Two Weeks ago Spyglass Entertainment announced that director F. Gary Gray had signed on to helm the big-screen adaptation of Matt Wagner's Mage. The project has been in development for many years, but things really started to heat up at the end of 1999 when the producers at Critical Mass Entertainment inked a deal with Spyglass and brought on writer John Rogers to pen the script. Comics2Film had an opportunity to talk to Rogers recently about the signing of Gray and what his hopes are for the movie.
Rogers sees Gray's involvement as pushing the movie one step closer to production. Although the current script had been finished last year, the Hollywood strikes of this year threw a monkey wrench into the production. Spyglass had to pick a project to commit to and their upcoming dragon flick Reign of Fire got the nod over the director-less Mage. "We've sort of been hanging in stasis and, until you get the director, you don't have a movie," Rogers said.
"I can't think of anybody who could be a better choice. The Negotiator is great: totally underrated as an action film. Set It Off was amazing," Rogers said of Gray's previous work. He continued, "He gets why comic books are cool. He gets why they're important. It's a guy whose vision I really love and a guy who loves the comic book. He totally is committed to Matt's vision."
Rogers stated that the first draft he did of the script (which is titled "Mage: The Hero Discovered" to underscore exactly which story arc is being adapted) was a very direct adaptation of Wagner's comic. With the second draft he added new material to build the story up into a movie.
Gray came to meetings with concept art and script ideas that showed his enthusiasm for the source material. "All the script ideas were not only, 'let's bring more stuff from Matt's comic book into it,'" Rogers said, "But, nicely enough, that overlaps with my first draft which hews very closely to the comic book."
Having Gray behind the project also gives the production team more flexibility with the studio. "With a director's consistent vision, the CGI and effects ideas become more focused, and the budget much more reasonable."
Ultimately a director has the authority to rewrite a script, or bring a new writer on board. Rogers hasn't met with the Gray yet but hopes he'll be able to stay on as the writer of Mage. "I've been with the project since day one. My job originally was to make sure Matt's vision stayed intact. My job now is to do whatever it takes to get Gary's version of Matt's vision up on the screen."
Rogers is a big comic fan (he conducted our interview via cell phone while shopping at Meltdown Comics in L.A.) and an even bigger Mage fan. After writing the well-received script for American Outlaws, Rogers sat down with Creative Artists Agency and went through a list of projects he could work on. "They were like 'we've got this, we've got that, we've got this Nicolas Cage movie, we've got this airport movie, we've got this thing called Mage, we've got this thing' -- I'm like, 'Whoa! Whoa! What was that?'
"I totally lost my mind. I'm like, 'I can't believe you have that! Give it to me,'" Rogers told us. From there he was on a mission to land the job, eventually pitching his ideas to Critical Mass Entertainment. "[Producers Andrew Cosby and Ross Richie] are both huge comic book fans and really believe in protecting the comic book writer's work."
Rogers admits that Wagner's work was very adaptable. "Matt writes really visually, so I was able to life a lot of stuff directly from the book. There was a couple times where I was stuck on a studio note and I'd call Matt up to bounce ideas off of him and he always had a solve," Rogers stated. "Usually, when there was a problem, we'd realize if we just went back to the way Matt did it in the comic book, the problem was solved."
We asked Rogers about the kinds of things he added to the story to fill out the script. "When you meet Kevin [Matchstick] in the book, you don't know anything about him. You know he leads a kind of pointless life and you know he has this pointless job. You get his personality, but that's not really enough for an audience whose working totally visually to be able to work off of," Rogers said.
In the current draft, we learn that Kevin works as a bartender. "I gave him some friends just so, when he lost that life that he gives up to become the hero, it has some resonance."
Other characters were fleshed out more so than they are in the comics. "We filled out the character of the Fisher King," Rogers told C2F. "The Fisher King is a guy who shows up at the very end, in like one panel, of the comic and he's the main goal of the villain!"
However, fans should not be alarmed by the changes. "I want everyone to know, all this is with Matt's blessing." After the script went out to the studio, the producers and to Wagner, it was the comic creator's call that Rogers sweated the most. "He called and said that it was exactly how he pictured it."
Rogers has written many screenplays during and following his work on Mage, but he's always happy to find time to do more work on the movie. "Mage is my baby," Rogers said. "Matt Wagner's Mage is the most adaptable comic book, for a film, out there. I just hope we do it right and I hope the fans know that it's a bunch of fans trying to make the movie, so they can have confidence in us."
A source at Stampede Entertainment told Comics2Film that there are new developments on the Supernatural Law movie. Universal Pictures has signed off on a treatment by screenwriter Nick Marine. Marine is now set to begin a new draft of the script, based on Batton Lash's humorous comic about Wolff and Byrd, a pair of lawyers who represent monstrous clients.
