John Carpenter's Quotes

1 I take every failure hard. The one I took the hardest was The Thing (1982). My career would have been different if that had been a big hit... The movie was hated. Even by science-fiction fans. They thought that I had betrayed some kind of trust, and the piling on was insane. Even the original movie's director, Christian Nyby , was dissing me.
2 I've never had any illusions about my musical abilities. I've got very basic musical chops, that's okay - I've proudly stretched them as far as I possibly could.
3 At the beginning, I was doing the music out of necessity, because we had no money. At some point, I realized that the scores became another voice, another way I could further what I was doing as a filmmaker. It became an extension of directing. Composing was a lot of extra work, but I kept going as long as I could stand it. Kind of like directing.
4 I got to work within the studio system, and make all those movies the way I wanted them, and I'm very proud of that. It was a fight, though, because the studios don't ever want to give control to the filmmakers. It's all changed now. A lot of directors today don't even care about the final cut to begin with. Hell, they just want a job.
5 The biggest lesson that I learned from film school was to try to get and maintain, if possible, final cut. Creative control is the essence of having the ability to make your own movie, and not someone else's.
6 Well, before I write my scripts, I know how much thy'll have to cost, so I write them to fit our small budget. Idea first, then the budget, then the script. We do it backwards. My only criteria when working a deal is that I get control of the film - creative control. For a certain amount of money, you see, at this point in my career, they will give me control if it's done cheaply enough. For a $10 million project they would't give me that control. Not now. So, it's an open-and-shut contractual thing. Will you give me cast approval and final cut and budget approval. And if you ask those questions and they say no, well, then you go elsewhere. ["Films in Review" interview, 1980]
7 The Blair Witch Project (1999) is a movie that I really don't think ever had a director. It's one of the few movies I've ever seen that didn't have one.
8 [responding to Debra Hill 's remark in The Fog (1980) DVD commentary] I recycle all of Howard Hawks ' films, Debra.
9 With the kinds of movies being made by studios today, there are very few low-budget films, and those are entrusted to young geniuses, not old guys like myself.
10 [on Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)] We found that the audience didn't want different stories. What they wanted was just the same old thing over and over again. [The producers] got mad because they thought I'd destroyed their franchise. They took it out of my hands and I was done with Halloween.
11 If I had three wishes, one of them would be "Send me back to the '40s and the studio system and let me direct movies." Because I would have been happiest there. I feel I am a little bit out of time. I have much more of a kinship for older-style films, and very few films that are made now interest me at all. I get up and walk out on them.
12 The trick with shooting a low-budget film is to shoot as little footage as possible and extend the scenes for as long as one can.
13 [on making Halloween (1978). When we needed kids walking down the street, anyone who had a family rounded up their kids. Everyone helped out - it was just the joy of making movies.
14 I arrived in L.A. the most naive human being on the face of the earth. When I got off the plane at LAX, I got a map of Los Angeles, looked up USC, and decided to walk. It only looked like it was a couple of blocks away. After about 15 blocks of carting my luggage down some endless street, I looked at the map again. It took me a while to figure out the scope of Los Angeles. If I'd continued walking that day, I would still be walking. I was a real country boy.
15 I can remember at USC in the late Sixties when everybody was making socially relevant films. Good God, they'd have given anything if you made a film about Vietnam, about American injustices. That's the kind of thing they wanted. They looked down on you and felt you were naive if you cared about Hollywood films. But I wasn't caught up in that. I went back to my roots.
16 Everyone who ever made a low-budget film was influenced by Night of the Living Dead (1968).
17 They Live (1988) was made as response to the horror of the Reagan years.
18 [on how they created the Michael Myers mask] We didn't have enough money to make it. Production designer, Tommy Lee Wallace brought a clown mask, which was one idea. Then he brought a Star Trek (1966) Captain Kirk mask, It was a really terrible likeness of William Shatner , I mean terrible looking. We cut the eye holes a little bit bigger, spray painted it.....and that was it, it looked really creepy.
19 I can play just about any keyboard but I can't read or write a note.
20 Jeff Bridges is the greatest, as an actor and a person. He's the best actor of his generation, bar none.
21 Monsters in movies are us, always us, one way or the other. They're us with hats on. The zombies in George A. Romero 's movies are us. They're hungry. Monsters are us, the dangerous parts of us. The part that wants to destroy. The part of us with the reptile brain. The part of us that's vicious and cruel. We express these in our stories as these monsters out there.
22 I don't want to be in the mainstream. I don't want to be a part of the demographics. I want to be an individual. I wear each of my films as a badge of pride. That's why I cherish all my bad reviews. If the critics start liking my movies, then I'm in deep trouble.
