He lingers in the shadows behind Dark Shadows, in the cobwebby abysses of AbrahamLincoln: Vampire Hunter, secretly writing the words that summon the horror — and spark the comedy. Writing screenplays is generally an unheralded if essential task in the filmmaking process, and though Seth Grahame-Smith's name might be imposing, it isn't yet of the household variety. That might change in a day or two, and certainly by the beginning of summer. By then, not only will aficionados of the esoteric work of screenwriters be lauding his achievements but legions of vampire fans will be thirsting for whatever project he does next.
>> REVIEW: "Dark Shadows" by Peter Keough <<
Meanwhile, the 36-year-old Emerson graduate already has plenty of notoriety in the literary world, with two wonderfully titled NewYork Times best sellers to his credit. He wrote the original novel from which he adapted Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and pioneered the horror/classic mash-up genre with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
But it's his script for Tim Burton's new take on Dark Shadows, the revered and offbeat mid-'60s TV soap opera, that's going to inject fresh blood into Grahame-Smith's career. The film, starring Johnny Depp as the ashen-faced, oh-so-proper Barnabas Collins, a vampire who's been awakened from a thirsty two-century slumber, opens Friday. It should settle down just in time for Grahame-Smith's follow-up film, an adaptation of his unconventional Lincoln biography directed by Timur Bekmambetov (NightWatch, Day Watch); it opens on June 22.
>> PODCAST: Seth Grahame-Smith on "Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter" [MP3] <<
Grahame-Smith studied film at Emerson, graduated in 1998, then headed to Los Angeles with hopes of breaking into the business. That came quickly with him writing narration and voice-over scripts for documentaries on the History Channel and the Discovery Channel. Eager to learn, he turned those jobs into lessons in narrative. After a few years, he left and tried writing on his own, banging out some nonfiction books (including The Big Book ofPorn) and blogging about politics online to pay the rent. An editor friend, who knew of his love of horror, suggested, perhaps half in earnest, that he try writing a parody combining Jane Austen and the undead. From there, like the ranks of the revenants he celebrates, his career has taken on a life of its own.
We spoke earlier this week in Beverly Hills.
HAVE YOU ALWAYS BEEN A FAN OF HORROR? My stepfather was a used and rare book dealer. He was a big influence on me, in the sense that he was a huge collector of genre literature — horror, science fiction, and fantasy. We had shelves in our basement that held 5000 volumes of things like Heinlein, Bradbury, Asimov, and he guided me through those. But the real turning point for me came when I was 12, and he said, "Okay, you're old enough for [Dean] Koontz and [Stephen] King." So I got into King, heavy, reading The Shining and Cujo and The Stand. I was a young kid reading all of this and absorbing it and just eating it up. I worshipped at the altar of King, and have since then. To this day, he's my guy.