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illustration (c) Josť Villarrubia 2000 digital

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Art by Chip Zdarsky. Copyright 2002.

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INTERVIEW: DAVID S. GOYER: UPDATED
Conducted by Jonathan Ellis

While attending USC film school David wrote an action script under the advisement of one of his professors, and hasn't looked back since. In fact he's doing the exact opposite, and to this day has been continuously moving forward. Best known for such works as the critically acclaimed DARK CITY and fan-favourite BLADE, you only just begin to scratch the surface of David's list of credits. From screenwriter, to comics scribe, to producer and even now, director. It's a wonder where David finds the time for it all. By all, I'm of course referring to his numerous projects which include the upcoming BLADE 2 film, the newly gained interest projects of both GHOST RIDER and DR. STRANGE. David is even returning to print with at least a years worth of JSA.

David is amongst great company, particularly in following in the footsteps of such writers as Neil Gaiman and Harlan Ellison on currently being developed projects MURDER MYSTERIES and PHOENIX WITHOUT ASHES. But that's not all, not by a long shot. If you really wanted to know what's been hoarding David's time lately think of the words 'directorial debut'. That's right, be on the look out for David's upcoming directorial debut with ZigZag.

Based on the novel by Landon J. Napoleon. ZigZag tells the story of Louis Fletcher, a 15-year-old autistic boy named ZigZag, who steals $9,000 from his boss to provide rent for his abusive father, who also owes a great deal of money to a loan shark. ZigZag's social worker tries to help him out of his situation, but his plan only makes things worse...

The film stars Sam Jones III in his feature debut as well as such notables as Wesley Snipes, John Leguizamo, Natasha Lyonne, Oliver Platt, Kathleen Gati, Luke Goss, Michael Greyeyes, and Julio Dolce Vita. No official release date at this time.

We scoured the world searching for David, finally catching up with him on his way out of Paris we presented him with the conundrum that many people have been wondering - "How you doing?"

PopImage: Being an established screenwriter, do you get more leeway in 'directing from the typewriter'. Most hate, HATE it when a writer adds direction into their writing but having directed yourself and having the opportunity to work with people you know, do you find yourself writing more detailed, or perhaps more loose then when you originally started in the industry?

David: As far as altering my scripts now that I have directed goes - no, not really. My script for ZigZag (the feature I directed) was written in more or less the same style as my other scripts.

ZIG ZAG, I must say sounds very interesting but also seems to differ greatly from most films you've worked on in the past. What was it that attracted you to this specific project?

In Hollywood, people tend to pigeonhole you. I wanted to do a small, character-based drama and doubted that anyone would allow me to do that - which led to my optioning the book and writing it on spec.

Do you still consider it as a small film, with the cast of high profile actors attached to the film as well as growing interest from fans who show curiosity having associated your name from your past works?

I do think ZigZag is a small film - but that's not necessarily a bad thing. What I mean by small is that it deals with a very narrow focus - the life of one 15 year-old kid during the Christmas season. It's small, but it's universal. I'm very proud of it and in many ways, and think it's a much more important film than Blade or Dark City.

Do you find yourself taking on many extra jobs in addition to your role as director?

Not sure what you mean by "extra jobs". I'm not a control freak - I don't try to edit my films or do the music. I like to provide guidance and a specific viewpoint and then work with others. Unlike some directors, I'm not particularly a believer in the auteur theory. I think it's a collaborative medium. You have to have a director, of course. But I think a good director will leave him or herself open to other opinions and viewpoints.

That's exactly what I meant actually. You don't find yourself spending long nights alongside the editor in a basement somewhere? Going over production numbers with your PM?

As far as spending long nights with my editor... of course that happens, to a certain degree. But I do believe in letting/encouraging other people to run with their ideas. I am not as good an editor as my editor, nor am I as good a production designer or DP. The point is to hire people who are better at their jobs than you could ever be. That way, the final product will be greater than any of the individual parts.

