How do you follow up playing the lead role in the most successful film of all time? If you’re Sam Worthington, you start making comic books. Radical, the LA-based publishing house, has welcomed Worthington and his friends, John and Michael Schwarz, into the fold to oversee their own line of miniseries and graphic novels.
Full Clip, Worthington’s production company, has been working with Radical to bring one of their previously-established properties, "The Last Days of American Crime" to the big screen. Beginning in February, though, Full Clip will be working the other way, as their new series, "Damaged," hits comic book stores. The book, created by John and Michael and written by "Stray Bullets" creator David Lapham, will soon be followed by the original graphic novel, "Patriots," written by Worthington himself.
The Australian trio gathered at the Radical offices and spoke with SuperHeroHype about what the partnership means both on the big screen and on the printed page.
Q: Sam, you’ve been a comic book fan for a long time. You’ve said before that you had a mate that went to Comic-Con.
Sam Worthington: Yeah, there’s my mate right there. (pointing to Michael Schwarz)
Q: So when did this all start percolating? Has this been in the works for a long time?
Worthington: Oh no. It was mainly Michael (Schwarz) in his basement playing "Guitar Hero" and reading comic books. I thought to get him out of the damn basement and send him to Comic-Con, you know? He needs to try and learn that the world is massive. Mike actually astounded me. He blew me away when he came back and he made all of these connections.
Michael Schwarz: Well, on the last day, I was going around looking at every publisher.
Worthington: Not because I wanted to make a movie. Moreso to show Mike how big this world is.
John Schwarz: We’ve always loved comic books and graphic novels. Mike was kind of almost like the professor of it. We were both juniors. He was the master, you know what I mean? So we said "Why don’t you go to Comic-Con and see what you can do?"
Worthington: Honestly, I was expecting [him] to come back drunk and say, "thanks for the opportunity." I didn’t think you’d come back hooked up with Barry Levine and Radical and saying, "Hey, these boys want us to help out. We need to talk to them about where their ideas want to go." And they had no idea what ideas we had.
Michael Schwarz: Well, "The Last Days of American Crime" got me straight away. The thing about Radical is that they’ve been around for only two years and during that time they were only a year old, but they’ve kind of got this swagger about themselves that they’ve been around for so much longer. Even though they’re still in their infancy. It’s exciting to be around it, sort of exciting that it’s infectious. John, Sam and me latched onto "Last Days" and we hopped onboard. Barry Levine became our producing partner and I pitched him more about comics and "Damaged," which is an original idea we had years ago. He dug it and from there he said, "Well, why don’t you go and make a bunch more?" So we ended up getting this imprint.
Q: Can go you back earlier and tell us how you guys met each other?
Worthington: Six to eight years ago. I went to drama school with John Schwarz and Mike’s his younger brother, so he tends to just hang out. That’s it. So we’re a pretty tight bunch of guys. They do whatever they do and they’re my brothers, basically.
Q: Is the idea to develop these comics as film properties?
Worthington: No no. Because I think that’s arrogantly egotistical in the sense that you’re not even — that you’re going to have what you think you will. Essentially our idea is, through any kind of creative force, is to create a good story. It’s as simple as that. We’re comic book fans, so let’s create a comic book. If, down the line, Radical decides to pursue this further, then that’s a great opportunity for us. But that’s not primarily why I wanted to get involved, and that’s not how it’s kind of come out, been blogged and read about. Well, with "Damaged" they’re sixty year-old men so, unless I’m weaing a f–king latex mask, then I’m a bit sh-t out of luck aren’t I? And "Patriots" is about a lot of women so I can’t be in that one. But even to create them you can’t look at it like that. I think the great thing about them is that we’re not limited by time or, you know, "we have x amount of days to shoot it" like on a film. It gives us an avenue to get a lot of creativity and, basically, the only thing it’s going to cost us is ink and paper. Then we can run wild. Then, if down the track something happens, then that’s out of our hands and that’s fantastic. That’s a great opportunity.
Michael Schwarz: I think the integrity of the actual comic would be totally compromised if we were just thinking about it as changing it to another medium and selling it along the track. You’ve got to actually think to yourself, "let’s try to create a piece of art". The strongest piece you can do without compromising down the track saying, "let’s think about Nic Cage playing this dude" or whatever.
Worthington: I know I’ve said this before, but putting your integrity at stake, I think audiences can smell that. All of us are pretty damn smart to notice and say, "I can see what you’re doing here. To be honest the story is just a vehicle to make the movie." And they don’t even dig the story so why in the f–k would they go to the movie? If you deal with the story, then suddenly people jump on board and say, "I’d like to see this developed further." Then a decision has to be made.
