Carlton Cuse & Damon Lindelof
Carlton Cuse & Damon Lindelof are both Executive Producers and Writers on Lost. Damon Lindelof is also one of the creators of the show. The following questions were submitted by members of the Lostpedia Forums, and by members of the Lostpedia wiki.
The interview was conducted by TheAma1 via phone on Friday 17 April 2009.
The following is a verbatim in medias res transcript made with the help of Kadaj.
Carlton Cuse: This is Carlton with the slightly deeper voice.
TheAma1/Alex: (laughs) Hey Carlton!
Damon Lindelof: And I'm Damon, the other one, with the very nasally voice.
Alex: And I'm Alex.
Alex: Ok, so I know you've mentioned already a couple of times, in DVD commentaries and such, Lostpedia. So we were just wondering what your relationship is with the website. Do you just know it by reputation, or do you generally have any form of interaction with it?
Damon: You know, obviously one of the questions that Carlton and I get asked very often is like “Is there a Lost Bible that has all the details of the show? Is there a database?”, and our answer to that question is “Yeah we have this guy named Gregg Nations, who is the keeper of all the information”, but there is also a website that is like Wikipedia, that is sort of fan aggregated, that has sort of every little detail about the show, they have still frames, but they are also... You know, what differentiates Gregg from what Lostpedia does, is that Lostpedia is speculative. That is to say, it has to assume something, because it's not run by us. So, you know, I think there is sometimes a perception out there that Lostpedia is kind of branded by the show, as opposed to a seperate fan community, and we find ourselves having to differentiate those two things. That being said, when we've visited the site we are incredibly impressed with sort of the level of detail. There are occasions where we basically say “What was Juliet's husband's first name?”, and if Gregg is not sitting in his office we will log into Lostpedia to get that answer.
Alex: Great. So have you ever used fan sites to gauge how well fans interpret the various answers on the show?
Carlton: We have a couple of guys in our office whose job is to sort of... They read a broad section of the fan sites after every episode, then they sort of give Damon and I the sort of reader's digest, synopsis, of what people responded to in the episode. This is good for us number 1: because we're still busy making the show, we dont have the time to search all the websites, but is also gives us the sense of what sense questions are percolating up, what assumptions people are making based on what they've seen. Have they puzzled something together. Do most people for instance, you know, we were well aware that many of the hardcore fans pretty much already figured out that Marvin Candle, or Pierre Chang, was Miles' dad. One of the questions that's been percolating up on the fan-sites has been “Well how come Sun didn't move on the airplane along with Kate and Jack and Hurley?”. You kind of become aware of what questions people have in their brains, and you know, that's helpful feedback for us.
Alex: Have you ever seen any theory that has come close to solving any major mysteries? Like the Smoke Monster or Jacob?
Damon: You know, the answer is not really, because... Sometimes, like for example, there were popular theories probably about a year ago, or maybe as long as two years ago, right around the time I guess Eko died. About the Smoke monster's function was some sort of judge. It basically took your memories and processed your life and decided whether you were worthy of living or not, and that is certainly, kind of, one of it's functions. We've dealt with that more specifically now on the show, but the audience simply does not know enough yet to make an educated guess about where all of this is leading. You will know a lot by the end of the Fifth season, probably a lot more to begin to get a much better sense of what the end game of the show may be, but we've had to hold a lot of that stuff back so that people wouldn't get it too early or that all the answers were coming in the penultimate season of the show. Considering what the audience has to work with, they've proven to be incredibly resourceful and insightful, but there are some clues that we have not yet presented them, that are really integral to figuring out what the real endgame of the show is, so there's no way that they could really, you know, really...
Damon: ...get at it. Yes.
Alex: Before an episode airs do you usually have a general idea of what the public's reaction will be? Or have you ever been surprised by any reactions towards an episode?
Carlton: Uhh, yeah, I would say not in a huge way, but I would say some times episodes that are Damon's and my favorite episodes are not necessarily the same as the ones the fans like, but it's usually just a matter of degrees. You know, we're here working on these things really intensely, and some of them we love more than others, but, you know, sometimes an episode we think is just okay the fans will really embrace and vice-versa. So there's a little bit of a difference sometimes between our perception and the audience's perception, but in major things there's pretty much agreement. For instance, we had already decided to cut bait on Nikki and Paulo before the audience had even seen their episodes. So the audience's negative reaction to them was sort of reaffirmation that we had made the right decision, but we had already made the decision to cut bait on them.
