Comics2Film

Wed, August 7th, 2002 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Rob Worley, Columnist

DAREDEVIL

[Daredevil]The third leg of Twentieth Century Fox's Saturday Comic-Con panel was devoted to the upcoming Daredevil movie. Although the film is still in production in L.A. director Mark Steven Johnson and star Ben Affleck took a break to show some new footage to fans. They were accompanied on stage by producers Gary Foster and Avi Arad and Marvel EIC Joe Quesada.

Johnson acknowledged Quesada's influence on the movie. "Yesterday...we literally take out a scene from the comic book that Joe did. You don't need storyboards," the director said. "Here's Daredevil on the cross, you know, it's that scene from 'Guardian Devil'. You just shoot that."

The director also said that Quesada's work to relaunch the character with the Marvel Knights line is what brought him back to comics and back to Daredevil.

Foster and Quesada talked about Johnson's six-year campaign to get himself attached to the project. Arad commented on Johnson's fervor for the project. "It's true Mark harassed me and I thought it was sexual for a while," the Marvel Studios chief joked, "but it became apparent he was obsessed and he's a very good writer, obviously."

Johnson isn't the only fan attached to the project. Affleck also professed to be a long-time Daredevil enthusiast. "I thought I had, I was pretty sure I had and I then went back and made sure I had read every issue of Daredevil ever published," the star said. "It was more about taking what I already knew and had been a fan of since I was a kid...and faithfully delivering that to the screen."

Quesada called the movie "serendipity in action," recalling Johnson's passion for the project dating back many years. He revealed that the signing of Affleck was even further evidence of serendipity, stating that when he and Kevin Smith did the "Guardian Devil" series, Affleck was the model for the character in their minds.

Preserving the comic book character was a major concern for the actor. "We took this character that we all love and were attracted to for the reason that, people who came before us and created it made it appealing and smart and interesting and sophisticated and telling, and we just tried to faithfully execute that and make it work visually," Affleck said.

Johnson confirmed that, while he doesn't consider Daredevil to be super-powered in the same way as Spider-Man he will have his trademark radar senses.

In terms of costumes, the one fans have already seen is the only one the hero will have. There are no plans to use the yellow costume in the movie, although Johnson did think it would be cool if there was a TV series prequel (a la Smallville) that explored the "yellow" days. Johnson also credited Quesada with talking him out of using the traditional Bullseye costume.

Affleck commented that, while he wanted to steal his own costume, he still really didn't know what it was like to be a super-hero. "Doing the wire-work is really exciting," Affleck said, but also admitted that the martial arts training was tough. "The whole time your trying to learn all these moves that you see up there in rehearsals, you're failing at it. So you're aware that not only are you not a super-hero, but you're a long way from being able to come up with the one shot you gotta do."

Fans were presented with an exciting clip-reel from the film which included:

  • Young Matt Murdock getting splashed with chemicals.

  • Murdock visited by a nun while recovering in the hospital.

  • Murdock at his father's boxing match, wearing a red robe which had devil horns on the hood.

  • Murdock "witnessing" his father's murder.

  • Daredevil unlocking an alley-way entrance, which has three wall-safe style combination locks. The character spins each lock and then quickly stops each at the right position opening a door to...

  • ...a Daredevil safe house with spare costumes, masks, billy clubs, pain killers and a kind of salt-bath/depravation chamber where he recovers from his wounds.

  • A shot of Kevin Smith's Jack Kirby character saying, "are you ready to see something really cool"

  • An extended, high-octane montage of action sequences featuring Daredevil, Elektra, Bullseye and Kingpin.

  • The final clip of the reel has Elektra battling Bullseye. A stunned and helpless Daredevil calls out as Bullseye hoists the ninja assassin off the ground, ready to deliver a death-blow.

HULK

[Hulk]Attendees at Comic-Con were treated to a panel discussion of Universal Pictures' Hulk movie. On hand to discuss the film were producers Larry Franco, Gale Anne Hurd, Avi Arad and director Ang Lee.

The already-released teaser trailer for the film was presented and Lee also had a slide show prepared, giving fans a behind-the scenes peek at the film. There were a number of interesting images of Eric Bana (as Bruce Banner), Jennifer Connelly (as Betty Ross), Sam Elliot (as General Thunderbolt Ross) and more.

