Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof surprised the Comic-Con audience by showing up at a panel for Lost. Cuse surprised me by showing up at the Maxim/FX party last night. I was on the red carpet to talk to stars of FX series coming to DVD and Blu-ray.
I’ve actually had the chance to speak with Cuse every year as a new season of Lost came on. That was a trickier interview because we knew he couldn’t say anything and we didn’t want too big a spoiler. Now I can just follow up on the answers and theories of the final season. But first, a much more important personal question about my favorite Carlton Cuse show.
Q: Will Martial Law ever come out on DVD?
Carlton Cuse: Oh, that’s a good question. I wish it was on DVD. I don’t know why it’s not on DVD.
Q: It was like a kung fu movie every week.
CC: I know. CBS and Fox co-owned the show so maybe they haven’t been able to get it together to put it on DVD. It was kind of an innovative show in its times. It was the first American television with a Chinese lead actor and I hope it does end up on DVD one day.
CC: No, it was just really great after a year of being out of Comic-Con and away from the fans to be here and be so embraced. There was a room full of people who came to this panel no knowing that Damon and I were going to be there. It was just really heartwarming and fantastic.
Q: I probably got into more fights about “Across the Sea” than any other Lost topic. You revealed the island was the source of all life, and people still said you never explained what the island was. Did they miss that?
CC: You know, I think “Across the Sea” was a controversial episode and I think it pointed out what answers look like on Lost. The problem with answering questions is that every question you answer begets another question. Damon and I refer to this at The Big Bang Theory. If you say, “What started the universe?” Somebody might say, “The Big Bang,” then somebody immediately asks, “Well, what came before The Big Bang?” We felt like “Across the Sea” was our mythological endpoint of the series and the finale was really all about the characters and about the end of their emotional journey. That was to us what was more important.
Q: I still would have loved to see the “Hurley and Ben Run The Island” show.
Q: Damon talked about how from season three you started telling people their theories were wrong. Isn’t part of the fun getting to be wrong, I thought it was this but it’s actually this?
CC: I don’t think there’s ever been a show that had as much audience participation as Lost. So people really wanted to participate and to theorize. The fact that they were able to do that was something almost new in television. But at a certain point as the show moves forward, your theory is either going to be right or wrong. It was hard for anybody to be right because they just didn’t have enough information. There’s no Lost reduced down to a single unified field theory paragraph answer.
Q: One early theory was that it was some sort of purgatory. I don’t know how early you had the idea of the Sideways and it being revealed as the afterlife, but did you worry people would think you were copying the purgatory theory?
CC: No, actually early on we said the island was not purgatory. That was one of the few theories that we sort of disabused everyone of. I think there was some confusion that that somehow negated some sort of spiritual component to the Sideways world or whatever. I think there was one significant source of confusion which was the shots of the empty beach at the end of the finale which we just put in there to just create a pause between the emotional ending of the show and commercials. People thought that it maybe just proved that people were never alive on the island. We didn’t intend them to be anything other than just some beautiful beach shots. We took them out actually for the DVDs so there wouldn’t be any source of confusion from then on.
Q: What I’m trying to tell you is I got it, so can we have that?
CC: That’s good, I appreciate that. I’m glad you did and I think one of the reasons we’ve been very careful to not be answering questions about the show afterwards is that we want people to be able to embrace it all in and have their own conclusions about it and not have somebody at the end say, “Well, your theory’s right. Your theory’s wrong.” We wanted people to be able, like a good piece of literature, to be able to discuss and debate and hold your own ideas about what the show was. What it is to you is more important than me saying that’s right or wrong.
Q: What are you working on now?
CC: I’m working on a show for ABC that’s set against the backdrop of the Civil War. Then I’m writing a movie for Hugh Jackman and 20th Century Fox, a big sort of Indiana Jones action/adventure movie, for Hugh Jackman and the director Shawn Levy. We’ve been very closed about all the details but it’s going well and everybody’s excited about it.
Q: Do you want to draw on somewhat real mythology or totally invent your own?
CC: All I can say is that it’s a unique world and I think it’s going to give an opportunity for Hugh Jackman to play a character in a world that’s really exciting. If you’re a fan of the Indiana Jones movies, you’ll love this movie.
Q: Is it fun to think of action you couldn’t have done on television?
CC: Yeah, that’s really the fun thing about being back in the film business. This is an idea that had such scope that there was no way to do it as a series. So for me, the only way to do this idea was as a movie and it’s been fun to just have break from television, because the schedule is so relentless, and to work on this project. The scope and scale of it is way beyond a TV series.
Q: The Civil War show isn’t for this season though.
CC: I think the earliest it would be on is spring of 2012. It’s not in the fall. It’s on a midseason calendar.
Q: We’re seeing a lot of ‘60s period pieces this fall. Is it nice to go back even earlier?
CC: Yes, people are into the 1960s. I however think it’s much more interesting to do a show set in the 1860s.