San Antonio native, screenwriter C. Robert Cargill brings darkness to ‘The Black Phone’

The first time screenwriter C. Robert Cargill had something he wrote published, he was 15 years old. It was an editorial about media coverage of the case of Heidi Seeman, an 11-year-old girl who was abducted and murdered in San Antonio in 1990. The newspaper that published her editorial was the San Antonio Express-News.

“I submitted it as C. Robert Cargill because I didn’t want anyone to know I was a kid,” said Cargill, 46, who was a student at Judson High School at the time. to MySA during a recent interview. “That’s where my professional name comes from.”

Since then, Cargill’s name has appeared in countless movie reviews, on the covers of several books, and in the credits as a screenwriter for horror films. Claim and Claim 2 and the Marvel Superhero Movie Doctor Strange. In its latest film, Cargill reunites with writing partner Scott Derrickson to co-write The black phonea supernatural horror film adapted from a short story by Joe Hill, the son of novelist Stephen King.

Set in 1978, The black phone tells the story of a young boy (Mason Thames) who is kidnapped by a serial killer known as The Grabber (Ethan Hawke). Once the boy is locked in a basement, he begins to receive phone calls from the masked kidnapper’s former victims, who attempt to help him find a way to escape.

(left to right) Vance Hopper (Brady Hepner) and Finney Shaw (Mason Thames) in The Black Phone, directed by Scott Derrickson.

Fred Norris/Universe

Austin-based Cargill was introduced to Hill’s story by Derrickson after they wrote their first screenplay together in 2012. Claim, and decided to continue working in pairs. Derrickson was inspired by François Truffaut’s 1959 classic 400 Shots and wanted to write something, Cargill said, “about youth resilience.” Hill’s story in 2004, The black phoneseemed like the perfect project for them.

“It was a great story that was just waiting for someone to give it the right inspiration and turn it into a movie,” Cargill said. “Joe has such a great style and innocence in his work that tempers the darkness that Scott and I try to do.”

When the first cut of The black phone was complete, Cargill and Derrickson sent it to Hill to watch over him. Hill asked them if it would be okay to show it to his family as well, including his father. Cargill admits that’s when he got nervous.

“It was like, ‘Oh my God, Stephen King is going to watch our movie,'” Cargill said. “Joe is a close friend, but I only knew his father indirectly. I’m a horror writer because of Stephen King.

Ethan Hawke as The Grabber in The Black Phone, directed by Scott Derrickson.

Ethan Hawke as The Grabber in The Black Phone, directed by Scott Derrickson.

Fred Norris/Universe

With Cargill, Texas is tied to The black phone continue with the actor who plays his villain, two-time Oscar nominee and Austin native Ethan Hawke (Childhood). Hawke’s Grabber was inspired by early 20th century vaudevillian magicians who incorporated devil costumes into their acts.

“Ethan in that devil mask is something people connect with,” Cargill said. “He’s such a special actor. We didn’t expect how theatrical he was going to be and how much he was going to bring it. But we knew he would be able to bring that mask to life.


The black phone plays in theaters nationwide.