|Writer/Director David Goyer|
Last week CBR News was invited to a round table discussion with "Blade: Trinity" writer/director David Goyer. Goyer's a veteran of the franchise, having written the first two films, and this time out he's not only written the film, but directing it as well. While this is Goyer's second film as director (he directed the indy film "ZigZag" in 2002), this is his first big-budget Hollywood production and it's an important one as "Blade: Trinity" will likely be the last film starring the character.
We should point out right now that while we'll do our best not to spoil too much of the movie for you, you've been forewarned that what comes below does contain spoilers to "Blade: Trinity."
Goyer started by sharing about 15 minutes worth of unfinished video footage from "Blade: Trinity." Most of the visual effects from the film are incomplete, so many of the biggest action sequences couldn't be shown quite yet as the scenes would look too naked without the finished effects, but there was still plenty to see.
Naturally we have the return of Wesley Snipes as Blade and Kris Kristofferson as Abraham Whistler. This third film sees Blade in a far more precarious situation than in the first two movies. An apocalyptic event takes place that could potentially shift control of the planet from humans to vampires. Blade is in an all out war to see that that doesn't happen. His mission is made more difficult as the vampires have launched a public relations smear campaign against the Daywalker, cluing the world in to his existence. As a result, Blade forms an uneasy alliance with the Nightstalkers, a group with numerous cells across the world that hunts vampires. Hannibal King (played by Ryan Reynolds) and Abigail Whistler (played by Jessica Biel), the daughter of Whistler, are members of this group and join the fray with Blade. If the film proves successful and Hannibal and Abigail prove popular with audiences, a "Nightstalkers" film is highly likely.
The film opens with a network news/talk show headed by Eric Bogosian, who's in a role similar to the one he had in "Talk Radio." A discussion of the existence of vampires and the vigilante Blade ensues that sets the tone for the rest of the film. What followed were numerous scenes displaying the high level of action you'll see in the finished movie. We got our first look at Reynolds as Hannibal King and Abel as Abigail Whistler, who both trained six days a week, three hours a day for six months straight to handle the action in this film. Goyer pointed out, "Every single ounce of fighting they did," leaving very little up to stunt men and women.
We get our first sample of that action in a subway scene with Biel, where she's being hunted by a number of vampires bent on taking her down. In this scene we see Biel doing a number of high level martial arts moves and it's clear the training's paid off. We also get a look at her weapon of choice, a hand-held ultra violet arc that she pulls from the small of her back that opens to reveal an oscillating U.V. laser which she deftly uses to dispatch her opponents.
We later get our first look at Dominic Purcell, who plays Drake, the reincarnation of the legendary vampire Dracula. This new world he's in isn't much like the one he remembers. The vampire lifestyle has gone mainstream in the form of the gothic subculture and he's none too happy about it. While inside a gothic-themed novelty shop much like a Hot Topic store, Drake is shown an assortment of vampire-themed items such as vampire bobble heads and lunch boxes. Drake's a shape shifter and he doesn't morph like you've seen in so many movies in the past. Goyer likened his shape shifting to that of a Rubik's Cube, where his skeletal structure can be seen moving beneath his skin following a killing.
"Because [Drake's] the progenitor of vampires, he's got some abilities that they don't have," said Goyer. "You know, being able to go out in sunlight, being able to shape shift. I took that from the [Bram] Stoker stuff. Actually there's a scene where he talks about Bram Stoker and how Stoker gave him a lot of bad P.R.. He sort of derisively refers to it as Stoker's little fable."
While Drake has powers that will be new to audiences, the rest of the vampires don't and are as you'd expect, but the way they die in this third film will look a bit different. Goyer noted that in the first film when a vampire died, or ashed, there was only one layer to the ashing. In the second film there were two layers, one where they'd ash and a second where you could see a skeleton underneath. In "Blade: Trinity" the filmmakers turned it up another notch, this time with four layers of ashing and the ashing is now part of the action as well.