Once you break out of the typecast of the 'comic book guy' with ZIG ZAG so that you can be seen in a different light by Hollywood, where do you hope that will lead in terms of your career?

I'm not sure where I would like to go with my career. I certainly would like to do other dramas - and possibly even a historical piece or a comedy.

Does most of the work you do now revolve around doing a pitch first and THEN writing the script or do you find yourself writing full scripts just for yourself? A project you're really passionate about getting down on paper, or a project you do for the sake of the challenge, for instance 'I've never written a comedy. I've never written a western. I'd love to write a LAW & ORDER episode! I think I'll try it out'.

With ZigZag I wrote a full script first. For the next few scripts I have deals in place ahead of time. I think it just depends. I certainly plan on writing more spec scripts in the future. It can be a very liberating experience. As you say, a comedy is a good example. In the next few years, I probably WILL write a comedy on spec - just because it isn't necessarily what people would expect of me.

Also in David's future is the feature PHOENIX WITHOUT ASHES [Alternatively titled GENERATION SHIP] which he is adapting alongside director and debuting screenwriter Rob Bowman. Which is based upon the novel, Phoenix Without Ashes, by Harlan Ellison and Edward Bryant (which was itself based upon Ellison's Canadian 1970's TV show, The Starlost). The premise behind PHOENIX WITHOUT ASHES reads as follows: Thousands of years in the future, the remnants of humanity are travelling on a massive starship, searching for a new homeworld. The ship is composed of hundreds of biospheres, each representing one of the cultures of Earth. The problem is that the inhabitants of the ship have been on the ship for so long that they forgot they were on a ship at all. One man discovers the secret, but there's something else as well... the ship is headed straight for an uncharted star, and the pilots are long since dead. How do you convince hundreds of cultures that they're not only on a ship, but also doomed to die unless they do something about it?

How did you get involved with GENERATION SHIP? Is that the working title BTW? Will the different cultures be consistently interacting with one another or kept separate from each other in their own little biospheres?

The project is called "Phoenix Without Ashes". The different cultures DO interact - it's the point of the whole piece. They've been kept separate for hundreds of years and now they discover one another.

A while back David developed a pilot with the Blair Witch crew for FOX, originally titled FEARSUM and later adopting the name FREAKY LINKS, the show followed a sort of early 20's Monster Squad team through their adve

ntures searching for the mysterious and unknown.

It didn't last very long.

What happened with FEARSUM, were you involved with the project past the initial pilot?

Fearsum. Gregg Hale and I left the project BEFORE they began filming the pilot. We objected to the casting direction they were going in. From there, the project just went from bad to worse. I've officially disowned that project, sadly.

Coming to theatres March 22nd is the eagerly awaited sequel BLADE 2. Written by Goyer and directed by Guillermo del Toro (Multiple award winning filmmaker from such titles as CRONOS, MIMIC, THE DEVILS BACKBONE and the upcoming HELLBOY). The team worked alongside artists TyRubin Ellingson, Mike Mignola, Wayne Barlowe, Leo Duranona and Tim Bradstreet to develop the look for the film, starring a new pack of vampires known as The Reapers.

"The Daywalker known as Blade is forced to ally himself with a group of vampires because of a terrifying new type of undead called a "Reaper". Part vampire, part death incarnate and completely consumed with bloodlust, vampires are to Reapers what humans are to vampires: prey. As the first Reaper, Nomak, continues turn both humans and vampires being into more of his kind, Blade must find a way to end this threat and survive his uneasy truce with the bloodsuckers he's allied himself with."

How much input did you have regarding the visual design of the new breed of vampires debuting in BLADE 2? One of the particulars I found interesting was the character sporting Maori tattoos.

As far as the look goes, Guillermo and I consulted frequently with Tim Bradstreet and Mike Mignola - Guillermo more so than I, of course. But we would have various discussions, etc.



