You Losties are amazing —188 responses, most of those containing multiple questions for the show’s honchos, Carlton Cuse (left, below) and Damon Lindelof. Let me tell you, it was no easy task to whittle those queries down to 20 to send to the guys. Of those 20, each showrunner picked five to answer.
We didn’t want to leave anyone out, but Damon and Carlton agreed to answer 10. Rest assured we made every
effort to combine as many similar questions as possible so that we
would represent the most-asked questions. That said, if your question
began with “Will we ever see…?”, it didn’t make the cut since the guys
were explicit in not wanting to reveal future plot points.
With season five down to just a couple of episodes before the two-hour finale on May 13, the “Lost” scribes have been piling on the revelations (Castaways worked for the Dharma Initiative back in 1977! Ben actually saved Rousseau’s daughter!) and filling in backstories at breakneck pace (Glimpses of Charles Widmore in his prime have been eye-opening, and last week's episode on Miles' history was a retro gem). The time-travel aspect has been smartly fleshed out, with Hurley and Miles debating its rules in comic style. And Damon and Carlton have revealed via podcast the chosen name for the season finale’s key scene (The Fork in the Outlet).
The “Lost” showrunners have been busy this season, locking in the show’s core characters and throughlines, keeping track of elaborate continuity (witness the kerfuffle over Charlotte's age) and laying the groundwork for a grand wrap-up of all the show’s mysteries in season six. It’s rare for a TV series with such an intricate and serialized storyline to maintain such rabid fan interest and confidence in the storytelling, but Damon and Carlton clearly bring their own rich appreciation of drama, sci-fi and genre to the endeavor, as reflected in their ongoing love for the Stephen King universe and Damon co-writing the sequel to Par’s upcoming reboot of “Star Trek.” It’s clear from their responses to your questions that they’re both showrunners and fans themselves, and that “Lost” proves an iconic favorite.
UPDATE: The winner of the signed DVD set is (drumroll…) Derek, who asked the first part of the question about the predetermined end date. The scribes couldn't pick a favorite question and neither could we so we put everyone's name in a hat and picked a winner that way. Congratulations Derek! DVD will be along to you shortly.
Thanks for the spectacular response and enjoy the answers. Here we go:
When the show is all said and done, how do you want the show to be
remembered … and about 20 years after the show has ended would you both
be willing to be involved in the remake/relaunch of “Lost,” and if so,
what would you do differently? What has the show taught you? (Combined Ramsey Lawson and Jon P.)
DL: I think our hope is that looking back on the entire run of the show, that people remember the EXPERIENCE of watching it — what it actually felt like to be mystified and frustrated and surprised — as opposed to just where it landed storywise. When all is said and done, we’ll have consumed six years of our fans’ lives and our greatest wish is that they look back on that time and feel that it was all worth it. As far as whether we’ll want to revisit “Lost” 20 years from now, the answer is probably no… though it would be pretty cool to see what someone else might come up with!
Have you had any regrets about previous character deaths coming too
soon, and whether you might have wanted (in hindsight) to have given
them a little more time on the island? (Corey)
DL: The one that comes to mind is Mr. Eko. That was a situation where we had some pretty cool ideas as to where we were gonna take the character, but unfortunately, Adewale was not really interested in working on the show beyond Season Two. This forced us into a position of having to kill him “prematurely,” and even though we had no control over him leaving, we probably could have executed (pun intended) the death itself with a little more finesse.
Q. How much did it mean to the writing of the show to know exactly how many episodes you had left to tell the story? (Derek)
… The ‘end date’ agreement you reached with ABC was groundbreaking for
network television and REALLY saved “Lost” from spinning its wheels
indefinitely. It also made the show pretty much “cancel-proof,” as you
now know exactly WHEN the show will leave the air. Do you feel like
“Lost’s” agreement will set a trend that other networks/producers will
adopt? (Cheif Brody)
DL: Negotiating the end of the show and effectively cancelling ourselves in the process was without a doubt the single most awesome thing that ever happened to “Lost.” As writers, we had reached a very frustrating impasse… we had already told our beginning and we knew the ending we wanted to work toward, but all we could actually write was the middle. We knew the show would hit a new gear once we ditched the flashbacks and started to tell the story of the people who left the island, but we also knew we couldn’t START that story until the audience knew we were heading down the proverbial mountain. Fortunately for us, (ABC Entertainment Group president) Steve McPherson and (then ABC Studios president*) Mark Pedowitz at the network put aside their business sense and understood that creatively, ending the show was absolutely necessary. Who knows if other shows will adopt the conceptual framework of a “limited” series (they’ve been doing it in the U.K. for decades and it’s awesome), but it really liberated us as storytellers.
*Note: Pedowitz is now special adviser to Disney-ABC TV Group prexy Anne Sweeney
A while back, I remember reading you guys made a Sawyer episode with
Jolene Blalock, but for some reason, decided to switch it to a Michael
episode. My question is: Why? Will we ever see that footage,
incorporated in some other way? Was the Sawyer-centric story ever told
or was it just abandoned? Can we get it as an extra on one of the
upcoming DVDs maybe? (Chase)
CC: This happens all the time in both film and TV, scenes or storylines are shot that just don’t work out as you hoped. We’ve been fortunate to have a really high success rate on “Lost.” In fact, that was the only time we dumped an entire storyline. No fault of the actors — it just wasn’t properly conceived. We have no plans to put it on the DVDs because unlike most deleted scenes, which just don’t fit into the body of a particular show, this storyline was not at the quality bar we have for the show.