"There's skin, two layers of organs and then there's the skeleton, so there's a lot more interactivity with the ashing. We have slow motion ashings and for instance we've got a scene where Blade stakes a woman and then kicks her and she spins. As she's ashing, she spins, so there's kind of a dust devil type look. There's a lot more interactivity in terms of the way they go down. If a guy gets staked in the head, he'll start to ash from the head first. There's a scene where somebody gets staked in the head, Blade then kicks him in the head and sort of kicks the head off, but the rest of the body still ashes. Special effects have gotten a lot more sophisticated and it occurred to me as we've watched other movies that there's a lot more fun we could have in terms of the visual effects.
"I knew there were different things we'd want to do, but as we were doing the stunts it occurred to us that we could do this and could do that. There's another vampire that leans up against a grating when he gets ashed and he does sort of a Wile E Coyote thing as the ash goes through the grating as he looses [form]. I can't remember how many ashings there are, but there are over 100 and we tried to make every single one have it's own story."
Ryan Reynolds plays Hannibal King, a one-time vampire who's been cured of his "illness" and now walks with the Nightstalkers bent on eliminating the vampire menace. From what we were shown, King is the source for much of the comedy in the film, delivering one-liners with as much speed and precision as the martial arts skills he displays.
With this being the third film in the franchise, a number of major events occur. In one scene, the FBI raids the headquarters of Blade and Whistler and what ensues is a pyrotechnic display that's sure to dazzle theatergoers. It's a major turning point for Blade and Whistler. While the first two films weren't filled with pyrotechnics, Goyer had very simple reasons why he wanted to include some in this film.
"We didn't have many pyrotechnics in the other movies and I felt, well, let's blow some shit up! There's more big stuff that you didn't see. I figured, if you're going to have the feds come in and sort of fuck up Blade and Whistler's place, they gotta really fuck it up in a big and apocalyptic way."
|Jessica Biel is directed by Goyer on the set of "Blade: Trinity."|
"That night, when we blew up that place, that was Halloween night. First of all, after it happened, nobody could hear. Clay, who's Wesley's stunt double, from one of the concussive blasts, was knocked back about 30 feet into the air. That was the moment when I thought we were fucked. He was up about 10 feet into the air and landed on his back. That was one of those moments where the pyrotechnic guys said, 'Oh yeah, we decided to make it a little bigger.' Clay was fine, all the cameras got it, and everybody was like, 'Holy shit! That was big!'"
And yes, when you see Blade flying back in the air, that's not wire work. It's very real.
One of the more surprising scenes was the performance by Parker Posey who plays Danica, a major player amongst the vampires. You may remember Posey from recent films like "A Mighty Wind" and "Best In Show." She may not be the first actress you'd think would be in a film like "Blade: Trinity," a thought that occurred to Goyer as well, but he's always enjoyed casting against type. In a scene that features Danica questioning and torturing Hannibal King we get our first full look at Posey in the film and she's not the Posey you're familiar with. Sexy, evil and deadly, Posey pulls off the scene memorably and with style.
"I got a tiny bit of resistance in casting Parker Posey from New Line," said Goyer. "But when we filmed her first scene and sent down the dailies, they loved her.
"I think I'm going to include part of her audition tape on the DVD. She came in, strutted in and was very Parker and I said, you can hear me on the tape saying, 'Why the fuck would you want to do this movie?' And she said, 'I don't know, because I wanna be a ghetto vampire chick! I wanna be a trailer park vampire chick.' There was about five minutes of me saying, 'You don't want to do this movie.' She kept saying she really did, she wanted to do something different. She called me twice from New York and said 'I'll be good, I promise. I'll take it seriously.'"
Once Goyer finished sharing these scenes with the assembled press we went outside to bombard Goyer with questions about "Blade: Trinity," "Batman: Begins" (formerly "Batman: Intimidation Game), "Deadpool" and much more.
Goyer talked about how different Blade the film character is from Blade the comic book character. Blade and Deacon Frost were created by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan.
"If you know from the comic books, Blade didn't even use a sword. He used mahogany daggers and things like that. He wasn't really a samurai or anything like that. Deacon Frost was literally a church deacon in the south who looked kind of like Colonel Sanders. Blade wasn't initially even a hybrid. Whistler didn't exist either."
Goyer created the character of Whistler and pointed out it took a long time for the first "Blade" film to get completed. At the same time they were making "Blade," Marvel had in production a Spider-Man cartoon, which Blade guest starred on. This caused a few problems.
