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David S. Goyer, the prolific screenwriter (Batman Begins, Man of Steel, Terminator: Dark Fate) and director (Blade: Trinity) behind some of the most influential and successful genre projects over the last two decades, has been in the pulsing heart of the zeitgeist for years. Now, thanks to his Comic-Con@Home panel, fans looking for a little insight into the world of AAA adaptations got an inside look at his writing process turning comics into films.
Speaking at length about a bevy of projects in addition to his writing habits, Goyer got into the nitty-gritty about some of his biggest and most controversial choices in his DC films.
You can watch the full panel below:
As Goyer remembered past Comic-Con experiences (like randomly getting to chat with Stan Lee in a pre-interview green room), he also had plenty to say about his filmography — starting with his first comic adaptation, The Crow: City of Angels.
"The Crow: City of Angels was a master class in how not to adapt a comic book. What not to do," Goyer said of the sequel. "When they approached me to do the sequel, it felt wrong to do it, and they kept coming back at me and coming back at me, and ... I said, 'Well, I'll do it, but only if the title character can be female."
Goyer explained that he had this request because he didn't want to "sully Brandon Lee's memory or compete with that" after The Crow actor was killed in a tragic on-set accident. "I don't want to find a Brandon Lee lookalike." After writing a 20-page treatment that got approved, Miramax "threw that out the window and said, 'We want to do it with a guy who looks like Brandon Lee.'"
"What I should've done is just quit the project," Goyer said. "But I didn't and it was a miserable experience."
Passing over a Nick Fury script that was scooped up and warped into a TV pilot, Goyer turned to Blade — a franchise that will soon see Mahershala Ali take over as the comic hero. "It was the first time in my career where I got to write exactly what I wanted to write and I didn't have a bunch of editorial interference," Goyer said of his time working on the script for New Line Cinema. This film helped kick off the modern age of superhero movies.
"Once X-Men came out and was successful and once Blade came out and was successful, then Hollywood realized there was a lot of gold in those hills," Goyer said. "There was this epiphany with Hollywood that 'Oh, we don't have to just adapt Spider-Man or Superman. We can adapt something like Blade and it can become a big franchise.' There was sort of this gold rush where all the studios were clamoring for any Marvel or DC property without even knowing what they were. There was probably a 10-year period where a lot of executives just had no idea what they were doing and would profess to be comic book fans without having read a comic book in their lives."
It was during this time that Goyer wrote a script that got away: Doctor Strange. It was a project he loved, but when he turned the film in to the studio, their biggest note was that it contained too much magic. Uh-oh. "I kind of snapped back and said, 'Oh, I'm sorry, I thought you wanted Doctor Strange, but I guess you wanted Doctor Mundane,' and then they fired me," Goyer laughed.
After rehashing some well-trod ground regarding Man of Steel's two most controversial deaths — Jonathan Kent and General Zod — Goyer touched on a scene that could've helped flesh those out that didn't make it into the film: "Jonathan takes young Clark hunting and they kill a deer. Young Clark is gutted by the act and Jonathan says, 'It's a powerful thing to take a life, even if you're forced to take a life.'"
Goyer’s work can next be seen on the upcoming Netflix adaptation of Sandman with Neil Gaiman and showrunner Allan Heinberg and in the Apple TV+ adaptation of Foundation, which Goyer says had filmed about "40%" before being the coronavirus shut things down. Both are looking to start shooting in October.
Click here for SYFY WIRE's full coverage of Comic-Con@Home 2020.