Having recently collaborated on the suspense-thriller You Should Have Left, writer-director David Koepp (Spider-Man, Mission: Impossible) and his leading man Kevin Bacon set their sights on something different. Koepp had come up with an original story, Yard Work, and had discovered the perfect portal for it. Audible is playing host to Koepp’s new scripted novella. It’s the screenwriter’s first work of short fiction, and it has as much Stephen King in it as it does David Koepp’s own Stir of Echoes adaptation.
Yard Work follows an elderly and recently widowed judge, Herman, who retreats to a home in Wisconsin. There, he wrestles with grief and alcoholism… but also encounters a deadly weed that won’t go away. Koepp recently hopped on with CinemaBlend to talk about the germ of this idea, and how he got Kevin Bacon on board. He tells us:
This was entirely a quarantine project. I wrote it in quarantine, and Kevin read it in quarantine. So this was from both our houses. Which was great. It had a real feel of, ‘Hey, let’s put on a show!’ … The first thing is that [Kevin’s] just a great actor. I feel very lucky to have been able to take advantage of our friendship and my proximity to him, to get him to read this. I don’t know if he gets my particular voice or not. I would say he does, because it sounded good to me! But I sparked to his ability to differentiate between characters. I'm particularly fond of Jeff, a stoner hardware store guy. He gives him the tiniest little gentle surfer thing, which is great.
Jeff is a local hardware store clerk who tries to help Herman, the main character, combat his weeds. But nothing on this Earth can stop the threat that comes from the nature growing in Herman’s yard. Unless it’s all in his mind.
I like writing people who are different from myself, but you’ve got to kind of hang it on somebody that you know, or knew. There’s an awful lot of my dad in Herman. I was raised in a small lake town in Wisconsin, and my dad was… he lived until 86, and he was fiercely determined to do everything himself. Like a lot of parents, they do things long past the point at which we wish they wouldn’t do them. Including, you know, cleaning out the gutters and things that we feel are risky. But as I get older, I'm 57, and I haven't had to start giving up a lot of things yet. Except maybe gin, which… that was a good one to give up. But I haven't started that process of losing things, of losing the ability to do things. And I understand why you want to say, ‘No, I don't care. I'm keeping it! I'm going to keep doing this because that's the way I want to live my life.’ And, ‘What happens to my life is my decision and my problem.’ And adult children can disagree pretty strongly with that. And that’s a pretty fertile dramatic theme to mine.
But beyond the metaphorical struggles that Herman faces in Yard Work, David Koepp says that the idea of the trees and roots of terror stemmed from his own experiences after Hurricane Sandy affected his Northeastern home. He was tending to his yard, cleaning up after the natural devastation left in the wake of the storm, and became obsessed with the act of chopping back vines and pulling them out of the trees.
And I just became obsessed with them, because it was very much like eating potato chips. Once you start to get vines out of the tree, and you can see the gratitude of the branches of the tree, [because] they’re free. I just kept moving further and further into the preserve area with my cleaning out of the vines. And I really felt like they were fighting back. They're very thorny and nasty and my arms and legs were all cut to shit. … It got nastier as I moved into the thick of the trees more, and I thought, ‘You know, one of these times I'll pull one of these things out, and there’ll be a mouth on the end of it.’ And a story was born.
Want to see where that story goes? David Koepp’s short novella Yard Work, narrated by Kevin Bacon, currently is available on Audible. Click here to listen to a sample, and purchase the full story. The reviews are solid, and it’s definitely an original and engrossing tale that will sweep you up and have you holding your breath until the final beats.