film or a third installment of your series?

Dante: My guess is that it would be a remake.


Finally, when J.J. Abrams' Super 8 came out last year, there was a lot of talk about how similar it was in tone to the films that directors like you and Steven Spielberg were making in the early ‘80s. When you see this new generation of filmmakers taking inspiration from your early work, how does that make you feel? Do you consider it homage, or do you think it’s more like artistic stealing? 

Dante: I think you have to consider it an homage because they all do it and sometimes unconsciously. I have gone back to movies of mine and I’ve seen shots that reminded me of the movie I just saw that I didn’t realize I was copying. These things just roll around in your head and you never know when they are going to come out. Super 8 was a conscious attempt to go back to making the kind of ‘80s movies that were popular then, and The Hole is a kind of retro ‘80s movie as well.

The Hole is currently playing in theaters in Los Angeles and Atlanta, and will be available on Blu-ray, DVD, and VOD beginning October 2nd.


The Gremlins remake is currently in development.




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