Although he dropped out high school in New York in 1970, 16-year-old Rafael Yglesias knew exactly what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.
“I wanted to be a writer,” Yglesias, 51, told me during a phone interview. “I had started to write a novel and I was convinced that staying in school wouldn’t help me. As soon as I got a publisher and got some money to live on I just got out of school.”
One year later, Yglesias’ first novel, Hide Fox, and All After., was published by Doubleday and was followed by seven others through 1998, including 1978’s The Game Player, 1990’s The Murderer Next Door, and 1993’s Fearless, a novel which he adapted into a film of the same name that starred Jeff Bridges (“The Door in the Floor”) and Isabella Rossellini (“The Saddest Music in the World”) and was directed by Peter Weir (“The Truman Show”).
After other screenplays including Roman Polanski’s 1994 film “Death and the Maiden” starring Ben Kingsley, 1998’s “Les Misérables,” starring Liam Neeson and 2001’s “From Hell” starring Johnny Depp, Yglesias is now credited as the sole writer of “Dark Water,” the remake of the Japanese horror film “Honogurai mizu no soko kara.”
Using the original film, which was directed by Hideo Nakata (“Ringu,” “The Ring Two”), and the novel written by Kôji Suzuki, Yglesias’ main objectives were to translate the Japanese ghost story into a more Westernized tale and to “pay homage to ‘Rosemary’s Baby,’” a film he said he really loves.
“I had to make a lot of changes because the reactions to some of the situations would be so different,” Yglesias said about the script he had actually written over two years ago. “For example, in Hideo’s film, his heroine is so neurotic and passive, that even though her ceiling is practially caving in from a leak, she doesn’t go upstairs for weeks to find out what is going on. Where as, I’ve lived in New York all my life, if somebody leaks on you for five minutes anyone would go upstairs and knock on the door. Right away I knew there were going to be big changes in how (characters) would react and behave.”
Yglesias said, when he first found out that award-winning director Walter Salles (“The Motorcycle Diaries”) wanted to direct the film, he was very excited and taken aback about his interest in the project.
“I was a little surprised that he was interested in doing a ghost story until I spoke with him,” Yglesias said. “Then I discovered that he had always wanted to do one. The more we continued with the film, the happier I was because a number of things I cared about deeply he did as well. He was very much in tune with what I liked about the story.”
Currently, Yglesias is finishing a script for a thriller with screenwriter and friend Tom Schullman (“Dead Poet’s Society”) and working on a long historical novel set from 1860-1922.
“I’ve never really done an honest day’s work in my life,” Yglesias said. “I’ve only been a writer.”