DAVID S. GOYER has earned a reputation for telling character-driven stories adapted from the otherworldly realms of superheroes, fantasy and the supernatural. His breakout came in 1998 when he wrote the action hit BLADE starring Wesley Snipes, based on the Marvel Comics vampire hunter. Since then, he’s solidified himself as writer and producer who elevates genre driven stories to the next level.
Most recently, Goyer Executive Produced and served as Showrunner for one of the year’s most epic series, FOUNDATION, which premiered on Apple TV+. Based on Isaac Asimov’s iconic novels, Goyer’s sensibilities brought this world to life with his unique tone.
On the film side, Goyer produced the Sundance hit THE NIGHT HOUSE, starring Rebecca Hall, as well as the Scott Derrickson film ANTLERS. Both films are being released by Searchlight this fall. Goyer also produced THE TOMORROW WAR, starring Chris Pratt for Skydance and Amazon.
Previously, Goyer scripted and collaborated with Christopher Nolan on the story for the Superman feature MAN OF STEEL. Goyer also worked with Nolan on the mega-hit DARK KNIGHT trilogy, starting with the screenplay for BATMAN BEGINS. Goyer went on to team with Nolan on the story for the billion-dollar blockbuster THE DARK KNIGHT for which they received a Writers Guild of America Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, followed by the story’s conclusion in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. Additionally, Goyer co-wrote and produced BATMAN V. SUPERMAN, which broke the record for biggest March opening weekend in box office history.
In 2002, Goyer made his feature film directorial debut with the drama ZIGZAG for which he also wrote the screenplay, based on the acclaimed novel by Landon Napoleon. His other directing credits include THE INVISIBLE starring Justin Chatwin and Marcia Gay Harden, and the hit supernatural thriller THE UNBORN, based on his own original screenplay and starring Odette Annable and Gary Oldman. In the same year wrote 2002’s BLADE II on which he also served as an executive producer. In 2004, he directed, wrote and produced the last of the trilogy, BLADE: TRINITY.
In addition to screenwriting, Goyer made his debut in video games with the story for the smash hit “Call of Duty: Black Ops,” and penned the story for its blockbuster follow up, “Call of Duty: Black Ops 2” as well as Black Ops: Cold War. Goyer also wrote and executive-produced the groundbreaking VR series VADER IMMORTAL for Lucasfilm and Oculus.
In Television, Goyer’s work includes the series DA VINCI’S DEMONS, for which he served as Creator, Director, and Executive Producer, focusing on the life of Leonardo da Vinci; CONSTANTINE, KRYPTON; and the cult classic FLASHFORWARD. Goyer also co-wrote the pilot and serves as executive producer for Neil Gaiman’s SANDMAN, which is currently filming in London.
The Dialogue: Learning From the Masters is a groundbreaking interview series that goes behind the scenes of the fascinating craft of screenwriting. In these 70-90 minute in-depth discussions, more than two-dozen of today’s most successful screenwriters share their work habits, methods and inspirations, secrets of the trade, business advice, and eye-opening stories from life in the trenches of the film industry. Each screenwriter discusses his or her filmography in great detail and breaks down the mechanics of one favorite scene from their produced work.
Your Host: Producer Mike De Luca is responsible for some of the most groundbreaking films of the last 15 years. After enrolling in New York University’s film studies program at 17, De Luca dropped out four credits shy of graduation to take an unpaid internship at New Line Cinema. He advanced quickly there under the tutelage of founder Robert Shaye and eventually became president of production.
To watch the rest of this amazing series go to The Dialog Series on IFHTV.
Enjoy this conversation with David S. Goyer.
