‘Green Lantern’ screenwriter: Hal Jordan is part Jedi, part ‘Top Gun’

Sept. 26, 2010 | 8:15 a.m.

Writer-director Greg Berlanti, the television veteran known for character-driven dramas such as “Everwood” and “Brothers & Sisters,” has been spending a lot of time nourishing his inner geek lately. There’s his new ABC series, “No Ordinary Family,” which premieres Tuesday, and Berlanti is one of the key screenwriters for the Warner Bros.  franchise-in-the -making “Green Lantern” movie and its planned sequel. He also hopes to write and direct the big-screen adventures of another Justice League member, the Flash, and has lent some ideas to the sequel to “Clash of the Titans,” due out next year. On the non-fanboy front, he’s got the romantic comedy-drama “Life as We Know It” set to open Oct. 8. Hero Complex contributor Gina McIntyre sat down with Berlanti to chat about all his projects.

"Green Lantern"

Ryan Reynolds in "Green Lantern." Credit: Warner Bros.

GM: How did you come to write the script for “Green Lantern”? It’s very different from the types of projects you’re best known for. Are you secretly a comic-book guy?

GB: I was as a kid. Probably toward junior, senior year of high school, I moved onto different things, but I fell back in love with it. Donald De Line, who’s the lead producer of the film and is an old friend of mine, we were away on a vacation and I mentioned to him my interest in “Green Lantern.” He really championed me and led the way. I used my TV experience to try to develop multiple stories for it. I worked with an artist, and we drew out 20 or 30 images. I went in and pitched Warner Bros. and said, “This is what I think the three movies could be.” In my mind, Green Lantern was always the thing that succeeded the most at mythology. There was this whole space-opera element. There were all these additional characters, the guardians of the universe who the Green Lantern Corps sort of work for. … It seemed to me that this character was an avenue, in a way, of getting to those other stories and characters. As a storyteller, there was a wealth of opportunities. I tried to winnow it down to as cohesive a story as possible and went in and told it to them, and they were incredibly responsive. Greg Silverman, who was my executive on the movie there at the time, sent me off without an outline or anything. He was willing to take a shot on someone who hadn’t done this kind of feature before. I enlisted the help of two of my friends whom I’d worked with a bunch in TV who were also big comic-book fans [Marc Guggenheim and Michael Green] so we could generate the script even faster and use some of our television methodology in terms of generating something they could see the value in.

GM: What facets of the character appeal to you most deeply?

GB: The character itself was “Top Gun” before Maverick. He was a guy who had to learn how to care. He shut down early in his life because of something that happened to him, and suddenly he doesn’t just have to care about himself, he doesn’t just have to care about the planet, he has to care about the entire universe. It was writ so large. The other side of it was that he was always the comic-book version of Luke Skywalker, imagining that you’re picked for this group of heroes that’s there to defend the entire universe. It always had this great kind of wondrous scope to it, and as a kid who ran around in his Superman Underoos, it was a chance to do a superhero movie that went off planet. When you look at all the superhero characters, Hal Jordan is considered sort of Tier 2, but when you talk about which ones have gone off planet and gone beyond our world, he shoots up to No. 1 for a lot of people and goes to the forefront of everybody’s mind.

GM: What do you think makes Ryan Reynolds right for the role?


GB: Hal’s a little bit of a jerk, but you have to still love him. [Reynolds] can play that, and he can play sweetness. It’s not dissimilar to Josh in “Life as We Know It.” There’s an element about him that guys look at and go, “Oh, I’d hang out with that guy.” That realness is what Ryan has in spades, that charm. You have to believe that here’s a guy who hasn’t succeeded at anything in his life but is still being picked for the most important job in the universe because the universe sees something in him that he doesn’t see in himself. We have to believe that it’s there, but we have to believe that it’s hidden and that it comes out. He has all that. And Hal was funny but offhandedly funny. Ryan has that. It’s blending the right emotional story with the right actor and a director like Martin Campbell. Whether it’s “Casino Royale” or “The Mask of Zorro,” he has an ability to do those larger movies that I think satisfy with action incredibly but also have really resonant characters. I think we’ve got all the right pieces in place.

GM: Have you visited the “Green Lantern” set in Louisiana at all?

GB: I went down there for a couple days. It was very exciting to be there. It’s incredibly large, the size and the scope of it all. But it was really rewarding to see so many things I read in comic books as a kid now reimagined and come to real life. That was very surreal. I could remember the first Green Lantern comic I read, how I was really pulled into the character, and then you see some of those similar images in real life; it’s very surreal. You wonder, “Oh, was that why I was so into that when I was a kid? Did I know that I would be a part in some small way of bringing that story out there? Why is it that it spoke to me then and I maintained an interest in it?”

The Flash

"The Flash." Credit: DC Comics

 

GM: And what’s the status of “The Flash”?

GB: I did the story with Michael and Marc because of the release of [“Life as We Know It”] and because of the show [“No Ordinary Family”]. … They’re writing the script, and that’s really where we’re at with it. I’d love to say that I knew [what] was going to happen next, but I just never know — especially while we’re in the middle of the script. You’re tearing at it every day and going, “Oh, gosh, what about this, let’s try this. “It’s a real active part of what DC wants to do. The character, like Hal, I think it’s his time. I feel like in this environment we’re in now, our society is moving quicker and quicker. There are all these ways to connect; there’s an element of our society that feels like it’s on speed, for lack of a better word. There’s something very timely about the story of the Flash at this moment, Barry Allen’s story.

GM: Are you at all concerned about the movies being released amid what seems to be a glut of superhero-themed projects right now?

GB: You get your first chance to do something big and you think back to those things you loved as a kid. You want to make that happen. I feel like that’s kind of why this renaissance is happening. In terms of the glut, it’s like any genre of film, whether it’s musicals or dramas or cop stories: What are the things that distinguish it? What we’re doing with the Flash is, Barry Allen was a CSI, so this has to play as a crime drama as much as anything else. … [“Green Lantern”] is interesting because it’s a down-to-earth action movie that has [other] elements — we looked at movies like “Top Gun” because he was a pilot, and then it’s got this space-opera element. It really is combining those two things. I do worry about it, but I feel like if the movies continue to distinguish themselves, and people keep finding new ways to make them interesting, which I think everyone is, hopefully they can continue to [succeed].

GM: And finally, “Clash of the Titans 2”?

GB: I did the story on it with the two writers Dan Mazeau and David Leslie Johnson who are writing the script. I helped them out a little bit on the first one, so they asked if I would help out on framing the sequel. They’re almost done with the script. They’re doing an incredible job. It’s been a little bit like I’m using the same methodology in features that I’ve done in TV – working with groups or teams of writers to develop the stories and take it from there.

— Gina McIntyre

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