Gary Dauberman Talks 'Swamp Thing,' 'Salem's Lot,' 'It: Chapter 2,' 'Annabelle Comes Home' And More [Interview]

Gary Dauberman has moved up in James Wan's crew. He's written the three Annabelle movies and makes his directorial debut on Annabelle Comes Home. He also produced The Curse of La Llorona and wrote and produced The Nun. He's also co-created DC Universe's new Swamp Thing streaming series, which Wan produced via his Atomic Monster production company.Dauberman spoke with /Film by phone about Swamp Thing this week. He's about to make the press rounds again next month for Annabelle Comes Home and he also gave us updates on Salem's Lot, It: Chapter 2, the Train to Busan remake, Annabelle Comes Home and Are You Afraid Of the Dark. Swamp Thing premieres today on DC Universe.Did you come to Swamp Thing more through James Wan than through the comics?No, I came to Swamp Thing through Alan Moore and Bernie Wrightson. Bernie Wrightson has long been one of my heroes. I knew his artwork and I knew Swamp Thing from him and then Alan Moore's iconic run on that comic back in the '80s that I did discover later. I wasn't reading it as it was coming out but it was just an eye-opening experience reading that. It felt so different from all the other comics I was reading at the time. Being able to revisit those comics for the show, they still feel so different and fresh from anything they put out there still. It was great that they still hold up and still invoke the proper creepiness and atmosphere as when I read it for the first time. For the show, when I found out that James was doing Swamp Thing, I did whatever I could to be involved.Were you privy to DC Universe's series Titans and Doom Patrol while you were developing Swamp Thing?No. Titans had not come out yet while we were writing the pilot so it came out while we were making the show. Those, although I couldn't wait to see them, they didn't really inform our process in any way making the show.Had you already researched the swamp for your movie Swamp Devil?[Laughs] Oh man, yeah. I wrote that in one week way back when. I have not seen any of those movies but I enjoyed working on those scripts. That's funny you bring that up.To be fair, I haven't seen it either. I just saw that you wrote another swamp movie.It was one of those made for Syfy movies very early on when they were doing it weekly. I think it was every Saturday night or something. Those movies taught me a lot. They would say, "We have a total, we have a location, we have a cast. We need a script. Can you write something very quickly?" They really sharpened my skills in terms of working towards a deadline and working towards knowing that we're going into production. That really helped me a lot later on when we were working on TV and they need a script quickly because they're working towards production. It helped to build that muscle.How much real science is in Swamp Thing?Look, I'm not a scientist so you could make up anything, I'd be like, "Yeah, that sounds correct." I know through production we work very closely with consultants trying to make  the events that happen in the series to be as plausible as possible and ground it. I think that's been achieved.Does anything go on DC Universe streaming as far as language and violence? I don't know if sexuality would be an issue with Swamp Thing.Yeah, that was one of our first questions was, "What can we get away with?" And they said, "Whatever you want, really." which was super freeing. It allowed us not to have to write around anything that normally you'd have to on network. We could just barrel straight through and if we wanted to get graphic, we could get graphic. We have a lot of body horror and gore and violence in this TV series so we were able to embrace it all. It was a very "anything goes" mentality.So are the roots ripping people in half only the beginning?That is only the beginning, literally and figuratively. It's one of the first things, especially when you read the comics and all that stuff. Those things are a lot of fun to write. That's one of the cool things about the swamp, right? There's a very kitchen sink aspect to the swamp. Because of its origins, we're able to explore and hit on other subgenres of horror. If we wanted to tell a haunted house supernatural beat, we felt we could get away with it. If we want to do something a little bit more body horror, we could do that. We certainly have psychological horror aspects of the show. Whatever dark corner we wanted to shine a light on we were able to do that just by the very nature of the nature of the swamp.Is Swamp Thing a beauty and the beast story?It's definitely something we lean into, we played around with. The cool thing about the Swamp Thing is it's an exploration of identity. There's an existential crisis happening for Alec Holland, for Abby Arcane, for a lot of the characters in the town. Beauty and the beast certainly is an aspect but it's also Alec Holland, exploring who he's become, who he is and what's the swamp becoming. So while we have the beauty and the beast component, it's only one part of the whole.We haven't seen the last of Andy Bean, right?Oh man, I hope not but I'll save that for some reveals. Having worked with him on It: Chapter 2, and I'd seen his early audition for Stanley, this guy brings such an energy to everything he does. He's so watchable we