"Marvel decided they liked the Whistler character so much that when Blade guest starred on the 'Spider-Man' cartoon, they put Whistler in the cartoon before the movie had even come out. There was actually a legal thing between New Line and Marvel because New Line said, 'Hey, you guys don't own that character. Goyer created that character.'
"I was the one who argued that Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan should have credit in the first place. Marvel wasn't going to give them credit and I got with New Line's business affairs and they said okay. The funny thing is we got a call from Marv Wolfman's people who said that just he should get credit, not Gene Colan. I was surprised by that. I said fuck that, he's going to get credit, too."
In filming "Blade: Trinity," Goyer decided the action needed to have much less wire work. What's wire work? If you've seen films like "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" or "The Matrix" films you've seen martial arts that find the characters flying through the air and jumping off walls. With "Blade: Trinity" you'll see a lot less of that and much more of a "street" style to the fighting. "The fighting in this movie is a bit more visceral, for my money," said Goyer
"The reason [why there's less wire work] was I felt that it's just been done to death," Goyer continued. "I, like a lot of people, was disappointed in the 'Matrix' sequels. Not only do I think the wire thing itself has been done to death, but it shows up everywhere. I was watching 'Charmed' last year [and there was wire work in that]. We've just seen people run up walls a million times by now. When we first did it in '98 it was still new and fresh and 'Matrix' hadn't come out yet. There were a lot of great visual effects in the 'Matrix' sequels, but I felt, particularly with the Agent Smith fights and stuff like that, it just seemed like cut scenes from a video game. I started to feel like visual effects in some degree have become so sophisticated that you do all these amazing shots that a regular camera could never do, but the problem is on a subtle level it takes you out of it because it doesn't feel as real. So, I decided to do less of that and do more stuff practically. We have stunts that are augmented by CG [computer graphics], but I don't think there's a single stunt that is full CG in the film, which is different than 'Blade 2.' I think some of those CG stunts and shots [in 'Blade 2'] worked really well and some of them looked like rubber man.
"My approach ended up being the same as Chris [Nolan's] on 'Batman,' which is: it's much more old school compositing and using CG to blend shots. We shot all the elements practically and with real stunt men. Some are very sophisticated composites that involve ten, even twenty elements, but the approach is much more 'Blade Runner' in that regard where all the elements that we shot are real, but we use CG to meld them together.
"In terms of the martial arts I knew that Abigail and King had to have different fighting styles from Blade, and King and Abigail have a different style from each other, so what we would do is work on that with the fight and stunt choreographers and develop their own style."
Filming those scenes was no easy task. Each scene would shoot first on a rehearsal stage, filmed from all four different directions. Those scenes would then be examined and would help in determining how to film the final scenes.
|Wesley Snipes is Blade|
In total, they shot in Vancouver, Canada for 87 days with 41 days for the second unit.
"Blade: Trinity" introduces Drake, which is Goyer's take on Dracula. He's a bit more extreme, a bit more of a horror monster than we've seen in film before, and he underwent a number of permutations before the final product made it into the film.
"My original conceit for Drake was so extreme it might have been too cartoonish," said Goyer. "Originally he had the same skeletal structure of a human, but it was as if every bone would fold in upon itself three times, so like every single bone of his body accordioned out, which made him three times as big. We did some initial tests and it looked so weird and bizarre.
"Guillermo [del Toro, 'Blade 2' and 'Hellboy' director] suggested we use these guys Spectral Motion and we went with a more traditional design for the creature, one more humanoid. Spectral Motion are amazing. What I liked about Spectral Motion is they combined prosthetic suits with radio-controlled elements. So, the guy who plays the 'beast,' as we call him in the film, is in a prosthetic suit, but there are things moving on him that were remotely radio controlled. For instance, he's got this set of shoulder spikes that sort of whip up and flare when he's angry. He's also got chest vents, another way he can breathe when he gets angry. These things open and pulsate and bubble."
As we mentioned earlier, Goyer likes to cast against type. Casting Parker Posey as a vampire is a surprise and casting Ryan Reynolds was more of that. While Reynolds may be 6'2", he had to bulk up a lot to tackle the part. Goyer had total confidence that Reynolds could pull off the humor, but it took a talk over a couple of beers to convince Reynolds he could pull of the entirety of the part, including the demands of the action in the film, which didn't come naturally to the actor.
