David Goyer knows what makes superheroes tick. He has written movie scripts featuring The Crow, Ghost Rider, and Blade. He also co-wrote with Geoff Johns many issues of DC Comics “JSA,” but Goyer’s two latest comic book movie projects are the biggest of his career. Next month sees the release of “Blade: Trinity,” the third film in the series which Goyer both wrote and directed. In 2005 he follows-up with “Batman Begins,” a return to the silver screen for the Dark Knight detective, writer by Goyer and directed by Chris Nolan. CBR News spoke with Goyer about his work on Blade, Batman and a possible return to writing comic books.
“Blade: Trinity” is Goyer’s first big budget film and it’s also his first action movie, something he was slightly apprehensive about. “I remember Guillermo [del Toro, director of ‘Blade II’] had the same concerns for ‘Blade II.’ In fact he first passed on it, because he didn’t think he could do the action,” Goyer said. “He was a protege of James Cameron and Cameron had a number of discussions with him about getting going. It’s funny, a couple of years later I was having the same discussions with Guillermo, but the roles had been reversed.
“The first action scene was a little hairy,” continued Goyer, “but then we settled into a rhythm and I figured out how to do it. The beginning of the film I was really religious about sticking to the storyboards. The end action scene I didn’t board at all. It just came out of my head and I think it’s the best one.”
The second Blade film had a distinctively darker visual style than the first film. Goyer kept this pattern and went for a different visual style with “Blade: Trinity.” ” This film was much more high contrast than both films and more of it takes place in the real world, per se,” Goyer explained. “Also, we used a digital intermediate on this film and the other films did not. It was one of the first films that New Line had employed the technique on and that gave us a lot more latitude in pushing things.”
A Digital Intermediate is a device that allows film to be manipulated digitally allowing filmmakers to create a variety of effects like altering the light in a scene. “Parts of this film were shot in a much more naturalistic way and parts we really pushed the look of the movie, like the end of the movie, the final fight scene,” Goyer said. “We did an almost bleach bypass look where we drained almost all of the color out except for the blood and the skin tone. Everything is kind of silvery.”
Before Goyer set out to direct his first film, “ZigZag,” he took an acting class. Something he feels all directors should do. “The ones that don’t are idiots. I’m a terrible actor, but that’s not the point. I did it so that I could experience what actors experience. I’m not going to sit there and tell them, ‘Do this. Do this. Do This,’ without having some understanding of the process. That taught me a lot of empathy for actors and I credit that as being one of the things that has allowed me to communicate with actors and frankly got me the cast on ‘ZigZag’ when I hadn’t directed anything before.”
Those skills he gained helped Goyer assembled the cast he wanted for “Blade: Trinity.” Goyer likes to cast against type, so much of the cast may seem like unusual choices for an action/horror movie based on a comic book. When many people heard Ryan Reynolds, best known for playing the title role in “National Lampoon’s Van Wilder,” had been cast as ex-vampire Hannibal King, they were skeptical. Goyer had Reynolds in mind for the role from the beginning. “With Ryan Reynolds, I’d written the role quite funny, but he was really skinny when we started this film and we made a pact,” Goyer told CBR. He told Reynolds that he needed to gain at least 20 pounds of sheer muscle. “He gained 22 pounds and completely transformed himself. I knew there was a bunch of crap on the Internet initially about ‘Why did they cast Van Wilder?’ As soon as you see him in the movie you’re like, duh?”
Another unusual casting choice for “Blade: Trinity” was WWE wrestler Triple H, who makes his acting debut in the film playing a vampire villain named Jarko Grimwood. “With Triple H there was a guy at New Line, actually one of our executive producers Cale Boyter recommended him. I was reticent to see that kind of stunt casting. I met with him and he’s a really cool guy. He gets the joke. He’s not anything like his wrestling persona. He does have comic timing and that’s the thing I realized. I said, ‘If you’re open to it. I’ll do more comedy with you.’ Originally all the vampire dogs were rotweilers and when I cast Triple H, I said, ‘Let’s give him a little girly dog and that will be funny.”
Goyer cast Parker Posey and John Michael Higgins also based on their comedic acting skills. Posey and Higgins are best known for their roles in Christopher Guest’s mockumentry films “A Mighty Wind” and “Best In Show.” Posey plays a vampire villain named Danica Talos and Higgins plays a psychiatrist. Goyer was a fan of Guest’s films and sought Posey and Higgins out. “I called them and they both said, ‘What in the? Why? Why do you want me in this movie.’ When they got on the set they loved it and I became good friends with both of them and will definitely work with both of them again,” Goyer told CBR. “I remember New Line, particularly with Parker, that was the only time they kind of raised their eyebrows. Now they love her.”
