Only in the world of comic writer Mark Millar can a hiccup in scheduling turn into a three-day PR push.
Last week, the writer of comics-to-film hits like “Kick-Ass” and “Wanted” started teasing that his next big piece of movie news would land online soon, eventually declaring an announcement time of Thursday morning at midnight Los Angeles time on his message boards. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), a studio exec’s last minute sign off took a bit longer than expected, and what was supposed to be a quick “Watch this space for immediate news” announcement turned into a three-day waiting game where hundreds of fans and bloggers kept popping in to see just what Millar had up his sleeve.
After all the excitement and waiting, just about everyone heard the news that director Tony Scott (“Man On Fire”) has signed on to direct Millar and artist Steve McNiven’s Icon series “Nemesis” through 20th Century Fox and his own Scott Free Productions shingle.
Of course, by the time the news broke over the weekend, Millar wasn’t around to bask in the deal. “I was in the garden and building shelves,” laughed the writer as he explained to CBR how the deal came about. “It’s been crazy because the ‘Kick-Ass’ DVD and then the ‘Nemesis’ news hit, and what I’d said on my webpage was that I genuinely spent the weekend building shelves. I wasn’t doing anything cool at all.”
The writer explained that while he’s been a fan of Scott for years, it didn’t occur to him that the director would be lined up to film a version of his “Supervillain Vs. Super Cop” series. In fact, he wasn’t looking for anyone to direct at all. “I don’t let my agent take things out, generally,” he said. “It’s bizarre. So many people think I go out with a comic idea and try to sell it as a movie, but what I’ll always say is, ‘These guys ferociously come looking.’ And it’s not just me. They do it with everyone! Because Iron Man has had a couple of movies, and Spider-Man is heading into his fourth, and they’re always looking for new stuff. So the minute I announced ‘Nemesis’ on CBR last year and posted ‘Civil War. Old Man Logan. Nemesis. Coming in March 2010’ with no other information released at all, my agent got two calls from producers.
“One of them said, ‘Tell Mark and Steve that we are massive fans of the books. It’s our favorite book, and we’d love to get it in development as a movie.’ I said to my agent, ‘Nobody knows anything about this yet. These guys are lying!’ It was the most insincere call I’ve ever gotten in my life. That’s the kind of market that exists with the Hollywood guys now. They just all want to make comic book movies and they’re looking for the next thing. Steve and I were just happy making the comic, and then Tony Scott came along with the best offer.”
The offer on the table appealed to Millar first and foremost because he felt that Scott will respect the material and present it on screen the way McNiven has on the page. “In total, six different directors approached us for ‘Nemesis,’ and they were all kind of names,” he explained. “I had conversations with each of them to see if it felt like they were going to be good for the property. A lot of people see the comic as an outline for having the movie. I just see the film as fun. It’s just garnish -Â a nice big advert for your book. But if you give it to the wrong guy, it can be a complete disaster. So I wanted to make sure it worked out.
“One guy who was a big director said, ‘I love this. Your book is great. Only one thing: I want to get rid of the costume and want to put him in regular clothes.’ And that misses the entire point of what this guy is. This guy is like a reverse Batman or whatever…he absolutely needs to be in a superhero costume. My idea for it was like having Professor Moriarty or Hannibal Lecter who take something we trust which is a teacher or an adult and flips it to make it something we’re scared of. I wanted to do the same thing with a superhero costume – a guy in white with a cowl and a cape. Let’s make that into a nightmare figure. So to that director, I just said, ‘No.’ And my agent said, ‘Are you crazy? This guy is huge. It’s a lot of money.’ And I said, ‘I just don’t want to do it unless it’s right.'”
The making it “right” moment came with Scott whose work includes the Tarantino-penned crime drama “True Romance,” the submarine pot boiler “Crimson Tide” and recent thrillers like the remake of “The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3.” As Millar said on his website after the announcement, those movies not only shaped his own storytelling sensibility but proved a perfect fit for the widescreen explosions that drive the “Nemesis” story. “That’s what impressed us about Tony Scott. Tony and I had a one-hour chat about two weeks ago, and he was so enthusiastic about it. And Tony’s like a massive deal to me. He’s been making movies since I was a little kid, and I’m so familiar with his work. Even getting a call with Tony was massively exciting, but the way he went into such detail -Â how he was going to shoot specific little scenes and everything -Â I was just blown away. I thought, ‘This is the guy.'”
Of course, unlike “Kick-Ass” which went on the fast track as director Matthew Vaughn took the film the independent route, the filming of “Nemesis” is at the start of a long production process while the comic is just reaching the end of the series. “Steve just finished issue #3 this weekend and is starting on issue 4. I’ve got most of #4 done. I’ll have some tweaks I’ll want to put on it, but for the most part, that’s done,” said the writer, who threw in one last tease about the future of the film as only he can. “So Tony’s got a writer in mind who he’s going to talk to this week to see if we can get him started on the screenplay. He’s a massive, massive writer who I’d say is one of the top three living screenwriters. I just can’t wait to see what he does with it. The idea of handing over one of my stories to this guy is magical, and we’ll have to see what he does.”
Check back to CBR the later this week for more Mark Millar news, including word on the sequel to “Kick-Ass,” his next arc of “Ultimate Avengers” and his new UK comics mag “CLiNT.”