LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS Interview with Andy Nyman, co-writer, co-director and star of Ghost Stories
By James Whittington, Monday 9th April 2018
I've met Andy Nyman on many occasions over the last decade or so, and over that time I've watched his career constantly go from strength to strength. To call him multi-talented would be an understatement and along with Jeremy Dyson has created the must-see horror movie of 2018, Ghost Stories. Here he chats about the stage play, Ghost Stories as well as how it changed on its way to the big screen.
HC: When did you first meet co-writer and co-director Jeremy Dyson?
AN: Jeremy and I met at a Jewish Summer Camp in 1981, and you just get thrown together in dorms of four people and Jeremy is from Leeds and all my family are from Leeds so I used to spend most of my weekends up in Leeds so we instantly had a bit of a connection there. Within about five minutes we realised we were both obsessed with horror. We were right on the cusp of the video nasty boom, I'd just seen An American Werewolf in London at the pictures, I managed to get in and he'd seen it and that was it!
HC: Oh yes! The dream sequence when I saw it when I was younger just blew me away.
AN: That has some of the greatest jumps ever filmed that. It's amazing and that's one of the surprises and joys of the Ghost Stories journey is getting to meet some of our heroes. Tobe Hooper came to the play in town and I had a night with him and he loved it and he did an interview for the New York Times shortly before he died and he was asked when was one of the times he was really scared and he said Ghost Stories!
HC: There's no greater endorsement than that, is there?
AN: And then [John] Landis came to see it about three times and has remained a great champion of ours and a friend now. So that's been one of those "pinch yourself" moments. You grow up and those people have a direct impact and shape your life and you actually get to meet them. Amazing.
HC: Ghost Stories the stage play was and still is an incredible success across the world, did this take you and Jeremy by surprise?
AN: There's this wonderful thing where you create something that in our heart was always creating the thing we would want to see and not compromising on that and then you hope that there are a few other people who feel the same way. I think the reality of the play was when we came up with the idea I very much had the kind of instinct that if we could really deliver what we wanted to deliver there's definitely a life for it because there'd never been nothing else like it, even The Woman in Black which is an absolutely brilliant play and a brilliant piece of work it's a very different piece of work, its DNA is very different to what we were doing. Ours is much more of a narrative of horror films as opposed to the gentle British ghost story. So, it had never really been done but there is a world of difference between as you lay in bed at night thinking, "This could actually work" and it actually working (laughs). It completely amazes us that it continues to grow there are about four international productions happening this year. Next year there's a revival in Shanghai, its been all over the world. And the other incredible thing and what we're loving about the reviews of the film so far is that the play, well over half a million people have seen it around the world you can't really find out what its about so you can't really spoilt it and that is such as joy because that's been one of our things, I just cannot bear spoilers, I cannot bear the trailers that f*****g ruin everything I hate them, and Lionsgate have been amazing because we were so passionate about that and they've crafted, with a company called Intermission and with us, and we've all worked together and they've been absolutely on board with that. Those trailers they've produced have been so brilliant because they give you the tone, they give you just enough without spoiling, there are no key moments spoilt and that's a really brilliant achievement on their part.
HC: What's it like adapting such a major stage hit for the big screen and how did you make any major changes?
AN: Yes, hugely so. The basic secrets and the basic three stories of the play are the same. What's really changed is the major driving narrative of the piece has had to really change and that's been incredibly exciting. You know, its very daunting initially especially when something is put together in the way Ghost Stories is where it's a very complex jigsaw its really daunting pulling it apart and trying to put the jigsaw back together again with new pieces but what is exciting is that the driving narrative is completely different and it very much makes it its own beast from the play so these two things that are fundamentally the same have their own separate lives with their own twists and surprises. If you've only seen the film and the play is on and you go and see the play there are twists and surprises that you won't expect.
HC: Did you have a "dream cast" in mind whilst creating the screenplay?
AN: No, we didn't. We sort of had in the back of our minds thinking wouldn't be amazing to get Martin Freeman, but again (laughs) one thing is lying in bed thinking that and the other thing getting the phone call saying he'd love to do it, you know they are very different things and the other thing when you're actually filming it and you're thinking "F*** me!" And then the same with Paul Whitehouse and Alex Lawther who, in the time between us casting him and filming it he was number one on IMDb a couple of weeks ago. It's insane! His star is just rocketing. I have to say they are the key cast I've mentioned when you see the film you'll see every single performance is brilliant. The cast, no matter how big or small it really puts you in the world, we're so proud of them.
HC: When you co-write or co-direct something, how do you decide on what's a good line of dialogue or best take?
AN: We have a very similar taste and then you just, you know one thing is in the actual shoot where you're just doing everything together and then any moments that I was acting in we set the shot up with my double so we could create the shot and I could step in and then the edit, you know, you discuss and wrangle and if there were moments we disagreed on then you, you know, you just work through it. The other thing, we're both passionate about what we like and what we don't like, and you just constantly have to be on your guard that you're dealing with each other with respect and you're trying to hear the other person's point of view. Jeremy had 10 years solid collaborative with The League of Gentlemen who have just rekindled again brilliantly, and I've been with Derren [Brown] for 20 years. So, we're both used to working in collaborations. It's a special thing with the right person.
HC: Is there scope for a Ghost Stories 2, would you ever consider that?
AN: There won't be a Ghost Stories 2 as that would feel like a betrayal of the truth of it but we're certainly working on our next script!
HC: Would it be an anthology movie?
AN: No, not at the moment the thing we're working on is a single story.
HC: Do you have a favourite anthology movie?
AN: Dead of Night! We nostalgically love so many of the others but Dead of Night. The thing we learned from it more than anything is that the strongest story of all them is the main protagonists story because all the others, all of them, the framing devices tend to be, "Welcome to my Antique Shop..." (laughs) We love that, absolutely love it as a framing device but in Dead of Night its like a kick in the bollocks because you realise, in the way we hope with Ghost Stories, the whole world that you've been part of is the very reason for the anthology it's not just an excuse to have three short films.
HC: You're a multi-talented person with many strings to your bow, but what do you like doing, work wise, the most?
AN: Acting is always my primary career, that is what I adore more than anything, but I have to say that directing is a very close second to that.
HC: Andy Nyman, thank you very much.
AN: James, an absolute pleasure.
Ghost Stories is in now in cinemas rated 15.
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