You have only recently executive-produced the movie Christmas of
the Dead, a film based on your own story. In a few words, what is the
The film is about a man who has survived the zombie apocalypse and has
lost his wife and daughter, and just wants to have a normal life. Even if
it includes keeping his zombie-dead wife in the wash room with a chain
around her neck. He decides he wants to celebrate his wifeís favorite
holiday, Christmas, in mid-June, which means the lights and ornaments need
to go up. Itís not so much about decorations as a guy who wants the
world to seem normal, even if it canít really be that way again. Problem
is, the zombies are out there, and he has to work his daily routine of
going to the radio station where he used to work, and the gathering of
Christmas decorations, without being eaten by the monsters. Turns out,
thereís worse things than zombies out there.
What were your main inspirations when
writing the story?
I really am pretty fed up with zombie stories, to tell the truth. Iíve
written four or five, and a novel, Dead in the West, that deals with
them, so I wanted to go back more to the original inspirations for these
stories, I am Legend, the novel by Matheson, and the first film,
Last Man on
Earth. Also, the original Night
of the Living Dead, and my own
sometimes humorous approach to these things. I was looking for something
that was old and new again, on a low budget.
My son Keith [Keith Lansdale
interview - click here], who wrote the
screenplay, had the same idea, and he attacked it that way. His script is
original, but reminiscent in tone to that sort of thing. It was also
shot in a seventies style manner, like a lot of movies my friend, and
the director, Terrill Lee Lankford grew up and admired. I think as a
producer, I was thinking along the lines of sixties Roger Corman model
of producing [Roger Corman
bio - click here]. It was really a kind of love fest to the time when people
made low budget films for the love of it, and for the money. As for the
money part, that remains to be seen.
Your personal take on the zombie
genre as such?
Tired of it. But Iíll still go see a good
or unique zombie film. Or write a story that I think had a different edge.
I have a couple coming out Iím fond of. They sort of take for granted
that the dead have taken over, and in time will die out from rot, or from
lack of having anything to eat. If the living can keep out of their way,
the living will win through attrition. Even the living dead rot and fall
Have you ever envisioned Christmas
of the Dead to one day become a movie (at least more so than some of
your other stories), and how did the movie project come into being?
I wrote it for a hardback/chapbook for P.S. Publishing. In the meantime, I
was speaking with Bill Arscott of the Stephen F. Austin film department. I
teach screenwriting and short story writing at the same university, and
this grew out of a co-operative effort between pros and students and the
film department. It was an uneasy marriage at times, but we got through
all right. Weíre waiting to see how the baby turned out.
A few words about Christmas
of the Dead's director Terrill Lee Lankford [Terrill
Lee Lankford interview - click here], and what was you
It was hot. It was well over a hundred
degrees, and everyone suffered, but Lee was one of those who suffered a
lot, being from California. I had to keep warning him about the heat. But
he was a trooper and got it done, and brought his own ideas to the film. I
think he did a great job, especially under those heated circumstances.
Even people from here were miserable. Lee has been a friend for many
years, and I was glad we had this opportunity
As far as I know, Damian Maffei was
handpicked for the lead of Christmas of the Dead by you [Damian
Maffei interview - click here]. What can you tell us about him,
and what made you figure he was right for the part?
him a little bit part, and thought, man, this is a guy I want to work
with. There were others in the play, By Bizarre Hands, I would love to
work with too. Thatís where I saw them, in a production of the play in
New York. It was called A Night of Joe R. Lansdale and it was great fun. I
wish I had had room to afford all the people in the play for parts in the
film. Iím actually trying to figure a way to work with all of them
again. But the thing was, I saw Damian as a leading man in the old Brando,
Dean sort of school. He came through big time. He was very good.
of the Dead was shot in June, in the Texan heat - to echo what many
people must have asked: Why would you shoot a Christmas film in June?
guess I explained that in an earlier question, but simply: He was making
his own Christmas when he wanted to. In a dark, twisted kind of way, the
movie is about keeping the Christmas spirit all year long. Weíd love for
people to toss it in the DVD player come Christmas, watch the zombies
while they tear away at Christmas dinner. We could also start a new
holiday, Christmas In June.
go back all the way to the beginning of your career: What got you into
writing in the first place?
Comics. I read them and wanted
to write them. My mother made sure I had them and she encouraged my desire
to write. The desire grew from comics to books and stories, and then back
to comics again. I also was heavily influenced by movies, especially low
budget stuff when I was young. Those are the main reasons. I started
writing very early on. Earliest writings I know I did were written when I
was nine, but I played with the idea long before that by drawing terrible
looking comics and writing the captions. I think I sold a few of them for
a penny or something to relatives.
Though you have written in
many genres, you've become best known for your work in horror. Does this
at all bother you?
It only bothers me when that label is
attached because itís not accurate except with a horror story, same for
a crime story, a western story. I love them all and donít really sweat
the labels, but writer is a better label, and as for genre, the Lansdale
genre is the best label.
How would you describe your writing
It varies, but I think at the heart it has a story
tellerís beat about it, and most of the time an East Texas flavor. You
can dance to it.
You have also written quite a few comicbooks and
graphic novels. Now how did that come into being, some of your favourite
characters you have worked on, and how does writing for comicbooks differ
from writing prose?
I got a call from
DC Comics. The
editor there knew of me through others, and by this time I had written a
lot of fiction, including a Batman short story or two, and a
and a Batman Young Adult. I think they figured I could do it. My first
comic was Blood and Shadows, though I think Jonah Hex: Two Gun
out first. Probably the most famous of the comics Iíve written, and the
one that added a supernatural air to the series.
Even before Christmas of
the Dead, quite a few of your stories have been turned into movies,
starting with the short The Job in 1997. What can you tell us about
The Job and Drive In Date were both filmed. The Job was filmed around
Texas City, if I remember correctly, and I may not. I was there for a
day with my son Keith. We have walk-on parts in the background. Drive In
Date was like a play, and was in fact taken from a play I wrote that has
been performed, a one act that takes place in a car seat. Itís the
darkest thing I think Iíve written. Hell, the film and the play bother
My favorite thing of mine filmed is Don Coscarelliís film, Bubba
Ho-Tep. He treated the story fairly and was very good to me. Bruce and Ossie were wonderful. Everyone was good.
I love it.
also did an excellent job on his episode of Masters
of Horror for Showtime. My story
on and off a Mountain Road became the
opening story for that series, and it was very good.
Any upcoming Joe R.
Lansdale-adaptations you'd like to talk about?
Paxton, Brad Wyman and myself are trying to get my novel The Bottoms
the ground and into film. We have a wonderful script from Brent Hanley.
Weíll see. Greg Nicotero and I are trying to get The Drive In up and
sailing. Again, a wonderful script, this time from Steve Romano. I wrote a
script for Savage Season recently. Cold in July has been edging closer
over the last few years with its producers. Hereís hoping. All of
these are in the hopper. Time will tell.
since this is a movie site, your favourite movies?
kill a Mocking Bird, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Casablanca, the
original version of The
Haunting. So many.
Facebook, whatever else?
Yes, Iím on Facebook, and
Twitter. My website is www.joerlansdale.com.
Anything else you are dying to
mention that I have merely forgotten to ask?