Word in animation circles isthat the animated Spider-Man show may end up on MTV. Rumor has itthat Sony, after having a number of animation houses work up test footage, isnow eyeing Foundation Imaging to dothe CGI show and that it's targeted for the music network, not Fox Kids aspreviously reported.
Foundation Imaging is thestudio behind such shows as Starship Troopers: Roughnecks and theupcoming Dan Dare: Pilot of the Future.
However, at this point we'vebeen unable to verify this information.
FISTFUL OF BLOOD
Comics2Film touched base with Heavy Metal publisher and Turtle creator Kevin Eastman about his currently in-development film Fistful of Blood. The movie is based on the comic he created with Simon Bisley for Heavy Metal.
Eastman reports that he's currently at work on a screenplay for the live-action movie. The film is expected to be budgeted at no more than $500,000. Eastman will co-produce along with Director Michael Tristano. They are currently shopping the concept to studios.
"The story is basically a twisted new version/combination of Yojimbo, Fistful of Dollars and Last man Standing with Vampires, Zombies, and a female lead," Eastman tells us.
There is no shooting schedule yet for the film and no actors have been signed. However, Eastman does have his eye on a certain cast. "We've asked Playmate Victoria Zdrok to play the lead female, and Michael Giordani to play the lead Vampire. Michael currently has the opening scene in Mel Gibson next film, We Were Soldiers)," Eastman said.
And what special guest star might play one of the gun slinging undead? Eastman tells us, "we want Simon to play the main 'enforcer' Zombie."
Comics2Film has learned that Showtime Networks has officially greenlit the comic book adaptation Jeremiah for 2002. The show is set to star Luke Perry (Beverly Hills 90210) and Malcolm-Jamal Warner (Malcolm & Eddie). Russell Mulcahy (Highlander) will direct the two-hour premiere. Fan favorite J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5, Rising Stars) wrote the pilot script and will serve as showrunner and executive producer alongside Sam Egan (The Outer Limits).The announcement was made late Friday by Hank Cohen, President of MGM Television Entertainment.
Jeremiah is based on Platinum Studios' award-winning graphic novel series by Belgian author Hermann Huppen. Perry will play the lead role of Jeremiah. Stated Cohen, "We're thrilled to bring together such a powerful talent roster that expands our strength as a leading provider of quality Sci-Fi programming."
Scott Mitchell Rosenberg of Platinum Studios told C2F that the cable net is very enthusiastic about the show. "Showtime loved the pilot script so much that they said 'forget shooting a pilot, we'll start with a whole season!' We're in prep right now and start shooting in September."
The 20-episode show is slated to debut in early 2002. Jeremiah is being produced by Jeremiah Productions Inc. in association with Lion's Gate Television and Platinum Studios and will be distributed by MGM Worldwide Television Distribution. This new series marks a continuing partnership between MGM and Showtime on such highly successful sci-fi series as Stargate SG-1 and The Outer Limits, as well as the much anticipated Leap Years which debuts on July 29th.
The executive producers also include, Luke Perry, Joe Dante (Small Soldiers), Michael Finnell (Small Soldiers), Rosenberg who developed the hit film Men In Black, Ervin Rustemagic and Gregory Noveck, who are both co-producing several upcoming live-action features for Platinum Studios with Rosenberg. The creative executives for Showtime are John Vasey and Randy Runkle. For MGM the creative executive is Craig Roessler.
Jeremiah is set in a future post-apocalyptic world where, almost a decade before, a deadly virus wiped out the world's adult population sparing only those who haven't reached puberty. Now in their 20s, the oldest survivors of the pandemic include Jeremiah and the colorful but cynical Kurdy. Jeremiah is on a personal quest to relocate a mysterious place called Valhalla, which his father claimed might hold some hope for the survivors. As Jeremiah falls into a reluctant partnership with Kurdy, both explore new areas and encounter other groups of young adults who are divided into rival social groups. In the course of the season opener, Jeremiah's smaller personal quest is redirected when he discovers a group of highly organized survivors who want to enlist him to orchestrate peace among the warring factions and to try and prevent the killer virus from returning.
Artisan Entertainment announced Thursday that action director Kirk Wong is set to develop and direct the feature film version of Marvel's popular comic book icon Iron Fist. Wong, whose directorial credits include The Big Hit, will direct Ray Park (X-Men) starring as the film's title character from a script written by John Turman (Buck Rogers, The Incredible Hulk). Principal photography is expected to begin in late 2001 or early 2002 based on remaining casting and pre-production. Iron Fist is the first film to rise out of the Artisan and Marvel Enterprises joint venture to develop, produce and distribute character based programming across all media. The announcement was made by Artisan Executive Vice President, Patrick Gunn.
