During its celebrated three-year run, Stuart Gordon’s production of “Nevermore: An Evening With Edgar Allan Poe” moved seamlessly from the stage of the Steve Allen Theater in Los Angeles to venues as varied as Lincoln Center in New York, the Nashville Public Library, the converted Gothic church Westminster Hall in Poe’s home of Baltimore and the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin during Fantastic Fest in 2010. Yet no matter the shape or size of the room where the one-man show has been performed, what remained constant was the ability of Gordon’s longtime leading man Jeffrey Combs to transport audiences back to 1848, armed with just a candle and an uncanny ability to slip into the smoldering intensity of the famed literary master of the macabre. No wonder then that the duo plan to do the same at movie theaters.
“We created ‘Nevermore’ for Poe’s bicentennial in 2009 and feel the time is right to capture it on film after its successful tour of the United States during the past three years,” Gordon says via e-mail, currently raising funds on Kickstarter before a November 1st deadline to see it through.
Timing has always been a crucial element to “Nevermore,” both in its story and its conception. Set at the moment in Poe’s life just after the author lost his wife and muse Virginia Clemm to consumption and a year before he would pass away himself, the production allowed the context of Poe’s personal life to illuminate stirring renditions of his most famous poems and short stories. Although Gordon is well-known for his allegiance to authors, having become the leading cinematic voice for the work of H.P. Lovecraft with films such as “Re-Animator” and “From Beyond,” he had only been planning on doing his second adaptation of one of Poe’s stories, but his first in 15 years — “The Black Cat,” which he turned into a crackling episode of the anthology series “Masters of Horror” in 2007 with co-writer Dennis Paoli — when Combs, who was playing Poe in “Cat,” couldn’t shake the similarities between himself and the author, who was his same height.
Those striking similarities paired with the raw power of Combs’ searing portrayal led Gordon to believe they should do something for the stage, but surprisingly, it wasn’t their time together on the play that led Gordon to think about a movie version.
“A few years ago we were approached to turn ‘Nevermore’ into a graphic novel, which could still happen and the concepts that emerged made me realize that the play could be ‘opened up’ into a feature film,” says Gordon. “We will be portraying, rather than just telling, ‘The Raven,’ ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ and ‘Annabel Lee’ as well as scenes from Poe’s life and some of his other poems.”
To do so, though, means that they will require a significant chunk of change and Gordon and Combs would like to keep the film version as pure in intent to their original work as they stayed true to Poe’s original texts in telling the story of his life, which is why the two turned to Kickstarter. Should the campaign be successful, the plan is currently to shoot the film next summer in time for a late 2014 premiere and the funds will help the filmmakers broaden the scope of the story to include an actress to portray Poe’s fiancé Sarah Helen Whitman as well as the flustered stage manager who must tend to the mercurial Poe’s whims. The period setting, complete with gaslight stage lighting and era-appropriate costumes, will come at considerable cost to the production, much of which will be shot at an old theater in front of an audience. However, these are also the details that promise to make “Nevermore” something truly special.
As those who were fortunate enough to see the stage show can attest, “Nevermore” proves to be just as haunting as any of Poe’s work, and for those who weren’t so fortunate, you shouldn’t let those lucky bastards be the only ones to enjoy such a unique experience.