After premiering to terrified audiences at the Liverpool Playhouse, Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson’s horror stage play Ghost Stories was quickly ushered to the Lyric Hammersmith in London in the summer of 2010. With its popularity rapidly spreading to international theatres, it’s unsurprising that Nyman and Dyson started to receive calls from several American studios wanting to turn Ghost Stories into a film.
“We went down that route a little bit, spoke to them, and had some negotiations and bits and bobs,” Nynam tells us. “After we dug into it to see what we really wanted, what Jeremy and I learnt very quickly that if we went with that route, we relinquished control of what the film was.”
The American studio route came with some good point: the film would likely get a much bigger release, and it would potentially be a lot more commercially viable. “What it also meant though was it wouldn’t be our thing,” says Nyman. “Of course, the other thing you’re dealing with for the most part is you’ll get more money if you do it that way. Very often with those companies, the potential to make more money is a lot greater because you’re dealing with big American studios or a very strong American independent studio that has got much deeper pockets than small British film companies.”
Naturally, the money aspect was a good draw at first. “We spoke about that a lot,” says Nyman. “Jeremy and I have been best friends for almost 40 years now — which is terrifying! — and we also both have successful careers in our own right. It’s not like we’re 21 with stars in our eyes, thinking wow, this could really make a difference. The conclusion of one of the ways we both try to live is it’s only about the work. It’s only about the doing it. The doing of it is all that matters, because once it’s out there it’s out there and it’s in the hands of the gods.
“We really did have an incredible time doing the play,” he continues. “It was a very pure experience creatively, and we decided that’s what we wanted to do. We wanted to write it and we wanted to direct it and we wanted me to play Goodman.”
That meant that there was no way they could go the American route. “The other key thing was that we wanted it to be British. The DNA of the play, the thing that it was built on, was everything that had influenced us as teenagers, you know, every horror film we’d ever seen. But so much of that was the British influences from Dead Of Night, The Haunting, Hammer House Of Horror, Saturday Night Thrillers, the MR James Christmas Ghost Stories… There’s something in that technical makeup that isn’t American, that’s quite specifically [British]. It’s raining all the time on a little island. It’s got a completely different feel to what the American ethos is.”
Once they knew that was what they wanted to do, they began to really look at their options. Luckily, Nyman had worked on Dead Set, the very first Charlie Brooker drama, in 2008, where he met director Yann Demange, who went on to make ’71 with British production company Warp Films.
“We’d already looked at Warp, and they’re brilliant,” Nyman continues. “Their cannon of work just felt so creative and so British and so supportive of the artist. I spoke to Yann to ask about his experience of working with them, and he just said, ‘oh my god, they are brilliant. They are such advocates of your vision. That’s all they really care about. We went them the script, which they loves, and then we set about working with them, and that’s how it came about.
“After about a year and a half, we were getting ready to really and truly start filming it and financing it, and then Lionsgate came onboard, which was incredible. We were very blessed — you hear a lot about the interference of producers, what an unhappy partnership it is. Well, this was the opposite. I mean, it was an absolute joy. Every one of our producing partners was unbelievably supportive and creative, and their notes were enabling and helpful, and it just all helped make it what it became, which was exactly what we wanted it to be. It was quite a strange thing.”
Ghost Stories is out now on DVD, Blu-ray and digital download. Get all the latest horror news with every issue of SciFiNow.