'I, Frankenstein' writer/director and producer talk comics, film adaptations
Mary Shelley's gothic novel "Frankenstein" has been brought to life numerous times on the silver screen in various incarnations, ranging from the 1931 classic starring Boris Karloff and its two sequels to the 1994 film starring Robert De Niro, which was a more conventional adaptation of Shelly’s novel.
However, "I, Frankenstein" writer/director Stuart Beattie says this version of the creature is unlike any we’ve seen before.
“It’s a really unique take on the character, and I think the story’s a real interesting one,” Beattie said.
Beattie’s film is based upon the DarkStorm Studios graphic novel by the film’s executive producer Kevin Grevioux that revolves around Frankenstein’s creature (Aaron Eckhart), who finds himself in the middle of a centuries-old war between gargoyles and demons. Bill Nighy and Yvonne Strahovski also star.
Grevioux, who majored in Microbiology at Howard University in Washington, D.C., was in grad school when he decided that making films was what he wanted to do with his career. He moved to Los Angeles in 1991. Twelve years later, Grevioux wrote the first film in the hit "Underworld" franchise.
“I’ve always felt like today’s science fiction is tomorrow’s science,” Grevioux said. “So that’s why I enjoy writing science fiction stories so much. It’s a bit of the best of both worlds for my interests.”
Along with writing screenplays, Grevioux founded two comic book imprints: Astounding Studios and DarkStorm studios. “I, Frankenstein,” the graphic novel was initially written to help provide some visual insight as to where the story was heading, as Grevioux was initially tapped to write the film’s script.
“I approached Lakeshore with the idea, but they didn’t understand it, so I wrote it as a spec screenplay, just out of interest,” Grevioux said. “Then Lakeshore got wind of the script, and when I approached them about the idea, I brought some of the graphic novel with me to help illustrate, especially the opening crawl with the line, ‘I am my father’s son, I, Frankenstein.”
Grevioux wrote several drafts of the script before the studio ultimately decided it was necessary to involve another writer.
Enter Beattie, who wrote an entirely new script.
“When I got involved with the script, there wasn’t really any crossing t's or dotting i's,” Beattie said. “They had Kevin’s story and brought me in for a page-one rewrite. So I had the concept, which I loved — a neo-noir take on the Frankenstein story — and the title, and when I sat down to write, I really wanted to explore the idea of ‘Why? Why would this character be in the situation he’s in and what would he do?’”
Grevioux says that when it comes to writing films or comic books, he enjoys them both, but prefers comics.
“There’s just a bigger budget there,” Grevioux said “There’s more creative hands in the cookie jar. And in movies, audiences can only spend ... so much. You can only get away with a certain amount, whereas in comics, I think there’s a little bit more leeway. “
"I, Frankenstein" marks Beattie’s sophomore effort from the director’s chair; however, he’s also written such films as 2007’s "30 Days of Night" and 2008’s "Australia." He wrote both films he has directed, his freshman effort being 2010’s "Tomorrow, When the War Began."
“It certainly makes directing a project easier when you’ve also written it,” Beattie said. “I feel like in order to make a film the best it can be, it’s absolutely critical for the director to understand why every word written in the script was written, and I like that I can do that in directing projects that I also wrote."
Beattie’s biggest claim to fame most likely is his story credit on "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” for which he helped create the screen story, and in turn, Captain Jack Sparrow.
“It’s really cool seeing how the character’s taken off,” Beattie said. “He’s become an icon of sorts, and it’s really an awesome feeling to see such a positive response to something you helped create.”
Beattie says that when it came to casting the Monster in "I, Frankenstein," Eckhart was always the top choice for the role.
“Aaron’s a great guy and a great actor, and he really knows how to commit to a role,” Beattie said. “When he showed up on set the first day in full costume and make up, everyone went silent. It was a great moment.”
When it comes to the action scenes in the film, Beattie set out to ensure that audiences would be getting their money’s worth.
“There’s a stick fight sequence in the film that we had the actors train for six months beforehand,” Beattie said. “It was important to us to make sure that the movie was worth the price of admission and that audiences were really seeing the actors during the fight scenes instead of their stand-ins.”
The scene, however, was no easy feat to film.
“The sticks were pretty flimsy,” Beattie said. “We’d be in the middle of a great take and then one of the sticks would break, and we’d have to replace it and start from the top. It was a real pain to film. The sequence turned out great, though.”
"I, Frankenstein" opens Friday, Jan. 24.
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