Interesting points revealed by the slides:

  • Visual effects supervisor Dennis Muren is on the set every day, which is necessary due to the heavy interacting with real and CG effects.

  • Rick Jones or a similar character is involved in the origin segment of the movie. The character was not named but Lee revealed that Banner saves an unnamed "kid" in the accident that results in his transformation. Lee credits Arad with making sure that detail got into the movie.

  • Banner must eat a lot of food to deal with his metabolic changes.

  • One shot showed Bana passed out, wearing a pair of the classic, tattered purple pants.

  • Lee said that fans will enjoy a "very complex psychological performance" from Nick Nolte, who plays Banner's abusive father.

The director revealed that comic books and martial arts were part of his childhood fantasies, although indulging in those fantasies was prohibited in the culture of his youth. Once he gained clout as a filmmaker, he felt he was finally able to play in that sandbox, first with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and now with Hulk, a movie Lee calls his "new green destiny."

Hurd said that Lee has displayed great stamina in making sure the movie will be a special event. "I can absolutely vouch that Ang Lee has preserved the Hulk, a project I've been working on with Avi for twelve years. It's better to make it right than to make it fast," Hurd told cheering fans. "I can't tell you how stunning Ang's vision is for this film which is true to the comic books, true to the characters and true to everything that makes a movie great.

"He has been a man on a mission," Hurd went on to say, "and the mission is to bring you the very best Hulk anyone could ever imagine."

In response to questions about rumors the filmmakers said there is no She-Hulk or Absorbing Man in the movie. They would not comment on the presence of a Hulk dog. However, later on the convention floor, C2F spoke to a Hollywood insider who has seen some of the early CGI work. That person verified that there is a Hulk dog who appears early in the film as a lab animal.

The issue of Hulk's stretching (and perhaps disappearing) pants was touched on vaguely. Lee told fans that the fate of Hulk's trousers varies from one transformation to the next. "We're trying very hard to keep it PG-13," the director said.

The filmmakers also commented on reports that the movie was over-budget and the crew members were miserable and the set tense.

Lee, who typically delivers movies on time and on budget, verified that the movie is over-budget but said that's "good news" for fans. "I'm Hulking out," Lee exclaimed.

Franco denied reports of strife on the set saying, "We've all had a blast working with Ang, and the cast has. It's a wonderful experience, it's a great set to be on."

Hurd added, "Every time a cast member wraps, they cry and we cry. We've been a family from start to finish and nothing can be further from the truth."

Arad acknowledged executives at Universal Studios for looking at Hulk as a character piece and allowing it to have depth beyond the notion of a simple monster movie.

Hurd returned the compliment saying, "I have a huge debt of gratitude to Marvel Comics, to Avi Arad...to Stan Lee."

Fans were disappointed in that they did not get to see any images of jade-jaws himself at the presentation. The filmmakers insisted this is simply because none of the CGI effects shots have been completed. Lee said that there were some designs and concept work done, but nothing that would convey the drama of the character.

He did tell fans that the creature will be "green, not intelligent. He'll look like he's mad. He's very agile. I take more from the comic book than the TV series."

After the panel, C2F spoke with executive producer Kevin Feige who told us that the Hulk would not be kept under wraps forever (as was attempted with Sony's Godzilla). There will likely be a trailer later this year that reveals the character.

BULLETPROOF MONK

MGM presented attendees of Comic-Con International a first look at the trailer for Bulletproof Monk on Friday.

Based on the trailer, the movie looks to be a stylish blend of action and humor. Seann William Scott, best known for playing none-to-bright characters in movies like American Pie and Dude, Where's My Car looks surprisingly adept as the self-taught kung fu hero Kar who has to learn true martial arts discipline from none other that Chow Yun-Fat. This could be the role that breaks Scott out of the roles he's been typecast with.

On hand to present the clip were Scott and co-star Jaime King, who plays "Bad Girl" in the movie. The actors gave an entertaining Q & A following the clip.

Both King and Scott said they fought hard to land the parts in Bulletproof Monk. "I told Paul Hunter, the director, 'I don't really know a lot of things, but I do know that any other person who wants this, just put them in an alley with me and I'll be the only one left standing there,'" Scott said.

Scott told fans that the movies of Yun-Fat are actually what inspired him to take up acting. Both he and his brother were avid movie goers, but it was his brother who introduced Scott to Hong Kong cinema and Yun-Fat's work there. Seeing movies like Hard Boiled made an indelible impression on the then-eighteen-year-old. "I remember that day going, 'That's what I want to do. This guy is unbelievable.' So captivating."

