David Hayter has had success as both a Hollywood screenwriter (X-Men, X2, Watchmen), and as a voice actor (Solid Snake in Metal Gear Solid). Now, Hayter attempts to add director to his resume with the release of the upcoming werewolf movie Wolves starring Jason Momoa (Game of Thrones).
Hayter and Momoa both appeared in a panel on Friday afternoon at Comic-Con International in San Diego to discuss how the film came to life and give fans a peek at exclusive footage. The panel also included producer Benedict Carver, actress Merritt Patterson, and Wolves creature designers Lou and David Elsey, who won an Academy Award for their werewolf designs for “The Wolfman.”
Hayter has been developing the film for almost six years. He was approached by producer friends and asked to come up with a fresh take on the werewolf genre.
“I spent one horrific weekend watching every werewolf movie ever made," he said. "I tried to figure out what was compelling and what were the traps that made certain films fall apart. What I tried to come up with was something that was not a horror film, but more of an action thriller, more of a classic hero's journey. I also tried not to put giant snouts on people. It was in Jason's contract — no snouts,” he joked.
Wolves centers on 18-year-old Cayden Richards (Lucas Till, X-Men: First Class), who wakes up one night to find his parents brutally murdered. He is horrified to learn that he is turning into an animal: a wild, savage wolf. Cayden runs, determined to find out what is happening to him. His quest leads him to the town of Lupine Ridge, where two clans of wolves are on the brink of war. The opposing clan is led by Connor (Momoa), the powerful pure-blood alpha of a savage pack, and John Tollerman (Stephen McHattie), an old farmer, committed to protecting the human citizens of Lupine Ridge.
Hayter said when he met Momoa about the film, he found him to be extremely charming. “His character is the biggest, baddest wolf on the East Coast. I told him I didn't want to do what they would normally do — make him into a big monstrous thug,” he said. “Let's do this subtle.”
Momoa said he was stoked when he got the script because he is obsessed with wolves. “I went up to this place about an hour away from L.A. called “Wolf Connection,” which rescues wolves. I went there to study them.” While studying them, Momoa developed a concept about wolves involving three distinctive looks: “I see you, I see around you. I see through you. All very scary.”
He ended up adopting one of the wolves there. “He loves my wife, he loves my kids, but he hates me — because I am definitely the alpha,” Momoa teased.
Momoa then credited the creature effects artists who spent five hours every day applying prosthetics and hand-laying every hair on his face.
David Elsey said that after working on “The Wolfman,” he and Lou were not interested in doing any more werewolf pictures. But Hayter told them that this film was going to have werewolf characters, which they thought was a fresh take. “He wanted them all to have distinct looks, and that was very intriguing to us,” he said.
Elsey thought the scariest aspect of working on the film was creating a female werewolf look for Merritt Patterson. “I had never seen a strong, sexy, female werewolf character in a film before. I didn't know if it could be done because I don't know if hair on a woman's face is the best thing. That was the first creature design that we had to crack,” he said. “We were very pleased with the results,” adding that that design helped lead to the others.
“These are sexy werewolves,” interjected Lou Elsey.
Hayter said that this film contains a first: a werewolf sex-scene, which took three days to shoot. The scene starts as a human sex scene and progresses over the course of the lovemaking into full werewolf-on-werewolf action.
Carver said one of the challenges he faced was finding a place where they could film the movie. He scouted Bucharest, Transylvania, Sydney, Melbourne, Louisiana, and Montreal, before ending up in Toronto.
The crowd was then shown a video presentation consisting of four parts: a greeting from actor Lucas Till who could not attend Comic-Con this year because he was in Canada filming X-Men: Days of Future Past, two clips from the movie, and an extended trailer for the film.
The first clip centers on Cayden, who is working as a farmhand for Tollerman. He is confronted by a threatening Connor, who is upset that Cayden had beaten up one of his friends. He makes it clear that they will be crossing paths again, and when he leaves, Cayden asks the old man, “Who is that guy?” The old man responds, “You don't want to know.” The second clip showcased a werewolf fight in the woods with Connor and his pack. Interestingly, the werewolves in the clip were not CGI -- they were definitely actors with make up and hair.
Hayter said the film was internationally financed and has been sold to the entire world and they are just starting to work on U.S. distribution. “You are the first Americans to see footage on the film,” he said, and the audience clapped. He expects to sell it quickly and predicted an early 2014 release.
Despite its subject matter, Wolves isn't a monster movie. “John Landis said when he was making An American Werewolf in London that his movie was about a guy who gets cancer except the guy's cancer is killing everybody else. That is pretty much the best example of the classic werewolf movie that you can do,” Hayter said to wrap up the panel. “I wanted to do something that was more about what you go through as a young person. Growing into adulthood, and violence and sex, and all this stuff you can't control. It's about control. Wouldn't it be awesome to have that (power) but be able to control it and call on it when you need it. That's what I learned as a young man. You don't just fly off the handle. You don't look for trouble, but if trouble finds you, you act accordingly. That's how we approached it.”