Exclusive: Gabbing with Goyer – Part I

Although David S. Goyer’s name might not be quite up there with Lucas and Spielberg just yet, he certainly has found a lot of appreciative movie and comic book fans, because he’s one of those rare screenwriters who has been able to bring comic books to the big screen…and actually make them good!

This affinity for comic book adaptations has certainly been helped by the fact Goyer has experience actually writing comics books, having worked on lengthy runs on “Starman” and the very popular current “JSA” series for DC Comics. But even before that, he wrote the screenplay to the sequel to the dark comic book movie, Crow: City of Angels, and had solidified his status as a superhero screenwriter when wrote the screenplay for the first movie based on Marvel’s vampire hunter Blade. Although that was based on a third-string character, the combination of action, horror and Wesley Snipes was exactly the right combination to bring a lot of moviegoers into theatres, and it ended up doing even better on video and DVD. Goyer also wrote its sequel, directed by Hellboy‘s Guillermo del Toro, which did even better, and now, for the third chapter in the series, Blade: Trinity, Goyer has upped the ante, not only writing and producing, but also going behind the lens to direct.

If Goyer didn’t have enough pressure to appease the famously finicky comic book fans, he is also the man that Warner Brothers has called upon to save the “Batman” franchise along with Aussie director Christopher Nolan by writing next year’s major summer release Batman Begins.

You would think that someone writing all these superhero movies must really love comic books, and you would be right, as we learned when Superhero Hype! sat down to talk to Goyer while he was in New York recently. (Put it this way: anyone who can name-check Mike Grell’s “Warlord” really knows comics.)

Superhero Hype!: When you wrote the first Blade movie, did you have any idea that it would become this huge catalyst for Marvel’s amazing run on comic based movies?

David Goyer: No, I had no idea how influential a film it would become. You never think that when you’re working on a film. You’re just making your film and in your own little universe when you’re doing it, but it sort of become a seminal genre film.

SHH!: Has it always been your intention to direct as well as write?

Goyer: It wasn’t from the outset. I’ve worked with at least four quite good directors, but if you work with enough crappy directors then you want to start to direct out of self-defense. There were definitely some real stinkers I’ve worked with, and after that you think, “Hell, I can screw up my own script. Why should I let somebody else do it?”

SHH!: Were you at all daunted about taking over from Guillermo del Toro, whose sequel was admired both by horror and comic book fans?

Goyer: No. Guillermo and Norrington both said that I was ready for this. Guillermo had some doubts when we started Blade II. He was sort of a protégé of James Cameron and I remember that he called Cameron when we were embarking upon his first action set piece, so I also placed a call to Guillermo when we started our first action shot. Maybe it’s hubris, but if I’m too plagued with doubt than I shouldn’t be directing.

SHH!: How have the movies progressed as each one has gone into production? Is there a lot more pressure with each movie?

Goyer: Well, yes and no. There were no expectations for the first Blade film at all. People were making fun of it before it was coming out, saying that it was going to be another Spawn. When we previewed the first Blade film, the morning after there were maybe six people from New Line in the room to read the responses and talk about whether to make any changes. When we previewed the second Blade film, there were twenty-seven people in the room, because it had done well in box office, but it had done really well in DVD. Suddenly, it became a big franchise and now, the third film is a real tentpole movie for [New Line]. In terms of marketing and things like that, they’ve gotten much more involved, but creatively, they’ve pretty much left me alone.

SHH!: Have you always been a science fiction and comic book fan?

Goyer: Yeah, I’m an avid and voracious reader. You name it, I love it. Comic books-all the Marvel and DC stuff. Science fiction wise, I’m a giant Gene Wolf fan, although his stuff is probably too complex and two-layered to ever see an on-screen adaptation. I like Jack Vance quite a bit, too.

SHH!: Did reading comics and writing for comics help you with the direction of the movie as far as visuals?

Goyer: Absolutely, because when you write a comic book, it’s like you’re writing a script but you’re also describing the storyboards at the same time. I ended up writing something like 45 issues of JSA, so that gave me a lot of experience working with artists and graphically learning how to tell a story. How would a high angle work here or a low angle? Things like that. It helped me a lot.

