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Chuck Palahniuk Talks Choke and the Return of Not So Happy Endings

Choke and the Return of Not So Happy Endings” width=”560″/>

When Choke debuts later this summer, it will have the honor of being Chuck Palahniuk’s first big-screen adaptation since Fight Club. (No pressure, Choke!) But it won’t be the last — expect Survivor to follow soon, and then Lullaby. That’s not just great news for Palahniuk’s ravenous fans, it’s great news for horror buffs as well. “Lullaby was my first shot at writing a horror novel, and it looks very likely that the Lullaby film will start shooting before the end of this year,” says the author. “All I know is that it is a Swedish director, Rolf Johansson. They’ve told us that an Academy Award-winning actor wants to sign on as the male lead and executive producer, but they wouldn’t tell me who that is.” Diary is in the pipeline as well, so what about Haunted, the grisly collection of stories that famously caused dozens of fainting spells at public readings? “We had talked for a long time about trying to produce some sort of a miniseries that would be episodic like the book,” comments Palahniuk. “Right now we haven’t sold the rights. Maybe after we’ve done the other movies, it will be a little more marketable!” 

Palahniuk relished the process of adapting Choke, likening it to having one more draft in which to improve his work — or for others to: “The parts that director Clark Gregg actually wrote are my favorite. His father’s a minister, and so he was able to underscore a lot of the Christian messages in the story that I just didn’t have the brains to do. I thought Clark had a really beautiful take on it, and he actually plays a fairly large role in the movie as well.” So far filmmakers seem happy to include the author in the adaptation process, but Palahniuk insists he has his fans to thank for that: “The folks who read my books are so passionate about each one of them that the people making my movies are more afraid of my readership than they are of me.” His fanbase, or The Cult as they prefer to be called, may be fiercely protective, but an early review of the Choke indicates they’re prepared to call off their hounds.

When it comes to horror, Palahniuk’s inspiration hearkens back to
the grim and grimy films of the 1970s. “It was the time of romantic
fatalism in film, where in all the big movies, the hero lost.” he says.
The Bad News Bears, Rocky, Saturday Night Fever:
All these quest movies where the hero never achieved the goal, but
achieved something else that they never anticipated. Horror movies fit
in perfectly with that. Of the big horror movies of the ’70s, you have The Omen, The Sentinel, Rosemary’s Baby, The Stepford Wives, Burnt Offerings
— these are all romantic fatalist movies where there’s a sort of
glimmer of hope… but darkness wins.” The harsh political and economic
climates of that decade have returned, and Palahniuk believes, so will
the bleaker endings. “For so long we’d been drawn to Steven Spielberg
endings, the happily-ever-after endings of the ’80s. But when society
is hit by all of these all too real setbacks, it leaves us wondering:
‘Can we win?’ Remember Alien ?”
he explains, “We really knew we were in the sh– when Tom Skerritt got
killed. The good-looking male captain gets killed, and it suddenly
starts to look like everything is going to turn out horribly. And in a
way it does, despite that thin sliver of hope in Siguorney Weaver
getting away — a really conflicted success.”

Writing such stories isn’t always a picnic, either. Palahniuk goes
through the same dread that his readers do. “It’s much more gradual and
accumulative, though,” he says, “I’m thinking of these things one by
one over a long period of time, and stringing them together in a much
more dense way.” Humor is the sharpest tool in his belt. “You can’t
turn up the tension to get people to go places they wouldn’t readily go
if you didn’t have the laughs in there,” he explains. “It gives people
a greater freedom around things like violence or disease or drugs or
mutilation. It gives them a way to accept things without being stopped
by the idea. We shut ourselves off from many things we know
we’re going to have to deal with one of these days — you might as well
get used to them through a story or a funny movie.”

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