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    Interview: Writer Bryan Fuller Talks Reinventing Stephen King's CARRIE and Reflections on VOYAGER!

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    Posted: 06:18:08 on November 01 2002
    By: Steve Krutzler
    Dept: TrekWeb Features

    Written by Steve Krutzler

    After finishing at the University of Southern California's prestigious film school, Bryan Fuller went on to become one of the formative influences in STAR TREK: VOYAGER. He freelanced two episodes for DEEP SPACE NINE's fifth season ("The Darkness and the Light" and "Empok Nor") before becoming a writer and eventual co-producer on VOYAGER. Contributing such memorable episodes as "Drone," "Living Witness," "Bride of Chaotica!," "One Small Step" and "Friendship One," Fuller brought a desire to break format and tell stories outside the traditional norm.

    Since VOY ended in 2001 the writer has been busy, developing his own series for Showtime and writing the screenplay for an updated version of Stephen King's CARRIE, airing on NBC Monday November 4th, at 8/7c. TrekWeb caught up with Bryan to get the scoop behind this horror classic, his reflections on VOYAGER and his prescription for Captain Janeway.

    TW: Tell us about CARRIE, your new version airing on NBC Monday the 4th of November. What attracted you to this project, the latest of several Stephen King remakes?

    BF: I [had] just finished writing a pilot for MGM called "Dead Like Me" (formerly titled "Dead Girl") and the studio was very happy with the script. They asked if I would be interested in doing a remake of Carrie and giving it an updated spin. I of course flipped. You have no idea what a huge Stephen King fan I am. His books were a cornerstone of my adolescence. If we were playing Sophie's Choice with my fandom and I had to choose Trek or King, I would chose King every time. One of the reasons I was so attracted to this project is that it was a veritable minefield. There were so many ways it could go wrong. I was just as pissed off by Carrie 2: The Rage as anybody else and was determined not to let that happen again. I felt if I was involved I might be able to prevent it from becoming a schlock fest -- which both MGM and NBC desperately wanted to avoid. As far as it being another in a long line of recent Stephen King remakes, I wasn't daunted. Dead Zone has proven itself and is quite successful both in terms of what Mister A.C. Neilsen has to say and what Michael Piller and his posse have done creatively. [TDZ] showed me that if you are true to the source material and have a quality product, you will find an audience.

    TW: David Livingston was the line producer on CARRIE. Did you visit the set at all and did you and David ever work together on VOYAGER or DS9?

    BF: I worked with David Livingston several times on Star Trek as a director and sincerely feel he is one of the best directors episodic Trek has ever had. David Carson (director GENERATIONS, CARRIE, -ed.), however, I had never worked with before. I phoned Rick Berman when we were considering Carson for the job and he gave him a glowing recommendation. Rick said without hesitation that David Carson would give us an amazing movie and he was right. I was on the set all but 5 or 6 days of the 35+ day shoot. It was an amazing experience to work with a director as truly gifted as David Carson.

    TW: What sets this CARRIE adaptation apart from its predecessor?

    BF: The remake has always been about going back to the book and grounding the characters and situations in a grittier post-Columbine reality. The Brian DePalma version has a wonderful fairy tale quality to it. It's a much more innocent film than our remake in many ways. Whereas the characters in the original are very clearly drawn in black and white, we had fun playing them more ambiguously. Sissy Spacek's Carrie is very naive and very much the innocent. Angela Bettis' Carrie is still the innocent but she knows the score and doesn't have any delusions as to who she is and where she stands in this high school society. Piper Laurie's Margaret was off her rocker and clearly insane, Patricia Clarkson plays the same role much closer to her vest with a quiet intensity that's just as unnerving. A lot of the differences in the two versions can be boiled down to attitude, and our attitude was greatly informed by the times in which we are living. Brian DePalma's version is indicative of the 70's era of waning innocence. Our version has a harder-hitting quality of LOST innocence -- we simply don't have the same perception of high school violence that we used to.

    What's great about this version of Carrie is that you have essentially the same story, but you have scenes that were in the book that weren't in the movie. What's more you have scenes that weren't in either the original or the book and that are only in this version. This gives us a little more insight into the characters and why they do the things they do.

    TW: Can you give us an example of an element or scene that's entirely new in your CARRIE?

    BF: This version of Carrie begins two weeks after prom night. This allows us to use the convention of a criminal investigation into the events of Prom Night to tell the story from the perspective of various survivors. This approximates the narrative device of the book that tells the story of the original movie through flashbacks with added information shared by the survivors ten years after the fact. It's as if authorities didn't know Klebold and Harris were responsible for Columbine and are trying to figure out why all these teenagers died and who is responsible. In this case, the Nancy Allen (Chris) and John Travolta (Billy) characters (now played by Emilie De Raven of Roswell fame and Jesse Cadotte) are essentially the Klebold and Harris of Chamberlain, Maine but what happened was so huge and so unexplainable nobody knows for certain. In addition to this, we have new scenes between Carrie and Sue Snell, Carrie and Chris, and Carrie and her mother that deepen the motivations for these characters. It was particularly interesting to delve into the mind of the bully and rationalize her behavior. Naturally, I tapped into my own anti-religious sentiments and made Chris' motivations a little clearer: she loathes Carrie not because she's a harmless geek but because she's a deeply religious person. Chris is threatened by that. Religion pisses her off and she takes it out on Carrie, who personifies what she hates. We also get to see a little more of the positive side of religion. This was inspired by a conversation with David Keith who asked that there be at least one scene that portrayed religious people a little more sympathetically and a little less like fanatical nuts. So you get to see that side of Carrie, as well.