Both actors said they enjoyed the martial arts training and wire work. King said she would really get into the fight scenes and often hit Scott much harder than she intended. She also broke her finger on the set although Scott was quick to point out that it wasn't during anything that had to do with fighting. "I broke my finger while I was running up the stairs and talking on the phone with the director."

Scott said that when injuries did occur, Yun-Fat was always happy to assist with natural healing techniques. However, the young actor said that Yun-Fat's laying on of hands often hurt worse than the injuries themselves. After a back injury the actor said, "I was so mad, not because my back hurt, but because I knew he would fix me."

Nevertheless both actors had nothing but praise for Yun-Fat whom King said was "professional and really cool, really fun."

"He knew everybody's name off the bat, right from the very first day. He was like The Godfather, but not a killer," Scott said. The young actor said he was in awe of the Asian movie star who advised him, "'Hey, it's a movie. Just have fun.'"

Bulletproof Monk is due in theaters next year.

LADY DEATH

[Lady Death]Animation director Carl Macek and ADV Films producer Andy Orjuela talked to fans at Comic-Con International about progress on the animated feature film version of Chaos! Comics' Lady Death.

Macek is writing, directing and producing the movie while Orjuela serves as producer and art director.

Orjuela talked about the stylistic changes from the comic to the film version of Lady Death's Hell. "[We] toned down the colors," Orjuela told fans at a Saturday panel. "My vision of Hell isn't just fire and brimstone. It's a very cold and lonely place."

Most of the movie is set in Hell, although parts are set in 15th century Sweden. "It's so authentic. We really did a lot to get the look of the village authentic to true 15h Century Sweden," Orjuela said.

"The difference in animation and in comics is that in comics as you look at the page you're drawn by the aggressive nature of the story telling, but you can also stop and go back and see something you may have missed," Macek added. "A movie is continually linear and always moving forward.

"What we can do as filmmakers, is do enough research in advance so that when we build a Swedish city, we literally build a Swedish city from old 15th century prints of what Sweden looked like."

The filmmakers could not use Chaos! Comics characters like Evil Ernie or Lady Demon, but there were still plenty left to play with. "What ended up becoming two of my favorite characters are the nameless wolves," Orjuela told fans. "We gave them a really good edge. It was really fun bulking them up for a demonic size. We separated them and gave them their own characteristics. They don't look identical."

The art director said to look for Lady Death's horse, Vassago, and the Cremator to have expanded roles as well.

The filmmakers had intended to show a sequence that illustrates the character's transition from the innocent girl Hope to the title role. Unfortunately technical difficulties prohibited the screening.

Orjuela, a trained fencer, put extra effort into the sword-fighting scenes from the clip. "I spent like twice as much time on that sequence than any other," he said. "I really tried to choreograph it so it's not your standard slash, slash, slash, slash."

"There's a lot of what I call pantomime. In other words, there are sequences that say things without dialogue," Macek said of the clip. "You see action take place and if you're smart enough to figure it out you know what's going on: she's training to be a warrior."

The movie is intended to be 72 minutes long and will be presented in a letterboxed 16:9 format. It's targeted for home video, but ADV also has the rights to make a TV series, should interest warrant it.

The animation process will be a combination of traditional 2D with some CG environments. The pencil animations are done traditionally and subsequently painted digitally.

The production team is currently animating the film from a scratch soundtrack with stock voice actors. The movie will have a different cast with name actors. Macek hinted that there's been interest from some big name actors.

Lady Death will be an orchestral score along with heavy metal songs.

The film is due out next year. Orjuela is hoping for a Halloween release, but no target date has been set.

SOME TROUBLE OF A SERRIOUS NATURE, SHI

[Some Trouble of a Serrrious Nature]Comic creator and filmmaker Billy Tucci screened a rough cut of his short film Some Trouble of a SeRRious Nature for fans at Comic-Con International on Saturday. Tucci wrote, produced and directed the movie over the past year and recently screened it at the Long Island International Film Festival, where it won the "Best Short Film" award. Tucci called the screening is the comic-industry premiere.

The movie is based on a 1947 hoax letter written by fighter pilot Lt. Cmdr. Richard W. DeMott who claimed to be Caleb Flerk, a dim-witted country boy who comes into possession of a Chance Vought F4U Corsair fighter plane and, along with his even-less-intelligent brother, tries to fly the craft.

