I recently had the pleasure of interviewing filmmaker Daniel Farrands, who is currently working on three films: The Amityville Murders, The Haunting of Sharon Tate and The Murder of Nicole Brown Simpson. In addition to speaking about these current projects, we also had a chance to talk about Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers, as well as some of the documentaries horror fans, are no doubt familiar with that Daniel Farrands worked on. This was an interesting conversation that I hope you enjoy!
Andrew Grevas: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today. So you’re currently working on three films at the moment, correct?
Daniel Farrands: (Laughs) yeah I have three films in post-production at the moment. I’ve made three features in the past year. The first one will be coming out in February and is called The Amityville Murders. It’s about the DeFeo family murders that tragically took place in 1974, in the infamous house that would later become known as the Amityville haunting house. This story focuses in on the days leading up to these horrific murders that were committed by the eldest son. It’s an interesting film. I brought back 2 of the stars from Amityville 2: The Possession, which was very loosely based on that crime. Those two people were Diane Franklin and Burt Young, who played father and daughter in that film and now here they play father and daughter, only a generation up. Now Diane plays the Mom, and Burt plays the Grandfather. That was a nice bit of casting and I couldn’t have asked for a better partner in crime in making this movie than Diane. She was so enthusiastic about the role and it was a lot of fun to do this movie with her. It felt like a real nod to the earlier one, but we really made it our own. We focused this one more on the true story of what might have led to that horrific ending.
Initially, we were slated for a November release for this film. We premiered it a couple of weeks ago at a film festival here in Los Angles, and the reaction was so positive—not that we didn’t expect positive, but there was this huge turnout and the reviews that came out shortly after were all pretty glowing, which was nice. I think now the studio behind it wants to invest a little more time into promoting the movie, so it gets a proper launch.
AG: What’s the plan for distribution?
DF: They’re looking at a limited theatrical run. It probably won’t be in all movie theatres, but it will be in numerous ones. Following that will be Blu-Ray and streaming services. In fact, I think you can pre-buy the Blu-Ray on the official site.
AG: You also have films about both Sharon Tate and Nicole Brown Simpson in the works. What can you tell us about those films?
DF: Both difficult topics. I’m taking on all the controversial ones (laughs). With The Haunting of Sharon Tate, the title is a little misleading in a weird way. It’s not about a ghost; it’s not about Sharon Tate’s ghost. Hillary Duff plays Sharon and like with Amityville, and it looks at the events leading up to the murders but kind of with a different twist to it. My mandate to myself for this subject was that I didn’t want to make another movie about poor Sharon Tate and her friends being mercilessly tied up, victimized and murdered the way they really were. I wanted to find a way if I could to empower Sharon, and I did. I think we were pretty successful at it. I came across an interview that Sharon did about a year prior to her death in which she described either a vision or a nightmare about seeing a strange man in the house in the middle of the night. She followed this figure into the living room where she found herself and her friend Jay Sebring tied up and having their throats cut open. It was a troubling dream or vision for her. She did talk about this a year before her death, and I thought what an interesting idea that what if Sharon had been having these nightmarish visions and that in doing so she was able to see the end coming and maybe turn the tables on these psychopaths? In our film, she’s able to figure out a way to defend herself and her friends. So it becomes more of a turnabout and looks at it from a different point of view of what might have happened had she known.
AG: Where are you at in the process with this film?
DF: It’s done, finished, and delivered. I’m really excited about it. It turned out beautifully. It’s emotional, it’s scary and Hillary Duff gives an amazing performance as Sharon Tate in this film. She had a lot of heart. She really cared about playing her in an authentic way, but I kept telling her to bring herself because I think that’s the most authentic way we can tell this story. I think she did a great job and I asked a lot of her. It was not easy. It doesn’t glamorize Manson or even really feature him in the film other than kind of a phantom figure I guess we’d call him. It’s intense, it doesn’t shy away from the facts of the case, but it also puts it in a way that I felt Sharon Tate deserves. It was in a way, my prayer for her and those victims and hoping that people never forget them. I didn’t want to put another grim ending out in the world—I think we have enough of those these days. I wanted to find a way to tell this story from a slightly more spiritual point of view if that makes any sense.
AG: Moving on to the third film you’re currently working on, your film about Nicole Brown Simpson. What can you tell us about that film right now?
DF: It’s been shot already, and now we’re in the editorial phase of the film. Mena Suvari bravely took on the role of Nicole and really threw herself into it. It’s a difficult one, but it tells kind of a little known chapter of that story, that leaves you wondering not so much if OJ did it because I think that’s been pretty much determined but without re-writing history we’re trying to tell a little known facet of the story. It’s her relationship with a man named Glen Rogers who was allegedly hired by Nicole to paint her condo a month or so before her death. Later it was found out that Glen was actually a serial killer. To this day he sits on death row, claiming he had something to do with the murder. Now our movie doesn’t necessarily say he did, but he does factor in as another element as someone who entered Nicole’s life that frightened her or made her feel vulnerable. We kind of leave it to the audience to decide if he had something to do with it or is it as history has told us. It’s a glimpse into a little known piece of the story, and I think it’s an interesting one — another brave performance from an actress who’s known for slightly lighter films (laughs). We’re in editing now, and we don’t have a release date, but I’m assuming sometime in 2019.
AG: I would certainly be remiss in not bringing up your connection to the Halloween series given how talked about that series is at the moment. Your film was always interesting to me because you provided a backstory. Was that always your intention?