"He's a spaz in real life! Like physically a spaz! He'll tell you the same thing. His first rehearsal with the choreographers was kind of a disaster. But, he learned and he was super committed. Before I finally pulled the trigger on it, I had a meet with the trainers and asked, 'What do you think? Do you think you can turn him into a superhero? Do you think his body and mind can take it?' They said he totally can. He fight's [professional wrestler] HHH in the movie and he's fucking amazing. Like, really amazing. It's not just a little mamby pamby fight. It goes on for five minutes and he's really good at it.
"[Ryan] never thought he could do action, ever. Ryan was in here with his girl friend last week and I showed them all a cut of the action stuff and I asked Ryan, 'Can you believe that's you?' He said, 'No! I cannot believe that's me! It's like I'm watching someone else entirely.'"
Goyer pointed out how "Blade: Trinity" not has loads of action, horror and drama, but it's also chock full of humor. He shared with us a run down of a scene involving John Michael Higgins, who plays a therapist, who's giving a mental evaluation to Blade at a police station after he's been captured following the FBI siege on his headquarters.
"There's a great scene where John Michael Higgins is giving a mental evaluation to Blade who's all chained up in the police station and he asks him, 'Do you know what day it is? Do you know who's in the White House?'
"Wesley says, 'An Asshole.'
"And then he says, 'Tell me about Vampires.'
"Wesley says, 'They exist.'
"'Are you one of them?' Blade just sits there and stares at him.
"'How about blood? Do you drink blood? Do you enjoy drinking blood? When you drink blood do feel yourself getting sexually aroused?'
"Blade just stares at him with this 'I am so going to fucking kill you' look. It's just a really fun scene. It's funny, but it's fucked up at the same time."
Despite the fact that this latest chapter is a bit more gruesome than the ones that came before, Goyer found very little resistance from the executives at New Line. The director says that when he handed in his idea for the movie they greenlit the film with absolutely no notes, a rarity in Hollywood. Sure, Goyer had written the first two films and those were both very successful in theaters and home video, but even then to come back with no notes was a surprise for the writer. "We didn't really go over budget, we were basically on schedule, so they let us do what we wanted."
There've been many rumors and reports that "Blade" star Wesley Snipes was difficult to work with on the Vancouver set and when pressed for details Goyer said that what happened on the "Blade" set was no more unusual than any other film.
"You know, whether it's been as a writer, producer or director, I've done four movies with Wesley. Wesley's an amazing actor. There's drama on every fucking movie. When you're working that hard and you're working so many hours and you're up there for so long, everybody breaks down. At the end of the day it was just your average drama. At any given point in the film Jessie broke down or Ryan broke down or I did. It just happens and when it's over, it's over."
Originally the film was to be called simply "Blade 3," and Goyer said they all went back and forth on the title for a while. "[When we] came up with the idea of 'Trinity,' I was concerned about allusions to 'The Matrix,' but I think if the 'Matrix' sequels had been really great, I'd be more worried, but I think everybody was so bummed with what happened, you know. With 'Trinity' it's because it's the third film, but it's also because it's this sort of axis point between Blade, Ryan and Abigail. It just seemed kind of cool and I liked the logo treatment they did for it. At the end of the day I said, what the hell."
That axis point plays an important role in the future of the franchise. While they'll likely stop making Blade films following this film, the Nightstalkers might very well find themselves in a feature film.
"If we do a Nightstalkers film, it won't involve vampires and it's going to be really fucked up. We have some ideas that we've talked about. Blade is a much more sober character, but if we do 'Nightstalkers,' the Nightstalker characters aren't really Zen warriors.
"[For example,] when Hannibal King first shows up in the movie he's got a name tag that says, 'Hello, my name is Fuck You!' [That attitude] creates a rift between Blade and Hannibal and that's sort of an ongoing joke throughout the movie. Hannibal's defense is his humor, because he was bitten by Danica [played by Parker Posey] and made her sex slave for five years, so his defense is humor. He also tells these really bad vampire jokes throughout the movie. There's a great scene where he gets staked in the chest. He tries to use a stake against Drake and Drake turns it around and stakes King. It's all the way in and Jessica Biel has to pull the thing out, he's gushing blood and while they're doing that he's hyper ventilating and he says, 'What did the one lesbian vampire say to the other lesbian vampire.' She says, 'Shut up, shut up!' And he says, 'See you in 28 days!'"