Right-click here to download the MP3
Alex Ferrari 0:03
Well guys, today we have a special episode of the show, we are going to be airing an episode of The Amazing screenwriting show The Dialogue that's available on indiefilmhustle.tv. And the guest is going to be David Goyer, the screenwriter behind films like Batman Begins, Dark Knight, the new series on Netflix, The Sandman, Terminator, Dark fate, Godzilla, Man of Steel Ghost Rider, and of course the classic John Claude Van Damme film Death Warrant, among many other. Hey, we all got to start somewhere. And David sits down with legendary producer Mike DeLuca to talk about screenwriting, the craft the business, and I thought this would be a really great introduction to this amazing series called The Dialogue, which again is available as if you are a member on Indie Film Hustle TV. So if you want to watch this episode, and 32 other episodes with some of the greatest screenwriters working today, all you need to do is go to indiefilmhustle.tv and sign up for a membership. But without any further ado, here is your preview of The Dialogue Series with David Goyer.
Mike DeLuca 2:54
I'm Mike DeLuca. Welcome to this rare in the trenches look at the craft of screenwriting. Today I'm sitting here with the Prince of Darkness writer producer director David Goyer, the man behind Batman Begins, The Blade series, Dark City, Crow, City of Angels, Flash and 1000 other movies I'm probably forgetting how do you get so busy and welcome.
David Goyer 3:15
Thanks. Thanks for having me. How do you get so busy? I'm workaholic, I guess?
Mike DeLuca 3:20
Well let me put it this way. What do you think was the beginning of this kind of current wave of superhero movies?
David Goyer 3:26
The first really significant comic book movie was the Richard Donner Superman film in 1978. The next really significant one was Tim Burton's Batman film, but they didn't really open the floodgates in terms of all these other superhero movies. And that really happened with the first blade film that you and I did, actually. And the reason for that, I guess, is because, aside from the Batman and Superman franchises over DC, being somewhat dormant, Marvel itself was in bankruptcy, right. And I remember the very first meeting we had for blade was the first day that Avi rod, who's now the head of Marvel, you know, got on the job, and, and what was significant about that film is it wasn't a well known property. It wasn't the jewel of Marvel's crown, it was a sealless character character that didn't even have his own comic book. And it was significant because there was always this assumption that you can make comic book movies out of maybe five characters over DC and five over at Marvel and that was it. But they realized with blade is totally seamless character, oh, my God, this, this character in and of itself can generate the $300 million franchise and Oh, my God, we've got 9000 characters. It's just a free for all right, and that's proven to be the case. I mean, you know, now Marvel's got well with with with the advent of fantastic bore, at least, for ongoing significant superhero franchise.
Mike DeLuca 4:53
Well, I think what you proved with the director of blade, Steve Norrington is that there wasn't so much you needed a known character but there was is a certain attitude and, you know, Yuma and irreverence and modernity reflected in Marvel comics that you guys brought to the screen that had been absent in any of the previous Marvel adaptations.
David Goyer 5:10
There was that and there was also wired to some of the sort of comic book movies that have been made prior to that Dick Tracy, things like that. There was always the assumption that they would be, you know, the production design would be in these primary colors, and that would they would be comic booky, right, if you will. And what the blade films did, and the X Men films and the Spider Man films did, and more recently Batman Begins is they treated the subject matter seriously. It wasn't a kind of a wink wink nudge nudge going on with the audience. And, you know, the filmmakers weren't they weren't looking down on the subject matter,
Mike DeLuca 5:44
Right! The fans have always said we want this kind of Batman, they showed up for Tim Burton's Batman, they should have your Batman and Chris Nolan's Batman. Why did the studio Why did they have to get bitch slapped twice? To go back to something that the fans have continually said not just compact fans, but movie goers we want it to be treated seriously. Not that has to be downer, but we want it appropriately treated characters lasted for 75 years. Why did they let it drift into camp?
David Goyer 6:08
I think it's a generational thing. I mean, first of all, the public's conception of Batman and this is specific to Batman, aside from the fans, is the 60s TV show.
Mike DeLuca 6:17
Do you think that's true, though? Do you think that really represents Batman to a big group? Because I do where are those people who want that Batman? I've never, I've never run into one of those.
