April 20, 2018 Interview – Jeremy Dyson & Andy Nyman Talk Ghost Stories
Some collaborations are a match made in heaven where all the puzzle pieces fall into place magically. In the case of accomplished British Filmmaker Jeremy Dyson and Actor Andy Nyman, it was only inevitable that someday they would join creative forces. Doing just that, together, they created the acclaimed new Horror film, Ghost Stories, set for release through IFC Midnight in theaters Friday, April 20th.
A film that relies heavily on atmosphere and old fashion scares, it could be one of the best anthology-styled Horror flicks in some time. In honor of the official North American broad release, the two enthusiastic creators sat down to talk about the work that went into Ghost Stories, their passion for Horror movies, the perspective of working together in the future, plus much more.
CrypticRock.com – You have both respectfully been involved in film and television for some time now. First, tell us, what led to your collaboration with your latest film, Ghost Stories?
Andy Nyman – Jeremy and I have been best friends since we were 15, we met in summer camp. We fell in love over Horror films and stayed very good friend ever since. We have had our separate careers – Jeremy is a very successful TV writer, director, and myself, an actor and creator of things. We always talked about, “Wouldn’t it be fun to work together?” About 9 years ago, we had a notion of doing a ghost story play – three men telling three ghost stories. It felt like a really wonderfully exciting project for us both because we loved that world so much. There was a theater director who wanted to work with me again, he had just taken over a brilliant theater in London. We wrote the stories and it sort of exploded!
It had and continues to have this extraordinary life – it was done in the West End for 26 months, it has had an incredible international life where it goes all over the world to Moscow, Toronto, Peru, Shanghai – it’s just amazing. Then we had some Hollywood offers, and when the offers came in to make the film, Jeremy and I talked about what we really ultimately wanted to do. We realized quite quickly what we wanted to do is what we had done with the stage, which was us to write it, direct it, and me to play Goodman. That is what we then pursued.
CrypticRock.com – Very interesting. Ghost Stories is in the vein of classic Anthology Horror films such as 1972’s Tales from the Crypt and 1982’s Creepshow. Was it a challenge to connect all these compelling short stories into one neat package with a wrap-around story?
Jeremy Dyson – When we came up with it, working on the stage initially, our biggest influence would have been Dead of Night from 1945. The thing that is so great about Dead of Night is many things, but one of the things that is so great about it is the wrap-around story is the best one. It is really the only one of those anthology films that you can say that about. As soon as we realized we wanted to play a version of this game, we also knew we wanted to try and make our wrap-around story as a satisfying story in its own right. That was there from the very beginning and it was part of how we thought of it as soon as we started working on it.
When we came to writing the film adaptation, we could pick up what we had done on stage and develop it further. That is something we knew we needed to do in order to make a film opposed to a recording of the stage play.
CrypticRock.com – It all worked well. Anthology Horror films are not done all that often, so it is great to see one so well done. Andy, you also take on a role in the film. What was the experience like to act in a film you are a part of behind the scenes?
Andy Nyman – Fucking heaven on earth! (Laughs) I have been obsessed with film my entire life, obsessed with Horror, obsessed with Mr. Jeremy Dyson. I have acted in, I don’t know, 20 plus movies, but doing the one that is your own, you can’t believe it! It is absolutely a dream come true and it was a wonderful experience for many reasons. In terms of the pragmatic nuts and bolts of how do you direct it, there are two of us, and as you are probably experiencing, two hearts of the same beast, really. We think very similarly, we are very honest with each other, so if there is anything we ever wanted to talk about or refuse, we had those conversations.
We worked very closely with Ole Bratt Birkeland, who was our brilliant cinematographer and a phenomenal collaborator. We storyboarded the whole film, we worked on the shots, and then I had a stand in, so we would set the shots, I would go in and do my stuff. If something needed to be done, Jeremy would give me notes and I’d work on them.
CrypticRock.com – It sounds like a great collaborative effort. You mentioned the cinematography, speaking of which, the film is shot in a rather lovely matter. Was there research put into locations you wanted to use to create the atmosphere?
Jeremy Dyson – The locations were key to us. We knew doing a supernatural film, particularly something that evokes ghosts, location is really crucial. On top of that, how you shoot it, the look and feel, it was really important to us. We were very fortunate we had a fantastic location manager named Richard Knight, he was very creative and had a director’s eye himself. He was sending us back these photos of suggested locations and we were so excited because it was exactly the thing we had in mind. He would do these great shots that were from the film before we even shot anything, that was hugely helpful.
Also, we had a clear sense and look we wanted in advance, rather than looking at other movies, we looked at painting and art. George Shaw, English contemporary artist who paints these haunting suburban landscapes, and they were just the look we were after. We were very excited we found them, and that was really useful because we were able to share them with our creative team and they all completely got it then. Everyone was aiming in the same direction and it really helped.
CrypticRock.com – That is quite fascanicating. In Horror cinema, the look is very important and it worked out well with Ghost Stories. The film arrives Friday, April 20th, in North America via IFC Films. In weeks prior, it did appear at some US film festivals. What have the early reactions been from American audiences?
Andy Nyman – It’s been incredible! We recently got an email that we are the LA Weekly critique’s pick. We are blown away, we are at 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. The US reaction was the same as the British reaction, we were even more taken back by that. It’s that weird thing with British films, where you realize, especially when you look at the amount of releases in America, actually, you are a foreign film. You might as well be Scandinavian in terms of how they are perceived.
Culturally, it’s so different and the look/feel is so uniquely British, which is one of the reasons we wanted to make it our way, not through some Hollywood system. With that comes this worry that it won’t connect with people, that hasn’t been the case at all. We have been absolutely swept away by the most wonderful response.
CrypticRock.com – Great to hear! Now that Ghost Stories is out in the US, what is next for you two individually as well as collaboratively in the future?
Jeremy Dyson – Individually, I have a number of projects. In the UK, I am part of a Comedy troupe called The League of Gentlemen. We have had a 15 year career and we are having a bit of a reunion and are about to embark on big UK tour. I am also working on a number of TV projects as well.
Then collaboratively, Andy and I have started to work on our next movie. We are just writing at the moment and we are very excited about that.
Andy Nyman – I am just going to say that The League of Gentleman is as important to my generation as Myton Python was to the generation prior to that, they are just giants! They just got together after 20 years and it’s been amazing. Their tour, which he is too humble to say, is a massive big deal and hugely exciting that they are doing.
In my own career, I just finished doing a BBC and Netflix series called Wanderlust with Toni Collette. I am currently filming an Amazon series of Hanna in Budapest. I am also filming this new Judy Garland film called Judy with Renée Zellweger. It’s a wonderful insane period acting wise. As Jeremy said, we are working on our next creation.
CrypticRock.com – It appears there is a lot of great things coming up. Last question, since you are both lovers of Horror cinema, what are some of your favorite films?
Andy Nyman – I can sort of answer for both of us. (Laughs) An American Werewolf in London (1981) we adore. Mama (2013) is a real favorite of both of us, because not only is it genuinely scary, but it just has such an extraordinary part to it that takes you by surprise. Also, The Uninvited (1944), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Switchblade Romance aka High Tension (2003).
Jeremy Dyson – As well as all of those films, I love the Val Lewton films from the 1940s. He did several brilliant pieces of supernatural. In fact, Val Lewton invented the jumpscare, and he deserves praise for that alone. I also love a particular set of British Horror films from the 1960s and 1970s such as The Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971) and The Wicker Man (1973). We can go on all day listing all our favorites, but those are headline ones. (Laughs)