In addition to the possible "Nightstalkers" film, there've been talk of a Blade animated series as well as a live-action television show.
"Marvel was developing an animated series with MTV. I don't know where that is.
"We do want to do a television series. I thought let's go prequel and have Blade be in his 20s and Whistler's in his 40s. Originally we were going to do it in between 'Blade 2' and 'Blade 3,' but we decided let's just do 'Blade 3' first. Four different channels or networks have approached us about doing it. I think we'll get into that once I finish editing this.
"I had this crazy idea to do it CG on HBO and have Wesley voice himself and do it more like 'Spawn,' but I got off that. I think a prequel will be more interesting. In the movies Whistler talks about when he found Blade, how Blade was really fucked up and how he taught him and I'd like to tell that story."
The good news is the number of injuries on the set for an action film of this caliber was rather low and none of the stars got injured. That's not to say there weren't moments that made the director squirm and promised some of those will make it on to the eventual DVD.
"Our first day a stunt man went through a glass window and fell and sliced open his wrist on the glass," said Goyer. "He then was running up stairs with a camera shooting down and you can see blood spurting out. It actually hit the camera lens! That was our first day. I though, 'We're so fucked!' That was so minor compared to the stuff we still had to do."
In addition to writing and directing "Blade: Trinity," Goyer has also written the screenplay for "Batman Begins," the latest Batman film now shooting in Iceland. Directed by Christopher Nolan, "Batman Begins" will have a decidedly different feel from the last two Batman films, considered by most comic fans as major disappointments.
Originally Goyer was to work on the Nick Fury film with Dreamworks, but then Batman fell in his lap and he couldn't say no.
"I called Avi [Arad] and told him they offered me 'Batman.' Ever since I was a little kid I'd tell my Mom I wanted to go to Hollywood to do a Batman movie. I told [Avi] I had to do it. They were totally okay with it."
Since 1997's "Batman and Robin" there have been numerous attempts to not only get another Batman film made, but also a new Superman movie. Whereas Batman ultimately found its way back into product, the road traveled by Superman has been a troubled one. Numerous actors and directors have been attached to the film with a number of scripts having floated around the Internet, but in the end the studio is no closer today to getting a Superman film made than they were five years ago. While troubling for comic fans, ultimately Goyer believes that this troubled path helped get "Batman Begins" started.
"I think it [the Superman problems] affected us positively. That was such a disaster, so their approach was to get a filmmaker's filmmaker and then get a writer who has some credibility and they really left us alone. The movie that they're making is basically my first draft. When we met with them we asked if there's anything they don't want to see or that you can't see and they said it's got to be PG-13. That wasn't difficult. They said it's got to be romantic, which we didn't have a problem with."
In this latest chapter, actor Christian Bale will play Batman. The casting of Batman came down to Jake Gyllenhaal and Bale, with Bale ultimately winning out. Goyer spoke of his admiration for Gyllenhaal, but feels that in the end Bale was the right way to go. When the production landed Michael Caine to play Alfred, Goyer says he "was freaking out" when they got him.
"It's been a very sort of schizophrenic experience working on this project because I was a professional doing a job, crafting and sort of reinventing Batman with Chris, being very aware of how fucked up the previous movies were and very conscious of the fact that we didn't want to let the fans down. At the same time I was a fan saying, 'Holy shit, I can't believe they're letting us do this!'"
Goyer points out that the way his script ends it's clearly set-up for a sequel, but he's not certain in what capacity he'll be involved, if at all.
As a Batman fan, Goyer says that while there were parts of the first and second Batman films directed by Tim Burton that he liked, he feels he hasn't yet seen a version of Batman on television or in film that's the kind of Batman production he wants to see, with the exception of "Batman Begins," naturally. He did point out that the animated series by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini comes the closest.
