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SYFY WIRE werewolves

'Werewolf by Night' director Michael Giacchino wanted to bring monsters to the MCU

Michael Giacchino pitched Werewolf By Night as, "Why don't we just open the door to that world and say definitively that monsters exist in the MCU?"

By Tara Bennett
Marvel Studios' Presents Werewolves by Night

Werewolf By Night, Michael Giacchino's upcoming MCU special, got the greatest hype anyone could hope for at the recent D23Expo in Anaheim, when the president of Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige, personally lauded the title as ushering in their new creative endeavor, the Marvel Special Presentation. Not a bad way to kick off a new career chapter.

Giacchino, best known as a composer, launched into pop culture awareness when he created the music for all six seasons of ABC's hit drama series, Lost. From there, his music career catapulted into A-list theatrical titles, scoring for Pixar, Disney Animation, the Jurassic World franchise, and five Marvel Studios movies plus their fanfare. Giacchino had seven years of musical collaboration at Marvel Studios before he expressed to Feige in 2019 that he'd like to pivot back to his first love, directing. 

A studio known for supporting their creative friends, Giacchino now has a black and white, throwback horror film under his belt with Werewolf By Night, which stars Gael García Bernal as Marvel comic book lycanthrope Jack Russell and Laura Donnelly (Outlander) as monster hunter Elsa Bloodstone. SYFY WIRE got on the phone with Giacchino to find out what it was about the obscure Marvel Comics title, Werewolf By Night, that ignited everyone's live-action imaginations.

You do a lot of scoring sessions and meetings with Marvel Studios, but when did directing get slipped into the conversation?

It started out just as a general conversation with Kevin. We were talking about how I really just missed making things. I love writing music and it's really an incredible part of the storytelling process to do that, but I missed being around people. What I do is so solitary, the writing, and it had been years of doing that. I really missed [directing] and I wanted to do it, so it came out of a conversation about that. We just started talking, and that was two and a half years ago. 

You pitched Werewolf By Night. Why that title in particular?

Going back to all my comics that I had as a kid, I was like, "Oh, Marvel has Frankenstein and werewolves and vampires. It's got everything and this is a whole thing that they haven't even addressed yet." It was really about saying, "Why don't we just open the door to that world and say definitively that monsters exist in the MCU?" I said it doesn't even have to be a big series or anything.

Marvel Studios was intrigued but then the pandemic happened and killed the momentum?

Yeah. I thought at that point, "Well, there goes that project. It's never going to happen." But then about halfway through the pandemic, I get a call from [VP of Production & Development] Steven Broussard who was like, "Do you still want to do that thing? We're ready to hire writers now." I was like, "Really? Okay!"

What was the creative process of writing it with Heather Quinn?

It was really a wonderful thing to have to do, especially during lockdown. I went back and reread every single one of those comics just to revisit it, and I had a blast doing that. But it also opened my eyes in a different way that if I were to do this literally, it would be a very interesting movie and very different. The other great thing about it this character is that I don't think a lot of people know this guy.

Did you want it to be a story standalone or attach to the MCU directly?

I was able to keep it contained. There was never a mandate for it to be any one thing other than what we wanted it to be. In terms of having to have it connect to everything in the [MCU] world, that wasn't one of the things we had to do. If we wanted to we could. No one was saying that we shouldn't do that. It was just never a mandate. I think the best way to go about telling a story is to just tell the best version of that story you can, as opposed to worrying about how it connects to every single other thing going on. Because there's a lot going on in the MCU and at some point, it becomes very difficult to keep that all in place. 

What we had in our favor was the fact that this was a brand-new thing. We could bring it to life the way we wanted to and they were great about that. You're always just talking along the way like, "Wouldn't it be funny if this character or this thing shows up, or that happens." 

You worked with Gael García Bernal on Coco. What was his initial reaction to the project?

He loved the idea of the whole tapestry of a life [for Jack]. As somebody who is living in that way and afflicted with that [werewolf] problem, what does that mean for somebody? What would that mean if you've lived that long? Or, if you had this thing every month you had to deal with? How do you protect your friends and your family? Do you even have friends and family? All of these questions were really fascinating to him, and to me as well. We really got into a lot of conversations about that. But he was instantly like, "Yes, yes! Let's do this."

Considering Marvel Studios loves to surprise audiences, did you ask for anything that they allowed you to put into the piece?

There are a couple of things that we got that we were surprised and thrilled that it went through. 

What's been the most fun in the lead-up to the actual premiere on Disney+?

It's fun watching everyone's response to the trailer and seeing both the right and wrong [theories]. And I'm like, "I hope you're not disappointed!" [Laughs.]

Werewolf By Night debuts exclusively Oct. 7 on DIsney+

In a Monster Mash mood? Stream several Universal Classic Monster movies and lots of other horror titles on Peacock