The martial arts-themed Iron Fist will tell the story of Danny Rand, a westerner, who as a child was raised in a secret temple in the Far East and as an adult returns to the United States to seek revenge on his parents' murderer. The character has the power to channel his "chi" into his fist and strike with the force of iron. Fittingly, Wong, Park and Turman are all accomplished martial artists.
"We believe that Kirk possesses the experience, vision and abilities to bring Iron Fist to life from the comic book pages to the big screen," said Gunn. "Kirk is the right individual to harness the great screenwriting of John Turman and acting and martial arts prowess of Ray Park. Iron Fist is a great kick off to our plans with Marvel and a great production for Artisan."
Avi Arad, CEO of Marvel Studios and Iron Fist producer added, "This is an exciting time for Marvel as we see Iron First and several of our popular super heroes head to the big screen. Our joint venture with Artisan is a major initiative for the company and we are delighted to see this first project moving forward so aggressively. From the moment we sat down with Kirk, it was a total meeting of the minds. His insight and knowledge is exactly what is needed to launch the Iron Fist film franchise - hopefully to a legacy of several sequels."
Wong's directorial credits include the cult favorite The Big Hit, featuring Mark Wahlberg in his first action role and Crime Story, starring Jackie Chan. Additionally, Wong has directed numerous action titles in his native Hong Kong including (translated titles) Gunmen, Rock 'N Roll Cop, The Club, True Colours, Taking Manhattan, and Lifeline Express.
THE MASK 2
Although the project has seemed pretty much dead for the last few years, the proposed sequel to The Mask is showing signs of life again. Variety reports that screenwriter Lance Khazei has signed on to pen a script for the sequel. Khazei has reportedly struck a mid-six-figure deal with New Line for the screenplay. The writer's spec script Romantic Comedy recently went to MGM.
The original film starred a then on-the-rise Jim Carrey and grossed $120 million. However, it seems unlikely that Carrey will return for the sequel. No actors or budget have been assigned to The Mask 2.
DEATH, BOOKS OF MAGIC, SANDMAN
Neil Gaiman fan Matthew Fabb sat in on a recent reading and signing on the author's Toronto stop of his American Gods book tour. Matt provides this report:
"Despite being quite worn out and frazzled Gaiman said he was still enjoying himself, was quite friendly and funny. Before the signing he went through a FAQ listing the movies based on his creations and were they were in development.
"He mentioned that the second draft of the Books of Magic had been turned into Warner Brothers and they were apparently quite happy with it and it's now moving on to the next stage. Also Gaiman mentioned that because of Harry Potter, the current script has Tim Hunter as an American, not British and he wouldn't have any glasses or dusty brown hair. However, Gaiman said that with the way Hollywood works, joked that fans should be thankful Tim Hunter wouldn't be played by a 50 year old former body builder Austrian actor."
Matt tells us Gaiman also repeated several things that have been heard on earlier legs of the tour. Sandman is stuck in development hell (where Gaiman says it belongs). Stardust has attracted a hot Hollywood actress, whom the author didn't name. Death: The High Cost of Living is ready for a second draft, which Gaiman hasn't been able to start yet because he's been so busy touring. However, he hopes to start working on the second draft sometime in August.
Thanks to Matthew for the road report!
John Kuramoto, theco-designer of the super-swell GhostWorld-TheMovie.comalerts readers to a new video clip on that site. Visit the site and clickon the video area to see a short, behind-the scenes clip called"Technical Difficulties".
The clip features alook a the filming of a scene from the movie, that is disrupted by an odd,persistent noise. Featured in the vignette are series creator Dan Clowes,director Terry Zwigoff as well as stars Thora Birch and Steve Buscemi. Theclip was shot by Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe of Low Key Pictures.
Kuramoto tells us to watch for a new clip each week.
From Hell will make it's premiere at the 58th Annual Venice International Film Festival. The Festival runs August 29th - September 8th. The movie adapts Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's graphic novel about Jack The Ripper.
In other Hell news, Movie-Page.com dug up a copy of the poster for the film. The poster originally appeared on an online auction site. Click the image at right for a full size version.
Two weeks ago Mainframe Entertainment and MTV officially announced the Gatecrasher animated series based on the Black Bull comic. Here's the official release:
Mainframe Entertainment, Inc., a leading creator of computer animation for television, and MTV: Music Television announced they have entered into an agreement to develop the sci-fi comic series Gatecrasher for television.