BLADE storyboard art


Did you play any specific attention to the 'sexiness' that is now being placed on superheroes when you were writing the BLADE 2 script? When DARK CITY came out the characters carried a look that could be best described as nosferotic.

The sexiness of superheroes? Not exactly sure what you mean by this. In Dark City, Alex Proyas had a specific vision with regards to the Strangers. They were, perhaps, a bit too much like the Cennobites from Hellraiser, in my opinion. We definitely play off Blade's feral sexuality in the sequel, however.

Yes, the "sexy superhero" seems to be one of the current catch phrases floating around. With books like Grant Morrison's INVISIBLES, the super model cast of the X-MEN flick and the slick black leather MATRIX style that so many seem intent on mimicking. It's a sense of attitude more then anything else really that's just become more and more evident over the last few years.

There's also the attractiveness attached with the entire vampire mythos and the goth movement, it's died down in recent years, but it is still there.

The term 'nosferotic' is something I actually came up with when writing a comparative essay for a Principles of Visual Design class - DARK CITY and METROPOLIS. Pretty sweet eh? Have you ever been approached by students or professors in the past who rave about how some of your past works may have influenced them or how they may have studied them?

I've been approached by numerous people in educational circles about Dark City. Blade is a much more populist film, though. I tend to get comments like "Dude, Blade fucking rocked!" etc. I think power, in any event, is sexy. When you're dealing with characters who are 'superhuman', then, inevitably, you are going to have characters who are extraordinarily attractive to us mere mortals. In effect, they are gods.

How much research, on average, will you put into a project? I noticed that even in the original BLADE script you included very detailed descriptions of blood cells.

The level of research depends on the project. The Blade films require a certain degree of weapon research. Medical research as well. Not an exhausting amount, though. Murder Mysteries will not require much.

Have you already made any plans as to a premise behind the possible third BLADE film? Is a future setting still being planned?

We are discussing various premises for Blade 3, but nothing has been set in stone yet.

Any plans to be involved in the potential BLADE television series?

We have also talked about my being involved in a Blade TV show. If we do one, it will be for the fall season in 2003.

How do you feel about certain entertainment news shows blowing the story behind Kris Kristofferson's return for the sequel?

I was angry about the Whistler leak - but in this day and age, it's hard to keep things like that secret.

How'd you like working with Guillermo? Being attached to a number of comic projects himself and the ideas presented in CRONOS related to the whole vampire mythos were excellent [loved the relation between the vampire mythos to that of Jesus - very clever].

Guillermo and I are good friends. He's well versed in horror, science-fiction, comicbooks, and other related genres, so we're able to take a lot of shortcuts with each other. There is a set in the sequel, for instance, that I recognized immediately as being influenced by the CD-ROM 'Gadget'. But Guillermo and myself (aside from the art department) were, perhaps, the only people on the movie that would have got that reference.

What's this about a 'machinist sidekick named Scud'?

There is a new weaponsmith named Scud. That's all I'm saying.





Also in the wondrous world of development is a script David wrote with popular scribe James Robinson. EVERMERE is a period fantasy piece which was bought by executive producers Andy Vajna and Mario Kassar. Although being slightly defunct, names like director Chuck Russell have been attached to the project.

Any word on EVERMERE going into production?

Evermere continues to percolate in development hell. However, interest in Lord of The Rings and Harry Potter might resurrect it.

Can you elaborate at all about the story for the EVERMERE flick? Considering you wrote this with James, were there ever any plans to bring it to the printed page?

We never had any plans to bring Evermere to the printed page. It was a script that I'd written the first half of about seven years ago. When James and I became friends, I suggested that we finish it. It's about a seventeen year-old boy who realizes on his birthday that he is not from Earth - that, in fact, he is the heir to a throne on another world.

Also awaiting official confirmation is the upcoming GHOST RIDER flick to which David wrote the original treatment a couple years back. Currently anticipating a definite directorial team and cast, the film now sits upon an estimated budget of $75 Million.