David Goyer 6:26
I don't think they want it. Right. I think that that's, that's what they think of as Batman. Right? And so the my grandmother, my uncle, my mother didn't read comic books, they don't know that dark night from, you know, whatever. But the other thing, I think, is that it's a generational thing. I think what's happening now, with filmmakers like Yamo Del Toro, and you know, singer and Nolan and you know, Sam Raimi and breasts, Royals to lesser extent, you know, myself, we were all we all grew up actually being weaned on these comic books, we loved them. We sort of the, you know, ate, breathe and slept them, right. And, again, we weren't looking down at the material. And I think it took that generation of filmmakers to come of age in order to really treat them seriously for the studios to get it.
Mike DeLuca 7:14
Like a generational thing.
David Goyer 7:15
Mike DeLuca 7:17
Do you think special effects coming of age also, as an enabled more adaptations, because they simply weren't there
David Goyer 7:24
There are things that are possible now, that that they simply couldn't do it would have made for $300 million movie or something like that,
Mike DeLuca 7:31
Like spider man swinging through the canyons? There's no way
David Goyer 7:34
I don't Yeah, how would they have done that in the 70s? Or the 80s? Would it look like those TV movies that they did,
Mike DeLuca 7:39
Right! Where does Prince of Darkness come from?
David Goyer 7:45
Prince of Darkness. Well, originally,
Mike DeLuca 7:48
You're a nice guy.
David Goyer 7:49
I am a nice guy have children and pets, bunny rabbits and sunsets and long walks on the beach. I had a high school teacher dubbed me dad. And somehow I was doing some interview with Premier magazine and debt stock. And then they did an article and then in the lame way that other you know, things in magazine. Yeah, they just suddenly He's the prince of darkness.
Mike DeLuca 8:14
Now, did you get tatted up as a response to the unknown unknown and I don't live up to it or what's the story behind those?
David Goyer 8:20
I got my first tattoo the weekend or so my first script when I was 22 years old, sort of in defiance back then tattoos weren't as prevalent and I thought, I'm, I'm, you know, going to be a rebel and never commit to a real job, right? funny anecdote, though. I thought it would be all right early, and get a saying tattooed on my bicep from a poem not drowning, but waving and the tattoo artist misspell the word drowning. So my tattoo says not drawing but waving. So I'm a professional writer with a spelling error tattooed on my body.
Mike DeLuca 8:54
That's pretty ironic. Yeah. What attracts you to dark material over things that might be more like fantastical or escapist or a little lighter.
David Goyer 9:02
I mean, I liked seeing lighter fare. But clearly, it kind of themes that I'm attracted to. I mean, every movie I've ever done with the exception of Batman Begins has been R rated. And Batman Begins is certainly I think about as dark, a PG 13 film as you could get. And certainly people were surprised at how dark it was. And I mean, I'm really interested in anti heroes, I'm really interested in characters that are conflicted. I'm interested in characters that have to sort of go to a dark place in people that are alienated and whatnot, probably because I'm sure there's a little bit of my own experience as a kid or something like that in there as well.
Mike DeLuca 9:41
Does it require a different skill set to make a comic believable on screen? Or is it writing is writing?
David Goyer 9:47
Well, I mean, yeah, I think it is a different skill set. I mean, it depends on whether or not you're adapting ghost world. But say you're adapting a superhero comic book. If it's a well known character, Spider Man, Batman, Superman, there's a cannon, there's it, there's a known lore, and you have to be very careful about what you choose to change or not change. And I'd like to think because of my background, reading comics, and also writing comic books that in the case of Batman, I had a good handle on, you know, what was sacred, and what can be modified a bit. And I would maintain that some of the conflict movies that have been made that aren't successful are the ones that veer too far away from source material. I mean, Spider Man, Superman Batman, the X Men movies, they stick pretty close to source material when you're dealing with a lesser known character like blade. You got more latitude there on a lot of people out there that are you know, specifically aware of blade.
