“The Losers” arrived at theaters this weekend, and the second not-mainstream comic book movie to launch in the last month or so wound up fourth, with $9.6 million, according to studio estimates. Across the Atlantic, the comic book’s driving force, writer Andy Diggle, took it all in and then charred with Hero Complex contributor Jevon Phillips about watching his page creations come to life in Hollywood.
JP: Was there as much of a collaborative effort on “The Losers” between the comic book creators and the screenwriters as the “Kick Ass” writers enjoyed?
AD: It wasn’t a huge amount, to be honest. The main difference in production style between this and “Kick Ass” is that “Kick Ass” is creator-owned. Mark Millar and John Romita own all the rights, so they get to choose who adapts it and how and all the rest of it. They have a producer credit on the film. Whereas for “The Losers,” this was simply work for hire that me and Jock get to do by DC Comics. Which was fine, you know, at the time. We were just happy to have the work — it was one of the first jobs that we ever did for American comics. It just means that we don’t really have any control over the process. But, yeah, we actually became really friendly with the screenwriter, Peter Berg — director of and “The Kingdom.” We met with him in London when he was over visiting, four or five years ago now, and he was very keen to make “The Losers.” But he had to go off and make so they brought in James Vanderbilt to flesh out the script. We then became quite friendly with Jamie and I’d pass on my feedback on the script, but he wasn’t under any obligations to take my suggestions on board. Basically, it was Joel Silver signing his paychecks, not me.
JP: What’s your assessment of the final, onscreen product?
AD: I think it’s great fun! I really enjoyed it. It’s different from the comic, but in some ways it’s strangely similar. The characters really very much feel like the characters from the comic and the action sequences are very closely based on stuff I made up, but the actual connecting tissue is very different. It’s a lot lighter, less grim, a lot less political. The difference in a 90-minute movie and a 32-issue comic is that in a long comic series, you have the time and space to actually burrow down into the background of what’s going on — into Max’s plot. There isn’t really time for that in a 90-minute movie — and the movie moves like a freight train. I think, superficially, it’s very similar, but once you get beneath the surface and start looking at what’s underneath, they’re quite different beasts.
JP: I read the comic and I thought there were key sequences, like the helicopter-jacking, that translated especially well.
AD: Yeah! That was a real thrill for me to see, you know. Seeing moments I invented and lines I invented and moments being played out exactly the same as I’d thought of them — the finger gun and chopper-jack sequences — all of that was a real thrill for me. When I was writing that stuff, it sort of played like a movie in my head anyway. I just have to freeze-frame it when I’m turning it into a comic. Seeing it actually move up on the big screen the way it did in my mind was great.
JP: The praise for your writing often cites how cinematic it is. How did you hone that sensibility and where did you get your start?
AD: Well, oddly enough, I learned to write by doing screenwriting courses. I mean, everybody always tells me that I write cinematically. I don’t do a lot of interior monologues or captions and stuff, so I tend to just write visuals and dialogue, and that’s inherently cinematic. I actually wrote my first screenplay before I wrote my first comic. Comic books and film share the same spot in my heart. I am a fan of screenwriting and I collect movie scripts — and I’m writing a movie myself at some point.
JP: What’s your most prized movie script?
AD: The most prized movie script that I have is the one I just received this week. I’m doing a bit of work on Peter Berg’s “Battleship” movie, so I’ve just been sent a top secret copy with my name printed all over it. I’m not doing the script, I’m just helping out with some story work, fleshing out the background. I can’t really talk about it, but it’s kind of a big thrill for me.
JP: You did Green Arrow: Year One. There’s been this talk about breaking the character out of “Smallville” and giving him his own show, or even a movie. What would your thoughts be on that happening?
AD: I don’t really have any strong feelings about it. I don’t really watch “Smallville” and hadn’t picked up a lot of Green Arrow before I got the job. I obviously did some research. But I’d love to see a Green Arrow movie. I hear there’s talk of this “Supermax” script that Justin Marks wrote to be turned into a film. I’ve read it, and it’s really cool, but it’s not really Green Arrow that you know. It could be any superhero, because once you get stuck in a prison, you don’t have the bow and arrow, and that kind of defines him as a character. It doesn’t surprise me that that never got green-lit. That one had a lot more interior monologue than most of my comics. It’s a man alone, so you kind of needed to get inside his head. I didn’t want to pull a Tom Hanks in “Cast Away” and have him talking to a beach ball or something like that.
JP: Of the comics that you either have written or are currently writing, which one is ripe for a silver screen adaptation?
AD: If I was to write it? I’d love to write a Green Arrow movie. I’d love to adapt “Year One” into a film — that’d translate really well. I think you could do a great Adam Strange movie.
JP: I wondered about that …
AD: Yeah, I think you could. But it would have to be an origin story. I don’t think you can adapt what I did. My “Planet Heist,” that story is set after he’s been well-established as this man of two worlds. But that would work. There’s been rumors of Joel Silver rebooting Swamp Thing for a long time. Imagine a CGI Swamp Thing with tentacles growing around him. You couldn’t have made that film 10 years ago, but you could make it now… Yeah, lots of things! I’d love to see a British Hellblazer movie! Maybe reboot Constantine with Gary Oldman or Clive Owen or somebody like that.
JP: No “Judge Dredd vs. Aliens?” Stallone is hot again!
JP: Back to comics, any characters out there that you’d like to take a stab at writing?
AD: Well, I’d like to do some more “Hellblazers,” maybe short stories rather than big arcs. I’ve always liked Nick Fury. I’d love to do a Nick Fury book. Not much about the younger Secret Warriors characters, but Fury himself saving the world and generally being cool and getting into scrapes. Umm, Blade. I’d love to do a Marvel Max Blade book properly. But I’m not a huge continuity junky … I didn’t get into the business so that I could write my favorite characters. I just love the medium of comics, and I’ve got stories of my own that I want to tell. I think once my Marvel exclusive [contract] expires, I’m quite looking forward to doing a bunch of creator-owned things, lots of short, sweet little stories, and working with as many different artists as I can.
— Jevon Phillips
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IMAGES: The cast, and individual shots of Chris Evans as Jensen and Zoe Saldana as Aisha, in movie posters for “The Losers.” (Warner Bros.) Covers of “Green Arrow: Year One” and “Adam Strange: Planet Heist” (DC Comics).
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