Q: What’s the hallmark of success for you guys on this project because, in the comic book world, especially in this day and age, it’s a small business. Sales are small. There’s a really core audience. So are you looking to break out of the mainstream or just trying to hit into that core?
Worthington: We’re happy to get the f–king imprint to be honest, brother. You’re talking to three Australian dudes here, who some crazy guy who used to photograph for Motley Crue and they’re basically taking a run on it. That’s an amazing opportunity in and of itself, so I think the goal is short-term rather than long-term. That first goal is for people to go out and actually dig our stories.
Michael Schwarz: And "Damaged" in particular, is an idea we had as a comic five or six years ago. Just the realization finally getting to be able to see that. That’s satisfaction right there.
Worthington: Yeah, and we’re doing other things as well with it to get the comic books and get them out and actually get them to the stage where the core audience is going to be responsive to them and where it will be successful. At the moment, that is our goal, which may or may not seem very massive-orientated.
Q: Sam, since you are the star of the biggest movie of all time, maybe 1/1000th of one percent of that audience will probably read the comics because that’s the nature of the publication. It’s a small core audience.
Worthington: Yeah, but we all have our own separate careers. But together, collectively, we did start a small business and that’s kind of a cool thing. That’s how we looked at it. We aren’t looking at it like we’re going to dominate the comic book world. That’s ridiculous. Right now, we’re just touching our toe in the water to see if one kid down at the Golden Apple can say, "Hey, that’s cool, man."
Q: Then this is just a labor of love for you? You grew up loving comic books?
Worthington: Yeah, and then sometime I realized down the line, "Holy sh-t! I’ve got a comic book!" All you need in any industry is someone to back you and Jim Cameron backed me up and Barry’s backed [my friends] outta nowhere. And the first thing I said to him today was, "You don’t know Mike from Adam, why the f–k would you ever want to produce anything from Mike Schwarz?" And he said that he’s got passion and integrity, commitment and creativity, and that kind of drive and hunger is exciting. So yeah, in a way it’s a labor of love for us, too in an exciting world.
Michael Schwarz: Well, it’s like a dream come true. I’ve loved comic books ever since I was a kid. I learned to read by reading Batman. So to be able to create these books that are going to be around for a long time is great. It’s very important.
John Schwarz: We’ve got a bunch of nephews back home between us. We’ve got two books that we’ve announced so far with "Damaged" and "Patriots." The next one we’re going to make it a little more geared towards a 9-12 year old market.
Worthington: So we’re switching. These guys are making a comic book for 12 to 9 year olds. What the f–k are they thinking?
John Schwarz: It’s something we can enjoy with our nephews.
Q: So you guys are sort of looking towards the broad spectrum of comics?
Worthington: Totally. If you look at Radical, Radical is very spread in not necessarily dealing with any specific genre. If he likes an idea he runs with it. He gets other creative guys like Joe Kosinski in here. Or Antoine Fuqua. They were developing comics with him. To us, we need to go and it’s like now we’ve got as many comics as we want to create. He is enthusiastic with any kind of genre we give him an idea for.
Q: Speaking as a comic book fan, and you guys are comic book people, we’ve all been around the block with "name" creators coming in. Famously, they come in and they kind of disappear. What’s your involvement, in the real specific aspects as far as sticking with them is concerned?"
Worthington: Every time we came up with an idea that we’ve always agreed. With "Damaged," these boys had an idea so they could shepherd the story. For example, [David] Lapham comes to the story and then he says, "This doesn’t work. This doesn’t work." And with "Patriots," Schwarz had the idea and Mike becomes the hammer, and that’s how it works. The origin of the story or the idea does come from any of us. If Mike’s got an idea by himself then me and (John) Schwarz will help him shepherd it. That’s how a good trio works. We work pretty fast and, since we’ve known each other for so long, we’re not afraid to be brutally honest with each other and say, "Mate, that idea sucked. I see what you’re doing there. You’ve written this for Lucy Liu, you f–k." You know, you can see what’s happening.
Q: Would you ever want to write a comic book version of an existing property? Say, write for the "Avatar" license?
