For 10-year-old Kripke, one book made a particularly strong impression; John Bellairs’ The House With a Clock in Its Walls. It turns out that impression has imprinted on a lot of Kripke’s work, so it’s no surprise he came back to it and wrote the screenplay for the movie of the same name.
I recently spoke to Kripke about the film and found myself grinning and nodding in that “Oh my god, I totally get everything you’re saying right now” way that happens when one nerdy kid recognizes the joy of another nerdy kid as their own joy as a nerdy kid.
What I didn’t expect was to learn how The House With a Clock in Its Walls became an inspiration for the found families on both Supernatural and Timeless, and how his upcoming series The Boys may really horrify his parents.
In other words, we had a great chat.
What is it about the story that speaks to you?
The themes that I love in the book were the themes that show up again and again in my writing. First, of course, it’s a good scary story. It doesn’t pull its punches. I always appreciated that John Bellairs, the author, doesn’t talk down to children. He wasn’t afraid to tell a scary story. I appreciated the respect he had for his audience.
But the way to stave off evil in John Bellairs’ world has always been through… quiet bravery and family. Whether that’s family defined by blood or family defined by the people who love you unconditionally and have your back. You don’t have to be the strongest or toughest person in the world, you just have to be honest and true to yourself and loyal to the person next to you.
That’s not only a core theme in my work, that could be the core theme in my work.
You actually went right into one of the questions I had.
This book and really all of John Bellairs’ writing, when I was an impressionable ten-year-old, just based on what my work turned out to be it’s really clear that it had a major impression on my writing… I really wanted to write the movie because it had such an effect on me and I wanted to share that with other people and hopefully with a new generation of kids and really just honor a book that had such a huge impact on me.
— Kyle MacLachlan (@Kyle_MacLachlan) October 3, 2018
You’ve done so much. You write, you direct, you produce. If I’m correct this was your second screenplay? Is that something you want to do more of? Or [does the project] have to really hit with you for you to want to sit down and take that time to do that?
When I was early in my career and scrambling to try and make a name for myself I didn’t have the luxury of always choosing the thing I was most passionate about. I had to find a way to get passionate about the thing they were hiring me to do.
So, I really don’t take for granted the very fortunate position I’m in now where, after a lot of hard work and a lot of years, I’ve gotten myself into the position where I have the freedom to only work on stuff I’m really passionate and excited about. If I’m not I don’t do it.
Because you know, I have kids, and I have a family, and I like seeing them. And I like sleeping at night, and I can sleep through the night when I’m not on scripts. When I am on a script I’m up all night every night worrying about the script.
I’m more conscious of the cost of what it is to make one of these things, and it’s time away from my family, it’s time spent anxious, so it has to be worth it for me. If it’s something I really love and can’t get out of my head and always meant something to me like House with a Clock did, then I really dive in.
With the ‘Timeless’ movie coming up I know you’ve wrapped at least the filming on it, what’s been the best part of the experience, the thing you’re taking away from making the show itself?
I’m really proud that it’s this force of positivity. In a world that desperately needs it… we were able to get a show out there that said Americans that have made crucial contributions to our history come in all colors and genders and orientations and history belongs to all of us. We all played a part. To be able to shine a light on a lot of those stories was really gratifying and it really is true — representation matters.
I think it shows in the fandom… the Timeless [fans] bought the airplane to fly over Comic-Con, bought the digital billboard in Times Square. I want to go on the record to say I really wish they’d quit spending their money, I wish they would save it for themselves, that makes me feel really guilty and weird. But I’m so grateful for their passion and am consistently blown away by how much they care. Honestly…Shawn Ryan, me, NBC, Sony… Abby and Matt and Malcolm, no one’s making a ton of dough. Everyone’s just jumping in and giving the fans at least a certain amount of story closure. Because they deserve it. And it’s really been a labor of love.
You’re working on ‘The Boys’ with Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg. How is it working with them on the material? It seems like it’s a totally different level from where you’ve been before.
They’re amazing. They’re super smart, incredibly funny, unbelievably hard workers. I think they have a persona because of the movies they make of being kind of like happy-go-lucky and fun to chill with and hang out with. Those guys bust their ass. Those guys work their asses off.
I find them remarkably smart and really helpful to the process.
People may love it or hate it, but it’s the closest representation of my sense of humor as anything I’ve ever done. Maybe people will hate it and say “You should go back to doing PG stuff where you have a little more controls over you. I think you need to be reined in a little bit might be the answer.” But this thing is probably more personally me in terms of things I find funny and the points I want to make than probably anything I’ve done. So it’s super exciting to work on and I’m excited for people to see it.
It’s hard R, it’s a big difference from anything I’ve done before. But anyone who knows me knows that I have a super filthy sense of humor… I’ve never been able to express it to the public.
My parents are gonna be horrified. I think it’s gonna be really great.
The House With a Clock in Its Walls is currently out on digital HD and DVD/Blu-ray.