Director John Johnson on `Plan 9': His Serious Remake of Ed Wood's Beloved Cult Classic

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Director John Johnson on `Plan 9': His Serious Remake of Ed Wood's Beloved Cult Classic
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Promotional image from Plan 9 used with the generous permission of John Johnson of Darkstone Enterta …

On 11-30-12 I published an article that questioned the assertion of John Johnson and Darkstone Entertainment that they were really intent on releasing a serious remake of Ed Wood's campy cult classic "Plan 9 from Outer Space" rather than engaging in a beautifully postmodern circumvention of expectations in order to create a kind of ironic cult film themselves. The extremely atypical response from those filmmakers culminated in this interview with Mr. Johnson.

On the official "Plan 9" web site's History section, you suggest that a serious remake of "Plan 9 From Outer Space" is partly based on the original intention of Ed Wood to create a genuinely horrific science fiction film. Do you have access to any actual evidence that this was Wood's real vision for his movie?

JJ: Yes. I have interviewed Conrad Brooks [friend of Wood and actor in both original and remake] to the point of obsession. His story of the details of the production I have taken to heart. Including a couple inside jokes that I guess only Ed will get. But it makes me happy knowing they are there.

I like the quote on the web site that recognizes Ed Wood as the antithesis to, say, Michael Bay: great passion for the art of cinema hampered by a lack of technical skills. Frankly, give me passion over skills, any day. That description sounds a lot like the Ed Wood of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. Do you think it was more important for them to get the essence of Wood as a kind of folk hero right than the facts of his life?

JJ: Very true, Conrad and I have discussed in depths the Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (That Tim Burton's film was based on) and the factual information that wasn't very factual. But, I look at it this way. Ed Wood has become more than a Hero to filmmakers, in truth he has become more of a Legend. And when it comes to Legends... Usually facts are not on the mark, but the heart of the story is there.

Many attempts have been made to intentionally create a cult comedy based on bad filmmaking techniques in the way that "Plan 9 from Outer Space" unintentionally became a cult film. I have yet to witness a situation in which this plan has achieved success. Was an awareness of the difficulty of making a straight film that achieves ironic comedy part of your decision to try to turn the material into a sincerely dramatic horror science fiction film?

JJ: I didn't feel mocking Ed Wood's creation would do anyone any good. Being more focused on what he intended felt right. And to try and capture the unintentional cult classic like "Plan 9 From Outer Space" and "The Room" are impossible to recreate. It's the fact that they are unintentional is what makes them so endearing. Forcing that doesn't have the same feel and I doubt ever will. Above all I want to honor Ed. Not parody.

What many viewers of Ed Wood's original film may not quite grasp is that that the titular Plan 9 being enacted by the aliens actually has benevolent intent from the perspective of the rest of the universe. Will your film make that clear or do you plan to make the aliens a bit more selfish?

JJ: Ooh, There has been a lot of thought put into this subject, but it is not something I can answer until the film comes out. But there has been a lot of depth to the alien situation and how they should be portrayed.

The original title was supposedly "Grave Robbers from Outer Space" and though they might be termed "ghouls" any modern audience can clearly see it is a zombie movie. How do you plan to differentiate your zombies from the-shall we say, overabundance-of zombies in movies and TV today?

JJ: Well. As a modern filmmaker approaching the zombie genre, you have the well known Romero lore that rules the subject. Even "The Walking Dead" (which I adore) is truly an unofficial sequel to the "Night of the Living Dead" series. I did not want "Plan 9" to be that. I wanted the zombies to be very different from the Romero lore. The original film actually gave me the details to do so. And it also helps that Romero said Ed's film inspired him to make the Dead series. We just stepped away from the basic rules of zombies using Ed's original film as a key to do so.

Do you have any plans to remake any other Ed Wood movies? Or what about other notoriously bad films?

JJ: Not at the moment. After speaking to Conrad, I was inspired to remake this film, but I doubt the stars will align like that again. Not to say I am against the idea. Just haven't been approached with one that knocks me off my feet yet!

And, finally, who wins in a psychic kickboxing match between Criswell and Kreskin?

JJ: I have no prediction at this moment in time... But I am getting this... 7584397775. I don't know what that means yet. But it is something about the future.

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