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A long-time fan of horror, fantasy and science fiction movies, Mick Garris successfully turned his passion into a profession as a producer-writer-director of medium budget genre fare for film and TV. Mindful of his origins, he has won some affection from fans by keeping their interests in mind as he works. This respect for the material and the audience has served him well in his collaboration with novelist-turned-screenwriter Stephen King, particularly on the popular TV miniseries version of "Stephen King's 'The Stand'" (ABC, 1994). Garris' work has been unambitious but more than adequate as he places story concerns before special effects.
Garris' first showbiz experience was as lead singer for Horsefeathers, a San Diego-based rock band. He displayed both his love and knowledge of fantastic screen entertainment as a print journalist contributing articles and interviews to the likes of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND, STARLOG, FANGORIA and CINEFANTASTIQUE. Taking his interests to TV, Garris rubbed elbows with genre luminaries as the host and prime mover of "Fantasy Film Festival," a 15-minute weekly interview show aired over Los Angeles' Channel Z cable station. His first guest was low-budget auteur Larry Cohen who opined "Every ass**** has a script in his back pocket." Garris concurred and refrained from pushing his own writing efforts on any of the many filmmakers he encountered--though the temptation must have been extraordinary.
After working as a receptionist in George Lucas' fledgling Star Wars Corporation, Garris began in Hollywood as a publicist at Avco Embassy Pictures. He was project coordinator for the studio's ambitious lineup of genre films including John Carpenter's "The Fog" (1980) and "Escape From New York" (1981) and Joe Dante's "The Howling" (1981). Moving to Universal, he inaugurated a new method of promoting genre product: Garris was the first publicist to attend fan conventions and give presentations about new genre films. His publicity work brought him into contact with the likes of Steven Spielberg and David Cronenberg. The former hired Garris to produce and direct behind-the-scene "The Making Of..." promotional documentaries for Amblin productions. Made on a thrifty budget of about $8,000 each, these little movies served as Garris' practical film school. He went on to produce more films in this vein for a variety of titles.
Garris went on to make an unsold half hour pilot on horror movies for the USA Network featuring a roundtable discussion with John Landis, Carpenter and Cronenberg. He and Landis subsequently collaborated on the script for "Coming Soon," a collection of horror film trailers for the home video market. Garris devoted more time to screenwriting as he was commissioned to write several low-budget genre titles that were never produced. His big break came when the readers at Amblin were impressed by a writing sample submitted by his agent.
Spielberg had Garris write a half hour fantasy teleplay for his new anthology series "Amazing Stories" (NBC, 1985-87). Pleased with the results, he hired Garris as story editor for the first season. Garris went on to write eight episodes, notably "The Amazing Farnsworth," in which Gregory Hines portrayed a magician whose mind-reading prowess uncovers a murderer. The clever teleplay won its writer an Edgar Allan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America. Garris made his episodic TV directing debut with another installment, "Life on Death Row" (from his own story). His small-screen bow as a producer-writer-director came with "Fuzzbucket" (ABC, 1986), a presentation of the "Disney Sunday Movie." The story concerned a friendly invisible alien who comes to the assistance of a little boy.
Working variously as writer and director, Garris alternated between film and TV projects. He received his first feature credit as the story writer for the Spielberg-produced "Batteries Not Included" (1997), a saccharine tale of cute little aliens visiting a rundown tenement on NYC's Lower East Side. He followed up with a reasonable feature debut as the writer-director of "Critters 2: The Main Course" (1988), a low-budget special effects-driven sequel. Back on the tube, he helmed several hard-hitting supernatural tales for the syndicated horror anthology "Freddy's Nightmares" and co-created the syndicated "She-Wolf of London/Love and Curses" (1990-93). The latter was a tongue-in-cheek horror show on which he also served as a writer and executive consultant. Around the same period, he supplied the story and co-scripted the surprisingly intelligent and film history savvy sequel "The Fly II" (1989). Garris' second outing as a telefilm director was a far more intimidating sequel, "Psycho IV: The Beginning" (Showtime, 1990). This ambitious prequel-cum-sequel benefited from the participation of a number of Hitchcock's original collaborators. Garris found Anthony Perkins, his first time directing a "star," a challenging but rewarding experience.
The King collaboration began with Garris actualizing the novelist's original screenplay for "Stephen King's 'Sleepwalkers'" (1992)--good dumb fun that evoked 1950s drive-in horror flicks. The pairing worked so smoothly that King tapped Garris to helm the daunting TV-miniseries adaptation of "The Stand," perhaps the author's most celebrated work. Again directing from a King screenplay, Garris largely succeeded at the considerable task of satisfying legions of fans. The following year, far fewer were satisfied with the dismal Disney comedy "Hocus Pocus" (1995), on which Garris served as co-executive producer, co-scenarist and co-scripter.
Like his mentor John Landis, Garris is fond of filling his films with cameos and in-jokes to titillate the fans. "Sleepwalkers" featured walk-ons by Landis, King, Clive Barker, Joe Dante, Tobe Hooper and Mark Hamill. Garris himself popped up in Sam Raimi's "The Quick and the Dead" (1995) and Landis' "The Stupids" (1996). Another creative change-of-pace was his collaboration with FX master turned director Stan Winston ("Jurassic Park," "The Terminator") and the increasingly ineffable Michael Jackson for the longform (35 minutes) musical horror video "Michael Jackson's 'Ghosts'" (1996). Garris collaborated on the story and screenplay. He was on more familiar ground helming the TV-miniseries version of "Stephen King's 'The Shining'" (ABC, 1997) from the author's teleplay.
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First job in publicity with Avco Embassy Pictures; project coordinator on a line of genre films including John Carpenter's "The Fog", "Escape from New York" and Joe Dante's "The Howling"
With John Landis, co-wrote "Coming Soon", a collection of horror movie trailers
Served as story editor on "Amazing Stories"; wrote scripts for eight episodes
Episodic TV writing debut, "The Amazing Falsworth", an award-winning episode of the Spielberg-produced "Amazing Stories", helmed by Peter Hyams and starring Gregory Hines
TV-movie debut as producer-writer-director, "Fuzzbucket", aired as part of the Disney/ABC Sunday Movie; script nominated as best children's teleplay by the Writers Guild of America
TV directing debut, "Life on Death Row", an episode of "Amazing Stories" (also provided story)
Feature debut, received story credit for the Spielberg-produced "Batteries Not Included"
Feature debut as writer-director, "Critters 2: The Main Course" (co-scripted with David Twohy)
Provided story and co-wrote screenplay for "The Fly II"
Directed made-for-cable sequel/prequel "Psycho IV: The Beginning" for Showtime starring Anthony Perkins, Olivia Hussey and Henry Thomas; first time directing a movie star (Perkins)
First collaboration with Stephen King; directed "Stephen King's 'Sleepwalkers'" from King's original screenplay
Helmed the popular TV miniseries "Stephen King's 'The Stand'" from King's screenplay
Acting debut in bit role in Sam Raimi's "The Quick and the Dead"
Directed the TV miniseries remake of "Stephen King's 'The Shining'" (aired on ABC in 1997)
With director Stan Winston, co-scripted and provided story for the short film "Michael Jackson's 'Ghosts'"
Produced, wrote and directed the ABC TV-movie "Virtual Obsession"
Co-wrote, directed and produced the SciFi series "The Others"
Directed, produced and co-wrote "Riding the Bullet" based on the novel by Stephen King