Goyer's a life long comic fan and has his favorite Batman stories, like all good comic fans.
"As a kid I remember liking the Steve Englehart/Marshall Rogers stories," said Goyer. "I liked 'Year One' a lot. I think the best stuff recently has been the Jeph Loeb stuff, 'The Long Halloween' and 'Dark Victory.' Our movie is not 'Year One' or any of those, but that approach did influence us. Chris and I really like Jeph's stuff. He had a very mature approach to it. Ours is definitely not Miller. Not taking anything away from it, but it's definitely not Miller. All I can tell you is DC was extremely happy."
Comic fans are well known for expressing their displeasure when seeing one of their favorite characters changed in one way or another once they hit the big screen. They're a vocal group and do everything they can to make sure they're heard. Goyer doesn't let that get to him.
"With some of those guys it's like, 'Fuck off!' [laughs] Some of it's so ridiculous. With a character like Blade it wasn't such a big deal because Blade doesn't have such a hard-core cannon. I don't think most comic book people were horrified that we made certain changes to the character. Blade was a third tier character, whereas with Batman, you have to be careful. Chris [Nolan] and I went to DC and spent two days with Paul Levitz and the editorial staff of Batman and told them what we were proposing. We did stuff in 'Batman' that's never been told before, but we didn't contradict anything."
Recent rumors have Goyer attached to a "Deadpool" project, Marvel's "Merc with a mouth." In addition, those rumors state that "Blade: Trinity" star Ryan Reynolds is Goyer's choice to place the mercenary.
"I want to do something else with Ryan Reynolds because I really loved working with him, and New Line and Marvel want to do something with Ryan. There aren't a lot of actors anymore that can do credible action and be funny and are also good actors. Ryan, I think, coming out of this movie, will sort of be where Mel Gibson was with 'Lethal Weapon,' and I know that's a lot to say.
"'Deadpool' came up as a possibility and we would have to completely reinvent it. We can't connect it to 'Weapon X,' so we'll see."
There've also been rumors that comic scribe Mark Millar is attached to the project as screenwriter. Goyer addressed that rumor.
"Mark's done no writing on it. Mark's a friend of mine and wants to get into screen writing. We've talked about working on something together and Marvel's talked about having Mark do something. When they first started working on 'Iron Man,' I made the executives in charge of 'Iron Man' read 'The Ultimates,' because I thought that take on Tony Stark was a very cool take. The people at New Line know who Mark is because of that and it's somewhat influenced their approach to 'Iron Man,' though they weren't ready to let Mark write the script. I'd like to do something with Mark."
And what about rumors that Goyer's involved with the "Iron Man" production. Goyer pointed out he believe there's not a single big comic book production he's not been approached on and with "Iron Man" he may act as a consultant.
GOYER THE COMIC BOOK FAN
Goyer's been a life-long comic fan, which is clearly paying dividends now. He has his Mom to thanks for his early introduction to the world of comic books.
"When I was growing up, my Mom was a single mom and she was working on her PH.D. at the University of Michigan. She was working and going to night school. She didn't have enough money for childcare often, so she would park my brother and I at the local comic book store at night. She'd buy us McDonalds and we'd sit there for two or three hours while she was in school, three nights a week. That's how I got into [comics]."
Goyer pointed out that his Mom never threw away his comic book collection, but after a while he got tired of having all those long boxes sitting around and recently sold the collection to the drummer from System of a Down. " I'm not really a collector," said Goyer. "At this point I'd rather have them in book form," referring to the many trade paperback collections available today.
"I wrote letters that got published in 'Captain America' and 'Swamp Thing.' I think that comic book films have become a new genre in the way that Westerns and Musicals are genres. They are our version of Greek myths, simplified morality plays. They're not all adolescent, male power fantasies as evidence by 'Ghost World' and things like that. I don't just want to do comic book films, but now it's hard because I get offered every single one. With 'Batman,' though, it doesn't get any bigger than that.
What about the future of comics in film? Is it a healthy genre and how long will Hollywood's fascination with comics continue?
"I think they'll ebb and flow like any other genre. I think we've got maybe another five more years where comic book movies will come out, be massive hits, then I think they'll ebb for a while, and then will come back. It's a genre that will stay."