Cormac McCarthy is notorious for demurring from the spotlight. When he does indulge in public appearances, it is rare. So his recent conversation with the Wall Street Journal comes with some expectations. A lot of the interview is constituted by McCarthy’s own personal style, the desire for a more intimate atmosphere as he writes (in contrast with the collaborative aspects of cinema), and most importantly, the particulars of an adaptation of The Road.
Much of the problem of an adaptation is that the narrative is ambiguous. There is rarely a sense of the history of the story, as if it’s disassociated from time and place, which puts the onus squarely on the emotional elements, the father and the son. It’s interesting to note that Cormac McCarthy doesn’t have an opinion on many of the parts that he intentionally left void, such as the disaster that preceded the events of the book:
A lot of people ask me. I don’t have an opinion. At the Santa Fe Institute I’m with scientists of all disciplines, and some of them in geology said it looked like a meteor to them. But it could be anything—volcanic activity or it could be nuclear war. It is not really important.
A lot of artists are like this when it comes to something like an ambiguous ending, since they consider themselves as much captive to the world that they are creating, not necessarily having control of every facet of the process. I’d like to think that it was a man-made apocalypse, for the very reason that man often endangers the very thing that he tries to protect, such as the love between father and son. It works well given the themes of the story, but the great thing about interpretation is that no one is necessarily right (though you could be wrong). McCarthy also discussed the possibility of a Blood Meridian adaptation:
WSJ: People have said “Blood Meridian” is unfilmable because of the sheer darkness and violence of the story.
CM: That’s all crap. The fact that’s it’s a bleak and bloody story has nothing to do with whether or not you can put it on the screen. That’s not the issue. The issue is it would be very difficult to do and would require someone with a bountiful imagination and a lot of balls. But the payoff could be extraordinary.
Those two qualities, imagination and balls, are practically prerequisites for directing a McCarthy film. The rest of the interview, though long, is also worth reading.