The Premise: This is the story of motorcycle stunt performer, Johnny Blaze, who agrees to become the host of a "spirit of vengeance" in exchange for the safety of his true love, but the price he pays is to be cursed with the avenging spirit that takes its form at night as a demon with a flaming skull on a motorcycle of hellfire...

When GHOST RIDER gained renewed attention, were you given the job of rewrite or was that passed on to another?

No, I did the rewrite.

Also on David's Plate is the feature debut of DOCTOR STRANGE, another of his past works that has recently gained renewed interest following the success of the X-MEN movie as well as Artisans deal with Marvel to develop at least 15 of their properties.

Doctor Strange tells the tale of a brilliant surgeon who has his career ruined and his life changed forever in an accident which leaves him unable to perform surgery. Searching for a way to cure his afflicted hands, he goes to the East in search of the Sorcerer Supreme of Earth, and winds up becoming the Ancient One's disciple despite himself.

And if that weren't enough, last May it was announced that screenwriter David Goyer signed a deal with Dimension Films to adapt and direct Neil Gaiman's 1992 short story MURDER MYSTERIES as a live-action feature. The MURDER MYSTERIES movie will be the first of a two-picture deal between Goyer and the studio, with the second film as-yet unannounced.

Gaiman's short story was adapted by the Sci-Fi Channel as a 75 minute radio broadcast for its "Seeing Ear Theater", performed by actor Brian Dennehy. You can listen to Dennehy's performance of MURDER MYSTERIES On the Sci-Fi Channel Website.

MURDER MYSTERIES takes place In the final days of the Creation of Earth, in a place we would call Heaven the first crime has been committed. The lifeless body of an angel is discovered in the City, and Lucifer, the Morningstar of the Creator, commissions an investigator to gather evidence about the murder. Called upon to serve is Raguel, the Angel of Vengeance, who will leave no stone unturned, no question unasked and none of his brothers above suspicion to find the murderer and uncover their motive.

Is DOCTOR STRANGE currently progressing as well? How did you snag the MURDER MYSTERIES gig? Will you be working with Neil on the adaptation for the screen? This being part of a two picture deal, have you made any plans as to the second picture?

If we do Dr. Strange, it will happen AFTER Murder Mysteries. The deal for Murder Mysteries was quite simple. We approached Neil and he said yes. I will be consulting with Neil, but adapting the story on my own.

Exactly how are you finding time for all the projects you're currently attached to?

As far as my time goes - lots of budgeting. Seriously, though, right now, I am finishing the first draft of Murder Mysteries. After that, I'll probably write Blade 3. And then, maybe, Dr. Strange. We'll see.

Any new tatts you'd like the general audience to know about?

No new tattoos. But I am considering a few.

Last we talked one of the most amusing things you told me was about the time you called Judd Nelson an asshole on live radio. Being as involved in the industry as you are, do you find situations like this often come up when rubbing elbows with the 'Hollywood elite'?

Judd and I now work-out at the same gym, but he doesn't remember the incident. These things happen.

Do you have any plans to do more print work once time becomes available? Perhaps with the launch of Marvels Mature Readers Line?

I have no particular interest in Marvel's mature line. One day, I would like to do some more comic work. My first choice in the Marvel Universe would be Captain America. For now, however, I have to finish up JSA. I see my current run ending somewhere around #50 or so. Now that I'm back on the book, Geoff and I have already written up through issue #38.

What's the most important lesson you've learned since breaking into the movie biz?

The most important lesson? Write what you believe in and try to insulate yourself from the Hollywood bullshit. Lunches with executives and write-ups in L.A. Magazine have nothing to do with making movies.

Special thanks to David, congrats on all the new projects and best wishes for the future.

BUY JSA! Be sure to watch for ZigZag and BLADE 2!

Later.


Jonathan Ellis is Interviews Editor for PopImage.

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