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IRON FIST

[Iron Fist]

Comics2Film caught up with martial artist and Iron Fist scribe John Turman this week. Turman has recently returned from a trip to Europe, where he met with Iron Fist star Ray Park (X-Men), and is just days from starting his first draft for the film.

“Ray is a great guy. He’s a really talented martial artist and he’s very excited about this. He’s got a real sense of humor that we’re going to try to make part of the character,” Turman said of the actor.

The storyline for the film will parallel the origin story from the character’s early appearances in Marvel Premier, but with a more detailed history. “Both Marvel and Artisan want to start this story running so we’re going to start with Iron Fist coming into the city,” Turman told C2F. The present-day setting for the film has not yet been determined. Turman tells us it could be New York City, Hong Kong or a nondescript city.

Although the movie will reveal the story of how young Daniel Rand was trained in the mystical city of K’un-L’un to become the Iron Fist, the main storyline will be the character’s present-day quest. “While there’s wall-to-wall action, it’s really a story about a guy trying to find out the truth of who he is and who he wants to be,” Turman said. “It’s a quest for vengeance that turns into a search for the truth.

“This is about a character returning to avenge his parents’ deaths and learning that the villain, that evil, is not as black and white as he thought it was.”

While Turman was reluctant to give specifics about the villain of the piece, he did say that current plans for villains should both satisfy and surprise fans of the comics. “He’s going to encounter a lot of opponents and they’ll all fight in different styles,” Turman said. “So, we’ll have different types of fights against villains who have experience in different styles. We’ll see him in action against corporate bodyguards, perhaps KGB or Eastern Germans, clandestine assassins, that’s where we’ll see traditional Asian martial arts. There might be a little bit of wire work there. The goal is to showcase a broad spectrum of martial arts and fighting styles and fight scenes with a judicious use of wire work.”

Both Turman and Park are skilled martial artists. Park is an expert in many disciplines, primarily focusing on Chinese Wushu. Turman is an instructor in Jeet Kune Do and Filipino Kali and has studied many others. Turman tells us to expect the movie to look more like Enter the Dragon than Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. “Ray is a great martial artist,” Turman said. “I see [Iron Fist] as being grounded in actual martial arts with specific and selective wire works to enhance it. This is a contemporary action film.”

So how closely will Iron Fist resemble his comic book counterpart? We asked Turman if Rand would wear the green and yellow tights. “There’s going to be a version of the costume but it will not be a spandex costume so much as it will be a ceremonial robe,” Turman said. “We will see the same color scheme but it’s not going to be a costumed hero film. It’s going to be an action martial arts film.” Turman also cautions that the use of any costume will really be a decision that the director will make.

Fans needn’t worry about one thing. Danny Rand will be able to make his fist like unto a thing of iron. “The Iron Fist is going to be the manifestation of his ability to focus his chi as will other superhuman martial arts abilities,” Turman told C2F. “That’s how we’re going to justify a lot of the jumping and running. The basic vision right now is Bruce Lee meets Hard Boiled.”

Turman aims to utilize his martial arts experience in the writing process. “I believe that fight scenes are scenes as as much as dialogue scenes are. They’re often about problem solving, or at least the best ones are,” Turman said. “I’m hopeful that we can have the story advanced by the fight scenes and, concurrent with that, some exposure to the philosophy behind fighting.”

Turman is very excited about working on this movie in particular. “It’s combining two of my great, great interests, one in comics and one in martial arts. And this will be Ray’s first starring role as a hero!”

His experience with comics led him to writing screenplays for The Hulk, Silver Surfer (both of which were featured in the book “The 50 Greatest Movies Never Made”) and, more recently, Buck Rogers. Turman tells us that For Iron Fist, “I didn’t have to do any research. I had all the comics. I just had to pull them off the shelf.”

While Turman prefers Iron Fist’s solo comic adventures he would have liked to have included Luke Cage in this movie. However that character is optioned for development elsewhere. 

Iron Fist will include Misty Knight as a supporting character. Knight is Rand’s bionic-armed love interest from the comic. In the movie she may or may not have the mechanical arm. However, Turman hopes to lay the groundwork for it for any possible sequels.

Plans call for the movie to lens in time to beat the much-discussed writer and actor strikes,  which could start in May. The budget will likely be modest to medium-sized.

With Park on board and Turman set to begin writing, things are looking good for the K’un-L’un kid. “We will have our fun with a guy who can focus his chi into a fist that’s as strong as iron,” Turman said.

MUTANT X

Comics2Film has learned that Howard Chaykin is on board the Mutant X TV series as Executive Consultant. Chaykin has previously been a Supervising Producer on the Viper TV series and is a veteran comic creator, creating such titles as American Flagg and Power and Glory.

