The Badass Interview: Marti Noxon Talks The FRIGHT NIGHT Remake

Marti Noxon talked with BAD about her remake of FRIGHT NIGHT, women in horror, trying to be cool in high school and her dream project: a haunted house musical!

Marti Noxon is a big deal. She was a long-time writer on Buffy The Vampire Slayer and a producer on Angel. Joss fans might recognize her as the parking-challenged individual in "Once More With Feeling" and the newswoman in Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. She works as a consulting producer on Mad Men and Glee, and in 2011 she wrote two films, Fright Night and I Am Number Four. Needless to say, I was pretty stoked to get the chance to talk to her.

Can you talk a little about your decision to set the film in Vegas?

Well, I had spent some time there when I was working on the last campaign, so I got to spend time in parts of Vegas that I’d never been to before, like the suburbs of Clark County. And I was really struck by how the mortgage crisis had affected that community. It seemed like every second home was either abandoned or in foreclosure or for sale. And that reality really hit me, so I started thinking, “Gosh, this would be a scary place to live,” you know? The neighbors are gone, and you could be on a street where only three houses are still occupied.

And then, of course, because it’s me, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if you were a vampire here?” [laughs] Because for a vampire, Vegas is a really transient population, people come and go, a lot of people work on the strip so they work at night and sleep all day. And that’s when I started thinking, “I’d love to set some kind of horror story here.” And I’d been kicking that idea around for a while when I heard that they were looking for someone to write the Fright Night redo, and I thought “Oh my gosh, I can sell them on Vegas.” And fortunately, it wasn’t a tough sell; they were really intrigued by the idea.

And also just, you know, I’m a big fan of the movie Near Dark, Kathryn Bigelow’s vampire film, and I just always thought that movie was so smart. And True Blood still does it, too, this kind of urban cowboy vampire. It’s not the kind of thing seen as much as the very hyper-romantic, idealized vampire.

Did you feel any reluctance to take on another vampire project after your long affiliation with Buffy?

Yeah, in fact I’d mostly turned down anything in that zone. But this offers such a strong and relatable, emotional story. You know, the Charlie character and Ed, those are characters I could relate to. And I think what Buffy has in common with the movie is where it was funny as well as scary; it wasn’t just the hyper-romantic, mopey vampire genre. So I was like, “Yeah, I’d love to crack some jokes!” And it sounded like they were going to go for it. If they were coming to me and saying, “We really want this to be like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. We’re going to make it super bloody,” I would have passed it off. All of our agendas, Mike De Luca, one of the producers, and Alison [R. Rosenzweig, another producer] and her partner, you know, we all wanted the same thing.

The women in the remake are much stronger and more resourceful than in the original. Was that deliberate on your part?

Yes. I mean, I obviously come with an agenda. I did a rewrite on Pride & Prejudice & Zombies and part of the reason I took that job is because of how hard it is to find strong female characters. I’m very excited for Hunger Games, I’m very excited for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, because those are awesome female protagonists. I can’t wait for those movies. It was a long wait between the last sort of really kick-ass girls and these new heroines.

It’s rare you can get a lead girl character, but if I have any girl characters, I try my best not to make her a dope. The original was a product of its time, of course. But I’m a mom, and I always cringe when the mom does a super dumb thing, you know? At the very beginning, I said, “Can the mom not invite [Jerry, the vampire] in [to the house]?” And they said, “Oh, but it’s such a seminal moment in the film!” and I said, “Yeah, but.” [laughs] That was certainly something I stood up for.

What made you decide to have Ed convince Charlie that Jerry was a vampire instead of the other way around, like in the original movie?

That was really just the fact that we wanted to strengthen the way their friendship has grown apart, and the fact that one of them had renounced his belief in all this kind of stuff while the other one was still really holding on to the supernatural and these childish interests. So it made much more sense for Ed to be the one to bring that up to Charlie, and Charlie would be the person who would reject that. So that’s how that came to pass.

You’ve been writing films lately in addition to television. Do you find that you prefer that or do you think you’ll still be writing a lot of television in the future?

No, I’m actually doing both. I’m working part time on Glee this season, and that was really informed by my crazy love of musicals. [laughs] It’s so much fun to show up to work and see people in the parking lot practicing dance moves. And I’m doing a couple of other projects as a producer and I might be doing a pilot, so I’m definitely not out of that. I just feel so fortunate that I have a chance to write movies and that’s what I started off wanting to do, and it was really tough for me to stay to just the side of television. I mean, as long as they let me, I’ll do both.

Any chance that you’ll write a musical?

You know, I would really like to. In fact I’m trying to get a stage musical together. And I can’t speak much about it except that it’s a very spooky haunted house story that no one could ever think could be a musical, so...

That sounds great!

The biggest departure from the original is probably the character of Peter Vincent. What was your inspiration for the new version?

Well, just the fact that kids don’t actually know what a late night horror movie host is for the most part. That’s not really part of our culture anymore. So we knew we had to think of something that made sense. And since it was Vegas, it was right there. There are all these Vegas traditions. I’ve heard that Penn Jillette has an occult collection. He has this sort of dungeon/spooky collection, so I was like, “Well, there you go.” Also, you can see how that was going to be a really fun character to write, sort of kitschy and strange.

It seems like in the film, Charlie’s struggle between being cool and being decent is a significant part of the narrative. Can you talk a little about your decision to write it that way?

I think for me, I remember that tension as I was getting older, because I’d been a super nerd when I was in junior high. And then in high school, I had my first taste of being cool, although it was a stretch. And I had a girlfriend who was so brilliant and such a great person, but she was just not into that popular kid stuff. And she would still come up to me when I was in 8th and 9th grades and say, “Do you want to play after school?” and I’d be like, “Come on, be cool! We don’t play! We HANG.” [laughs]

And so I was just relating to that time in your life when you’re trying to figure out who you are and sometimes it means you’re rejecting people you really care about, and trying to pretend like you don’t know them. So it was this idea of Charlie getting the upper hand because he grew one year and suddenly he starts being acceptable. What would that do to his friendships? So that’s really where that came from, just my own personal experience.

And by the way, I never pulled off actually being cool, I just desperately tried. [laughs]

Do you find it challenging to be a woman writing genre films and television?

You know, I don’t. I really don’t. I think it’s a fortunate time and that television writers are way more accepted in films and there are a number of women genre writers for both.

I think my next big challenge is to try to get into the more or less thriller/action, you know? I don’t think anybody’s coming to me with the next Mission Impossible, so I have to make that happen. That’s where I think the next barrier is, just thrillers and action. Those are the kinds of movies that they think women don’t typically go to.

You know, women drive a lot of the horror audience, which I didn’t know. So it totally makes sense that they would be accepting of women in that genre.

Do you plan to be involved in a sequel for Fright Night or are there any plans for a sequel to I Am Number Four?

I think it depends on how their afterlife goes. I think it depends on how popular the DVDs are and how people perceive them in the long run. Because people who hadn’t seen these movies, once they see them, they go “Oh my gosh, that was so much fun!” So I’m hoping that people will look back on them and go “Why weren’t these bigger hits?”

I would certainly…boy, would I love to write either the I Am Number Six movie because she was awesome, and I would love to write Charlie and Peter Vincent together again. I mean come on!

Thanks very much to Marti Noxon for talking with us. Fright Night is out on DVD and Blu-ray on December 13th.