Expect to see a whole lot more of that already ubiquitous raven haired teen with the trademark bangs. News broke Thursday that Chloe Moretz, the 13-year-old actress best known for playing the foul-mouthed, gun-wielding Hit-Girl in “Kick-Ass,” will bring another comic-book odd girl to the screen — Universal Pictures has acquired the rights to the Dark Horse series “Emily the Strange,” about a black-haired, 13-year-old girl with an entourage of dark kitties and a penchant for the peculiar.
But Emily will be brought to life on stage as well as on screen; the Universal announcement comes as Emily’s creative managers at Cosmic Debris are teaming up with Virgin Records to give the music-loving rebel child a voice of her own in a multi-platform music project that will likely include an album, online music videos and even live performances.
Emily, who came into the world as a skateboard design before evolving into a comic book character, already has her own Dark Horse series, a slate of teen novels published by HarperCollins, a Nintendo DS game coming out this Christmas and an array of merchandise sold online and at the likes of Hot Topic.
“I feel more and more everyday that this vision of mine that’s been strictly two-dimensional and imaginary in terms of prose and words is coming to life, in terms of music videos and in picturing an actor embodying the part of Emily,” said Rob Reger, Emily’s creator. “All parts are equally exciting to me, but knowing someone who can play the part of Emily is just another really amazing part, to me, of bringing her character to life.”
Moretz is no stranger to eerie and quirky roles; she next plays a vampire child in the upcoming “Let Me In.” Emily’s a loner girl who attends Rock ‘n’ Roll High, invents cloning machines and invites dead geniuses over for tea.
“[Moretz] is awesome,” Reger said. “From the moment I met her, I could tell she’s very genuine. Her enthusiasm for Emily and the project was contagious. Her family and everyone around her were very enthusiastic about it. From her films and from hanging out with her, it’s clear that she can play a very cool and sneaky character. She’s very adventurous.”
Reger and Moretz met at San Diego’s Comic-Con International, where Moretz was tramping the aisles, wearing a cat mask.
“Some people would recognize her but they weren’t sure,” Reger said. “It was fun. It was quirky. She gets it. She’s still a kid like Emily and having fun and clearly enjoying her opportunities and jobs.”
Reger will serve as executive producer of the film, alongside Keith Goldberg of Dark Horse Entertainment. DHE president and founder Mike Richardson will produce.
Reger said he hoped filming would begin soon.
“I think Chloe’s just the right age right now, and perfect for the part right now,” he said. “We found our Emily. She’s completely psyched. She can’t wait to get on this.”
Meanwhile, Reger has his hands full working with Virgin Records on a separate project that would give music-loving Emily a microphone. Emily makes her own instruments and blogs about what vinyl she’s listening to. Her comics feature nods to music idols and interviews with real-life artists, like Marilyn Manson, Karen O and Gerard Way.
“Music in general has always been a huge part of Emily’s world,” Reger said. “We were brainstorming one day, and somebody said, ‘Why don’t we take her and actually do a recording with her being the singer?’… This is the coolest next step, actually doing it rather than commenting on it or talking about it.”
Reger and Virgin Records president Rob Stevenson were tight-lipped about the specifics, but said Emily’s musical debut will likely straddle several mediums: teasers on HearStrangeMusic.com, an album accompanied by a comic book and, eventually, live performances.
Virgin has some experience coupling fictional characters with real music; the label has enjoyed great success with The Gorillaz — a music project created by Damon Albarn featuring four animated band members.
And Emily is certainly not the first musically-inclined comic book character to be brought to life; Archie spin-offs Josie and the Pussycats hit the big screen and music store shelves in 2001. More recently, “Sex Bob-Omb” and “The Clash at Demonhead” – bands from Bryan Lee O’Malley’s “Scott Pilgrim” series — made their big-screen debuts this summer.
But while the Scott Pilgrim bunch were voiced by successful artists (Beck and Metric) with distinctive, recognizable sounds, Emily’s voice won’t be tied to any particular artist, Reger said.
“It can’t be somebody else’s. It has to be hers,” Stevenson said. “We’re not really looking for someone who’s already established as an artist themselves for that very reason. I personally would not want anyone listening to Emily the Strange and thinking, oh, that’s Karen O.”
Though Reger and Stevenson said they’re not ready to divulge how Emily’s voice will sound, they said her lyrical philosophy will echo themes from her books.
“She’s a very sarcastic, dry-witted, intelligent girl, so that is a part of the essence of her voice,” Reger said. “I hope to create music that will not only entertain and stoke out the current Emily fans, be it the goth ones or the emo ones or whatever, but at the same time, really create something that is bigger than a genre, create something that’s more in line with what Emily is. … Her explorations are probably more in line with science and the likes of our top world geniuses than they are with rock ‘n’ roll stars.”
And though influenced by some of her favorite rock ‘n’ roll, punk, riot grrrl and jazz artists, Emily’s brand of music will lean a little more to the bizarre.
“Scraping of rocks on the ground and putting a microphone on a horse’s tail and all that fun stuff,” Reger said. “I don’t think that you know what to expect. It’s going to be fun. There will be some upbeat stuff in there. There’s going to definitely be nods to all those genres that we know Emily loves and that Emily’s fans love, and there will be an element of strange. I don’t think we’re going to get away without having some theremin or something in some of these songs.”
Eerie though some of it may be, Emily’s music has the potential to appeal to the masses as well as the fringe, Stevenson said.
“Everything I’ve seen from Emily is that she’s very inclusive and not exclusive,” he said. “That, to me, is sort of the definition of a really great pop song. It’s very inclusive. It’s not a joke or a secret that not everyone can get. If you’re open to listening, you get it. And I think that’s the goal of the music.”
In the back story Reger is developing to chronicle Emily’s journey to the stage, Emily hires musicians to learn songs she’s composed and wants to perform live. A loner at heart, she struggles with adjusting to being in a band.
“But at the same time, she has a kind of epiphany that other people can do stuff that she can’t,” Reger said. “But at the end of the day, I also imagine she’s running it through all of her equipment and mixing it and fine-tuning it herself, in the isolation of herself and maybe her kitties.”
The cats – Sabbath, Miles, Mystery and NeeChee – help Emily make music in the comics, but Reger hinted they won’t make the band.
“I don’t want to give away too much of the story, but the kitties are definitely involved,” he said. “But I got to say, they’re a bit lazy when it comes to sticking with the band. You know cats. They can’t hang too long. They fall asleep and take naps and stuff. And for a band, that’s not cool.”
Reger said he’s careful to make sure all the Emily stories from the comics, novels, music project and movie fit cohesively.
“I think as long as we stick to the ethos of Emily, the be yourself, think for yourself ethos, it will work,” he said. “If we let the overarching ideology of Emily lead the way, her iconic things people know, I think everything will land right. If everything is Emily, it will be Emily.”
Now that she’s starring in a movie and signed with a major label, is Emily the Strange selling out?
“Hell no,” Reger said. “That’s always a very interesting line to ride. I mean, here’s this girl who hates people. Why would she want to go on stage in front of millions of them? I think it’s because she’s got something new to say, new to do. It’s a whole new phase of life, and I think part of it’s being fed up with what’s out there now. … It’s unfair to compare the core essence of this loner girl to the world at large that likes her. To put ‘em next to each other and say, ‘Why?’ is kind of difficult. I think it’s more of challenge to take down Barbie and let people know there’s Emily.”
– Noelene Clark
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