A couple of weeks back it was announced that Com.x comic book Cla$$war, written by regular SFX contributor Rob Williams, has been optioned for development by Mandeville Films, the production outfit behind the recent Surrogates. We spoke to Rob and Com.x’s Eddie Deighton to get the skinny.
So what point is the movie at at the moment?
Eddie Deighton: Well, the official status is that it has been tapped for development. There's nothing else we can really say at present as any supplementary announcements regarding a writer, director, acting talent, etc are a long way from being publicised. But I would assume that a number of those conversations would be going on right now and we'll be kept updated as things progress.
What was your reaction when you found out someone was interested in turning Cla$$war into a movie?
Rob Williams: It's been something that Ed and the guys at Com.X have been working on for a few years, talking to various people in Hollywood along the way, so the news of the Mandeville Films interest wasn't a total shock. But the concrete nature of this announcement has made it seem a lot more real than ever before, and that was a surprise. It's enormously exciting to think that there could feasibly be a major Cla$$war movie. It's difficult to get your head around it, and until they actually start filming, I think I'll hold back on the full-scale freak out. But you can't help but get a little carried away with the thought. Fingers are crossed to the point of arthritic discomfort.
ED: It's funny – we've been pushing a number of our projects through the Hollywood system for almost as long as the company has been active. We've had so many opportunities offered to us and a lot of them we've turned down, for various reasons. For our part, we're erring on the side of being cautiously optimistic. These processes can take years to reach fruition, but we have faith that we're working with people that really know how to get this project made. We’ve been talking with Alexander Content’s Rick Alexander, and the fine folks at Mandeville (to whom Rick brought the property), for a few months now and are very encouraged by what we hear, but as Rob said, until the first day of principal photography, (my business partner) Ben Shahrabani and myself will do our best to contain our enthusiasm!
How closely will you be involved with the development of the movie?
RW: We'll have to wait and see. You'd like to think that, if they liked the original comic - and the softcover collected edition graphic novel is out in December, by the way! - enough to want to make a big budget movie out of it, they'd stay pretty faithful to what originally inspired them, but Hollywood doesn't always work that way, as we're all aware.
ED: If the project evolves beyond its current status, of course I would like to see Rob involved in some capacity. After all, it is his creation that has garnered such enthusiastic response and reviews up to this point. And I have every faith that Mandeville Films and Alexander Content have the experience, and sufficient regard for the underlying material, to see the value in consulting Rob as its original creator.
Do you think the storyline and tone of the comic will have to be changed significantly to work as a film, or do you think it would work as a pretty straight adaptation?
RW: The Alan Moore attitude of resigning yourself to the fact that any movie adaptation is going to be a majorly different interpretation of your original story is probably the way to go. You can't expect a shot-by-shot remake of the comic, despite Watchmen and 300 trying to do just that. Personally, I don't see the point in that approach anyway. It's a movie, it has a different language to comics. You're at the mercy of whoever the director and screenwriter are, really. It'd be their version of my story. But I think there's a lot in Cla$$war what could work in a movie. It was always intended to be Hollywood-esque in scale and cinematic action sequences etc.
ED: I believe the overall tone of the book is still very much relevant, but there are elements of it that may not work in the current political climate plus, we have to consider that budgets would certainly play a key factor in the translation to film. There are also those usual questions of whether brightly-coloured spandex costumes will work on the big screen and how much scope you give the effects and action sequences. When creating a film, you're trying to appeal to the movie-going masses, not just a comic book audience; ultimately everybody wants the film to be a huge success and make money, so it's accepted that concessions have to be made. It will be interesting to see the kind of ideas an experienced screenwriter will bring to the table.
Did you write the comic with one eye on how it might work as a film?
RW: Not really. When I wrote Cla$$war it was my first comic script, and I was primarily trying to see if I could write the type of comic that I enjoyed reading. But both myself and Trev Hairsine - the artist on issues 1-3 - were both primarily influenced by movies in our visual storytelling approach, so Cla$$war had this cinematic sheen to it from the start.
Do you have a dream cast in mind?
RW: I've thought about this a fair amount over the years. It's something that I tend to do with most of my comics work - cast the characters in my mind's eye. Isaac is 100% Morgan Freeman - I wrote the character with him in mind. Icon, I always saw as Jennifer Connolly. The President, I always thought Bob Gunton,who played the warden in Shawshank Redemption - he'd be good. As for American, that's a tough one. I've never been completely sure on who would play him. Tom Cruise would do though. Then we'd definitely get a big budget!
ED: My idea of a dream cast changes every few months but certainly (and I’m speaking only for myself here), Morgan Freeman or Denzel Washington for the role of Isaac (I think Mr Washington would more likely be up for the more arduous sequences than Mr Freeman!); Ethan Hawke or Colin Farrell for Burner; Maria Bello or Elizabeth Banks for Icon; and I'm going to put this one out there as a leftfield suggestion - Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson for American.
A softcover edition of the collected graphic novel will be published in December.