were also really cheerleaders for him to play Alec Holland because he brings such a level of engagement to all his performances. It's really a treat watching him.You lost three episodes at the end of the season. Did that change the arc of the first season?No, we knew what we were building towards and we were getting there. We felt we could accomplish that in 10 episodes so it kind of worked out. We were able to land where we wanted to land.Are there any things from those back three you could bring back in a second season?Yes but I won't speak specifically to those because it would spoil this season.As a fan of Moore and Wrightson, what were the elements you just had to get into Swamp Thing?We really like the southern Gothic feel. Mark and I talked a lot about that. We talked about the panels, Bernie and Alan, really dripped with this melodrama and really this atmosphere. His sense of dread we really liked. We knew we wanted to get some of the headier ideas in there as well because that's what's so great about the comic. It explored and asked big questions of things. We were able to do that with the show as well, ask big questions. What makes a man? What makes a monster? It was those kind of elements we wanted to bring to the show. The spirit of the comic was so different from a lot of the stuff that was out there that first and foremost with the show, we wanted to do that as well. We wanted to make this different from a lot of the stuff out there. I think we really succeeded in that regard.Was North Carolina southern enough to capture the gothic vibe?Oh yeah. The sets down there were amazing, and the crew and cast really drilled down on that. It was great to shoot there.They just announced you're doing Salem's Lot. They've done that as a TV miniseries twice but never as a film before. Did you have a unique way into Salem's Lot as a feature film?I did have a unique way into it but again, I think the book in itself is unique. Certainly now, I haven't seen a scary vampire movie in a long, long time and I'd really love to tackle that. It's one of my favorite books. It's one of my favorite Stephen King books. We felt it should have the cinematic treatment that we gave It. It was a miniseries as well. The experience of bringing that to the big screen was such a joy that I was so happy we will have the opportunity to do that for Salem's Lot.James Wan has said he won't produce Train to Busan unless they find a really good reason to do an American remake. Have you gotten close to finding a good reason?Yes. I won't get more into that but that's one of those movies that's so f***ing great, it's so well done, you don't want to do anything that's going to be less than. I think we're certainly getting there. It feels like there's a reason to make the American version without ruining the experience of the original.Now we've seen the trailer to It: Chapter 2 and we're happy the kids are still involved. Could you estimate what proportion of the movie the kids are in? Maybe 10% of it?No, I don't want to say that. I don't want to put a number on it.Everyone, when they saw Sophia Lillis, said Jessica Chastain should play adult Bev. How big a coup was it to get her?I always had my fingers crossed because I knew the Muschiettis had their relationship with Jessica. It was whispered about but I'm such a fan of hers. While they know her, I only knew her seeing her on the big screen so you're like really? Could this really happen? I'm sitting there as a fan and then when it really happens you're just like "Holy sh*t." It's elevated immediately with her signing on.Do you have any other Stephen King books on your wish list?Yeah, I have so many favorites. Salem's Lot is the only thing that's in front of me right now that I want to work on. It's been fun exploring the dark corners of that town. I'm kind of a one track mind. I don't plot too far ahead and I'm overjoyed I get to work on Salem's Lot so right now that's all there is for me. There's a number of stuff in the works that I'm not a part of that I'm very excited to see when they eventually come out.Has Are You Afraid of the Dark shot yet?No, that actually hasn't shot yet. That's one of those things I'm no longer a part of. I just had a different vision to make it and thought it best to part ways.That happens. It's good to get that on record.For sure. I don't think that's out there. It's unfortunate but as you said, that's sometimes how it goes.Annabelle Comes Home is the first Annabelle movie that's not a prequel. Was that a different thing?Yes, it is the first Annabelle movie that's not a prequel and it was a different thing. It presented its own sort of challenges because you're locked into everything post Warrens, right? You have The Conjuring 1, Conjuring 2, all those things that have happened. You can't and don't want to mess with any of that. You want to make sure you don't step on any toes mythology-wise. I was excited to dig in further on the Judy Warren character.Are Ed and Lorraine more than just cameos in it?Yeah, they're definitely part of the story. They definitely influence the story.Any talks of more Nun movies?That I can't speak to. It's always an ongoing conversation just because we love talking about the universe. Wouldn't it be cool if we did this? Wouldn't it be cool if we did that? There's a lot of talk about everything, evolving this universe.