The cast of Ghost World is perfect. It’s almost as if you cast people who looked like your drawings. ^ Especially with the two girls. We started out and we decided that we need two really good actresses for these parts and it’s really hard to find 18 year-old girls who are good actresses and we didn’t want anybody over 18. An audience can tell when a 31 year-old guy plays a high school student. Then we had this very small pool of actresses to choose from, so we decided that we’re going to take the best two actresses that we can find and if they don’t look like the characters from the comic, we’ll make it work because that’s not all that important. And it just turns out that the two actresses that we found are the two that look the most like the girls in the comic of anybody in the world. It’s a real eerie thing to watch them transform into those two girls. Especially Thora (Birch) who put on like 20 pounds and dyed her hair and cut her hair and wore glasses around the house just to get used to it. She just really became that character.
She’s so fantastic. And I might add, her boobs are huge! ^ (Laughs) Yes, they are.
How did you and the director Terry Zwigoff, go about the writing process? It must certainly be different writing a screenplay than writing a graphic novel? ^ We took a look at the story and after a few vain attempts to translate that story directly into film, we realized that that story was really a comic story and that we needed to kind of turn it into a movie somehow. We needed to make it bigger and make the humor more clear. Terry had these ideas for these characters, the record collectors. He thought, “What if we somehow got one of these record collector characters into the movie?” And at first I thought, well, that’s never going go work. The more we started to develop that Seymour character (played by Steve Buscemi), the more it just seemed like it fit so perfectly in the world of those two girls. So, once we got that going we just got really excited that this was a whole new story using these same characters. It’s really great for me because I got to do a whole new thing with those two girls. It’s like an alternative version of the comic story in a way.
The Ghost World movie truly captures the characters and the world without sticking so close to any one issue of the comic. ^ That was the key. It’s a very subtle sense of humor and tone to the whole comic that it’s not something I can even put into words. It’s a deadpan kind of humor that’s based in hyper-reality. It’s very hard to explain it to actors and set designers. It was something we had to be very conscious of, to get that tone in the final product. It was a struggle like holding a match in a rainstorm and carrying it for six months.
Through your comics, I get the feeling that the view that we see is kind of the way you see the world. And I know that you aren’t the only one that looks at things this way. ^ Basically we were trying to crack each other up and be as truthful to ourselves as we could through these characters. It’s good to have the two of us because we can keep each other from going off on the wrong tangent. Keeping each other in check.
When you and Terry Zwigoff actually wrote the script, how did you do it? ^ I would go out every Sunday and sit in a coffee shop. I mean, I was still working on my comic full time, so this was like a little past time I was working on for a while. I would write five scenes and I would just do what I could, even if I didn’t have any good ideas. Then I’d meet with Terry on Wednesday and we’d sit in this dark little office, this windowless cubicle and type out the scenes that I’d written on his Macintosh letter by letter. He didn’t have any kind of script program. It was the slowest, most laborious process to watch him type. He’d have to space every time we wrote a character’s name and it would just take all day. There was something about it that was really therapeutic. You really had to like a line to type it in. He wrote a lot of the stuff with Seymour and I tried to take that and reconfigure it. And he’d look at my stuff and change it. It got so we were rewriting each other’s lines. It was a weird mixture of sensibilities. Then we just rewrote the thing 500 times just to hone it until it was right.
Sounds like it was a true collaboration. What’s interesting is that you have captured a side of women in both the comic and the film that is rarely ever seen. The girls are so real in Ghost World, it’s eerie. What’s funny is that I know a girl who is exactly like Enid. Her name is Ellen Sawyer and she used to work for Film Threat… ^ Oh, yeah, I know Ellen! (Laughs)
Get inside Dan’s head and read the next part of “GHOST WORLD” APPEARS: A DAN CLOWES INTERVIEW>>>