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David Goyer: Stripped to the Bone
© Jason Myers

David Goyer, screenwriter, has written for several kick-ass genre movies, including Dark City and Blade. He also wrote for Crow: City of Angels, and Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., but don't make fun of him, or he'll send Wesley Snipes and Kris Kristofferson to snap your spine.

Employing arcane torture methods unused since the Spanish Inquisition, Jason Myers "interviewed" David Goyer in summer, 2000, and got the skinny on his past work, and his upcoming projects, Blade 2 and Ghost Rider.

Jason Myers: You started out doing Jean Claude Van Damme movies (Death Warrant and Kickboxer 2). Since then, you've done fantasy/sci-fi/horror almost exclusively. Was that always the area you wanted to go into?

David Goyer: I never had any intention of writing action movies. I always intended to write quirky character piecesóbut shortly after graduating, my agent suggested I try writing an action script because they were selling. I wrote one (Death Warrant), it sold, and I spent the next six years being pigeonholed as an action writer. I read a great deal of science-fiction and began to slowly segue into that direction. Ultimately, I am more comfortable in Cronenberg/Gilliam/Proyas territory. Zigzag, the film I hope to be directing this winter, is a dramaówith no genre trappings, action or otherwise, whatsoever.

JM: What is your favorite Gilliam movie?

DG: Brazil, with Time Bandits being a close second.

JM: You're directing this movie, Zigzag. Ultimately, do you see yourself directing instead of writing?

DG: I would like to split my time between directing and writing. To be honest, after 10 years and some 30 screenplays, I'm getting a little burnt out. I need to challenge myself in different areas and directing is one of the ways I intend to do that.

JM: Your first nonClaudeVanDamme movie was Full Moon's Demonic Toys. How did that happen?

DG: Simple. Charlie Band said that if I wrote a film for Full Moon I could direct one. I wrote the film in 8 days based on a poster Charlie had previously designed, then decided I was insane to think I could've busted my ass on such a ridiculous directorial debutóI think Charlie was going to give me 18 days to direct the thing. A sane move, I think.

JM: Why weren't you involved in writing the long-awaited sequel, Dollman vs. Demonic Toys?

DG: Gee, I just didn't think I was capable of topping myself with regard to the first film. I mean, it was sort of the apotheosis of evil doll B-movies, no? Strangely enough, I found Robert Mitchum's grandson to be oddly compelling and somewhat amusing.

JM: I keep reading that you wrote for The Substitute, that classic Tom Berenger B-actioner. The truth, or a vicious Internet rumor?

DG: Vicious Internet rumor. I had nothing to do with the film. Believe me, if I copped to Kickboxer 2, I would cop to The Substitute.

JM: In an interview for Entertainment Weekly, you called Crow: City of Angels, "one of the worst sequels ever made." You wrote it with James O'Barr. What happened to that movie? When you first saw the film, what was your reaction?

DG: Let's face it, The Crow 2 stunk. One of those classic situations where too many cooks spoiled the broth, I guess. Everyone involved just envisioned a completely different film. When I initially came on board, I had pitched a movie that began in Victorian England with Jack the Ripperókilling a streetwalker that was pregnant. Centuries later, she is resurrected because Jack himself makes a comeback. She becomes a female Crow, taking vengeance on the death of her unborn child, etc. For a variety of reasons, the producers felt that the audience wouldn't embrace a female Crow. I was concerned about trying to create a copycat Brandon LeeóI felt the audience (which was more rabid than your average audience) would feel betrayed. Ultimately, I think they did feel betrayed and the movie really didn't do justice to Brandon Lee's memory.

I do think that the film is quite beautiful and that, individually, some of the sequences are effectiveóparticularly those involving Iggy Pop. As a whole, though, the film was misconceived.

JM: What is Evermere?

DG: Evermere is a spec script that I co-wrote with comic book writer James Robinson. It is a period fantasy pieceótrolls, dark elves, the whole kit and caboodle. I'm quite proud of it, actually. We sold it to Andy Vanja and Mario Cassar for a great deal of moneyóbut I ultimately think it is unlikely that the film will ever get made. Lord of the Rings and the impending Harry Potter film have more or less staked out those genres for a number of years to come. It's also quite expensive.

JM: You contributed a script for the Freddy vs. Jason movie. If you had written the entire movie, what would it be like?

DG: I did a draft of Freddy vs. Jason as a favor to (then) director Rob Bottin. Not my cup of tea and not particularly something I was interested in pursuing. The draft tried to reinvigorate the Friday the 13th mythology. The film was actually set in the campground where the 1st Friday was set and posited that Freddy (as a young counselor in training) was actually, the person who killed/drowned/sodomized little Jason. In effect, Jason was trying to kill Freddy all these years. The basic conceit was, in order to stop Freddy, the heroes resurrect Jason, golem-style, and send him after the nightmare king. Using one monster to fight another, etc.

JM: Dark City was (in my humble opinion) easily the best genre movie of 1998. Based on the box office receipts ($15 million, stateside, I believe), very few people actually saw the film. Are you a little annoyed that The Matrix grossed so much and got so much attention? The Matrix is a sweet movie, but, on several levels, it's Dark City, only with Agents instead of Strangers, and Kung Fu instead of Tuning.

DG: Look, I loved The Matrix. How could I be annoyed? Yes, it certainly covered some of the same territoryóbut it was also quite original on many, many levels. Do I wish Dark City had been more successful at the box office? Of course I do. That said, it seems to have found its niche in the small pantheon of influential sci-fi films that were box office under-achievers. Unfortunately, I think Dark City came out a little ahead of the curve.

