We recently got the opportunity to speak with Director Jack Sholder (The Hidden, Alone in the Dark, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, Renegades) about some of his work, specifically his experience on The Hidden. Don’t forget, you can see The Hidden on 35mm with us tonight at the NYC area Alamo Drafthouse at 8PM. Get your tickets HERE.
Prior to The Hidden, you had primarily worked in the horror genre with Alone in the Dark and Nightmare on Elm Street 2. This film serves as a sort of segue into action oriented work for you, was the transition an organic one or was it difficult?
Not difficult at all. I never set out to be a horror film director, and I really wanted to transition into other genres after 2 horror films, if you can call Alone in the Dark a horror film. I always loved the great cop movies that Sidney Lumet did like Dog Day Afternoon and Serpico. So on one level I saw The Hidden as a police procedural and in fact hung out a bit with the LAPD and had a retired detective on the set every day to make sure I got it right.
The Hidden balances quite a few genres/sub-genres really skillfully, mixing in elements of police procedural/buddy cop films and body snatching/swapping sci-fi. How did you handle this so deftly without having one genre feel so prominent over the other? Did any films influence you in the process?
The mixed genre was part of the script, but it suited me very well. I felt the script had the potential to be more than just a sci-fi thriller romp since I felt there was heart to the script and there were good characters, including one great villain played by 6 actors and a dog. So I guess you could say I understood how horror worked and brought that to the table, but I also had the thriller thing going – my film school was the Hitchcock/Truffaut interview book. And the humor matched my own. In addition to the Lumet films, I saw the original Don Siegal Body Snatchers movie as a kid and it scared the hell out of me.
One my favorite things about The Hidden is the music. Almost all tracks are from bands that I had never heard of prior to seeing the film – and never hear much about outside of it – but they all fit the film so well. Can you discuss how the soundtrack came to be?
My editor put a lot of great music into the cut of the film, and it helped push the film along and reinforced its tone. When it came time to finish the film, New Line said they couldn’t afford any of those songs and hired a guy to find other music that felt like what we had in there. Some of it was pretty good and some of it was pretty disappointing to us, but again it was the tone and feel of the music that worked with the film. I should say that I was looking for a composer who I thought had an original voice and chose Michael Convertino. He turned in a score that seemed to perversely ignore the rules of the genre, and we all hated it but New Line didn’t have enough money to throw it out and get a new one. I did a lot of work on the score, reediting some of it and overdubbing to push it more toward the genre, but the mixers hated it so much they mixed it way down. When we heard the final mix I said you can’t have music that low, and they brought it back up. 5 years later I watched The Hidden at a film festival and realized Michael’s music was part of what made the film feel original, and I wrote him a letter to apologize.
Following The Hidden you made a similar “buddy” action film in the form of Renegades, which is hugely underrated and never found the audience that The Hidden did. Can you discuss that film and how you feel it works (or doesn’t work) alongside The Hidden?
The Hidden moved me onto the A-list, albeit the bottom, or perhaps the top of the B list, and I was hoping to find a great script to make a strong follow up. A few films that turned out to be hits just eluded me, and I finally had to find something to do and get back to work. Renegades came along, and it felt like a little bit of Lethal Weapon and a little bit of a lot of other things. I thought I could make it into a good movie, and it was Universal and Kiefer Sutherland and Lou Diamond who were hot at the time. In the end, I couldn’t rise above the script. It’s got some good stuff in it, but there are other parts, particularly the Indian stuff, that makes me wince. It also cooled off the heat I had going from Elm St and The Hidden, so it’s not one of my favorites. I should re-watch it sometime to see if it’s any good. I do think it’s got a great car chase.
After the aforementioned two feature films, you did a lot of TV work, but it was always genre work. How does working in TV differ from film for you and how important is it to work within genre?
The nice thing about the TV movies is that you usually get hired when it’s ready to go, so there’s not all the waiting and anxiety. I also tended to get interesting scripts. In fact, 12:01 which was my first TV movie that I did for Fox is one of my favorites. I did a little bit of episodic, but I was not very good at subjugating my ego to the style of the series and tried to reinvent them in what I thought was a better mold. The series are run by writers, and they had something they liked and worked for them and didn’t want a director to mess around with it. I wish I’d understood the rules a little better and looked at episodic as a way to exercise my craft. But with the TV movies they were really my films, and I was hired to do them in my way for the most part. The problem was usually a shorter shooting schedule and not enough time or money to really do things as well as possible. On the other hand, there is a certain fun in working fast and being more spontaneous.
The Hidden spawned a fairly unrelated sequel in the early 90s. Were you ever approached to do a sequel? Did you see the one that was made?
There was a Hidden II but it was not a good script and the budget was lower and I had no interest. Some friends of mine did it, I heard it wasn’t very good, and never saw it. I did do a pilot for “The Omen” TV series that basically took the title of The Omen and the storyline of The Hidden and mushed them together. I felt like in a way I was ripping off my own film, but you could also look at it like I was the guy who understood how to shoot films about possessed/alien people living amongst us. The series never got picked up.
Are there any projects that you’re working on that you’d like to share with us?
I’ve got a few things in the hopper but don’t want to jinx it. Let’s just say the projects that come to me are all in the general horror/fantastic genre. Most of the scripts are pretty bad, but I’ve found a few good ones.
Thank you for your time!