I was wondering how long “Lost” would have run in its most
straightforward narrative, if you had been able to produce it that way.
If you had been given free rein to run the show and let it unfold as
you wanted, would it have only been four seasons long? Five? If not,
how much further along in the storyline would we be right now? What
parts of seasons two and three would have been more truncated? (Ryan/similar question asked by Foobeka)
CC: At the end of the day “Lost” will have run for exactly the right amount of time. At one point we’d talked about 100 episodes being ideal but as we got further downstream we came to appreciate the extra 20 or so hours. It’s funny now, the question we are being asked the most has shifted from, “Do you guys know what you’re doing?” to, “Do you guys have enough time left to tell your story?” People used to be worried that “Lost” was spinning its wheels. Now the concern is, are we gonna be able to wrap it all up in only one more short season?
Q. What works may have influenced you?:
You’re obviously huge fans of Stephen King… I was wondering how the ending to “The Dark Tower” informs yours. (Simplevincent)… I have read that “The Stand” is very influential to the mythology of “Lost.” (William) Are you guys fans of Irish literature as “Lost” seems to have similarities to a number of famous Irish stories, including of course ‘Ulysses”? (Brian) … The “Star Wars: Episode 4” influences are on display. True? (.35) … I have wondered if one of your big influences came in the form of a wicked British children’s show called “Children of the Stones,” particularly with time and cycles. (Spymunk and JimK). I am struck by the similarities in scope and tone between “Lost” and “The Prisoner.” (Jeanette) Of all the books referenced in the show, which fathered your show’s structure the most? (Mischa)
Are any of these, indeed influences and are there others not mentioned here?
CC: For both Damon and me Stephen King’s “The Stand” was the most influential model for “Lost.” Because “Lost” is not the tenth carbon copy of a medical, legal or cop show there wasn’t a clear roadmap for how to make it work for 100 episodes by looking at other TV shows. So instead we turned to “The Stand,” a 1,000-page novel with a high-concept idea at the core: most of the world’s inhabitants have been killed by a super flu. What we loved about the book was that what sustains the 1,000 pages is not the mythology of the super flu but the stories of the characters. The mystery of what was happening on this island had to be secondary to the mystery of “who are these people?” In terms of creative inspiration we owe a debt to many other sources: the Bible, “Twin Peaks,” “The Prisoner,” the Narnia Chronicles, and of course “Star Wars” and all of its mythological antecedents, Kurt Vonnegut and Flannery O’Connor.
Can you comment on why the show’s signature flashbacks have been
replaced by the “three years later/earlier” title cards? I think you
could have kept the flashback device the way it was and the audience
would have understood. Right now it feels a little like spoon-feeding
and I’d like to think I (and your viewers) are smarter than that. (Max)
DL: Our viewers are extremely smart… in fact, WAY smarter than us. That being said, when we’re doing flashforwards and flashbacks while the island itself is flashing through time, we felt it was necessary to use the title cards just so WE could keep the story straight. The good news is that we usually only do it once a show to remind the audience where our characters are relative to each other, but once we’ve established it, we just go back to the good ole WHOOOOOOSH.
Q. How much goes into maintaining continuity on such a complex show? (Alberto) (Adam adds that “your continuity guy is a god.”)
CC: A lot. We have Gregg Nations who works for us and is in charge of continuity. He keeps detailed records of everything that happens on the show. He doesn’t have what’s going to happen; only what HAS happened — but he meticulously checks everything we publish in each script against that historical continuity. Not that we don’t make mistakes once in a while but given the enormous complexity of our show, our error rate is low.
I am so happy to watch your long-term planning start to really pay off
in the story. Have you had the idea to actually film scenes or at least
parts of scenes long in advance due to age or set changes? If you could
have in season one, would you have filmed a couple shots of 10-year-old
Walt looking down into a pit saying “Get up John”? (Cole)
DL: We’re really concerned about shooting scenes WAY in advance for a couple reasons. The first is straight up security… if such a thing leaked, the spoiler sites would find out HUGE plot reveals way before we want them to. The second reason we don’t do this is that while the overall story of the final season has been planned for almost five years now, we still enjoy the organic process of actually writing these scenes in the order we’re filming them.
What challenges do you face in creating a nearly deserted island? Do
you ever need to digitally remove planes, boats, or houses in post? (CelebritySkinned.com)
CC: “Lost” would not be possible without the tremendous advances in visual effects technology in the last few years, especially the drop in costs and the ability to do complex visual effects on a TV budget and schedule. The island of Oahu where we shoot the show is very beautiful but also very populated and developed. We remove roads, telephone poles, houses, boats and surfers in nearly every episode. But even more importantly, VFX allow us to make Hawaii look like literally any place in the world. We’ve used our VFX team to turn Oahu into Iraq, Berlin, Paris, Tunisia and even a snowy winter in Red Square. In fact, in the entire 100-plus episode history of the show we’ve only shot four scenes off the island, mainly due to actor availability.
— Kathy Lyford and Brian Cochrane
Lindelof and Cuse at ABC's press tour. Photo by Adam Larkey/ABC
Daniel Dae Kim, exec producer Bryan Burk, Damon Lindelof, Carlton Cuse and Jorge Garcia at Comic-Con in summer ’08.