JM: On the set of Dark City, how did you resist the urge to hit on Jennifer Connelly?

DG: Jennifer Connelly is one of the most beautiful women in existence. Alas, I was married. Also, I wasn't on the set for the entire shoot (I had another project filming at the same time) and my path barely crossed with hers. Had I been single and more randyówell, I might have been more tempted to embarrass myself!

JM: On the set of Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., how did you resist the urge to hit on David Hasselhoff?

DG: I wasn't on the set of Nick Fury at all. I wrote the script a few years before the telefilm was shot. At the time it did shoot, I was running my own short-lived series, Sleepwalkers. I was also initially unenthused about Hasselhoff's involvement. I think the film was pretty mediocre—but Hasselhoff turned out to be the best thing in it. He got the joke. The script was meant to be very tongue in cheek and Hasselhoff understood that.

JM: I actually saw Sleepwalkers, and enjoyed that show, what they aired of it. And when I read that you were (if I recall correctly) the show's creator, it made perfect sense. How the hell does a show get cancelled after only two episodes?

DG: I was the creator or co-creator of Sleepwalkers. As for it being cancelled after two episodes, it was pretty ridiculous. The show did respectable numbersónot genius, but respectable. Then, after it was officially cancelled, they ran the remaining 6 episodes on another night without any promotion and it still did as wellówhich tells me there was an audience. NBC just jumped the gun.

JM: You've said (in another interview) that there won't be any Matrix-esque stuff in Blade 2. Will this require a change from the look and feel of the original movie? I mean, with the creaking black leather, bad-ass hardware, acrobatics, breakneck fight scenes, and technoelectronica soundtrack, Blade was pretty much Matrix-esque before Matrix-esque became an adjective.

DG: Hmmm. Good question. The trick will be to retain the feel of the first film, but to design action sequences that are not, self-consciously, aping The Matrix. I think we'll be staying away from slow-motion.

JM: Back in 1998, even before Blade was released, you mentioned that you were planning on using Morbius in the sequel. Still doing that?

DG: No Morbius in Blade 2. Marvel wanted to use the character for a separate franchise. There is, however, a character that COULD have been Morbius, if you look closely enough.

JM: Give us something about Blade 2. Something you haven't told any publications yet.

DG: Something about Blade 2 I haven't told anyone else...? Um, gee, what can I say without spoiling things? He gets laid, I tell you that.

JM: You've said that Blade is part of a planned trilogy. George Lucas, Wes Craven/Kevin Williamson, The Wachowski Brothers, and now, David Goyer?

DG: Yep. Always had three movies in mind. And if the second film is successful, I'll sharpen my pen for the third.

JM: Blade 2 is probably still in preproduction. Nonetheless, any hints about Blade 3?

DG: No clues for the 3rd Blade filmóexcept this: I've considered setting the 3rd film about 50 years in the future. Because Blade is half-vampire, he would age far more slowly. I have some other elements I want to work with and may ultimately abandon that idea. We'll have to see how the 2nd film does. A TV series is also in the worksóto debut after the 2nd film.

JM: After Blade 2, there's the Ghost Rider movie. Here's your chance to plug Ghost Rider, to make the mouths of many a fanboy water in anticipation. Give us the good stuff, we're hungry for info.

DG: I did a draft of this character about 6-7 years ago and the results were uninspired. It just got kind of knocked around in development hell. Now, with Norrington [the director of Blade] on board, and comic book movies riding high, I think the film will get the treatment it deserves. I'm very excited about the movie. We're essentially throwing the first script out. I think this version will be darker than Blade—stripped to the bone. A kind of modern-Western, with a nod to The Road Warrior and the Eastwood Man w/No Name films. The Ghost Rider is a classic, iconic character. Consequently, we want to tell a very, very simple story.

JM: Given the nature of most of your recent projects, are you worried at all about getting pegged as "that guy who writes comic book movies"?

DG: I'm already pegged as the guy who writes comic book movies. But that's also why I'm doing a drama like Zigzagóto try and reinvent myself. Or at the very least, to get Hollywood to view me in a different light.

JM: Anything lined up after Ghost Rider?

DG: Nothing lined up after Ghost Rider. But listen, these current commitments will keep me busy at least a year... I do have my adaptation of Phoenix Without Ashes (the Harlan Ellison teleplay)óbut it's so damn expensive that I can't imagine it ever being made.

JM: Quick list of favorite genre movies.

DG: Aargh. I hate doing lists... Curse of the Demon, The Quiet Earth, Alien, Dead Ringers, the re-make of The Fly, Jacob's Ladder to a certain extent... Crime films actually happen to be my favorite, though. Force of Evil, Night of the Hunter, Bellman & True, Vanishing Point, Badlands...

JM: Quick list of favorite comic book titles?

DG: Current comics? The Authority, Birds of Prey, Optic Nerve, anything Grant Morrison writes...

JM: Favorite comicbook-to-movie adaptation.

DG: Blade. No lie. And why the f*ck not?

JM: What's your favorite flavor of pudding?

DG: I hate pudding. I like New York-style cheesecake.

JM: You've worked on some projects that either didn't go anywhere or are stuck in development limbo. What's the thing you've written that you'd most like to see get filmed?

DG: Evermere, without question. It's one of my best scripts. I also wrote a new version of Curse of the Demon that, unfortunately, is caught up in various legal wranglings.

JM: Is there a question that you wished I would have asked? If so, what's the question, and what's the answer?

DG: You didn't ask me if I was a round-head or cavalier. I'm a round-head and damn proud of it.

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