    TW: What's the story behind your Showtime series?

    BF: "Dead Girl" is now called "Dead Like Me." It's about a young girl who has no idea what she wants to do with her life. She ends up dying and becomes a grim reaper. I worked very closely with Joe developing stories for the show should it go to series. He is a fountain of ideas and truly one of the most creative people I have ever met. Joe [Menosky] wrote a script for Dead Like Me called "Doggie Style" and if we do go to series, it will be the second episode after the pilot. I hope it's his first of many. We just focus-tested "Dead Like Me" yesterday and it went very well. We'll know soon if we're going to series. Keep your fingers crossed.

    TW: Which do you prefer: horror or sci-fi?

    BF: Actually I prefer to meld those genres. The movie that really turned me onto science-fiction was Alien, and it's actually just as much horror as it is sci-fi. The setting was science-fiction but the situation was horror. I look at Carrie the same way. Psycho-kinesis or any other paranormal mental ability is very much a science-fiction convention but what's done with it in Carrie is very much horror. And I know this is going to damage my credibility, but I enjoyed the hell out of "Jason X" and that was primarily because of the science-fiction twists the writer added to the Friday the 13th mythos. But if we're just talking about purebreds, I'd have to say I prefer horror.

    TW: Many of Brannon Braga's early TREK scripts were firmly rooted in ideas that might be considered closer to horror than sci-fi. Did that help develop a friendship relationship between the two of you on VOYAGER or was the difference in hierarchy too much to surmount?

    BF: The writing staff worked very closely on Voyager and since Brannon and I share a lot of the same sensibilities it was only natural that we became good friends. The hierarchy was not always insurmountable. At times it was wonderful because we were just a bunch of people with like-minded interests in a room trying to tell some really cool stories. Other times the hierarchy was a huge pain in the ass that left you with the desire to slap a few select people.

    TW: What are some of your favorite Bryan Fuller VOYAGER episodes?

    BF: There are a few that I'm very proud of. "Barge of the Dead," "Course: Oblivion," "Bride of Chaotica," and "Mortal Coil" are among my favorites. Naturally, I love the ones that have a bit more of a horror element to them better like "Barge" and "Course: Oblivion."

    TW: You seem to like breaking the format of TREK with episodes like Chaotica and off-beat almost fatalistic installments like Course: Oblivion. What is an idea you vigorously wanted to do on VOY and never could because of politics or otherwise?

    BF: I really wanted to do the episode where the entire crew died and was harvested by those aliens that reanimate other species' dead to propagate their own race. That story eventually became "Workforce" which I felt was a little lacking. Alas.

    TW: VOY is often lambasted for producing perhaps only a season's worth of classic, valuable STAR TREK, How do you respond and what do you think the series' ultimate legacy will be?

    BF: To be fair, I'd say there were at least two, maybe even three, seasons of classic valuable Trek from Voyager. I think the show's ultimate legacy would be the uneasy relationship between Janeway and Seven of Nine and The Doctor. The best episodes of the series always somehow revolved around one of those three characters. For me, the dynamic between Janeway and Seven of Nine was (and I know I'll get knocked in the head for this) much deeper and much more interesting than the friendship between Spock and Kirk. Spock and Kirk are fantastic characters but their friendship was never the powder keg that existed between Janeway and Seven.

    TW: What do you mean "powderkeg?" Give us an example from an episode that really galvanizes this notion for you.

    BF: "Prey" is the first episode that really illustrated the great things to come between these two characters. Seven was always disobeying orders to do what she felt was best for any given situation. She couldn't care less about diplomacy or the prime directive, and that made her the perfect foil for Janeway.

    TW: Do you think Kathryn Janeway should have an insane asylum named after her? What kind of feelings did the staff have when they read fan reactions that decried the uneven and erratic portrayal of Janeway throughout the series?

    BF: I think Janeway's uneven and erratic characterization is what made her real. People are not even-tempered. People are not always stable, especially when they're cut off from the chain of command. Kate Mulgrew gave Janeway a sense of danger and unpredictability. I loved that about her. You never knew when this lady was going to go ballistic on your ass so you better not screw with her and that's that. She was a loose cannon and I wouldn't have it any other way. I think it's unfortunate that fans missed out on one of the most interesting attributes of her character and felt it was a flaw.

    TW: Let's talk ENTERPRISE. Would you have been interested in joining Brannon's staff or were you ready to move on?

    BF: To be absolutely honest, I was very much ready to move on. That's not to say I wouldn't have stayed if circumstances were different. I love Star Trek and will always love Star Trek, but it's not my show and that was very frustrating at times. Rick and Brannon knew I was frustrated and they could sense my creative interest in the show was definitely beginning to wane. We parted on very good terms and I have a tremendous amount of respect for both Rick and Brannon and hope to work with them again.

    TW: Where do you see yourself in ten years?

    BF: In ten years I hope to be doing more of the same of what I'm doing now. I'm really having a great time in my life and career right now. I hope to sustain it for as long as possible.

    2002 All Rights Reserved.

    Don't miss CARRIE on Monday November 4th, at 8/7c on NBC.

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