Worthington: If you look at the whole world now, it’s just computer games, graphic novels, film, TV spinoffs, spinoffs of spinoffs like Deadpool spinning off of Wolverine. So I think that any kind of smart producer looks at all of those bases. Once it comes down to the integrity of it, audiences are very smart. They smell if they’re just kind of being played. So, [they know] if the computer game of a certain film isn’t up to the standard of the film or it’s basically just a re-hash of the same damn story. Someone said to me, "Hey, why do I want to play a computer game of a movie if I’ve already seen the movie? I’m doing the same thing and it’s a hundred times bigger and a hundred times better." So if you’re going to make a computer game off a movie, is it going to be like "Avatar" where it’s going to be a prequel before Jake even got to the planet? You’ve got to be smart because audiences demand that. They aren’t going to sit there and be force-fed anything, I believe.
Q: Full Clip is a production company as well. So are there any projects that you guys put together for Full Clip that would turn back into comics?
Worthington: Well, for example, me and Schwarz took the idea of Quartermaine to DreamWorks, not really expecting anything to come out of that. Not expecting DreamWorks to have their own kind of Quartermaine idea. Then they jumped together to find out that their ideas are working with our ideas. Now that kind of does happen. That kind of cross-pollenation does occur. If Quartermaine came out and it was a kick ass new movie and they wanted to go and make a comic book out of it. Yeah, but it has to stand alone and not just be, "let’s just cash in on it."
Q: How did David Lapham get involved?
Michael Schwarz: That was Radical that approached him and, so far, all those that have been approached are just top named talent in art and writing. He was the first to be approached. I was a bit star-struck to talk to him for the first time and I was really nervous to see what he would do with our story. A man with his caliber, would he just take it and make it his own completely? What he did with it was great. It’s still our story and our characters, but it’s still got his stamp on it without taking away from the story we created. He’s given it his voice, which is my favorite thing. He stands aside in the comic industry. My favorite writers just have really distinct voices and he’s added his voice to our story.
Worthington: Which is the same with the artist. We, at that moment, went through who we thought would be best to do the artwork for it. Partly that was the case of Barry saying, "Go for your dream team and all they can say is no." And that’s kind of a cool kind of thing, and it is nerve-wracking. You’ve always got to be smart enough to go, "Well, they’re going to have to bring some of their own in." We don’t want it to be a monopoly where we get shoved out. It has to be symbiotic.
Q: In regards to "Damaged," what’s the time line? When are we going to start seeing this out in comic book stores?
Michael Schwarz: We were looking around January/February for the first issue. It’s quick.
John Schwarz: Well, we gave David our treatment and he gave us like a five to six page treatment. Then, about a week later, he gave us a thirty page treatment.
Worthington: So that just shows that the idea of the story is compelling enough for him to work on it immediately.
Michael Schwarz: Yeah, and a week later he gave us issue one. So it’s going to be a six-issue series and it should be out probably around January/February. We still have a lot of things to do with it, mess around with the story, and make it as good as we can.
Q: Obviously, you have a lot of Hollywood connections now, is there any talk of you guys about certain people that you’ve worked with or certain people that you want to work with in this town crossing over from the movie world, writers in that industry, work with you guys on your imprint? You know, partnering up on something or finding a cool idea and how it would work.
Worthington: Yeah it’s definitely something that I haven’t discussed.
John Schwarz: Yeah, right.
Worthington: Well, we know a lot of boys that are quite shocked that all this comes down to one guy backing me. As Jim backed me, Barry is backing this company. I’m sure there’s other guys. There’s millions of ideas out there. Many creative forces out there. To work with them on something we think of down the track then, who knows?
John Schwarz: We’re just focused on comics at the moment. We’ve talked to different people who obviously express interest in what we’re doing. We’re just trying to get these set up and rolling along down the track.
Q: Would you mind saying a little bit of what each of the comics are about?
Worthington: "Damaged" is about, basically, brotherhood. Two cops. One becomes a vigilante. It’s basically about redemption, passing fathers and sons, and all of these kind of brotherly things that these guys have come to and dealt with in their lives set in a violent kind of noir-like world. "Patriots" is quite simple. There’s seven continents in the world. If you had to sacrifice one continent and save six, would you do it? That’s the question we’re posing with that one.
Q: So you haven’t released a reason?
Michael Schwarz: Well, with this one I think we’re going to try and handle it like Chris Nolan handled "Inception." Keep it under our f–king hats. This one, "Damaged" is a six issue series and ["Patriots"] is a stand alone graphic novel.
Worthington: Because it’s more epic in scope.
Q: Now how much input do you guys get with, say, price points and the length of issues?
Worthington: We get advice from Barry.
Q: So with "Patriots," do you say how long each issue should be?
Worthington: Yeah, Barry was the one who said we should make it into a graphic novel. Because we’re illustrating this whole world and we can get an understanding of what it is by having a serial comic book or graphic novel, trying to see which one suits us best. At the moment it’s all learning from Barry.
