In Boom! Studios' "Talent" #1 by writers Christopher Golden and Tom Sniegoski and artist Paul Azaceta, comic readers met Nicholas Dane. Soon moviegoers everywhere will get a chance to meet the history professor gifted with a supernatural purpose and powers because "Talent" will be leaping from the four color page and onto the silver screen. CBR News spoke with Boom! publisher Ross Richie about the recently signed "Talent" film deal.
When issue #1 of "Talent" hit stores last month, it drew the attention of Hollywood like a giant magnet. "The phone started ringing off the hook once the book came out," Richie told CBR News. "In Los Angeles, we've got a very prominent store on Sunset Blvd., called Meltdown, and they started calling my office asking for more copies of the book, talking about how there were all of these producers excited about it and studio people coming in. I have no idea how the Hollywood grapevine works, but we were quite lucky, 'cause it really started to light up about 'Talent.' Once a number of interested parties came forward, Tom, Chris, Andrew Cosby, and I worked hand-in-hand to discuss where we thought would make the best home for 'Talent,' and after hours and hours of debate, decided on Universal. There were a number of people that we met through the process that we were excited about, and it was an extremely tough decision, but in the end that's where we landed."
Christopher Golden and Tom Sniegoski originally conceived of "Talent" as a television pilot, so "Talent" also had the potential to land on the small screen as well. "Many people came forward and said that they thought it was a great TV series, too," Richie said. "And out here in La-la land, TV pitch season is next month. So we knew that if things didn't work out on the film end, we wanted to take it out as a TV series, so we always had that option. Meanwhile, with film companies coming forward, we felt that we should explore that interest and see where it lead."
The interest lead to signing with producer Marc Platt. "Marc Platt has a studio deal with Universal, so this will be a Universal project, no other studios will be involved," Richie explained. "We've just begun talking with writers. We'd like to focus on getting a writer to adapt the script, and once we're happy with that, taking it to the next level to see if there are any directors interested."
Everyone involved with the film adaptation of "Talent" are interested in involving Christopher Golden and Tom Sniegoski in the production. "Chris and Tom are the creators of the project originally, and Andrew, myself, and Marc Platt -- are interested in incorporating them during the script process and working with them," Richie stated.
Richie is interested in involving "Talent" artist Paul Azaceta and colorist Ron Riley with the feature film. "Paul delivered some brilliant, moody artwork for this comic that helped contribute to the atmospherics," Richie explained. "We're far too early to talk about actual production of the film, but once the movie starts to become made, I'd love to show the powers that be Paul's stuff and it would be their decision to take him into the process. I would also like to spotlight colorist Ron Riley, who knocked it out of the park and delivered some brilliant stuff. He's worthy of recognition, too."
It's very important for Richie that comic creators get recognized for the contributions that they can make to the adaptations of the properties they created. "Previous to starting Boom!, I actually set up a number of projects as a feature film producer with studios around town. One of the more familiar ones to comic book fans is the Matt Wagner comic book 'Mage,' and we spent years and years working hand-in-hand and extensively with Wagner. Same thing on the Troy Nixey comic book 'Trout' (published by Dark Horse, then Oni). So Andrew and I have a proven track record of working with creators and addressing their concerns through the process."
Richie feels that as "Talent" moves through the development process, the story will remain very close to the original comics. "There are story considerations – a four issue mini-series never ports cleanly into a 120 page screenplay – but they bought this comic book because it was so filmic and they loved the ideas, the characters, the themes," Richie explained. "I would expect it will be a pretty faithful adaptation."
For "Talent" to be a faithful adaptation, Richie feels there are certain elements that need to be captured in the comics. "Something that everyone reacted very strongly to in the first issue was the idea that Nicolas Dane is a blank slate – a guy who's been divorced, has no one, really has no life," Richie said. "He remarks in the first issue, 'I'm a history professor – and not a particularly good one.' So here's this guy, this nowhere man, who suddenly finds himself gifted with some of the memories and impressions and talents of hundreds of passengers from a plane! The guy that had no lives – has a zillion now. It's a great emotional rudder for a film.
"Moving beyond that, Tom and Chris always saw Nicolas as the sort of supernatural champion of these people that have died on the plane," Richie continued. "It's almost as if their souls are crying out and he's the voice for them. That's a pretty cool idea. Marc Platt has been very vocal about how this is a superhero movie, without the tights, and he's right-on. Nicolas is very much a champion for justice in this story, and as Platt points out, it has a Hitchcockian visual language – it's a thriller with a supernatural slant, with assassins hunting our hero like something out of 'North by Northwest' or 'The 39 Steps.' Of course, Nicolas' talent to channel the dead passengers' talents is what everyone reacted to. So that's essential to retain."
If the essential elements are retained, Richie and those involved feel that the "Talent" feature film will appeal to both comic book fans and the film going general public. "There's a 'Bourne Identity' feel to this book, it's almost like the 'Sixth Sense' crossed with that," Richie explained. "Nicolas is a real everyman, like a Peter Parker, and then he gets haunted by the plane passengers and is transformed into someone else. Like Jason Bourne from the 'Bourne Identity,' he discovers he has these fantastic abilities and he has no idea where they came from. It's just a really accessible story with some really exciting elements. I think the things that appealed to a studio and to producers are the things that make it appealing to the public and fans."
To make "Talent" a film that will appeal to both to the public and fans, Universal is willing to spend a substantial amount of money. "Some of the names for screenwriters and potential directors that have been bandied about are the big boys, the super-expensive high end guys," Richie said, "A studio never talks about that unless they're swinging for the fences and have a big budget adaptation in mind."