The H.P. Lovecraft adaptation is the director's first movie since being fired from 1996's The Island of Dr. Moreau.

By Clark Collis
December 17, 2019 at 01:00 PM EST
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In a remote farmhouse about an hour’s drive outside Sintra, Portugal, EW is watching Richard Stanley direct a fight scene between Nicolas Cage, who is wearing ghoulish makeup, and his costar Elliot Knight. That the filmmaker is on the set of his new horror movie, Color Out of Space — or frankly, any film set at all — is something of a miracle. Why? Because Stanley, 53, hasn’t directed a feature film since he was fired from the 1996 flop The Island of Dr. Moreau, which swiftly derailed the South African’s once-promising career.

Over the years, Stanley repeatedly attempted to get various projects off the ground (including a black comedy, Vacation, starring Bruce Campbell), but to no avail; he was so certain Color Out of Space would prove another false dawn that producer Josh C. Waller was forced to personally pick up the director from his house in the French Pyrenees and transport him to set. “Josh had to put [me] on a vehicle at 5 in the morning and drive me south,” Stanley tells EW. “At which point it became apparent that, yeah, it was actually happening.”

Based on a short story by horror author H.P. Lovecraft, Color Out of Space tracks the Gardner family, headed by Cage’s Nathan, as they start to terrifyingly transform, both mentally and physically, after a meteorite lands in their garden. The material seems perfect for Stanley, whose first (and only) two movies — 1990’s killer robot tale Hardware and 1992’s supernatural serial killer saga Dust Devil — were both visually striking. “I almost worked with him on Dust Devil,” Cage, 55, tells EW. “When I found out he was going to do it, I thought, ‘He’s exactly the right person.’”

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Stanley’s comeback took root in David Gregory’s 2014 documentary Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau, which detailed how the director’s dream project became a nightmare when, having put together a cast including Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer, he was sacked after just three weather-hampered days of shooting — and, according to Stanley, an argument with Kilmer. (Kilmer was unavailable for comment.) The doc depicts Stanley as an eccentric who, for example, secretly returned to the Moreau set dressed as one of the movie’s half-man, half-animal beasts and worked as an extra. But it also was a reminder that he had once been regarded as a major up-and-coming talent. “Lost Soul definitely changed things,” Stanley says.

In September 2015, Spectre­Vision — a horror-oriented inde­pen­dent film company founded by Waller, producer Daniel Noah, and actor Elijah Wood — announced it would produce a Stanley-directed Color Out of Space. That turned out to be easier to declare than achieve. In May 2016, Noah revealed on the horror podcast Shock Waves that Stanley’s reputation was scaring off financiers. “The first thing to overcome is just the fears that people have in the business about him,” Noah said. “[I tell people] ‘You’ve got to meet the guy. He’s saner than we are.’”

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SpectreVision eventually secured the budget from the Malaysia-based ACE Pictures and, together with Stanley, assembled a cast that also includes Madeleine Arthur, Brendan Meyer, Julian Hilliard, stoner icon Tommy Chong, and Nip/Tuck actress Joely Richardson.

“I had no idea what to expect,” Richardson says. “I mean, Richard’s story is so incredible. I watched the documentary before I came out and I was like, really, do I know what I’m doing? And it’s been the complete opposite. Richard’s very engaging, very intelligent. He had a very, very specific vision. A couple of times I’ve wanted to go in another direction, and he’d be like, ‘No, I want it this way,’ which is reassuring, because you know that the captain of the ship has exactly his idea of what he wanted it to be. I like him very much. No one’s been difficult. It is ironic. The job that you think is going to be a breeze turns into [a problem], and the one that looks like it has all these potential pitfalls, it’s a total walk in the park!”

Cage is also full of praise for the filmmaker.

“I didn’t find him rusty at all,” the Leaving Las Vegas Oscar winner says. “Richard was totally on point, and I felt like he was more than enthusiastic to be back on set as director, and I think he enjoyed that role, and I think he handled it in a perfect way. He’s my favorite sort of director in that he doesn’t fix things that aren’t broken. He lets the scenes find themselves, and he goes with them, and he’s very supportive.”

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Stanley himself reveals that he felt most nervous about the shoot’s third day. “Because I made it as far as day 3 on The Island of Dr. Moreau,” he says with a chuckle. “So I thought, ‘If I make it past day 3, it’ll be okay.’”

Stanley and SpectreVision have plans to make two more Lovecraft adaptations, including a version of his story The Dunwich Horror. The director also says that Dave and James Franco have shown interest in turning the Moreau fiasco into a TV show: The director describes it as “a televisual follow-up to The Disaster Artist — with actors playing myself and Mr. Brando — to run, insanely, as a series. I just hope that whoever they get to play me has nice abs.”

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Color Out of Space hits theaters Jan. 24. Special event screenings will be held Jan. 22, where audiences can get a sneak peek at the movie along with exclusive additional content after the credits. More information can be found on the film’s website.

Exclusively see the film’s new poster above.

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