Mike DeLuca 10:55
Was that prevalent in your mind, your mind and Chris Nolan's mind, the fans had, making sure you were reverent enough, but not so reverent that we've all seen it before. Was that a big consideration into the draft story?
David Goyer 11:09
Yeah, we had to walk this thin line between delivering something for the fans, which obviously are the core audience, but they're not going to be enough to make a movie of that budget successful in its own right. And, and, and sort of the broader mass audience. And the problem was the core fans, you know, ever since Frank Miller and Alan Moore and things like that. They were used to a very dark depiction of Batman, Dark Knight, but the mass audience wasn't used to it. And I mean, even burdens first Batman film, which I enjoyed, still had a fair amount of whimsy, and then they got progressively nuttier, and via more like Starlight Express by the time they were done. And they started to become like the old Batman show. And so we had to also make sure with the mainstream audience that we just didn't completely shocked them. Right. But it was definitely a juggling act.
Mike DeLuca 12:04
But last year, micron was interesting, because they did become like the TV show, but no one told Batman like Batman was still placed right straight by right Cloney are poor, like no one told, believe die. We're making a comedy,
David Goyer 12:16
But they were actually quoting lines from the old show like holy rusty metal, some new spawn perversion, I don't know.
Mike DeLuca 12:28
Now, you've made the transition from writer to director when you directed blade three? How did you adjust to things like pacing and action and shooting big action? I know you had done zigzag before it was it a big transition, or is an easier leap. And I mean, who would have thought
David Goyer 12:43
It was a big transition. But since I had been involved in the other two movies, on the first played film as a writer on the second blade film as a writer and a producer, I mean, certain things have already been sketched out, I was aware of, you know, various pitfalls and things like that. So I think that the leap was not as difficult as it might have been for somebody just coming in having never had any experience with that whatsoever. But, look, directing drama is significantly different than directing visual effects or things like that, right. And they're sort of two different skill sets. And you know, especially when you're doing a chase scene, or something like that in the third blade film, where we also had a second unit, and we're literally storyboarding and divvying up shots and whatnot. And it's, it's it's definitely different. I also found, ironically enough, with a third blade film that I as a director have veered away from my own script more than Guillermo del Toro or Steven Norrington did, which is kind of ironic.
Mike DeLuca 13:43
Right! You were, it was easy for you to to show some of your children that Yeah,
David Goyer 13:47
Well, that's the other thing that happens when you go from the transition of writing to directing. I mean, as a writer, sometimes you get in these arguments with a director, and the director will say, Look, I'm on the location, or I'm come down here, I don't know how to shoot this the way you wrote it, or you say, No, I remember one time in a script I had, I had some description of, you know, a bad guy or something like that as being like the, I don't know, like, I described him is like the primordial face of evil, you know, and the director said, that sounds great, but how the fuck do I, what is that? And, and I realized, and sometimes I would argue with Norrington or delta or even Alex players or whatnot into but why are you shooting exactly what's on the page? Why are you changing that? And they would say, because this doesn't cut with this. And I didn't really get that until I was on the set. Having sort of boxed myself into a corner as a writer, and now as the director, thinking to myself, Oh, yeah, I get that. Now. There's a practicality involved. I mean, the script is obviously important and everything comes from the script, but it is the blueprint at some time. As you get on location, and the location is different than you had anticipated, or you run out of time, or the actor has some kind of problem and won't come out of his or her trailer for six hours, or whatever it is, you sound like you've had some experience. Oh, yeah, we've had experienced like that before, you know. And then sometimes, sometimes you'll get there. And this has happened to me, as a writer, as a director, as a producer, and a star will say, I'm not saying that line, right. But you need to say that line because this connects to this, I don't care that your problem I'm not saying that long,
Mike DeLuca 15:31
Right! It's very different than being the writer in a room writing your script. Exactly. You're out there having to explain everything
David Goyer 15:36
Exactly. or justify something or
Mike DeLuca 15:38
Do you think you'll be directing your own material from now on? Except for Batman.