We’ve also obtained information which sheds light on the upcoming show. According to a casting breakdown (given to agencies by casting directors when casting is underway), the show is slated to begin filming in Toronto on June 4 of this year. 22 one hour episodes will be filmed. Jay Firestone, Adam Haight, Avi Arad & Rick Unger are Executive Producers. Jamie Paul Rock is the producer.

Although the show is not based on any existing comics or characters, the producers of the show are trying to link it to the X-Men concept. The breakdown provides this description of the storyline: “The series is based on the feature film X-Men. Different characters, different stories. This series is about 5 genetically engineered humans who were all victims of the Human Genome Project-a top secret experiment on fetus’s that created children with enhanced gifts. They were made still very human and yet they have capabilities that far exceed those of mankind. The New Mutants, led by Adam Xero, are a ‘family’ of outlaws with a mission to find the victims of the Human Genome Project…aid them in mastering their abilities, protect them from those who would exploit or harm them, and to provide a sanctuary where they can rebuild their lives.

“There is a government agency called the Genetic Security Agency (GSA), a completely covert intelligence service under the command of Albion Magnus, that seeks out Mutants to bring them into the government’s custody. Our New Mutants heroes are not about to be captured by the GSA. The government agency has converted a team of mutants to work for them in their mission to track down all the New Mutants. Each adventure will pit Mutant X against other equally powerful-or even more powerful-mutants, working for the GSA.”

So who are these New Mutants? Here are the five parts currently being cast:

Adam Xero: Adam is 30’s, handsome, charming and at ease with everyone. He is the leader, strategist, tactician and all around one-man brain trust of the Mutant X. Adam is simply the smartest man alive-one of the special breed of children genetically engineered within the Human Genome Project – a product of a test-tube baby. He knows everything known to man since the dawn of time and can call upon this information at any time. His extreme intellect is his mutation. Even at the age of 10 he was a published writer in the fields of physics, biotechnology and medicine as well as writing bestseller novels that made him a millionaire. He very sexy and has an excellent body. The call sheet requests a physical actor.

Shalimar Fox (aka Shadowfox): She is a fiery and feral beauty utterly in touch with her primal nature. She is a little wild and completely unpredictable… breathtakingly sensual. Outrageous sexiness, with a dark edge. She has strong survival instincts, all of which are the natural outgrowth of her mutant abilities. She also has strength & speed. This actor must be extremely sexy, have a fantastic body and be an amazing athlete.

Brennan Mulwray (aka Fuse): He is the master of electricity-able to literally throw off sparks with enough power coursing through his body to power a small city. A street-smart guy, he is fast talking and wise-cracking with an ingratiating grin. He is a vibrating mass of nervous energy, jumpy and impulsive. He loves being a Superhero and thinks throwing off sparks is a total gas. He is a good-natured, partying, wiseguy, urban roughneck. He has one weakness…. the Mutant X named Emma for whom is is crazy about.

Emma Desalvo (aka Rapport): She is a telepathic, capable of creating a psychic link with any other living thing, sensing empathetically the feelings of others, as well as plant suggestions in humans that affect and direct their behavior. She is beautiful, charming and saucily sexy with a wisdom beyond her years. She can also manipulate the way others feel. She is a sunny, happy young woman with a sense of mischief and prankish nature. Her psychic powers have also given her too much information at times…which sometimes terrifies her but also makes her a strong survivor in the team.

Jesse Kilmartin (aka Synergy): A very complex guy. Son of a self-made millionaire. He grew up with a silver spoon in his mouth. He is a lonely guy who has gone though life unloved and uncared for. He is cautious and defensive. Jesse can literally split his body into three triplicates, each representing a different aspect of his personality. He wants to use his powers to help others in need. He can be aggressive, charming, sensitive and is also able to take on the physical appearance of anyone around him.

The breakdown for the show also mentions that it is “strike proof” making reference to the planned SAG strike. The show is filming in Canada and actors will be required to sign a 5 year option under the Canadian ACTRA union agreement. Casting is expected to be completed in March. Actors are then required to train until the filming start in June.

WITCHBLADE

[Witchblade]

Filming on the Witchblade limited series for TNT is set to begin on Feb 19 according to documents recently obtained by Comics2Film. Our source LanternG in Toronto, who supplied us with casting breakdowns for Mutant X above, has slipped us the breakdowns for the first episode of the Top Cow based show. The episode, called “Diplopia” will be the first episode to film but the third to air. Filming will take place in Toronto although the setting for the show is New York City.

In “Diplopia” Sara Pezzini, wielder of the Witchblade, pursues a suspected killer who always seems to have the perfect alibi.

Yancy Butler returns in the lead role. Also returning are Anthony Cistaro playing Kenneth Irons, Eric Etebari in the role of Ian Nottingham and David Chokachi as Sara’s partner Jake McCartey.

The casting breakdown also reveals a new recurring character named Gabriel Bowman. Bowman is a street smart New Yorker in his late teens/early twenties. He quits school and makes a fortune on entrepreneurial ventures that focus primarily on “unusual artifacts and contraband.” The Witchblade becomes an object on intrigue for the character.

Also making an appearance in this episode is Madame Boucher, a character from the comics. Although the character is Danette in the comics, it’ll be Danielle on TV. According to the casting sheet, Danielle is, “connected to Irons in a love-hate relationship that centered around the Witchblade.”

Other characters being cast for the show are Captain Yardley Scott (Sara’s boss), Aaron Sullivan (the suspected killer), Christopher Pollack (a key witness) and Dr. D’Angelo (a fertility doctor with a strange connection to the story).

LADY DEATH

[Lady Death]

Comics2Film spoke with Andy Orjuela of ADV Films about progress on the Lady Death Animated movie. The movie was announced in August of 1999 with a targeted release date of Halloween 2001.

Orjuela tells C2F that work is proceeding apace on the movie, although recent milestones are unlikely to excite fans. “We’re getting storyboards on a daily basis from Japan. Chaos is reviewing the storyboards,” Orjuela said. “We’re going over fine details and streamlining the process. It’s a slow and tedious process.”

While ADV is hoping to have the movie out this year, Orjuela is reluctant to impose a deadline that would adversely impact the quality of the movie. Likewise, recent developments have changed the game plan for the movie slightly.

“Ideally what we’d like to do, as opposed to sending this straight to video, is to have it in a broadcast ready format instead and maybe do a cable release,” Orjuela told C2F. “So basically we’ve just switched gears on the entire movie. The budget has increased and we’ve gotten additional funding. So it looks like it can be bigger, badder and better! We don’t want to rush anything.”

JUSTICE LEAGUE

James Harvey of World’s Finest News and Batman: the Animated Newsletter writes in to share some interesting casting new regarding the Justice League animated TV show. According to Harvey Kevin Conroy is on board to provide the voice of Batman. Conroy has voiced the character in his recent animated incarnations starting with Batman: The Animated Series and continuing through his work as Bruce Wayne in Batman Beyond.

By contrast Tim Daly will not reprise his role as the man of steel. Daly voiced Superman in his recent animated show, but is currently busy with his TV show The Fugitive.

According to Harvey, the voice actors recently recorded their second episode of the show. James Remar (The Huntress) is said to be one of several celebrity guest voices for the show. Stan Berkowitz and Rich Fogel have written for the show.

In other animation news, Harvey reports that Batman Beyond will most likely not be picked up for another season. Many of the crew members from Beyond are now busy with other shows. There may be a new feature length movie in the future, but so far nothing has been greenlit.

Harvey and company are also leading an effort to get the fan favorite Superman/Batman animated feature released on DVD. They’ve set up an online petition to demonstrate fan interest in such a product. Fans are urged to show their support for such a product by signing. However, fans are also cautioned that e-mail addresses signed to the petition are visible to the general public.

CONSTANTINE

[Hellblazer]

An article from The Hollywood Reporter tells use that Tarsem has been tapped to direct Constantine, the big screen version of Hellblazer. Tarsem made his feature directorial debut with last year’s visually appealing The Cell staring Jennifer Lopez. The movie currently has no start date, but the article indicates it will not go before cameras during the first quarter of 2001.

“We’re so excited to have Tarsem on board, not only because of his visual style but for the way he will approach this character, who treads a fine line between good and evil,” producer Lauren Shuler Donner told The Hollywood Reporter.

Frank Cappello wrote the most recent draft of the script, rewriting earlier drafts from Kevin Brodbin (The Glimmer Man) and Mark Bomback (The Night Caller). Michael Uslan and Benjamin Melniker  are on board as executive producers. Michael Aguilar of the Donner Co. is also a producer.

Earlier this month Cappello told fans on the DC Comics message boards that Nicolas Cage is being courted for the lead role.

BLOOD TIES

The Hollywood Reporter reports that Dark Horse Entertainment and Slovenia-based Strip Art Features a forming a new entertainment company called Venture. Venture will publish graphic novels and comics with the intent of also bringing that material to TV or film.

The first such project is Blood Ties by Belgian artist Hermann (Jeremiah) and writer Yves H. The article describes Blood Ties as “a Faustian tale that follows junior detective Sam Leighton, an honest cop who leaves his quiet suburban life for the big city only to find it rotten to the core.”

Venture is seeking a writer for the big screen adaptation.

The new company will work out of the Dark Horse offices on the Universal lot, but will act as an independent producer.