SHH!: Why did you decide to set the third movie in the modern world and in America?

Goyer: One aspect of the first Blade that I liked more than the second Blade was that the second one became so underground and insular, that we barely had any humans in it. I thought some of the fun moments in the first Blade were the times where Blade interacted with humans or it spilled over into the real world, so I thought let’s make the whole movie that. I do think that’s where we get a lot of the humor in this film.

SHH!: How do you think fans of the first two films will react to this one?

Goyer: Usually what happens with audience that see this film is that it takes about a half hour to adjust. By far, we generally have had positive reaction to the film. We had mixed reaction to the second film as well. There are people that love it and think it’s much better than the first film and then there are people who hate it. We’ve had people say that my movie is better than the second one but not as good as the first one, but you know what? It’s pretty good for the third time out. Nothing would make me happier than when all three films come out, to have the audience evenly split three ways. I think they each have their strength. There are things in the new film that we did better than the other two and then there are things that we didn’t do better than the other two. I think this is certainly the funniest of the three.

SHH!: There seems to be this strange synergy between the Blade and the Matrix movies. The original Blade came out before the first Matrix as did Dark City [Goyer's dark sci-fi film directed by I Robot's Alex Proyas], but the third Blade movie will be coming out after the last two Matrix films. Are you worried that people will think Blade is ripping off the Matrix?

Goyer: I’m not really worried about that. We were doing some of that stuff before, but I don’t want to take anything away from the Wachowskis. They’ve done some incredible stuff. Clearly, we have some of the same influences, watched the same kind of films, and read the same kind of comic books…but we definitely did bullet time first.

SHH!: Since you’re now working for Warner Brothers, have you had the chance to meet the Wachowskis personally?

Goyer: No, I’ve never met them. I think they pretty much live in Illinois, and I haven’t even officially moved into my office at Warner Brothers yet. I have a deal and I’m going to move in December 1st. I’ll be out on the lot in the same building as Christopher Nolan.

SHH!: Are you going to try to do more stuff with Nolan after Batman?

Goyer: I don’t know. We’ll see. I guess the first thing would be whether or not we do another Batman film. I’m not really being coy. I don’t think I would do one if Chris didn’t, and Chris has just said that he doesn’t even want to talk about until he at least gets his first cut done. He finished shooting five or six weeks ago, and when he finishes the first cut of the film, I know there will be enormous pressure on Warner Brothers’ part to get him to do the next one, so we’ll see.

SHH!: Did you know him for a long time or did you meet him on the project?

Goyer: I met Chris before Memento came out. We had a bunch of mutual friends and we had seen each other socially a few times. We weren’t buddy buddies, but we were in the same kind of circles. He certainly felt comfortable enough calling me and talking to me about the first Batman. He came on first, and then he called me. He didn’t know what story he wanted to tell yet, so from that point, we hashed it out together.

SHH!: How has he been handling something so enormous, considering that his background is smaller films like Memento or even Insomnia?

Goyer: He’s incredibly talented and just a great filmmaker, so he’s completely calm and assured in what he’s doing. His crew and the people that work with him are incredibly dedicated to him, and I would work with him again in a heartbeat.

SHH!: Is Warner Brothers heavily involved with the plot and direction of the movie?

Goyer: No, they gave us a ton of leeway. It’s the opposite of the horror stories that you hear. I think they knew that people were somewhat disappointed with the last two Batman films, for whatever reason. We had a couple of initial conversations about what their expectations were. We wanted to make sure that there were some parameters within which we could tell the story we wanted to tell, so we just asked them what are their dos and don’ts. We knew that they weren’t going to let us make an R-rated film. While I was intrigued by what [Darren] Aronofsky and [Frank] Miller were trying to do, I knew that the studio would never let them do it, so to that extent, I think it was kind of folly to pursue that. They’re not going to let a character that big become an R-rated film.

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Source: Edward Douglas