David Goyer 15:45
Funnily enough, I, the next movie I'm about to direct, I did not write. Okay, so the one after that will be the last one, you're gonna you're gonna direct that you want me to direct next is called the invisible. It's a remake of Swedish film. And once again, it's a dark drama, about a murder in high school. But I just thought it would be interesting transitioning into directing to do something that I didn't write, I mean, for me, I thought, well, if I if I get a script with someone else's voice, and then I interpreted that marriage might be interesting, frankly, that's why Chris Nolan approached me to do Batman as he thought, well, your voice is so different than mine. And I think the combination of the two will make for a better film.
Mike DeLuca 16:29
Do outlines play a big part in your process, in the beginning of the script, you do kind of beat out the whole story, or just dive in after page one and wing it.
David Goyer 16:37
The few times I've tried to dive in, you just become hopelessly lost, or on page 40. And just fall into despair and start drinking. Yeah, outlines are a big part I, for myself, usually right, you know, 3040 page outline fairly detailed, I never give them to the studio, right? In my whole career. I've never given an outline to studios, it's the worst, they always ask for it.
Mike DeLuca 17:04
What do you say when they ask? I mean, I know the answer. Because we asked, I didn't have personally, but I know it was asked of you.
David Goyer 17:09
Right! I say fuck off. But, but I reached a certain pinnacle. And I say that, jokingly, I have a certain place in my career where I can say that, right? But you know, you always see young writers can't I mean, well I usually do is I'll say, I will come in to you. And I will verbally pitch you write everything that's in the outline, and I'll take an hour to take you through everything. But the problem with the outline is a format or for studios to read. It's a it's, it's I think Terry Rossio has a website. He's another writer who wrote Pirates of the Caribbean with his partner. And it's the worst possible format to get your ideas across, right? Because it's, it's sort of longer than just, you know, a Synopsys game sort of long enough to raise questions, but you don't have the dialogue in there to execute. In some cases, they had read the scene, you know, they would be, they wouldn't be confused or the essay. It's all in the execution. So you're not getting notes on the outline, as opposed to you get notes in the outline, and it's terrible. And so basically, it's it's the worst format to try to present your ideas in because it's not the whole scene. And they always try to get you to do it. And it's always a disaster,
Mike DeLuca 18:22
Right. So what happens, Chris Nolan calls you and says, I want you to work on the new Batman for me, I know you're a big fan of Batman. So that must have been something that made you very happy. Yeah. And then the two of you immediately got to work breaking the back of that story.
David Goyer 18:35
Yeah, yeah, we that was an amazing experience, because Chris and I worked in a complete vacuum. And, you know, we got together for a couple of weeks and worked out the basics of the story. Then I went off and wrote an outline, 30 to 40 pages, just for Chris and myself, never went into the studio. Chris went in and briefly pitched it to the head of the studio. I wrote the first draft, then Chris did some work on it, then I came back and did it, then it kind of went back and forth. But the amazing thing in that instance, is they were so paranoid about secrecy and whatnot, that the studio a greenlit the movie on the first draft. And the only two people that read it initially, were Jeff Robin and Alan Horne the two and they came to Chris's house to read it right did the script never went into the studio. And we started pre production for a good two months and old people would only come to the house to read it. And then we had a fake title it was called the intimidation game. And all the documents all the legal documents that the intimidation and intimidation game because they were worried about a Superman and Superman scripted when Brett Ratner was doing leaked online, and it had generated some negative feedback. They were very concerned about that. But then again a little funny sidebar is Chris and I went to New York to meet with DC Comics for three, three days to sort of get their blessing while we were doing
Mike DeLuca 20:16
Now were they like abused children, but oh yeah, I imagine remember when Marvel when we got to them they were all suspicious of movie companies and I imagined for DC must have been the same.