"I saw it and thought, 'this would make a great movie,'" Tucci told attendees and then joked, "and now you'll see how I just ruin the whole thing."

Also in attendance were Brian Finney, who stars as Flerk, Tucci's sister Lauren Steffens who has a small role as the Mabel the femme fatale of the piece and comic writer J.C. Vaughn, who appears as the representative of the aircraft's manufacturer who receives the letter.

Tucci (credited as "Boom Boom" in the movie's tongue-in-cheek opening credits) said the movie cost about $55,000 to make.

The first-time director credited the entire cast and crew with pushing beyond their previous experiences to make a superior short movie. "We just came together and created this incredible team. They just made a Herculean effort," Tucci said.

Some Trouble was filmed over eight days in 2001 as well as three additional days in May. Their efforts were hampered by the fact that their shoot, scheduled for mid-September, was hampered by the events of September 11th. Due to the logistical problems of moving the airplanes during the state of heightened-security the shoot was pushed back until November.

A nice time was had by all at the presentation until manly man Beau Smith (of IDW Publishing) crashed the scene, taking a seat at the front of the room and asking, "This is the Beau Smith biography movie, right?"

"Well, yeah it's about hillbillies," Tucci replied.

"The program said 'a short movie' so I figured it might be you," Smith fired back.

After some good-natured ribbing the movie got underway. The 30+ minute comedy garnered big laughs from the crowd. Although Tucci asked for criticism from the attendees, the comments were strictly positive.

Tucci told fans that hopes to parlay his experiences with Some Trouble into the directing job on his flagship character Shi. "I think I'm the best man for it. I think I'm the best person to do it."

VAMPIRELLA

At last week's Comic-Con International, Mindfire Entertainment announced that they have finalized a deal with Harris Publications to produce a live-action feature film based on Vampirella.

"We are delighted to bring this legendary figure to the big screen," Mark Altman, President and Chief Operating Officer for Mindfire said. "Vampirella is one of the most well known and beloved comic book characters of all time and Mindfire intends to bring its unique and edgy sensibility in translating the property to film as a big budget feature film."

Jonathan Rheingold, Executive Publisher for Harris Comics added, "With the success of such comic book to movie adaptations as X-Men and Spider-Man we're thrilled that Vampirella would be joining them on the big screen. We're very excited to be working with Mindfire and introducing the character to an even larger audience. The property is sexy and action-packed -- all the qualities that make a hot motion picture."

Mindfire was on hand at the Con to present their upcoming release House of the Dead which is based on the popular Sega game.

A write up in last week's Hollywood Reporter sheds additional light on the subject. According to the write-up there, the movie would be budgeted at $20-25 million and targeted as an R-Rated movie. The company hopes to have Vampirella prepped for a Halloween 2003 release.

Altman and Mindfire partners Dan Bates and Mark Gottwald will serve as producers.

MAGE

[Mage]Tuesday's Variety reveals the Mage movie has found a new director. TV commercial helmer Zack Snyder has been tapped to direct the big-screen adaptation of Matt Wagner's comic for Spyglass Entertainment.

The hire follows the Spyglass trend of using commercial and music video directors, a la Tom Dye's debut with Shanghai Noon. According to Michael Fleming's write-up, Snyder's commercial work has teamed him with big-name stars like Harrison Ford, Robert De Niro, Sean Connery, Kevin Costner and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

John Rogers (Catwoman) is the only name mentioned as screenwriter although previous reports had indicated a studio-friendly rewrite by Adam Simon (Bones).

Spyglass partners Roger Birnbaum and Gary Barber are producing with Critical Mass Entertainment's Ross Ritchie and Andrew Cosby. Jon Glickman will exec produce, with Spyglass exec Derek Evans supervising the pic. The project now has a target start date of Spring 2003.

PRIMATE

[Primate]While producer/screenwriter Kevin Bernhardt has many irons in the Hollywood fires, he told Comics2Film that he remains very committed to developing his comic book Primate as a feature film.

"It's something that's important to me," Bernhardt said. "I'm strongly involved in a lot of animal rights causes and have a number of projects that are centered around animal rights. This is the most fantasy-based but I also thing it's the most commercial."

