Hemlock Grove author Brian McGreevy talks about adapting his horror novel for Netflix, and explains why the serial represents executive producer/director Eli Roth‘s own Twin Peaks. Worth a read if you’re curious as to why Hemlock could have a bearing on the future of serialized drama.
Check out the following snippet from GQ’s interview with McGreevy, concerning the series adaptation, and follow the link for more background on the book:
GQ: Hemlock Grove is now slated to be an original series on Netflix, and you’re the executive producer. Tell me about how all this came to be.
McGreevy: I don’t think you can work in iterations of the same project at the same time and not destroy your brain. And so the book was a book until it was done. I didn’t start pursuing the book-to-film situation until after. And there’s this larger diaspora of literary novelists to TV, which I consider very logical and it’s really interesting to see the results of that.
I came in with two non-negotiable conditions about turning this book into a show. The first was, this is not just an R, this is a hard R. Don’t try to make this PG-13 to make it remotely marketable to what you’re going to perceive as its target demographic—teenagers. That’s not going to happen. You can pry my rape scene from my cold dead hands. I have no interest in seeing it neutered. Non-negotiable condition number two was that I’m also executive producer. When producers hear that, it’s like sticking needles in their ears because the last thing they want is a writer to also be EP. One of my producing partners on the project had not only read the book in its entirety, he read it twice. I tell him my terms are and he thinks about it and is like, “Alright, well, that makes my job much harder, but cool.” And then we ended up getting such an innovative deal for this project with Netflix. If I had left this to the hands of professionals who just wanted to make the most money off it upfront—like, for example, when we decided to do the TV route, we learned that NBC was in the market for a horror show. I had the beauty of veto power.
GQ: Yeah, I can’t imagine seeing a girl kissing a half-bodied corpse on NBC. What are Netflix’s standards like in terms of showing gruesome and/or sex scenes?
McGreevy: Let’s just say that there’s no FCC on the Internet. And for those who are unfamiliar with Netflix’s first original series House of Cards they picked it up with a 26-episode commitment, which is basically like Martin Luther nailing a “fuck you” on the Catholic Church’s door. There are people in this industry who don’t understand the significance of that. They’re just sort of scratching their heads. For me, when I saw that, I’m like, “Oh, well that’s the future.” At the time, I was shopping around another TV show. I saw that and was like, “Well, now things are different.” You can either adapt or you can die slowly. There are a lot of people dying slowly, which we’ll see play out. There are so many people in this industry who are like, “No, I have to finish my dinner on the Titanic.”
GQ: Where are you guys in the process now? How much of it is written and have you started filming?
McGreevy: Right now, we’re doing a huge amount of writing. There’s a ton of writing to do when you’re adapting a novel into 13 hours. There’s going to be some interesting casting news too, which we’ll release shortly. [Editor's note: Famke Janssen, Bill Skarsgard and Landon Liboiron have recently been added to the cast].
GQ: And how’s working with Eli Roth?
McGreevy: The Eli relationship was very serendipitous, actually, because the guy has had a pretty interesting biography all around but what a lot of people don’t know is that he was a protege of David Lynch’s and was actually working for Lynch transferring the second season of Twin Peaks onto DVD. He also does an astoundingly spot-on David Lynch impression. People have been trying to get Eli to do TV for years because at this point, he’s one of the only working names in the genre whose name has any cache. Because he had pioneered the movement that is so infamous, the perception is, “Oh, he’s that guy who does that.” But going back to this idea that, okay, just ’cause you’re one thing, it doesn’t mean you can’t be another thing. He didn’t really have an interest in being pigeonholed as “that guy” his entire career, and so there’s a reason he didn’t sell Hostel the TV show, which he quite easily could have, and it’s because creatively it seems limiting. And so when this book was brought to him, he was like, ‘Oh, holy shit. This is my Twin Peaks.’
In case you missed it, you can check out the prequel graphic novel to the series here. It should give you a bite-sized feel for what the series will explore.