Call it counter-programming. At a time when vampire romance tales threaten to completely extinguish any reminder that the undead were once creatures to be feared rather than swooned over, shooting has at long last begun on the sequel to 30 Days of Night, the Josh Hartnett-starring film adaptation of Steve Niles fan-favorite comic book. Filling in for the Melissa George, the first film's heroine/survivor is Lost's Kiele Sanchez, who's joined by genre veteran Mia Kirshner and Sanchez's fellow Lostie Harold Perrineau. Last week we chatted with Niles from his home in LA about what we can expect from 30 Days of Night: Dark Days.
How did this come about in the wake of the first film?
We thought the first 30 Days did really well. It did really good at the box office and has certainly gained a lot of popularity online. So we were pushing that right from the get go. But at first we didn't get the immediate response we wanted. Then [director] Ben [Katai] and I made the deal to just go ahead and do the script. We had such a great time doing the script, pretty soon after that we got the whole thing greenl it. This is really the strangest project in that it went from one week when it didn't look like it was going to happen to the next week, when they were like, "Pack your bags for Vancouver." I've never had anything turn around so fast. I think a lot of that goes to Ben and the script, and what he's been doing with directing and keeping this project moving forward. It took sevens years to get 30 Days of Night on the screen so that was like the ultimate slow grind and then this was all the sudden, "It's happening!" I've never had that happen.
Can you tell us a little about the changes that we'll see from the first film? Aside from the story of course, there's a new director, new cast, a new actress playing Stella.
It was somewhat of a funny situation because when we went back to the cast Ben and I were like "Alright now, who do we want to get? Okay, well Stella's pretty much the only one still alive; we've killed everybody." We went after Melissa George first because basically it's her movie, and we wanted to give her the first shot at it. But it just turned out to be one of those things with scheduling and all of that and it just didn't work out. So I talked to Ben, and the producers, JR and Nick Phillips at Sony and basically the decision was to go just a little bit younger in hopes of doing the other comics. Because of course there are more comics than just the three. There's plenty of material to keep it going. So I kind of like the idea of hitting reset. So there's this idea, even if we did get Melissa, there's no way we'd get Hartnett back. So starting from scratch is actually working out really well.
Sanchez is an interesting choice. She has a sympathetic side, but she seems to be pretty athletic and has a sort of toughness to her.
Yeah that was the way Templesmith approached the art in the first one. Moving from the first to the second, Stella herself transformed. From 30 Days to Dark Days she cuts and dyes her hair and really her whole personality changes. And everything I've heard from Kiele so far is just fantastic. She's really happy, so I'm thrilled.
The rest of the cast also sounds interesting. Mia Kirshner, Diora Baird, Harold Perrineau. Can you talk briefly about these guys?
I'm really happy to see some familiar faces. And I think as of now I can at least mention Mia has wrapped her portion of the shoot; and we are really happy with her portrayal. It just came out fantastic, so we're really excited for that. Everyone is coming through, and one of the great things about the casting and having some of these familiar faces is seeing the fan reaction to it. Everybody was very happy to see people they knew. So I am very pleased.
With the new team in place, do you guys know how you're going to do the other graphic novels?
Absolutely. Well I know I am. But you have to ask the guys at Sony to see what they think. I'm sure it's all going to boil down to what happens with this one. But the material is there, Ben and I have already talked about it. You know when you've been adapting a story there's that comic-book reality and then the movie reality. We've sort of adjusted all of Dark Days to fit with the movie reality of the first one so we can segue into the other stories too. We're ready for it as long as the audience is, so it just boils down to what they want. We're all set.
When the first film was released, you mentioned that it might be smart to do Dark Days and the third graphic novel as one film.
Yeah, it wound up being actually too much story. When I did Dark Days the main thing was that I didn't want to do another sequel where we just go right back to "the further adventures of people stuck in the darkness" I wanted to get into the vampires a little more. I like the idea of doing a full movie away from that setting before we go back to it.
So what we'll see on screen will be from the Dark Days graphic novel only?
I mean we will get a glimpse of where Barrow, Alaska is at these days because that is important as we move on in the series; because it's really a transformed town. Again, the extra movie and not combining the two, really gives us that. Then if you took the third one it's not really the Barrow that we knew from the first comic. So I think it would make a lot more sense if we came back to it after a sort of beat in time.
Can you say what the current plan is for the film's release?
There hasn't been an official release date but we're thinking probably the third quarter of 2010. Again it's one of these situations where we had certain expectations going in and we're like, "Well, it's moving really fast. The reaction to it is better than we expected." So who knows, it could wind up being sooner but right now everyone in the shoot is pleasantly surprised on how well it's going.