Helmer dons producer hat for vampire project

First, Sam Raimi made horror films. Then he made comicbook movies. So the next obvious step for him is to make a comicbook horror movie.

Having wrapped shooting on “Spider-Man 3,” Raimi moves on to producing “30 Days of Night,” a film based on Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith’s comic about vampires who descend on an Alaskan town where the sun doesn’t rise one month a year.

Niles says the idea came to him years ago, but there was no interest when he was pitching it as a film. Along came IDW, a then-new comics publisher looking for projects. “I just gave them my pitch list,” he says. “They picked out a couple, but ’30 Days of Night’ was one of them.”

When it hit in 2002, the impact of the comic was felt immediately, with instant sellouts, collectors paying high prices for copies and attention from Hollywood. “Literally the day the ad for the comic came out, I heard from people I’d pitched this to,” Niles says.

The project circulated quickly around town, with Raimi entering the picture when Niles saw him sitting on a bench at the Sony lot. A longtime fan of Raimi’s, Niles says he was too nervous to give the director a copy of the comic, so Dark Horse Comics publisher Mike Richardson did it for him.

“When Mike gave it to Sam, he called me right away,” Niles says. “There was a bidding war between MGM, DreamWorks and Sony with Sam attached. And basically my attitude was, whoever Raimi’s attached to, go with that.”

Development moved rapidly, with Niles penning a first draft of the screenplay at the same time he was writing the comicbook. “I got to sit for almost three months and work with Sam on developing the characters,” Niles says. “I remember at the time just how good he was at getting ideas out of people.”

Although Niles’ draft was actually considerably different from the comicbook version, screenwriters Stuart Beattie and Brian Nelson have subsequently brought it closer to what saw print.

With production set to start in New Zealand next month, Niles says he’s excited about the film, especially now that “Hard Candy” helmer David Slade has signed on to direct and Josh Hartnett is onboard to star. Pic is scheduled for release Oct. 19, 2007.

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