Alex: So, speaking of Nikki and Paulo... For a couple of years now you've been joking around a Seventh Zombie season so to speak . Are we ever going to get with the Season Six DVD set some kind of Zombie special episode?
Damon: That is a very engaging question! You never know.
Alex: Moving on to more show, or so to speak, related questions. In the special alternate reality game The Dharma Project from last year. A lot of fans want to know, since basically funding was pulled out of the Dharma project last year, what was going to be the final revelation of The Dharma Project? Since The Lost Experience was about the numbers, and Find 815 was about the fake wreckage, so, what was going to be the final act of The Dharma Project?
Damon: Essentially the whole idea was to signal to the audience that our characters: Jack and Kate and Sawyer and Hurley and Juliet and Sayid were going to end up in Dharma times, and Faraday too, sorry, and Miles of course, strongly imply that our characters were going to appear in Dharma times. So that would be something that would be sort of set up in the Internet experience. I think some people believe that they hear Faraday's voice in the Comic-Con experience. These events are sort of partially canon but more promotional than they are canon. Giving the audience a sneak peak as to what the season is about.
Alex: A foreshadowing of what was coming basically?
Damon: Right, and clearly our characters arrive in Dharma times in the seventh episode, in LaFleur, so, we knew that we were gonna be spending with them almost half the season in Dharma times, but we weren't going to be starting to tell the audience that story until after 6 episodes had aired, so uh, sorry, LaFleur is the eighth episode, but that entire story was basically setting up the audience for those stories.
Alex: So moving on to some of the fans reactions. Some viewers have noticed what seems to be discrepancies regarding the various Jeremy Bentham visits. Especially with Walt or Jack. Like, Locke never really mentioned or blamed Jack for leaving the island. So were these discrepancies due to time constraints or are you going to revisit the Bentham story down the line?
Carlton: You know, I think these kinds of questions are ones that we loathe to answer. You know, the sort of providing answers and interpretation of those kinds of things I think is not to the benefit of the show at this moment in time. We stand by Bentham as an episode that explains what happened to Locke after he went back to the real world and how he ended up dead. I think that, you know, we really dont want to say anything further about it right now.
Alex: Are we ever going to get a Black Rock backstory?
Damon: Uhh, again now we're into the territory of, you know, spoilers...
Damon: ...and by answering that question yes or no... All we can say is we're ruling nothing out for the end of Season Five and the final season of the show. We hope that it feels like everything is coming together and that all these things that are dangling threads gradually begin to weave themselves together. So, which mysteries we're keen in on is the ones that are important to our mythology, is for sort of us to decide. We have said “Yes you will see the statue again”, and we said that before LaFleur. So you saw the statue again. Does that mean you'll see it again after that? We're not saying, because we want those things to be suprises.
Alex: One mystery that you said a month ago, in a Sky One interview, you were not going to show us is basically Libby's backstory, yet two seasons ago you basically said there was one significant missing piece from her story which is how she got from Desmond to the mental institution, and you also added that to know that answer, you had to show her story through another character's flashback. So, now that you've said that her story is done on the show, can you now tell us her missing piece and which character would you have told it through?
Carlton: Uhh, you know, again, these are not questions that we are going to answer. I think the point we were trying to make with the Libby story is that everything is graded in terms of importance for us, and, as we are doing the last season of the show, it's not going to be sort of a didactic, you know, here's a list of a thousand questions that we're going to answer. That would not make for a very entertaining show. We are focusing on what we consider to be the significant questions, and mysteries, and character relationships. That's the story that we're gonna tell. I think that the reference to Libby was more illustrative of the fact that I think, we accept the fact that in the end of the day there will, probably, you could ask a spectrum of a thousand different fans “Well what question did you not get answered?” and there might be a thousand different answers, but we are focusing on what we consider to be the main questions of the show and the main narritive. It's impossible to tie up every loose end, and we don't really consider, honestly, Libby's story is incredibly tangential to the principle action on the show. For us, the focus of the final season really has to be on the main characters and what would generally be acknowledged as the most significant mysteries.
