Cold in July Author Joe R. Lansdale Talks About The Movie Adaptation

The film version of Joe R. Lansdale's Cold In July opens at Sundance this week, and we spoke to him about the project.

Cold in July was one of genre giant’s Joe R. Lansdale’s first novels, and the film version, directed by Jim Mickle, will open at Sundance on January 18th. Published in 1989, Cold in July is the story of Richard Dane (to be played by Michael C. Hall in the film), a man who kills a burglar in self-defense only to have the burglar’s father (Sam Shepard) swear to kill Dane’s son as an act of vengeance. Lansdale’s prose, darkly funny and always surprising is perfect for film exploitation, as fans who will soon see Cold in July are going to find out. With an eye for nuanced characters and deft plot twists, Mr. Lansdale has long been a master of crime, horror, and strange fiction. We got to sit down with Joe R. Lansdale and find more about this exciting project. So make plans to see the film and grab a copy of the novel, because Cold in July is a gripping, dark tale that is well worth discovery.

How did the film version of Cold in July come about?

Cold In July has been optioned before. Seven years running by John Irving. It didn’t happen. It went fallow until Jim Mickle (director) and Nick Damici (screenwriter) picked it up.

Tell us about the director, Jim Mickle. How deeply have you discussed the project with him? 

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Jim is a great guy and we discussed it a lot. I saw all scripts but the final one. But those changes were minor. I felt respected through the entire process.

Tell us about the two main characters, Richard Dane played by Michael C. Hall and Russel played by Sam Shepard. What motivates them?

A desire to somehow be strong fathers and correct mistakes, some threats, some mistakes belonging to other people. They have a connection in spite of themselves.

The motif of violence is one of the threads that bind the novel together? Do you think the violence in the story will be more visceral on screen?

I think it will be about the same.

You wrote the novel in 1989, after almost 25 years, how does it feel to see it reach a new medium?

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It’s interesting. I didn’t write it for film, but film has always been, after books, a secondary influence. So it certainly fits with film.

With so many novels under your belt since Cold in July, how do you view the novel now, twenty five years later?

I have always been fond of it and still am. It was filmed as 1989, like the book, but except for certain technological advancements, it feels kind of timeless.

Michael C. Hall was quite the “get.” Have you had a chance to meet with Mr. Hall, and how does it feel to have such a genre icon step into your world?

I saw Michael a lot. On set. Dinners. Great guy, amazing actor.

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What themes of your novel would you like to see transfer into the film?

I think they nailed them and I’ll leave the examination of themes to the reader and viewer. I will say this.  It’s about fathers, good and bad, and the weight of that responsibility.

How much of the shoot have you witnessed?

I was on the set for two weeks. Would have been there more if I could. Loved it.

What is your philosophy on film adaptations of your work? Did you believe in director’s prerogative or are you protective of your material?

I’m protective when I can be, but if you are willing to cash the check you have to  know when to shut up. In my case, with Jim and screenwriter and actor, Nick Damici, I felt in very good hands.

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