DF: Not so much my goal but more dictated by what we had seen in the previous films. I don’t remember it being said to me by any producer or what have you that we needed to explain it, but it felt like they were going in that direction. If you remember the end of Halloween 5, there was this inclusion of a mysterious stranger with the mark on his wrists and everything. That demanded an explanation. We attempted to give one, and this has been documented more times than I can count, but things went off the rails when studio cooks got involved and producing partners got involved. A lot of cooks in the kitchen as they say, and it never ended up with a clear, singular vision of what the movie should have been. Then with the re-shoots and everything else, it turned very muddy. What’s interesting to me after all of these years is the cult, no pun intended, base of fans it’s developed and it’s nice. It’s gratifying to know that there are people who like the movie. I have fond memories of the movie. I think at the time, my God, I was 24 years old and given this opportunity. It really did change my life and I never look back on any of it as anything other than a gift. Frustrations at times, yeah because of the way things were being handled but just the experience of it and being handed the reigns of it at that age was pretty remarkable and just a testament to the faith that Moustapha Akkad had in me and saw something there. I think it was my stalwart determination and knowledge of the franchise. I think he responded to that and said “Oh this kid gets it” or “We can work him really hard” (laughs) They did get a lot of work out of me, but I probably would’ve done it for free. It’s amazing to me that it’s turned into this giant behemoth again. It just proves the resiliency of this franchise and character. It just blows my mind.
AG: I know this is going to be a difficult question to answer, but from your initial script and ideas compared to the finished product that hit theatres—and not necessarily the Producers Cut that fans like myself have seen—what would you say is perhaps the biggest missing element or anything you wish would have translated better from your ideas to the big screen?
DF: The third act (laughs)When we leave Haddonfield and go to that big hospital, the movie becomes this mess for lack of a better word. Nobody knew where to go next. My thought was always that the ending should reflect the beginning and the beginning was Jamie Lloyd and Danielle Harris and I want to go back to that. That was not ever taken seriously. In fact, that ending was scrapped right around the time Danielle was cast in the movie. That was the script she read was the one where she survived until the end and heroically put up a big battle with Michael Myers to allow the other characters to escape. She was pretty wounded and not in good shape but she fought valiantly and I felt the audience deserved that ending for that character. If there’s anything that’s a disappointment, it’s the way that went. The fact that we didn’t have Danielle, who should have had the part. I love J.C. Brandy and thought she played it great and is still a friend of mine to this day, but in those days they didn’t really understand the value of the original actor. The fact that Danielle led the charge in 2 movies as a little girl and wanted this part. She lobbied for this part. There was no “Oh, I don’t know about this script”—nothing like that. She was all in until the studio treated her like she was some kind of background person. I thought it was really unfair and as young as she was at the time, Danielle understood that she shouldn’t be mistreated and undervalued. So she rightfully walked away from the project but believe me, to this day she and I joke about shooting those scenes and adding her (laughs). We’ve become friends over the years. Again, we understand that fans want a certain thing and thought that they were going to get it and they deserve it. The fans deserved bringing Jamie Lee Curtis back. The way they killed her in Resurrection was terrible, and the Rob Zombie movies, in my opinion, were a misstep but bringing her back was kind of like “You know what, we got you.” That’s smart. The people at Blumhouse, they get it.
AG: Wanted to conclude by asking you about your work on some very well known horror documentaries. How did you become involved in those projects?
DF: I’m crazy (laughs). I’ve done several, with Never Sleep Again being one of the more notable ones. I have to give credit to Andrew Cash, who was my co-director and amazing editor on this project and Tommy Hudson, who went on to write a book about it. Believe me when I say that we made this for $1.98 (laughs), but with a lot of people investing their time, creativity, man hours and everything, we got it made and it went on to win the Saturn Award that year. We made it on the hope that fans would join us for this celebration but also because fans deserved this. It’s still being touted as the best, most in-depth franchise documentary ever made, with a running time of 4 hours.
By the end of it, we were so spent that we didn’t think we were going to see another day. It was pure exhaustion. Maybe a year later, it was like “Let’s do another one but instead of 4 hours, let’s do 7 hours!” So I guess glutton for punishment should be listed somewhere in my bio. So Friday the 13th was in a way like Halloween. I grew up in the heyday of all these films. They all meant a lot to me and were part of my upbringing. This is sort of a weird story, but when I was a kid and had these lofty ideas of wanting to make movies, I wrote a letter once to a gentleman by the name of Frank Mancuso Jr. I think I was 14.
Frank Jr as you probably know was the producer of the Friday the 13th franchise and also the son of the CEO of Paramount. Nobody else wanted to run this series, so they gave it to Frank, this young producer and gave him a chance to make his name. Very similar to Mr. Akkad, Frank saw something in me, and it began a year-long relationship where he was a bit of a mentor to me. I had this strange sense of loyalty to Frank and thought that I owed him and his series a documentary after the Elm Street one. So we did it, and I’m so glad we did, even though it was difficult. I will say in retrospect that in some ways it was easier than Elm Street, maybe just because we had learned so much about the process. But yeah, this was my thank you to Frank Mancuso Jr for inspiring me as a kid. I’m glad these documentaries are there as this sort of time capsule. So many of the people that were involved in them became friends too, which was really cool. Tom McLoughlin, who wrote and directed Jason Lives, has been in a band since the ’70s and they still play together. Tom is such a good friend that he donated a few of the band’s songs to my Amityville film. It’s weird how it all comes full circle, you know? We’re all in the same weird family and I have such gratitude for everyone who relived it all for these documentaries.
If you enjoyed this interview with Daniel Farrands, please be sure to check out some of our others!