Alex: So moving out of the show. I know you two are huge fans of the Watchmen graphic novel. I just wanted to ask you: what did you think of the Watchmen movie that came out earlier this year?
Damon: I think it's a very complicated question. You almost can't judge the movie purely as a movie because of its relation to the fact that it is an adaptation of the graphic novel. That being said I think that Zack Snyder made the best possible movie adaptation considering the fact that he was really out to not revise things, the fans really wanted a literal adaptation. That's exactly what he delivered. He delivered that with an incredible amount of grace and skill. But I think that, for those of us who basically said “How do you do Watchmen in a two and a half hour movie?" He has now answered: “This is how”. You just have to kind of leave it at that. Over time, I think history will basically tell whether the movie was brilliant or less than, but all I can say is how incredibly impressed I personally watching what Zack had accomplished.
Alex: Are there any actors or directors that you would love to appear on the show, even for only one episode or a cameo?
Carlton: We actually... We get very concerned about... It would be very hard for us to put a famous actor on Lost because we feel it would take away from the verisimilitude of the world of Lost. In fact we have had inquiries made by pretty well known actors and we have actually declined several of those, because we feel like it would probably throw the audience out of the show. If they say “Oh look there's so and so, he's a movie star”, we just aren't sure it would feel right. We really try to cast based on trying to find real great actors and people who we feel fit into the world of the show. At one time, we came very close to having Darren Aronofsky direct an episode of Lost and that was very exciting to us. But, the truth is, movie directors are focused on their movie careers and it was no different with Darren when it all came down to it. His obligations to his various movies precluded him from actually coming to Hawaii and shooting the show. And I think that now the ship has sort of sailed, going into the last season of the show, we dont feel it's really the time or place to be engaged in sort of artful diversion. We're really gonna focus on finishing out our narrative, and the episodes, by-and-large, will be directed by the directors who have brought us this far successfully with the series, principally Jack Bender. We are very thrilled to be heading into the home stretch, and we're going to be doing that with our regular collaborators.
Alex: About codenames: the first season codename was the Bagel and the second season I believe was the Challah. Any change the season six codename could be the Matzah?
Damon: The Matzah. Back to roots. Who knows? When you talk about the final scene of the series Lost, versus what is a season finale, I think the idea that normally those code names scenes are associated with big twists or suprises or shocks. We dont want to imply that the last scene of the series is going to be a game changer, like a snow globe, or somebody waking up from a dream, or a close up of the dog's eye, you know, all of those things... We might just go without a code name for the final year. We're gonna be purposefully cagey about that. Obviously, we reached out to the fans this year and gave them an opportunity to name the Season Five code scene and when they came up with 'The Fork in the Outlet' and voted on such, we feel like they did a very nice job... Alex we only probably have time for about two more questions.
Alex: Well I just have two more questions actually. One is just about JJ Abrams' involvement in Season Six. Is he coming back to write some episodes?
Carlton: JJ is very busy with his own movie and television career, and I think he himself has sort of said that it's kind of be appropriate for Damon and I to finish what we have been doing with the show. We love and respect JJ, but our guess is he will be focusing on his own things.
Alex: Any Dark Tower updates?
Damon: I think that we're just so focused on finishing Lost that it's really hard to think about anything else. And the last thing we want to think about is how to adapt a seven book series of, you know, basically the writer who we admire the most and look up to most and has inspired our work the most, and do anything with that. I think that it's such a daunting task. We have a pretty daunting task in front of us ourselves, so, we're really just... It's easy to say “What are you guys going to do next?” and start working on that but I think Carlton and I are very singular in basically making sure this is not the time to start drifting off and working on other projects. It's going to be an enormously tricky job to bring Lost to a satisfying conclusion and that is all we're doing right now.
Alex: Ok great. Well I wanted to thank you both for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer our questions.
Damon: You're very welcome.
Carlton: Take care.
Alex: You too.