When it was released three decades ago, John Carpenter’s modern Western-cum-martial arts epic Big Trouble in Little China was greeted by a tepid reception at the box office and often negative reviews (Roger Ebert began his assessment of the film with the words “It seems like a great idea” and then concluded it was not). But, like Carpenter’s 1982 horror film The Thing, this tale of a befuddled truck driver (Kurt Russell), his much more competent partner (Dennis Dun) and the monster-filled fantasia they encounter beneath the streets of San Francisco has been positively reassessed over time and is now regarded as a cult classic.
This August, BOOM! Studios is marking the 30th anniversary of the movie by publishing The Official Making of Big Trouble in Little China, which includes hundreds of never-before-seen photos and exclusive interviews with cast and crew members. Below, authors Tara Bennett and Paul Terry talk about their book and their love for Carpenter’s weird, wonderful creation.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What is your history with Big Trouble in Little China?
TARA BENNETT: I saw this movie with my mom when it came out on home video. It was one of our favorite movies and it stayed with me as one of my top 10 favorite films of all time.
PAUL TERRY: I had that great thing of the older brother able to go to the video store and go, “Oh, that Big Trouble in Little China looks very cool.” He rented it and and we watched it on a loop. It’s so surreal, 30 years on, for us to be involved with this book. We pitched the book to 20th Century Fox and said, “Maybe there should be a 30th anniversary, all-singing, all-dancing celebration.”
How did you go about securing materials and interviews?
TB: We had to go out and find everybody. Obviously, John was the one that had to say “Yes” to the project and he was our first interview. But from there it was really just finding who was still alive, who would still be interested in talking about it, and getting the interviews.
PT: One of the exciting things was that we were able to go to the Fox archives, which are like the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark crossed with the X-Files archival rooms. We did a deep dive into things that had never seen the light of day. Beyond the key art, which is approved and given out to press, people hadn’t seen any of these photos of the film being made, the actors goofing around on set, production, development. Once we starred diving into literally thousands of photos, we realized that there was going to be a ton of stuff to organize and choose from. We don’t skim through anything. We make sure we really deep dive. We’ve gone pretty crazy with the deep-diving. But it’s been so fun because we love the movie.
It’s interesting how, one by one, all of John Carpenter’s commercially disappointing films are being elevated to the status of beloved cult classics. Maybe you can write a making-of book for Escape From L.A. in five years time.
PT: Oh, man, he is the master. He really can hop from terrifying horror to something like Big Trouble to something like Star Man. We had such a good time diving into the archives of this. We would do another John Carpenter movie in a blink.
You can exclusively see the cover of The Official Making of Big Trouble in Little China above and two behind-the-scenes photographs from the book, below.