Q: How does it work with the 9 to 5 running this thing? Are you guys always on the phone or Skype when you’re filming on location?
Worthington: Yeah, we e-mail each other. Like we said, we’ve known each other for fifteen years so we know each other from back to front.
Michael Schwarz: We’ve always talked to each other.
Worthington: Yeah, every day for about ten years, so we can tell each other, "hey, this idea sucks" if I’m off in the middle of the Moroccan desert or something. Because we do live in a world where that is possible.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about "The Last Days of American Crime"?
John Schwarz: I basically saw this comic book and talked to Barry about it. It hadn’t even had come out yet. Barry at the time liked it and he was wanting to pursue it and pushing Radical to go and start making films. That’s what Barry’s looking at. And with "Last Days" you can see it on the pages that it could make a great movie. Mike ended up coming to me as a mate of Sam and then Sam talked about it with what we were going with this. You could see what was happening. Barry wanted to push it. So then it’s now to the point of where Mike, myself and Barry are going to produce it and we’re out looking for directors and writers at the moment. The problem is it’s very stylistic looking. At the moment, we’re finding writers that understand what I want to say with the substance, so it’s not just taking a comic and making it into a film. You have to increase that. Any kind of movie has to be bigger than the actual comic, so at the moment, we’re just taking it out and finding the right people involved.
Q: Is there a backlog of ideas here? How far do your plans go into the future?
Worthington: Like I’ve said, we’ve known each other for fifteen years. We’re a bunch of young, idealistic Australians who happen to be able to play in your pool. I mean, I got involved with f–king "Avatar." Some other people have opened up to us and we’re lucky enough to have all of these creative kind of outlets over here to help us get involved. It shows that the spirit that America has. The American industry creativity it has where anything is possible. Three idealistic Australians bringing in new ideas and being able to make the damn comic books that they’ve always dreamed about. It’s kind of a cool thing. You get to go and play with the big boys. It’s a very privileged thing for us to do. So I’m sure we have more ideas than what we actually have time for.
John Schwarz: Not all of them good. (Laughs)
Q: Sam, what’s happening with your future film projects?
Worthington: "Clash 2" think we start shooting early next year and it will be 3D this time. Shot in 3D. Do put that in and make them f–king aware.
Q: What were your thoughts on the post conversion and the changes that movie went through before release?
Worthington: The movies always change. It suddenly became a rolling, runaway train in some parts. In regards to the conversion, I’m a Jim Cameron boy, so people know my opinions. "Avatar 2" will be whenever Jim decides to write it. I think he’s in Thailand at the moment or trying to save the gulf. But I’m sure he’s going to put pen to paper soon.
Q: Can you talk about the additonal eight minutes that will be in the theatrical release?
Worthington: I wish we added eight hours. I think the first cut I saw was about six hours long.
Q: Do you know what’s in the additional eight minutes?
Worthington: No, I don’t. He hasn’t told us. There’s a couple of extra hunting scenes. There’s a much-speculated and blogged sex scene everyone keeps f–king harping on about. To be honest, I think everyone’s going to be disappointed that’s it’s not blue porn.
Q: They’re making that.
Worthington: Yeah. But there’s a lot of other character parts. Giovanni [Ribisi] stuff and Stephen Lang stuff. So it’s up to Jim. I know Jim would only release it if it enhanced the story by putting it back in.
Q: Is there more stuff on Earth?
Worthington: Yeah there is. We shot all that. When we first saw all that, it didn’t [work]. You just want to get to the planet. It’s kind of a slow burn. Jim always wanted it to be a slow burn start so that you would adjust to your eyes and adjust the world, but it became too much of slow burn. It was like, "hurry the f–k up, man."
Q: How involved are you going to be in shaping "Clash 2" now that you’re in a much stronger position?
Worthington: Well, I do that a lot anyway, trying to put a stamp on it. Whether it’s the right idea or not, it’s up to them in the end. When I read "Clash 2," they came to me the other day. I said, "I kinda dig where it’s going, but can we make the character more of this? Can we make it more of that? Can I get to play a lot more and get involved and have a lot more f–king fun than just being a young man who has to stand there and look pretty?" I’m sick of doing that, so it’s kind of a case of, "How do we make Perseus a lot more fun?" So we’re sort of shaping it down that track. And Warner Bros. has been nice enough to give us a bit on input.
For updates from Radical, visit their website at RadicalPublishing.com. Check out the trailer for "Last Days of American Crime" below: