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JAMES GUNN

[Minute Man]
Writer and star James Gunn as Minute Man

Comics2Film recently chatted with screenwriter and comic fan James Gunn about his upcoming super-hero inaction movie The Specials. Gunn first began his film making career while studying at Columbia University. He was hired by Troma Films to write Tromeo and Juliet.

“I had a blast working for those guys for about two years,” Gunn told us. “At the same time I did a bunch of other stuff. I wrote a novel that was just released called The Toy Collector. Right after I got out of there I wrote The Specials.”

The Specials provides a comedic look into the personal lives of superheroes. Gunn credits Stan Lee and the comics like The Watchmen as inspirations for his screenplay. “I’m a huge comic book fan. Since I was a little kid I was intrigued with the idea of superheroes’ personal lives,” Gunn told C2F.

“I guess Stan Lee is the person I really looked up to when I was a kid. [Lee] brought into superhero comics things I was more interested in. I was always interested in them fighting super villains, but I always found it more interesting what it was like being these people and having to live a regular life.

“So, when I wrote The Specials, I just wanted to write about a bunch of guys and their lives and not have it have anything to do with fighting evil. That was sort of the backdrop that these guys live their lives against.”

Gunn knows firsthand that things that the fantastic can become mundane when it’s part of the routine of life. “I used to work in a hospital and while I worked [there] I would see guys coming in with their heads split open and their legs cut off and all these different tragedies. After a while it becomes rather mundane,” Gunn said. “It becomes commonplace. It’s just a part of everyday life. I would imagine saving the world would become the same sort of mundane existence.”

The movie finished shooting last year but has been delayed for a late 2000 release for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons was a competing superhero comedy called Mystery Men. “We definitely wanted to distance ourselves from Mystery Men. Everything that [that movie’s director] Kinka Usher did to us in a cruel way, [X-Men director] Bryan Singer came out and gave us a hand,” Gunn said. “The Specials is a very different movie. Mystery Men was just a goofy action movie whereas we don’t have any action in our film. Our film is much more like Spinal Tap than it is like Mystery Men.”

Indeed The Specials focuses so much on the personal lives of the heroes, that there’s little time spent fighting evil. Gunn told us about another inspiration for the movie. “I was watching Claire’s Knee one day, the Eric Rohmer film. I love [Rohmer]. I think he’s a fantastic filmmaker, and a great director. His films are basically talking, these talky foreign films. I was watching Claire’s Knee and I thought ‘Boy this is really a great movie but wouldn’t it be even better if they were wearing superhero costumes.'”

Gunn appears in the movie as the shrinking hero Minute Man. His brother Sean, who also appeared in Tromeo and Juliet plays the bizarre character Alien Orphan. “There’s no one in the world who can play Alien Orphan except for my brother Sean.”

“I’m proud of it,” Gunn said of the finished film. “One of the great things about The Specials was that I got to work with some of my best friends on the movie. Among those friends is Scream star Jamie Kennedy, who plays the blue-skinned Amok and Judy Greer who plays Deadly Girl.

[Amok]
Jamie Kennedy as Amok

“It was pretty exciting, a pretty fun process the whole way,” Gunn said. “I picked up some new friends along the way. It was a great time. I couldn’t imagine a better movie making experience than on the set of The Specials.”

Gunn has also worked on another comic related property: Spy Vs. Spy. “Jay Roach is directing that movie. Who knows where its at. I sent in the script. Warner Bros. is real happy with it. On the basis of that they hired me to write Scooby Doo and another film script. It’s movie forward but moving forward slowly. As opposed to Scooby Doo which is like zooming.”

Gunn tells us he’s completed the first draft on Scooby Doo and is close to turning in the second draft.

GHOST RIDER

[Ghost Rider]

Following the mid-week announcement in Variety, Marvel issued this press release discussing the Ghost Rider deal with Dimension Films and Crystal Sky Entertainment:

In one of its most aggressive deals to date, Dimension Films has acquired the rights to Ghost Rider, an action-filled adventure based on the popular Marvel Comics superhero, it was announced today by company co-chairman Bob Weinstein. Ghost Rider was written by David Goyer (The Crow: City of Angels) and will be directed by Steven Norrington, who previously worked together on Blade. Dimension will distribute the film in the United States.

Steven Paul, president and CEO of Crystal Sky Entertainment, and Avi Arad, CEO of Marvel Studios and recent producer of X-Men, will be producing the project. Goyer and Norrington will executive produce.

Ghost Rider tells the story of a motorcycle stuntman, who, seeking revenge for harm done to his one true love, makes a pact with dark forces to avenge the wrongdoing. By day, the Ghost Rider is a motorcycle stuntman able to perform superhuman tricks; by night he is transformed into a burning demon on wheels as he hunts down those who bring pain to the innocent. “Both Dimension and Marvel Comics have enjoyed great success in developing edgy, provocative projects like Ghost Rider,” said Bob Weinstein.

“Following the high level of interest in recent comic book adaptations like The Crow and X-Men, we believe that Ghost Rider offers tremendous franchise opportunities for Dimension.”

“After Dimension’s success with Scary Movie, there is no doubt that Bob and his team can maximize Ghost Rider’s potential for us,” said Steven Paul.

“After all night negotiations, we are proud to reach an agreement with Dimension.”

Bob Weinstein, Cary Granat, president of Dimension, Michael Helfant, senior executive vp of Dimension, and Andrew Gumpert, svp of business and legal affairs, negotiated the deal for Dimension. Steven Paul and Joseph Inga, svp of finance, negotiated the deal for Crystal Sky.

Crystal Sky will handle foreign rights. The picture will be co-financed by Dimension and Crystal Sky Entertainment. The deal will go under several agreements Crystal Sky has in place, including a $400 million line of credit with MM media Capital and output agreement with VCL, Communications in Munich.

SPIDER-MAN

Cinescape has confirmed that there is truth to the rumors that John Malkovich is in talks to play the Green Goblin in the upcoming Spider-Man movie.

[John Malkovich]
John Malkovich

“John is indeed in talks for the Spider-Man film,” is what Cinescape was told by Malkovich’s reps. However, the reps would not confirm anything beyond that.

Meanwhile Corona Coming Attractions has heard from a scooper who provides a conflicting report from their story on the absence of Doctor Octopus from the latest Spider-Man screenplay. This new scooper reports that Doc Ock is still set to be a prominent villain in the first movie. Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Magnolia) is said to be the front runner for the part.

CA’s sources also claim that Curt Connors (who becomes The Lizard) won’t be the only character seeding the first movie with a cameo. Supposedly Eddie Brock (Venom) and Harry Osborn (Parker’s best friend and future Green Goblin) are also set to have bit parts played by big name actors.

However, CA does caution that the above scoop comes from an unproven source, so we must look upon these stories as pure rumor.

The very next day CA posted a follow-up to their report on various villain roles and cameos in the upcoming Spider-Man movie.

Their latest scooper confirmed rumors that John Malkovich is in negotiations to play the Green Goblin in the movie. There’s no deal yet, according to the scooper, but they’re close.

The same scooper said that rumors that Doctor Octopus and Curt Conners will appear in cameos are true. This seems to contradict yesterday’s report that Ock’s role would be more than just a cameo.

However, this scooper denies reports that Eddie Brock (who later becomes Venom) might also cameo in the movie. He said the filmmakers considered the idea but eventually dumped it. A different scooper points out that, at one time, Venom was the subject of a feature in development at New Line. Due to this licensing entanglement, it wouldn’t really be feasible to have Brock in the movie. This may or may not be an issue as the Venom movie seems to be a thing of the past and is not, most likely, at New Line.

And that’s why they call ’em rumors folks!

HULK

Just in case anyone was uncertain about what David Hayter’s scripting chores on the Hulk movie would entail, Variety‘s Ghost Rider report sheds some light. The report mentions in passing that Hayter (X-Men) is rewriting the Michael France/Michael Tolkin script, and not starting from scratch.

MEN IN BLACK 2

Corona Coming Attractions reports that the principal players from Men In Black may be lined up to do a sequel. The news comes from Monday night’s edition of Entertainment Tonight. Barry Sonnenfeld apparently told ET that deals were close to being completed for himself and stars Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones to return for the sequel.

STATIC SHOCK!

Static co-creator Dwayne McDuffie recently spoke with The Slush Factory about a variety of topics including the upcoming Static Shock! animated TV show. McDuffie told Slush Factory that he wrote three of the thirteen episodes that are to air this season.

When asked if other Milestone characters would appear in the program, McDuffie replied, “Yes. Keep your eyes peeled.” The statement corroborates information revealed during a panel at Comic-Con international earlier in the summer. Co-creator and series director Denys Cowan told fans there that Hardware and Rocket were both likely to make appearances.

As far as using Milestone characters for movies or other television projects McDuffie only replied, “That would be telling…”

McDuffie also told Slush Factory that he is working on an animated film called Chaos and Order. “I’m writing with Reginald (House Party) Hudlin,” McDuffie said. “It’s a hip-hop musical about super powered rappers. Seriously!”

Static Shock! debuts September 23 at 10 am on Kids WB!

FROM HELL

[From Hell]

The top-secret C2F web monkey was out swinging the web this weekend and came back with an interesting URL for us. It appears Twentieth Century Fox has picked up a domain name for the currently filming production of From Hell. The address fromhellmovie.com was actually registered to the Intellectual Property Department at Fox back in February. We don’t know why the silly monkey just found it this weekend. As is usually the case, the domain is not active and only redirects surfers to Fox’s general movie site.

From Hell is based on Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s comic of the same name. The movie is directed by Allen and Albert Hughes (Menace II Society) and written by Terry Hayes (Payback). It stars Johnny Depp (Sleepy Hollow), Ian Holm (Alien), Terrance Stamp (The Limey), Heather Graham (Austin Powers 2), Robbie Coltrane (The World Is Not Enough) and Ian Richardson (Incognito).

The Stax Report at IGN FilmForce rips into the screenplay for the currently filming adaptation of Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s From Hell. Stax sums up his review as “positive with minor spoilers.”

CORTO MALTESE

Variety Reports that a live-action film based on the Hugo Pratt’s Italian comic Corto Maltese is set to begin filming in Cuba next year. The movie is budgeted at $15 million and will be produced by the German film group Helkon Media. The producers hope to land an all-star cast for the production.

The movie will feature the swashbuckling high-seas adventurer in a story line based on Pratt’s The Ballad of the South Seas. According to the write-up Maltese finds himself “shipwrecked on a mysterious island, captured by fierce cannibals and ultimately obliged to rescue the beautiful damsel Pandora.”

Thanks to Michael Rhode of the Comics Research Bibliography.

MOEBIUS STRIP

The Hollywood Reporter reports that Jean “Moebius” Giraud has signed a dealt to create a feature-length computer-animated 3-D movie called Thru the Moebius Strip. The film will be produced and directed by Frank Foster and is targeted for a 2003 release. The movie has a $6 million CG budget and will be animated in Hong Kong and China.

James Cox (Beauty and the Beast, The Rescuers Down Under) wrote the screenplay. The original concept is described as “the story of Dr. Simon Weir, a physicist who disappears into a transportation portal he has been building. Against the family’s wishes, his son goes in pursuit of Weir, following him to another planet inhabited by giants.”

BATMAN (AND OTHERS!)

Will Brad Pitt (Fight Club) be the next Batman? Could be says EW. According to the Entertainment Weekly Web site, Pitt has met with director Darren Aronofsky. However, the article only speculates about what role Pitt may have been talking to the director about. Without reaching any conclusions, EW suggests the pair may have been discussing Batman or Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (The Chuck Gong Show Barris bio-pic). Both movies are being considered by Aronofsky as a future project.

“I’d want to bring an independent guerrilla flavor to Batman,” Aronofsky told EW.

However, the director seemed equally excited about Confessions. “It’s one of the few scripts I could go out tomorrow and shoot — it’s that smart.” Aronofsky is quoted as saying. On that movie he’s said to be competing with X-Men director Bryan Singer for the helming role.

Thanks to Cinescape and ShadoJakk for the lead.

Meanwhile, comic scribe Grant Morrison told Comics Newsarama that he made a run at trying to land the scripting chores on the movie.

Finally, wrapping up, Morrison addressed the rumors circulating in San Diego last month that he was ‘taking meetings’ about a possible fifth Batman film…

“I wrote up a great pitch which got Batman out of Gay Gotham for a while and brought in some brilliant villains nobody’s used yet,” Morrison told CN, ” but as far as I know Darren Aronofsky, the director of Pi (the sign rather than the word) is thinking about Batman. There are rumors that it might be partly inspired by stuff from Arkham Asylum, so I may or may not have further involvement.”

In the same interview Morrison talked about two other movie projects, one of which appears to be based on a Marvel series he penned a few years back. “I will say that the three main projects I’m involved in are all comics based, two of them being mainstream ‘superhero’ properties I’ve created in the past and forgot all about,” Morrison is quoted as saying. “One of them will no doubt have fans screaming with horror at the very thought but I’ve just completed a second draft treatment for S***** K*** K*** and it’s going to be the coolest, hardest, funniest, most violently nihilistic film of our time!”

Now the CN left the title starred out as you see it above, but here’s a bit of speculation for you: It seems to us that Morrison must be referring to Skrull Kill Krew.

Thanks to Drew Reiber for the lead!

SUPERMAN DVD

The Mothership Web site posted another update on the prospect of a DVD version of Superman, possibly ready for shipping this year. An article by Christopher Allan Smith states that director Richard Donner “is pouring his heart and soul” into the DVD. The package is expected to rival the recently released Terminator 2: Ultimate Edition.

The disc should contain plenty of extras, including two new making-of documentaries.

X-MEN TOYS

[Cyclops]
X-Toys Preview

Can’t get enough of them X-Men? Well, Toy Biz has unveiled the latest line of action figures based on the movie. This third series of figures are said to be “carefully-sculpted in the likeness of the real movie stars, each action figure boasts a distinctive outfit worn by the character on screen.” The set debuts in toy stores this October. Each 6″ fully poseable figure has its own character-specific feature or accessory. The figures carry a suggested retail price of $5.99 each. Here’s how Toy Biz describes the set:

  • Sabretooth – The cold Canadian winters won’t affect the Sabretooth action figure when he is wearing his winter garb — replicating the clothes worn in the movie when Sabretooth first attacks Wolverine. The figure is intimidating with its own snarling and swiping action.
  • Rogue – The heroine action figure is donning an X-uniform in anticipation of joining the League. The uniform is similar to the one worn by Wolverine in the movie.
  • Toad – Clothed in a vest similar to the one he wore at the Statue of Liberty battle scene, the Toad figure comes packaged with its very own slime trap.
  • Logan – Outfitted in a real denim jacket, the Logan figure resembles the character as he looked in the movie’s early scenes. The figure is also armed with tenacious claw-swiping actions.
  • Cyclops – Dressed in the hip civilian attire that Cyclops wears when he goes to the train station to retrieve Rogue, the action figures eyes are edge lit and appear to light up when it is ready to blast one of Magneto’s band of evil mutants.
  • Professor X – In re-creating the movie’s climatic final scene when the venerable Professor X visits his former friend and arch-rival Magneto in the plastic prison, the action figure features a clear, free-rolling wheelchair made of plastic so that Magneto’s powers are ineffective.

Additional assortments are expected continuing into next year.

WITCHBLADE

Turner Network Television’s (TNT) Original thriller Witchblade scored as the top movie for the week, earning a 4.5 rating (3,491,000 households) for the 8 p.m. (ET/PT) premiere performance. The TNT Original also was the top movie among the key adult demographics 18-49 (3,157,000) and the most-watched program among adults 25-54 (3,631,000). Witchblade also is currently the number-one original movie among adults 18-49 and 25-54 for the year to date.

Witchblade’s performance helps TNT earn four of the top five highest-rated original movies on basic cable for the summer to date (May 29-Aug. 27). TNT’s Running Mates and Nuremberg Part I are tied for the number-one original movie on basic cable for the summer, earning a 5.6 rating. Nuremberg Part II earned a 5.3 rating, giving TNT the third-highest-rated original, while Witchblade takes the fifth spot.

TNT will air three additional encores of Witchblade on: Thursday, Aug. 31, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 2, at 10 p.m. and Wednesday, Sept. 6, at 10 p.m.

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