The comic, co-written by Beau Smith with art by Mitch Byrd, featured a sign-language educated gorilla who, through a mix of trauma and magic, reaches a new level of intelligence and pursues a mission of vengeance against the poachers who killed his surrogate father.

"I see it as the first-ever animal action film," the writer told C2F, adding that he also wanted to avoid portraying the animal strictly as the victim. "I really wanted to write something that took it further and took a Koko-like ape and what if that ape decided that man wasn't doing enough to help the animals and he decided to do it himself."

Bernhardt credits Smith with making the comic a reality by assembling a creative team that delivered a top-notch comic. "We're really happy with the way it came out, with this ape wreaking havoc in New York City: Die Hard in an animal trader's warehouse, but with a Gorilla doing the damage."

Bernhardt initially developed Primate as a comic that was expressly built to be turned into a feature film. While he's eager to get the picture made, his top priority is making sure such a move is made right. Until then he plans to develop additional comic book installments of the butt-kicking primate.

SABRINA GROWS UP

Changes are afoot for the aging Sabrina The Teenage Witch according to The Hollywood Reporter. After six years on the air the title character makes the transition to adulthood with Melissa Joan Hart's title character taking on her first post-college job at a music magazine.

New cast members are being added to the show including Bumper Robinson (Living Single), Diana-Maria Riva (Philly), John Ducey (Oh Grow Up) and Andrew W. Walker (Maybe It's Me).

The writing staff has also been given an overhaul, with 12 of the 13 writers being replaced.

No word is given on whether it's time to shorten the title of the show as well.

DANGER DIABOLIK, L'AVENTURIER

Fangoria.com reports that Brotherhood of the Wolf director Christophe Gans is looking to do The Adventurer as his next film, rather than his long-in-development Nemo. The movie will be a co-production between Universal Pictures and Europe's Studio Canal+.

The film is based on best-selling French comic L'Aventurier featuring the action her Bob Morane. Gans describes Morane as "the French Indiana Jones."

According to Fango, Gans is writing the script with Stephane Cabel. The storyline is drawn from a run of the books that featured the villain Golden Shadow, an Asian, Fu Manchu-esque villain. The movie has a $70 million budget.

No casting has been done yet but Gans told Fangoria said he wants Vincent Cassel to play Morane and Mark Dacascos to appear as a villain.

Gans is also looking forward to adapting another comic, the Italian espionage flick Danger: Diabolik. The director said he aims to be more true to the source material than the 1968 movie version was.

"Look, I love the film as much as anyone," Gans told Fangoria, "but it was much more a James Bond/Batman parody, the vogue of the time, rather than anything to do with the original Italian comic book."

Gans hopes to develop an "erotic, very adult" take for the movie. He named Dacascos as a his preferred leading man and Monica Bellucci as his choice to play Eva.

Thanks to Aint-It-Cool-News for the lead.

SPY VS. SPY

Scooby Doo screenwriter James Gunn told MovieHole.net that he is no longer involved with the development of the Spy Vs. Spy movie. The long-in-development-hell film version of Mad Magazine's strip was previously to be directed by Meet The Parents and Austin Powers helmer Jay Roach.

However, neither Gunn nor Roach are presently working on the film according to the site. "I'm not still involved -- I was involved when Jay Roach was, right before [Scooby Doo]", the screenwriter told MovieHole.

Internet rumors of a renewed development effort on Spy Vs. Spy broke out over the weekend. However Aint-It-Cool-News now reports that those rumors are false.

THIS WEEK ON JEREMIAH

Jason Priestly goes psycho on Luke Perry in "And the Ground...Sown with Salt," this Friday's encore episode of Jeremiah.

Jeremiah (Perry) and Kurdy (Malcolm-Jamal Warner) come up against Michael (Priestly), a man who has proclaimed himself a god and plans to take over the entire nation, beginning with the End of the World. The episode is written by J. Michael Straczynski and directed by Peter Deluise (Stargate SG-1).

"And the Ground...Sown With Salt" airs Friday, August 9th at 10:45 P.M. on Showtime. There will also an encore on Sunday, August 11th on Showtime Beyond East at 10:45 PM (ET & PT).

Preview clips of the show are available online at Showtime's Jeremiah site.

Check out Showtime's Behind the Scenes feature -- a virtual tour of Thunder Mountain -- go to sho.com/jeremiah and click "Behind the Scenes" (you'll need to have a Java and Flash-enabled browser to play the virtual tour).

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