Why is the original director revisiting the film that destroyed his career?
Twenty years ago, director Richard Stanley was fired from the infamously dreadful, Val Kilmer-starring sci-fi movie The Island of Dr. Moreau shortly after the start of shooting—and then returned in secret to work as an extra. The filmmaker, who made his reputation with 1990’s cult classic Hardware, hasn’t directed a film since being let go from the H.G. Wells adaptation, about a scientist who attempts to turn animals into humans. He seemed to vanish from the face of the earth.
What has he been doing in the two decades since Moreau? To get the full, and extremely strange, answer, you’ll have to read the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, for which this writer visited Stanley in the remote French village of Montségur, where he now lives. We can say that one of the many things he’s done is appear as the star witness in a new documentary about the trainwreck production of Moreau, called Lost Soul, which is debuting in cinemas this month. The movie is directed by David Gregory, who previously collaborated with Stanley on the 2001 horror anthology The Theatre Bizarre. “[During] the post-production of that, I went to Montségur and posed the question: What happened on The Island of Dr. Moreau?” says Gregory. “Several hours later I was like, ‘Well, we should really start getting this on film.’ That’s how it started.”
Stanley says that when he saw Lost Soul, his first reaction was to call a lawyer. “I was pretty unhappy,” he laughs. “Some of the things that people are saying [in the film] are pretty damaging. I was immediately wanting to defend myself.”
But the director changed his mind after he went to a screening of the film last year at the Oldenburg Film Festival in Germany. “I saw it with an audience and realized that they were enjoying it,” he says. “What was irritating to me was going over their heads and they were more enjoying the chaos.” Stanley has since become a big supporter of the documentary and recently attended the Morbido Festival in Mexico—where Lost Soul won the Best Director prize—dressed in beast-person make-up. “He actually did the Q&A in character, which was pretty cool,” says Gregory. “Kids loved it!”
Gregory is currently helping Stanley finance the latter’s comeback film—an adaptation of the H.P. Lovecraft short story “The Colour Out of Space,” about an asteroid which drives people insane. “I very much want to make a bad trip film,” says Stanley of the proposed project. “And ‘The Colour…’ definitely has what it takes to be a very, very bad trip indeed.”
You can read much more about Richard Stanley, The Island of Dr. Moreau, and bad trips of every stripe in this week’s issue of EW, on stands Friday. And you can see the trailer for Lost Soul below.