GHOST RIDER, SHANG CHI

Director Stephen Norrington (Blade) recently confirmed with Ain’t It Cool News that he is attached to the big screen version of Marvel’s Shang Chi. “Obviously Shang-Chi’s a ways off in the future,” Norrington told AICN. “But I love the idea of making a real honest-to-goodness martial arts film, rather than a film that simply has martial arts in it. For my money, martial arts are the most cinematic type of action – particularly the hand-to-hand move-block-move stuff (I’m less keen on all that [Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon] wire work).”

The director also scooped the site on his currently-in-development Ghost Rider. “We’re close to finishing a polished draft of the script that I think is really strong – very dark, very thematic,” Norrington said. “We’ve gone a little slower than I hoped because I’m STILL finishing up The Last Minute, and David Goyer is directing his debut picture ZigZag as we speak. But the script will be finalized and ready to do the rounds beginning of February, and we already have a preliminary budget that’s very workable, and completely in the realms of reason.”

The director also reports that comic great Bernie Wrightson is doing preliminary concept designs for Ghost Rider. The big screen demon will be “much more dramatic and impressive than the comic design, with a lot more stages between Johnny Blaze and the full-on burning skull guy,” Norrington said.

The director declined to comment on casting except to say that there has been “real, on-going interest from very appropriate talent.”

BLADE 2

SCI FI Wire reports that Traci Lords will not be appearing in Blade 2: Bloodhunt as was previously reported. 

“There was a lot of [reasons],” Lords told SCI FI Wire. “I think that Blade was such a great show, and I loved it and loved working with New Line. But for many different reasons, including scheduling, Blade 2 just wasn’t right.”

Lords would have played a vampire twin of her character from the original. However, the twin character has been written out of the sequel.

FROM HELL

[From Hell]

Ain’t It Cool News reports that the big-screen version of Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s From Hell was screened last week for studio executives at 20th Century Fox. An anonymous reported that the screening went well and Fox is looking to release the movie on the last weekend of September.

AICN also reports that the ending to the film “plays exactly like the end of the comic.” This ending apparently has the London Tabloids up in arms.

MONKEYBONE, GHOST WORLD

The Upcomingmovies.com website reports that a pair of comic book movies have been rated by the MPAA. Next month’s Monkeybone has been assigned a PG-13 rating. Ghost World gets an R rating.

Fans who had trouble with the recently posted Monkeybone trailers can now download and view a QuickTime version of the trailer from the Movie-List website.

Thanks to Dark Horizons for the lead.

SPIDER-MAN

[Spider-Man]

Ever since the images of Tobey Maguire in the Spider-Man costume hit the web, rumors have been spreading that the photos are not what they appear. Some have said that the photos look like computer generated imagery while other simply claim that it is not Tobey Maguire in the suit.

Corona Coming Attractions now sets the record straight. Their source is none other than Laura Ziskin, producer on the movie. Ziskin told CA that the photos are what the studio has claimed. “Tobey has been in that costume many times, and I WAS THERE for the [photo] shoot,” Laura Ziskin told CA. “It is absolutely Tobey Maguire in costume in those photos. I will swear to it to anyone who thinks otherwise. We knew that we HAD to have Tobey in the suit because that’s what fans would expect.”

In other Spidey news, Spider-Man Hype reports that Chris Daniels is a stunt double for Tobey Maguire in the Spider-Man movie after all. However, this is not the same Chris Daniels who wrestles professionally in the WCW.

Meanwhile, a Comics2Film reader named “Supes” wrote in to tell us about a fan-made trailer for the upcoming Spider-Man movie. The trailer can be found at MyKong.com. Like the home-grown X-Men trailers of last year, this one is a blend of existing movie clips, clips from the ShoWest teaser trailer, comic art and a cool music track.

SNAKE ‘N’ BACON

The Fantagraphics e-mailer reports that Michael Kupperman’s Snake ‘n’ Bacon recently made an appearance on Comedy Central’s TV Funhouse show. The first animated short debuted January 17th on the show. That episode featured “Captain Marginal.” A second short called “Picasso: His Amazing Life” aired on the 24th. Future episodes of the show will feature shorts adapted from Kupperman’s Snake ‘n’ Bacon’s Cartoon Cabaret.

AKIRA

American anime fans who have only seen Akira on video will soon get a chance to see it on the big screen. Variety reports that Pioneer Entertainment is preparing the film for a theatrical re-release in the U.S. The movie should hit theaters this spring.

According to the article, Pioneer is spending $1 million on the re-release. In addition to the theatrical run, a DVD and new VHS edition are planned. The restoration effort includes a high-definition mastering, Doubly Digital AC3 Surround Sound and an English dub “from a fresh translation of the original Japanese script.”

WONDER WOMAN

Yesterday’s Variety confirmed what Comics2Film reported two weeks ago. Todd Alcott (Antz, Deadworld) has been hired to rewrite Jon Cohen’s script for the Wonder Woman movie.

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