Do you make it for the comic fans, or does it need to be more accessible to the general public?
Do you make it with an "edge" and hide the fact that it's a comic book, or do you embrace the genre and all that comes with it, tights and all?
And what about those budget restraints?
Questions like these are what screenwriter Chris Morgan ("S.W.A.T.," "Cellular," and "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift") struggles with as he adapts two of comic properties: Dan Brereton and James Hudnall's "The Psycho" and Mark Millar's "Wanted."
CBR News had the opportunity to sit down with Morgan amid the chaos of this weekend's Comic-Con International in San Diego and chat about the challenges and the status of these projects.
In the future, there are costumed officers that have super-powers. Our story is about Officer Jake Riley, who doesn't have any powers. In order to solve a mystery though, he ends up taking this drug that kills most people who use it but grants survivors super-powers.
He ends up taking it, survives, and uses his powers to go rescue this girl who is in distress, but who ultimately turns out to be a pawn (it turns out she's a mole who lures him in). So basically, it's a different take on superheroes. It's superheroes that are made through science, clumsy science.
Over at Universal, they bought the rights to the book and they love the story. An exec over at the studio, Jeff Kirschenbaum, has adored the project for years and shepherded it – it's like his personal baby. He and I hit it off really well on "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift," and he brought it up to me as a project that he liked. I said, "Well, let me see the book." And I read it and loved it.
So we're now trying to do a probably $30 million gritty, hard "R," psychological exploration thriller. Staying true to the comic book, we probably will shy a little bit away from the costumed superhero element of it, but we're really going to hit hard the idea of this drug altering you and giving you powers.
The cool thing about it -– that I love in the book -– is that the drug drives you crazy, which is why it's called "The Psycho." So you get these powers, but you start losing your mind. With our character Jake, he has his timeclock (from the moment he takes the drug) to solve the crime before he goes helplessly insane. There's a little bit of "DOA" to it, and I just think it's a great structure for a film.
I did it no justice in trying to describe the story, by the way ...
So is there anybody attached at the moment?
Basically, Universal has the project, we are developing the screenplay, and then we'll go out to talent. We're working in partnership with Circle of Confusion on it.
So who exactly are the bigwigs on this project?
As opposed to an ongoing series – where you have many storylines to choose from – "The Psycho" is a graphic novel. It seems like it would be easier to adapt a finite property like this as opposed to a comic that's still telling its story.
I think so. That's the thing about graphic novels and comic books –- and Hollywood has just in the last few years started to realize this -– is that they're movies on a page with the benefit of art. And that's exactly what a script is without the art.
So, yeah, if you have a beginning, middle, and end on a graphic novel, it's absolutely easier. Because then you can come in, choose what's best, and add some of your own ideas where needed.
You're always trying to blend whatever you can bring to the story with the best parts of the [comic] story, and sometimes that's just leaving the comic's story alone, 100 percent alone. Some of the graphic novels are just awesome.
And then, a lot of other times, though, you'll work with the creators. I'm actually going to talk with Hudnall and Brereton tonight. I just want to see where else they wanted to go with the story. What else did they want to do? I'm going to bounce some ideas off of them, and hopefully, through collaborating, we'll come up with their full concept for the comic.
So do you have a completed draft of the script yet?
I don't have a finished draft yet. I just have a first act and a treatment that I'm working off of right now. I was working on "The Psycho," and then they needed a quick rewrite on "Wanted," Mark Millar's book that they're going to be shooting at Universal. "The Psycho" has therefore been put on hold for a few weeks, but then I'll be getting back to it.
This seems like a great segue into talking about "Wanted." You were assigned "Wanted" after "The Psycho," correct?
Yeah. The same exec that I worked with over at Universal said, "Look, we need a quick pass on this script. We have a director on board. We want you to change the third act – it's not working – and work with the director."
So they had a draft already?
Yes, they had a previous draft from other writers. Actually, a writing team composed of Michael Brandt and Derek Haas [screenwriters for "2 Fast 2 Furious"]. And I've got to say that they did an awesome job. Normally in this business, a studio will come to you and say, "Hey, we need a rewrite." And you'll read the script, and you'll see why they need a rewrite.
Well, with the Brandt and Haas draft, they did an excellent job of maintaining the tone and maintaining the character. Like, I basically left their introduction of the character and stuff like that completely untouched. It was spot-on awesome. I think if Mark (Millar) read it, he would love it.
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