Neil Gaiman Talks ‘Coraline’
Neil Gaiman’s Coraline has been turned into an animated film by Henry Selick and the popular author spoke with Premiere about the film, which opens in February. Much of the material is familiar to connoisseurs of the man’s career but he did fill in some gaps.
He discussed how he had the book sent to the director 18 months prior to publication. “That’s true. I mean, Henry didn’t even get the final draft. But the moment I finished it, I gave it to my agent, the redoubtable Jon Levin at CAA, and I said… ‘Well, I want it with Henry Selick and I quite like it with Tim Burton, ’cause I love The Nightmare Before Christmas, and they were the two people who did that, and I think, if it’s gonna be a film, it should be something like that.’ And I don’t know if it ever made it through the ranks to actually land on Tim Burton’s desk and get read, [but] it was really a moot point, because by the end of the week, Henry had read it, said that he wanted to do it, and had put the mechanisms in place. You know, the contract negotiations had already started.”
Gaiman was very pleased with Selick’s fidelity to the source material but clearly things had to be modified between print and screen. “He wrote a first draft that was incredibly faithful,” Gaiman said. “And I think I actually wound up saying to him, ‘Look, I think it’s a bit too faithful,’ because it didn’t feel like a movie, it felt like you were just reading the book. And I sort of encouraged him to expand it into a film a bit more. And the next one he rather nervously added a character and added events, but now the script read like a movie script. And then it was just a matter of him having another six years to find a studio that would give him the money to make the ultimate stop-motion movie.”
He remained uninvolved in the production but remained curious. “I’d go about my life and then I’d sit up one day and think, You know I haven’t seen anything for three or four months now, and I’d phone Henry and I’d say, ‘Have you got anything for me to see?’ And he’d say, ‘Yeah, I’ll get you off a DVD.’ And I’d get a DVD with another 10 minutes of footage on it! [laughs] What’s actually been fun is, because they’re pretty much shooting it exactly in order, the DVDs have been getting scarier and scarier. They started off [and I thought], ‘Well this is rather sweet and rather friendly,’ and the last one that I got I could actually say, ‘No, this is scary, this is really scary.’
Gaiman also addressed the long-delayed film version of his Death: The High Cost of Living. “Well, I think the latest is that we’re all waiting to see what happens to New Line. Death is a very odd thing because, unlike Coraline or Anansi Boys, which I’m doing for Warners, or The Graveyard Book or any of those kinds of things, I don’t own and control the rights to Death. I’m attached to it, I’ve written a script for it, I’m meant to be directing it… but I don’t control it, and for reasons having to do with corporate relationships between DC Comics and Warner Brothers, it has to be done by a Warner Brothers company, and then you have to find a Warner Brothers studio within Warner Brothers that will be a good fit for that film, and of course New Line was a really good fit for that film, and it remains to be seen right now what New Line is when the dust is settled and whether there is a New Line or not.”