'Locke & Key' begins production

Wednesday, 09 February 2011 12:00 AM Written by 

Joe_Hill-blogThe pilot for the Fox series "Locke & Key" begins production in Pittsburgh this week with Nick Stahl ("Carnivale"), Miranda Otto ("Lord of the Rings") and Jesse McCartney ("Greek") starring.

We've reported previously on the show's development and recently I had a chance to talk with Joe Hill, author of the comic book (with illustrator Gabriel Rodriguez), on which the Fox series is based. (FYI: This interview was conducted before pop singer Jesse McCartney was cast in "Locke & Key.")

I'll have more from Hill in Friday's Tuned In column, but you can read what he had to say about having his story adapted in this preview after the jump. ...

In addition to the "Locke" graphic novel, Hill is also the author of the novels "Heart-Shaped Box" and "Horns: A Novel." In a telephone interview late last month from Florida where Hill was visiting his parents, he said "Locke & Key" marks the first time one of his stories has been adapted commercially.

"A couple people made very short films based on short stories, but they were non-commercial, not theatrical releases," Hill said. "In one case a woman did her graduate film project and it came out great."

Getting the full Hollywood treatment is a new experience for Hill, whose father (Stephen King), has seen adaptations go well and go poorly.

"You cross your fingers and hope for success," Hill said. "I certainly feel like we've got a good chance. We've set up this terrific, talented group of people to work on the show."

He's talking about executive producers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, who are also EPs on Fox's "Fringe" and CBS's "Hawaii Five-0" and wrote the most recent "Star Trek" movie. Josh Friedman, who was show runner on "Sarah Connor Chronicles," wrote the "Locke" pilot script and the director is Mark Romanek ("One Hour Photo"). "All the elements are there. You don't know what's going to happen. You can get a whole bunch of talented people together and fail to score and you can have a huge success with 'Wipeout,' a show about fat people flailing  in the mud. You hope all the elements are there and we'll catch a little luck, that people will get excited and it will take off."

"Locke & Key" begins with a tragedy in California when a family's patriarch is killed. His widow (Miranda Otto) and her three children move to Lovecraft, Mass,. to live in a family estate, Key House, and to be closer to the deceased's brother, who will be played by Nick Stahl in the series. Once there, evil continues to haunt the family both from across the miles and in their midst thanks to some supernatural keys that unlock doors in the house. The first key opens a door and when the family's youngest walks through it, he turns into a ghost.

(Added: Going through my notes, I found this quote about the casting: "Because it's about kids, you have to assume unless they cast Justin Bieber -- and I pray to God they're not going to do that -- it's not really likely they're cast a big star as the teenagers. It's going to be unknowns and relative unknowns.")

Where did the idea of this story come from? Mr. Hill said it was such a long gestation process he can't remember precisely but he pegs the notion of keys to a time after he wrote a Spider-Man comic ("one of the worst pieces of published work I ever had. It was terrible and I was so excited to do it, I just blew it").

"I enjoyed the act of comic book scripting and so many of my favorite writers came out of comic books: Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman," he said. "I knew I wanted to do more so I worked up some pitches. I sent them around to various comic book companies and they were soundly rejected but one of them, "Locke & Key," hung around. I kept thinking up ideas for new keys.

"Months would pass and I'd be out for a late-night grocery run and I'd come up with a new key," he said.

After a book of short stories he wrote was published, IDW Comics contacted him and expressed interest in adapting some of his short stories into comic book form.

"I sent them the pitch for 'Locke & Key' and I think I tricked them a little because they thought I'd tell the whole story in six issues, but it became clear as they were getting the scripts for the last three that it was really only the set-up for another 30 or 40 issues," Hill said. "IDW has been a great collaborator, very artistically supportive. They never said no. Editorial has been great and they were excited."

Ultimately he expects the series to be 36-issues in length and he expects the final comic book to publish around the time the TV series finishes its first season, if all goes according to plan.

Read  more about "Locke & Key" and Hill's thoughts on changes that will be made for the TV adaptation in Friday's edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Tuned In column.

Hill and Rodriguez will sign copies of "Locke & Key" at New Dimension Comics at Century III mall, 7-9  tonight.

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