It's a wrap! Part four with 'Daredevil' director Mark Steven Johnson

Tue, February 4th, 2003 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Rob Worley, Columnist

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Ben Affleck, Johnson and John Favreau on the set
Welcome to the conclusion of our four part CBR News/Comics2Film exclusive interview with "Daredevil" director Mark Steven Johnson, conducted recently at the Los Angeles Comic Book and Science Fiction Convention. In part three of our interview Johnson talked about the cast of the movie. This time around Johnson discusses the "Daredevil" comics that influenced him most.

"A lot of the Stan Lee, Bill Everett stuff from the very first issue is influencing me in this movie, in a huge way," Johnson said. "A lot of 'Man Without Fear' is here, Frank Miller's run, but Stick isn't in the movie. As cool a character as he is I couldn't get past thinking at the end of the day he'll just feel like Mr. Miyagi. He'll still be the wise sensei, the rough teacher. That would have been too many characters to me.

"I thought, this kid's been given this curse or this blessing whatever you want to call it, with this radar sense and super, hyper-acute senses. He can figure it out for himself what to do with this power. When his dad gets murdered, I have no problem with assuming that he learned how to use those powers to stand up for the little guy and fight the bullies and whatnot. So I just didn't think it was necessary to have somebody there showing him what he needed to do."

Johnson hopes to do a trilogy of "Daredevil" movies and an "Elektra" spin-off film as well. His plans for the character don't end there.

"What I would love to see happen one day is, God willing, that this movie is successful, that similar to what they did with 'Smallville,' to do a 'Daredevil: Yellow' on television. Wouldn't that be cool? To show Matt Murdock going to law school. Meet Foggy for the first time. See him taking his classes. Make that more based on the Stan Lee and the early, early Daredevil's from '64 on. I think that would be a really cool gig."

The director also commented on the new wave of comic book movies that fans are currently enjoying.

[Affleck and Pantliano]"It's great isn't it? When I was growing up I thought, 'why aren't they making these movies?' Especially when you saw 'Superman' you thought, 'why don't they make 'Spider-Man?' It would be bigger than 'Superman.' Why don't they make 'The Hulk' and the 'Fantastic Four' and, for me, 'Daredevil?'' Truly when I was ten-years old I remember thinking, 'I want to see a 'Daredevil' movie. Why aren't they making a 'Daredevil' movie?'

"It's funny now that these movies are all finally getting made and getting made well, I think. Fans have every right to pick and examine every frame of every trailer and every costume choice, but wow, the movies are getting made!"

If the "X-Men" film sparked the new comics-to-film renaissance, "Spider-Man" poured gasoline on it.

"Some people think 'Daredevil' got made based on 'Spider-Man,' but it's not true. We were shooting in March and 'Spider-Man' came out in May. So, we just had the good fortune of 'Spider-Man' doing so well that it helped our movie get more awareness too.

"But these movies have always been ripe to get made so I'm so excited they're getting made and getting made by fans," the director said. "That's the most exciting part. It's not people who just go, 'Oh, what is this? 'Superman?' Oh sure.' It's people who go, 'Yeah. I love this and it's a huge part of my life and my mythology.'"

If the recent comic book movies are made by fans, like Johnson, in some ways they're also made for fans.

"The studios always take the tack that the fans are going to go anyway. We've got to worry about the average person, which is smart and I think true, but I'm still making a movie for the fans," Johnson said. "What I kept saying to them over and over is that a million of these characters come and go and only a few really stick. There's a reason why they stick and you've got to be true to that.

"What is it about Daredevil that people have always liked? He's hung in there, even through the bad years when the writing wasn't as good, he still hung in there and now he's a top draw again. You don't want to reinvent something. You don't throw it out and say, 'We're going to do our own version.' You stay true to it as much as you can. Make the fans happy and you'll make the average moviegoer happy."

So, the obvious next question is which of the comic films that have made it out there so far are his favorites.

"'The Crow' would probably be at the top of my list," revealed Johnson. "That was the most true and a beautiful, heartbreaking story. I enjoyed 'X-Men,' 'Spider-Man,' 'Superman,' of course, the first 'Batman' somewhat, although I don't think it holds up as well over time, quite frankly. I always find in the second half of it, I begin to lose interest when the Joker takes over the film. But beautiful to look at. Tim Burton's genius.

[Elektra and Bullseye]"'The Matrix,' even though it's not a comic book movie, it's a superhero movie. I would put that at the very top of the list."

And his least favorites?

"You hate to keep going back to the last 'Batman' movie, but it's so hard not to. That would definitely be a low point for me. And then some of the cheesier Cannon films that they kind of knocked out in the day were kind of a shame."

Previously Johnson told us about the development of the costume designs and radar vision. Fans may have a chance to see some of the failed attempts to bring those things to life, when "Daredevil" hits the home video market.

"We're gonna show all that stuff on the DVD. The DVD is like out of this world. There's so much stuff. It's exhaustive, you know. So many deleted scenes. So much of the making of stuff. I love that stuff. I just think it's the greatest," Johnson enthused.

"I think we're going to include some of the costumes that didn't work, which is embarrassing at times (laughs) and also show why we chose the one that we did."

Of course, there'll be many Daredevil related DVDs this year, with a summer release including "The Trial of the Incredible Hulk," a made-for-TV movie which featured Rex Smith as Daredevil and John Rhys-Davies as The Kingpin.

"It's a blast! Any Daredevil movie to me is a blast," Johnson said of the movie. "That short French film that that guy made. It's a blast. I think it's so cool when anything gets made. It's not Daredevil, of course. Talk about a real change in the costume. You'd think with a TV show they'd just go ahead and make him look exactly like red spandex and horns, and he was in a ninja black outfit with his eyes blind-folded, which to me was always a funny part of it.

"People aren't supposed to know Daredevil's blind. It kind of gave away that it was probably a blind guy underneath that costume. But it was a blast. Just to see Hulk and Daredevil together was a blast!"

The director also talked about Davies' portrayal of the Kingpin, a role inhabited by Michael Clark Duncan in the new movie.

"Remember what he looked like in there? He wasn't bald. He had a beard. He had a full head of hair. All I remember at the end of that movie was him flying off in his little space shuttle thing, remember that? Off the top of the Fisk Corp building. And Rex Smith saying, 'You'll pay for this, Kingpin!'

"It was genius."

"The Hulk" DVD isn't the only Daredevil fare hitting the home video shelves. A collection of the "Spider-Man" cartoons which featured horn-head is due in stores this month.

"He was kind of a square, wasn't he? He was just like, [affecting a cheesy voice] 'Oh, Spider-Man' and Spider-Man was kind of like hip and going, 'Hey, Horn-head,' and Daredevil would always be like, [cheesy voice] 'Spider-Man,. Justice will prevail!' He was a real stiff," Johnson said of DD's animated outing. "I didn't think it was that great. I loved it because it was just watching Daredevil move when you're a kid, but I didn't think much of the character. He didn't have much to offer. He was such a straight arrow."

Look for more commentary from the cast and crew of "Daredevil" in the Comics2Film column in the coming days. "Daredevil" is due in theaters on February 14.

Comics2Film correspondent Jason Lethert contributed to this story.

 
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