By including Hannibal King in “Blade: Trinity,” Goyer is once again drawing on characters from Marvel’s “Tomb of Dracula” comic where Blade first appeared. “Originally I was going to use King and Frank Drake,” Goyer explained, “but then I decided I wanted to have a woman. So I then started employing the Drake name for Dracula, thinking if there were ever future things I would introduce Frank Drake later. But I knew I wanted to have a woman. Then I started thinking about Rachel and she was the obvious choice, Rachel Van Helsing and she was going to be a Van Helsing but, then ‘Van Helsing’ was coming out and then I hated it. I didn’t want to be in any way associated with ‘Van Helsing.’ So, then I said, ‘Oh I’ll make her a Whistler. I’ll make her related to Kris Kristofferson’s character.'”
Goyer believes “Blade: Trinity” might be the end of the Blade franchise. “It’s probably the last Blade film,” he told CBR. “I can’t say. Never say never. I know personally that I don’t know what other kind of story I would tell.”
There has been some discussion about a “Night Stalkers” film spinning out of “Blade: Trinity” starring Jessica Biel and Ryan Reynolds’ characters. “If there is a ‘Night Stalkers’ film, I told Ryan and Jess that if New Line wants to do another film, I will write and direct it,” Goyer said. “Because, I love those two and I won’t leave them at the altar. I don’t think we would hunt vampires. We would go off in another direction.”
The success of the two Blade films lead to Goyer taking on the hefty task of resurrecting the Dark Knight’s film franchise when he signed on to write “Batman Begins” and he noted why the films came to a screeching halt following the release of 1997’s “Batman and Robin.” “The comic books are completely grounded in this sort of noir reality and they were post modern and much more gritty,” Goyer explained. “I felt like the Schumacher movies were almost dovetailing back into the original TV show and its not where the zeitgeist was.”
Goyer noted that his script would be different than all of the previous Batman films. “This interpretation I think is by far the one that’s closest to the comic books or to the comic books that today’s audience knows. They’re very different from all of the films. A lot of those films, even the Burton movies, the points of reference were a lot of expressionistic silent films like ‘Metropolis’ or ‘Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,’ things like that. But the points of reference weren’t anything that was real. Where as the points of reference for Gotham City are all real cities. That’s why we shot a lot of stuff in Chicago. We also wanted to liberate ourselves from the feeling of being on a set and a back lot. We had a lot more exteriors. We shot scenes in Iceland, things like that. Also, our film doesn’t all take place in Gotham.”
Plot details of “Batman Begins” are still being kept secret, but as you might expect from the title, Goyer did say the film was Batman’s origin story.
Goyer confirmed that his script used parts of the official DC Comics origin for the Dark Knight from Frank Miller’s “Batman: Year One” ” A big portion of our film takes place before ‘Year One’ and a big portion of our film takes place after ‘Year One,'” he explained. “So, there are a lot of elements of ‘Year One’ that are kind of minutes 30-60. Not exactly, but having said that Gordon is plucked straight from ‘Year One.’ That relationship between Batman and Gordon and the fact that he’s sort of the only honest cop in Gotham, that definitely comes from ‘Year One.'”
Christian Bale plays the role of Bruce Wayne and Batman in “Batman Begins” and Goyer believes Bale was the best choice because for the unique nature of the role. “There were sort of three roles that needed to be played in the movie. There’s Batman. There’s the public Bruce Wayne, who is sort of just a bon vivant, but then there’s the private Bruce Wayne, whose really detached and focused. I think we just felt that Christian was the best candidate to play all three.”
Goyer feels that Warner Bros. has learned some valuable lessons from the later Batman films. ” I think Alan Horn and Jeff Robinov who are at WB now, they get it,” Goyer said. “They understand that if these films are going to find traction with a wider audience, they need to have credibility with the fans first and foremost. So they were really great to work with. It was really a model of how these kinds of movies should be made.”
Goyer enjoyed working on “Batman Begins” so much that he signed a first look deal with Warner Bros. “I’m moving my offices over there,” Goyer told CBR News. “We’re looking at a lot of other properties in the DC library.” Goyer couldn’t reveal which characters they were considering but he did say, “There is one big one that is an obvious candidate.”
As if writing scripts and directing movies didn’t keep him busy, Goyer also wants to return to writing comics. As CBR News reported last week, Goyer will be doing a 3-4 issue stint on DC’s “Batman/Superman” title after Jeph Loeb leaves. Goyer also said he has discussed a one-time return to co-writing “JSA” with Geoff Johns. “The only way I would return to ‘JSA’ with Geoff, although I’d definitely do some more comics with him, is we talked about if he’s still on it and he may be, I would come back for the 100th issue.” Goyer has adapted many comic books for the silver screen, but there are still a few comics he dreams about turning into films. “My Marvel dream is ‘Thor.’ Over at DC I’d love to do ‘The Flash’ and I’d love to get my hands on ‘100 Bullets.'”
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