23 Film buffs who don't live in Hollywood have a fantasy about what it's like to be a director. Movies and the people who make movies have such glamor associated with them. But the truth is, it's not like that. It's very different. It's hard work. If you were suddenly catapulted into that situation - without any training - you would say after it was over: "Oh, God! You're kidding! You mean, this is what it's like? This is what they put you through?" Yes, as a matter of fact, it is like this - and it's often worse. People have tried to describe the film business, but it's impossible to describe because it's so crazy. You must know your craft inside out and then pick up the rules as you go along.
24 When somebody who makes movies for a living -- either as an actor, writer, producer or director -- lives to be a certain age, you have to admire them. It is an act of courage to make a film -- a courage for which you are not prepared in the rest of life. It is very hard and very destructive. But we do it because we love it. Regardless of how bitter I was a few years ago because of my experiences at the studios, I'm still making films.
25 I'm pretty happy with who I am. I like myself and what I'm doing. I don't need to be the world's greatest director or the most famous -- or the richest. I don't need to make a whole lot of great films. I can do my job and I can do it pretty well. This is the realization I've come to, later in life. It's called growing up.
26 When you've been in the movie business for as long as I have your priorities change. The reasons I got into it in the beginning were very pure. I was driven by a creative urge to be a part of Hollywood and to make my mark in the movies. As I've gone through it practically -- in real life -- I've realized that ambition is immature. Luck and the randomness of fate play such a big part in whether I'm a success or a failure. After a while, I told myself, "The only thing I can do is the best I can do." That's what being a professional is all about. It's how I conduct myself. I try to live with dignity and honor. But I can't ever depend on reaching my goals, because there's too much that I can't control in my way. I've learned that I either have to be happy with who I am -- or not.
27 I'm flattered if someone comes to me with the idea of remaking one of my films. Remake or original, making a movie still comes down to old-fashioned hard work. If it's based on another film, well, so be it. Remakes have been part of cinema since its earliest days - think of A Star Is Born (1937), which was remade numerous times. And they're especially big right now because it's become increasingly difficult to lure audiences into theaters. Advertising a remade title that may be familiar to audiences can hopefully cut through the clutter of titles and products that one sees.
28 Working for the studios is no piece of cake. But it's a trade-off situation, whomever you work for. You have much less creative freedom working for big studios, but they really release your film. By comparison, you have enormous creative freedom working for independent companies like New World. But when it comes time to sell your film and show it to the public, they don't have the same clout as big studios. The independents have to fight to get your film in theaters in which to show your film and they have to fight to keep your film in those theaters. Everybody in the business faces one truth all the time -- if your movie doesn't perform immediately, the exhibitors want to get rid of it. The exhibitors only want product in their theaters which makes money. Quality has nothing to do with it.
29 Hollywood is a weird place. The film industry has changed. Business is bad. Directors are treated like bums now. This is a bad time for creative people. Hollywood is a mean place to work. [1986]
30 I have always had different aspects to my personality. I think I'm a long-term pessimist and a short-term optimist. I do feel a great darkness about humanity. But - simultaneously and contradictorily - I also feel that life can be pretty fabulous. I should also express some of that in my work; I don't want to limit myself as a filmmaker. I want to be true to the parameters of all films. They should create a mood and tingle you emotionally. That is what I'm after. I want the audience to experience some feeling. I want them to know they're alive.
31 Movies are pieces of film stuck together in a certain rhythm, an absolute beat, like a musical composition. The rhythm you create affects the audience.
32 Another trend is a lot of women are going to see horror films. That's a really welcome development for horror... It actually has a broadened audience. I think most studios recognize that there is a real potential in horror, if you can find something new and unique. For a while it was a lot of remaking of Japanese horror films that have a whole different way of approaching a story - some of which translates quite well in this country. It is fascinating to watch for a guy who worked in the horror trenches.
33 I don't deny that commercial success means a lot to me, the best reviews you can get are at the box office.
34 [on why he passed on Fatal Attraction (1987)] There wasn't a grain of originality in it - it was Play Misty for Me (1971) with Michael Douglas filling in for Clint Eastwood . Also, the original version, the script I read, had Glenn Close winning in the end by killing herself and thereby getting the moral upper hand. I knew the audience was never going to buy that. The audience was always gonna want to see the wife shoot the bitch. Sure enough, they shot the original script, previewed it, got booed off screen and went back and shot the ending you see today. That was a journey I couldn't be bothered to go on.
35 Things haven't been going great lately. For a while now people haven't really been getting my movies. Certainly the box office hasn't been up to speed. Sure, some of my recent stuff hasn't been perfect, but neither has it been the shit that many have said. Critically, it's all become a bit of a crapshoot. The critics thought I was a bum when I started out and they think I'm a bum now.
36 We're a violent country. We always have been. We embrace our individuality and our violence.
37 In France, I'm an auteur; in Germany, a filmmaker; in Britain; a genre film director; and, in the USA, a bum.
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