Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Lost DARK SHADOWS, 2004

Despite his often ambivalent relationship with DARK SHADOWS, Dan Curtis spent a great deal of time in his later years trying to revive the property. His plans involved potential movies, stage musicals, and the 2004 attempt to restore the program to its most relevant media: Television.

Unfortunately, nobody could ever agree on what a 21st century version of DARK SHADOWS should look like. WB was fully committed to the project, going so far as forcing ANGEL off the air to make room for the series. The network's fear of having two vampire shows competing for the same audience ultimately left them with nothing, because DARK SHADOWS never advanced beyond the pilot episode (and even that was never finished).

The biggest problem with the pilot is that the creative minds behind the project could never agree on a tone. Curtis, The WB and director P.J. Hogan were working at odds to tell very different stories. Curtis pushed for a more serious atmosphere, while WB wanted a show that could sit shoulder-to-shoulder with programs like ROSWELL and BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. Meanwhile, Hogan was more focused on his feature film career and was reportedly less-than-invested in the pilot. By all accounts, the resulting product was a patchwork of ill-fitting ideas.

Compounding problems was the pilot's audacious (and often wrong-headed) casting. The 2004  pilot has a staggering amount of talent on screen, including Blair Brown, Kelly Hu, Alec Newman and Jessica Chastain (!?) It's impossible to argue that producers didn't secure a world-class bunch of actors, but whether or not any of those actors were right for the roles is debatable. No offense to the other actresses who have played Carolyn Stoddard over the years, but Chastain seems overqualified for the role. Hu would have been the most physical actress to ever play Dr. Hoffman and would likely have redefined the role forever. Matt Czuchry as Willie Loomis, though, seems about as terrible a casting as you can make. And, while I'm a believer that Newman should be allowed to do whatever the hell he wants, I've got a hard time buying him as Barnabas Collins.

Of course, these opinions might all have changed had the pilot been picked up. But we'll never know.

Below is an interview with the pilot's make-up artist Todd McIntosh, who told Fangoria about the behind-the-scenes complications of DARK SHADOWS.

Doug Jones gets into character.
Fangoria #239, January 2005
By Joe Nazarro

For veteran makeup artist Todd McIntosh, working on the new DARK SHADOWS was a childhood dream come true. A devoted fan of the original series, McIntosh, who finished a six-year stint on BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER not long ago, was delighted to work on the recent WB pilot, which failed to be picked up for the network’s fall schedule.

“I don’t know what the final reason was that they nixed it,” says McIntosh, who provided FANGORIA with the above never-before-seen photos from the pilot. “The way it was explained to me, almost everyone making the decisions didn’t like the show, but no one could say what they didn’t like. One person wouldn’t like an actor, another person didn’t like this choice or the lighting or whatever, but nobody could come to a cohesive, point-the-finger-at-one-element and say, ‘That’s what’s wrong with it.’ It probably would have been better if they could. If they could have pointed at one actor and say, ‘That guy is ruining this whole pilot; replace him and let’s go!’ they’d have been able to make a decision. But the different factions were looking at it and saying, ‘Well, it’s not right, but I don’t know why. Let’s just not put the energy into it—and besides, it costs $5 million!’”

"Early stage" make-up for Barnabas Collins (Alec Newman).
McIntosh headed up the makeup department, with prosthetics built by Andrew Clements of Creative Characters. Their collaborations included Barnabas Collins (Alec Newman) in varying stages of decomposition as he’s brought back to life, and the equally cadaverous demon (HELLBOY’s Doug Jones) seen in the opening sequence. According to McIntosh, “Victoria Winters (Marley Shelton) is on the train to Collinwood when she falls asleep and has a dream where a kid in a Halloween costume suddenly becomes a monster. It made sense to me that if the kid is in a red devil costume, the monster should be a devil or demon of some kind.

Actress Marley Shelton, director P.J. Hogan and Doug Jones.
“The director (PETER PAN’s P.J. Hogan, below with Shelton and Jones in the demon getup) waffled on this a couple of times, and what he came back with was that the creature she sees in her dream, which gives her a bit of a warning, is some victim of Barnabas from the past. At the same time, we still had to build the corpse of Old Barnabas in the coffin, and to save time and money — we still didn’t have an actor cast for Barnabas at that point — we used Doug Jones for both makeups. We tried to make them look different, but I believe the director held on the train demon a little too long. It should have been just a quick scare, but because we had the same actor in both makeups, there is a bit of a resemblance.”

McIntosh is particularly pleased with his work on Ivana Milicevic, who portrayed the evil Angelique, as well as Shelton as Victoria, whom he turned into a latter-day Tippi Hedren. Sadly, it now appears that a television audience may never see his work. “Maybe they’ll put it out on DVD, it might find a life at DARK SHADOWS conventions, so it’s not dead,” McIntosh muses. “I know they’re shopping it around, but the further away it gets from when it was made, the harder it’s going to be to tie anybody back together again because they’ll be working on other shows. But to be standing there on set, and be able to look in my hand and say, ‘Hey, I’m holding Barnabas’ teeth!’—that was pretty amazing.” Associate producer Jim Pierson has promised “some kind of preview” of the pilot at the upcoming DARK SHADOWS Festival to be held at the Westchester Marriott in Tarrytown, NY.

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