The agreement calls for Mainframe Entertainment to design and create a computer animated half hour series for the youth market from the popular comic book series. Gatecrasher is designed and written by the team of Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Connor and Mark Waid and is produced in association with Black Bull Entertainment.
Dan DiDio, Mainframe Entertainment Senior VP of Creative Affairs said, "I've watched Gatecrasher grow from concept to comic, and am looking forward to seeing it evolve into a quality sci-fi animated series. We are very excited about the opportunity to develop the show with MTV and have very high hopes for its future."
"At MTV, our goal is to push the envelope of animation with new technology and formats," said Abby Terkuhle, President, MTV Animation. "Mainframe Entertainment is an industry leader in cutting edge computer animation and we are very happy about this new relationship."
Gatecrasher is the story of Alec Wagner, a college student who is half-human, half alien and a full time member of the Split-Second Squad, a secret alien army that protects Earth from alien attacks through interdimensional "gates". Using its liquid supercomputer ThinkTank, the squad was able to locate these gates before damage could be done -- until it was destroyed and its contents splashed all over Alec's body. Although the youngest and least experienced of the team, Alec is the only Squadder with the power to sense when and where the invaders will strike, so he is always on call.
Fans wondering wherethey can tune in to see the new Mutant X TV show can checkout the official website (the preferred address for which is MutantX.net).The site currently lists 162 TV stations in the United States that will becarrying the show in October.
The site itself isexpanding, with placeholders opened for new areas like "Mutant XUniverse", "Video/Multimedia" and "Community." Sofar these new areas are short on content. However, the new "Behindthe Scenes" area does feature a "Development Update"summarizing the filming of the first five episodes of the show.
Witchbladefan Dex tells us that fans of the currently-running TNT mini-series aremobilizing to ask for more. Fans have created an onlinepetition in hopes of encouraging TNT to order a second season of theshow. Last time we checked the petition had collected over 400 onlinesignatures.
In other news, Episode 10 ofseries is called "Convergence" and it airs on August 14th at9PM (ET). The episode guest stars Keir Dullea, who may be best known forstarring in 2001: A Space Odyssey. TNTprovides this description for the show:
"Sara Pezzini isinvestigating a crime surrounding the missing daughter of a congressmanand is thrown for a loop when she finds herself in the middle of a dealbeing brokered by a band of crooked cops who know she is on to them. Pezis astonished when the Witchblade reveals clues that suggest Jake may beon the dark side. Keir Dullea guest stars as Dr. Immo.
TNT is planning anotherWitchblade marathon for fans who missed the originalairings. The next all-day Yancy block will feature the original movie andall 11 episodes of the currently running mini. The marathon is set to runon Sunday August 26th. Here's the schedule (all times are ET):
- 10:00am Witchblade movie
- 12:00pm #101 Parallax
- 01:00pm #102 Conundrum
- 02:00pm #103 Diplopia
- 03:00pm #104 Sacrifice
- 04:00pm #105 Legion
- 05:00pm #106 Maelstrom
- 06:00pm #107 Periculum
- 07:00pm #108 Thanatopsis
- 08:00pm #109 Apprehension
- 09:00pm #110 Convergence
- 10:00pm #111 Transcendence
Thanks to blade wielders Dex and Ron for the info.
MEN IN BLACK 2
Corona Coming Attractions reports that the Jay and Kay will have a new ridein the upcoming Men In Black 2. A snippet from AutoweekMagazine reveals that the agents will pilot a Mercedes' refreshed E-Class.The care launches next March at the Geneva motor show.
BATMAN: 35th ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL EDITION
The original Batmobile was a special guest at this year's Comic-Con International. The car from the the 1960's TV series was on the floor promoting the release of the upcoming Batman: The Movie 35th Anniversary Special Edition DVD.
Comics2Film asked the Batmobile how it felt to be a convention hit over three decades after its movie was in theaters. The Batmobile just stared back at us stoically.
The DVD goes on sale August 21 and can be preordered now through most online vendors. While the car wouldn't give us its secrets, the DVD does contain a tour of the vehicle hosted by designer George Barris, who's a bit more talkative.
Other DVD features include a 16 minute featurette with Adam West and Burt Ward, running commentary from West and Ward, behind-the-scenes stills and photos and the original theatrical trailers.
Fans who enjoyed theFrench-made live-action Daredevil short that hit the web last month may want to check out the latest addition to the Cine-Courts website. The film site has added a 5 minute "making of" video. However, the film is in French, with no subtitles for English speaking audience members.
If you don't speak French then another option would be to check out the Daredevil: The Man Without Fear website. They've got an English language interview with the underground film's director David Sarrio.
The French Daredevil short is in no way related to the production effort on the official Daredevil feature film by New Regency productions and Marvel.