We talked about the inception of the project, a more restrained Man of Steel and the alien influence on Superman. You can read our review of Man of Steel and check below for the full transcript of our meeting. Our chat with writer David Goyer will be up on the site later this afternoon so check back…
Getting involved with Man of Steel
DS: We got a call from the Nolans, and we had never met even though we were a husband and wife team at the same studio, and they said ‘Do you mind if we talk to you about Superman?’ and Zack got off the phone and we thought ‘I don’t know…’ and it was for two separate reasons. For Zack he had loved the character for so long and he was nervous about being able to do this character justice. I was nervous because it was really difficult to make [the character] relatable to a modern audience. So we sat with them and they pitched the idea that Chris [Nolan] and David Goyer had for the script and it really made him relatable and put him in the modern world. We read the script and they had found a way to get at him like no-one else has in cinema. It was a big, daunting thing to take on but it was now really exciting.
CR: Around the same time I was waiting for Chris to deliver his script on The Dark Knight Rises and Inception was about to come out. We talked about a script David Goyer had written for Superman called Man of Steel. The studio has read it and it’s accelerating and the shooting is going to overlap with The Dark Knight Rises. I heard that Zack and Debbie were looking at it. I’d been a Superman fan since the time I was a little kid. We had great respect for the Donner movie, and Superman II with Terence Stamp as Zod but I felt it was time to bring the character into the twenty-first century. But I hadn’t really thought about it until the Nolans gave me that script. There were things to be done with the script but I thought they had come up with something interesting and fun.
Combining action and emotion for the perfect Superman
DS: Yeah, because there is an expectation with a superhero film that there is spectacle and action but there also has to be heart. Striking that balance is really important. But for me personally it was hard to relate to him personally because he was too perfect. We want Superman to be good but in this film we see that it’s hard to do good. He still has to make choices and there are repercussions. It’s hard to be different and to have these powers. You think that it must be great to be Superman but it’s also hard to be Superman, especially when growing up.
Why this interpretation of Superman is right for cinema now
CR: We live in a much more complicated time than when Superman was created seventy-five years ago. Or even when Superman The Movie was created in the Seventies. There are great advances but with those come a great many complications. We live longer but we’re running out of money – it’s not as black and white as it used to be. At least you used to know ‘There’s the villain. There’s the good guy.’ but today there are more shades of grey. We felt that the character needed to grow up in that kind of environment and had to face those kinds of colossal choices that were not going to be easy. It’s difficult to figure out the right path. And even if you do good there are causalities to your choices. We thought it would be compelling.
The Alien Influence
CR: The story of Kal-El is actually a great story about adoption. He is an alien who has embraced his human side. As much as he loves and honours his heritage, and he needed to know where he came from and discover who he was, he has to decide who he is going to be.
DS: There’s a great line in the film about how Jor-El allowed him to have a choice but his father, Jonathan Kent, gave him the tools to actually make that choice. It’s a journey of becoming Superman. He’s finding himself – not just as Superman and his powers but he’s realising the enormity of the responsibilities.
CR: We also felt that in our paranoid world today an alien with super powers, even if he looked like us, might not be universally acclaimed because he’s uncontrollable. So he might be rejected, he might be an outcast. That’s a really viable concept which you might not have thought about thirty, or forty or seventy-five years ago.
DS: What I also like is that if a being like this was to exist what does that say about religion, what does that say about our whole belief system?
On the pressure and expectation and the shadow of Batman Begins
CR: There wasn’t a three-act structure on Batman. Chris wouldn’t talk about what might happen with the franchise when it was filming. He flipped the Joker at the end, but there was no Joker plot. If there was he kept it to himself. I think he used the post-production on The Prestige to focus on The Dark Knight…
The inevitable sequel
CR: This was different. Even though going into it there was no story the world and the universe specifically precluded to expand upon what the environment might be. Chris’s universe on The Dark Knight was very Bruce Wayne/Batman centric. There was no universe outside of that. Here we left Easter Eggs to let you know that we weren’t necessarily saying that…
DS: But I wouldn’t say there’s a sequel greenlit. There’s been a lot of speculation and we want to service this movie… I think that Superman is the pinnacle of the DC Universe. Our feeling always was that you need to get Superman right. That was also our goal. We didn’t want to ignore that this universe exists.
DS: We have the 300 sequel coming out (300: Rise of an Empire), so that’s been really exciting. The Last Photograph was something Zack wrote and it’s quiet different, it’s probably the only non-genre thing we’ve been talking about. It’s a nice story about these two guys walking through war-torn Afghanistan.
CR: So, I’m working on the [World of] Warcraft movie, and we were thrilled that Duncan Jones signed on to direct. We’re working towards a first quarter 2014 start and I’m really enjoying the collaboration with him. Duncan is re-writing the script. He’s making it his own, he’s using a script that Charles Leavitt did a first draft on. It’s a daunting task to bring a legendary online game – you want to get that right!
We were about to leave but our good friends at Den of Geek with whom we shared the interview had to get this question in…
Are you still working on Uncharted?
CR: I am.
Have you cast Nathan Fillion yet?