The Movie Premiered at Sundance, Dave was There
Monday, January 30th, 2012
At midnight on January 23rd, the film adaptation of John Dies at the End debuted in front of an audience at the Sundance Film Festival, a little more than 10 years after I started writing the story and giving it away for free on the internet. I was totally there.
There’s no point in me talking about how great the movie is, as my opinion is obviously biased. So instead I’ll just link to these glowing reviews from Entertainment Weekly and Ain’t It Cool and Film School Rejects and others you can find HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE and whatever you can find by Googling “John Dies at the End” “Sundance” “Review.” These people aren’t fans, they have no reason to lie to you.
From left to right, that’s Robert Marley (Tai Bennett), me, Fred Chu (Jimmy Wong), Shelly the Girl Who Turns into Snakes (Allison Weissman), David Wong (Chase Williamson), Amy (Fabianne Therese), not sure (I think it’s Riley Critchlow, but it’d be really weird if I’m wrong so maybe I just shouldn’t guess at all, let me know if you’re out there), Arnie (Paul Giamatti, who is also Executive Producer), director/screenwriter/horror legend Don Coscarelli and John (Rob Mayes). Not shown is Clancy Brown who for some reason was never photographed with me. I know I have a photo with me and Detective Lawrence “Morgan Freeman” Appleton (Glynn Turman from The Wire) wandering around elsewhere. I’ll find it.
Like a month before, I had gotten word from Don Coscarelli that this was going to happen and that they could probably get me a ticket to the screening if I wanted one. Which I did. We agreed that we’d also try to arrange a time for me to meet everybody, because it would be the first time that had happened (I never went to the set of the movie while they were filming, because I was writing the sequel and it would mess with my head to start imagining Chase and Rob instead of the two guys I normally picture when writing Dave and John).
But I did get a ticket, probably thanks to some strings getting pulled. My wife didn’t, so she made the trip with me believing she wouldn’t get to see it. She was just there to make sure I didn’t fuck it up, and to see the mountains.
We hear through the grapevine that they would release about 30 tickets the day of the show (I guess tickets freed up by visiting LA types who had already frozen to death in the mountains) and that they’d go to whoever gets there first to the box office. They opened at 8, so on the day of the (midnight) showing my wife gets up at 6 am to go down there and finds people fucking camping there from the night before (in the mountains, in January). Still, she got either the last ticket, or one of the last.
I tell this whole story about the tickets because I want to point out that we were just there as tourists — I live in rural Illinois, it’s not like when you sell film rights to something that you’re suddenly being helicoptered around with academy award-nominated actors and walking on red carpets and shit. I figured having a ticket to the premiere and a chance to shake hands with the cast was like having a back stage pass. Like I’d won it in a contest or something.
(John, Amy, Det. Appleton, Dave, Don, Fred, Arnie, Shelly, Marconi)
“I want you to act like I’ve been really mean to you.”
So by the time the movie starts, the crowd is ready to go. It’s like a concert. Paul goes up there first and gives a little speech, and then Don goes up and tries to prepare the audience for a “weird” movie (I’d find out later that only about two dozen of the 300 or so people had read the book – the rest were coming in cold).
Some of you have only read this far because you’re looking for plot details – I assume this is all book fans reading this – but 1) I have no sense of how much I can divulge without getting in trouble and 2) I’d rather you just go in with a blank slate anyway. To enjoy a story you have to let it just take you away, if you’re sitting there with some checklist in your head of which characters or scenes need to be included then you’ve turned off the part of your brain that actually allows you to be transported. It’s the difference between actually enjoying a cookie versus just nervously counting chocolate chips. You know from IMDB that Jennifer Lopez isn’t in it (it’s Amy the whole way), you know from common sense that at 108 minutes it doesn’t include everything from a novel that takes several days to read. All I’ll say is that if you’re not smiling when this is over, you’re dead inside.
Shelly and the Detective
So I stick it out and the moment it ends, I get up and go and when I get back to find my wife, the producer and publicist grabs my arm and say, “They need you on stage.” And that’s when I found out they were doing an audience Q & A, and further found that I was apparently supposed to be part of it. Somebody captured it all on video:
Then it was over and I came home to the cold, disapproving gaze of our pet rabbit. He hates me.
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