The Wall Street Journal: When you sell the rights to your books, do the contracts give you some oversight over the screenplay, or is it out of your hands?
Mr. McCarthy: No, you sell it and you go home and go to bed. You don't embroil yourself in somebody else's project.
WSJ: When you first went to the film set, how did it compare with how you saw "The Road" in your head?
CM: I guess my notion of what was going on in "The Road" did not include 60 to 80 people and a bunch of cameras. [Director] Dick Pearce and I made a film in North Carolina about 30 years ago and I thought, "This is just hell. Who would do this?" Instead, I get up and have a cup of coffee and wander around and read a little bit, sit down and type a few words and look out the window.
WSJ: But is there something compelling about the collaborative process compared to the solitary job of writing?
CM: Yes, it would compel you to avoid it at all costs.
WSJ: When you discussed making "The Road" into a movie with John, did he press you on what had caused the disaster in the story?
CM: A lot of people ask me. I don't have an opinion. At the Santa Fe Institute I'm with scientists of all disciplines, and some of them in geology said it looked like a meteor to them. But it could be anything—volcanic activity or it could be nuclear war. It is not really important. The whole thing now is, what do you do? The last time the caldera in Yellowstone blew, the entire North American continent was under about a foot of ash. People who've gone diving in Yellowstone Lake say that there is a bulge in the floor that is now about 100 feet high and the whole thing is just sort of pulsing. From different people you get different answers, but it could go in another three to four thousand years or it go on Thursday. No one knows.
WSJ: What kind of things make you worry?
CM: If you think about some of the things that are being talked about by thoughtful, intelligent scientists, you realize that in 100 years the human race won't even be recognizable. We may indeed be part machine and we may have computers implanted. It's more than theoretically possible to implant a chip in the brain that would contain all the information in all the libraries in the world. As people who have talked about this say, it's just a matter of figuring out the wiring. Now there's a problem you can take to bed with you at night.
WSJ: "The Road" is this love story between father and son, but they never say, "I love you."
CM: No. I didn't think that would add anything to the story at all. But a lot of the lines that are in there are verbatim conversations my son John and I had. I mean just that when I say that he's the co-author of the book. A lot of the things that the kid [in the book] says are things that John said. John said, "Papa, what would you do if I died?" I said, "I'd want to die, too," and he said, "So you could be with me?" I said, "Yes, so I could be with you." Just a conversation that two guys would have.
WSJ: Why don't you sign copies of "The Road"
CM: There are signed copies of the book, but they all belong to my son John, so when he turns 18 he can sell them and go to Las Vegas or whatever. No, those are the only signed copies of the book.
WSJ: How many did you have?
CM: 250. So occasionally I get letters from book dealers or whoever that say, "I have a signed copy of the 'The Road,'" and I say, "No. You don't."
WSJ: What was your relationship like with the Coen brothers on "No Country for Old Men"?
CM: We met and chatted a few times. I enjoyed their company. They're smart and they're very talented. Like John, they didn't need any help from me to make a movie.
WSJ: "All the Pretty Horses" was also turned into a film [starring Matt Damon and Penelope Cruz]. Were you happy with the way it came out?
CM: It could've been better. As it stands today it could be cut and made into a pretty good movie. The director had the notion that he could put the entire book up on the screen. Well, you can't do that. You have to pick out the story that you want to tell and put that on the screen. And so he made this four-hour film and then he found that if he was actually going to get it released, he would have to cut it down to two hours.
WSJ: Does this issue of length apply to books, too? Is a 1,000-page book somehow too much?
CM: For modern readers, yeah. People apparently only read mystery stories of any length. With mysteries, the longer the better and people will read any damn thing. But the indulgent, 800-page books that were written a hundred years ago are just not going to be written anymore and people need to get used to that. If you think you're going to write something like "The Brothers Karamazov" or "Moby-Dick," go ahead. Nobody will read it. I don't care how good it is, or how smart the readers are. Their intentions, their brains are different.
WSJ: People have said "Blood Meridian" is unfilmable because of the sheer darkness and violence of the story.
CM: That's all crap. The fact that's it's a bleak and bloody story has nothing to do with whether or not you can put it on the screen. That's not the issue. The issue is it would be very difficult to do and would require someone with a bountiful imagination and a lot of balls. But the payoff could be extraordinary.