David Goyer 20:25
Yeah, DC was when we came in Bristol nipples on the Batsuit. Yeah, they were they were terrified. And when we came in and presented what we wanted to do, Paul Levitz said, Thank God, he's he's the racy comics, and he gave us a blessing. But when we checked in our hotels, what's funny about this is more travel had put on all the itineraries. Batman Begins. That's how it leaked right? With their own cover. Yeah, it was pretty funny.
Mike DeLuca 20:58
I know you've been an independent movie, you've worked at a mini major, you know, a new one. And now you've worked with big studios, is there a are there major differences between your process for independent for many major for major was dealing with Warner Brothers tremendously different than dealing with new wine or the zigzag experience.
David Goyer 21:16
Every situation is different. In the case of zigzag that the independent film I had written and directed, it was a negative pickup. So we were given a set amount of money and just, you know, sent away to make the movie and then come back and there's absolutely no interference. And I had Final Cut and blah, blah, blah. In the case of the mini majors, I was lucky in that I primarily dealt with you, and I hear good things about me. Yeah. And you and I got along and you know, and to a lesser degree and other executives. I used to be there Brian Witten, and I'm we had a good relationship. And you and I obviously had the same sort of points of reference,
Mike DeLuca 21:53
And we knew what we wanted the character to be important to know. All swim in the same direction.
David Goyer 21:57
Yeah, you know, in the case of Warner Brothers, they knew that the Batman franchise had been sorely damaged, and that they had to do something significant in order to resurrect it and go in a different direction. And they knew
Mike DeLuca 22:08
They were like Ellen Burstyn an exorcist. Yeah, we're like Jason Miller. Yes. And the franchise was Linda Blair. Yes, exactly.
David Goyer 22:15
And, and there was projectile vomit. Right. But they they knew that they had to sort of give it credibility again. And so when they announced that Chris, and I were going to do it together, I think there was somewhat of a collective sigh of relief, you know, amongst the fans that Oh, wow, they're I guess they're serious about reinventing this.
Mike DeLuca 22:35
Now. We were aware of the the rumors about the Superman versus Batman project. Did you think or do you think that's a good idea? Or do you think that that's a kind of unlikable movie?
David Goyer 22:45
I think eventually, it's a good idea. I mean, the thing about Superman versus Batman The script is written by Andrew Kevin Walker, who we both know.
Mike DeLuca 22:52
But that's a script capital, the lock and key like, I've just heard about it, but I haven't read it.
David Goyer 22:55
I've read it. It's actually a great script. And but I think, you know, Warner Brothers, they've been trying to revive the Superman and Batman franchise for years. And they were getting nowhere in there, all these different iterations of things at the end and kind of in despair. They said, well, let's do it. This combo movie, sort of like when universal had died with Frankenstein and a Wolfman. Let's just throw them all into the same movie. And, you know, see what happens. But the problem with that is by making that movie, you're basically admitting that you've exhausted all possibilities, right? A franchise. And I don't know whether it's Alan Horne or Jeff Robinson, but they said, you know, always make that movie. Yeah, exactly. But, you know, hopefully now, I mean, I think they with Bryan Singer and Chris Nolan, I think they have successfully press reset on those two franchises. And they can probably get three or four more movies out of each and then make Batman versus Superman right.
Mike DeLuca 23:51
Now, how did they approach you about the flash similar? Did you get a phone call and say we want to go to them and say
David Goyer 23:57
No, after after after Batman Begins. Warner Brothers owns DC Comics. And they'd obviously had a good experience on that. And so they came to me and said, which was fun for especially for comic book geek like me and said, any DC character you want? What do you want to do? We want to do another. They were primarily pushing Wonder Woman, Green Lantern or the flash. I had no particular love for Wonder Woman. And I just thought the flash would be fun and that no one had really exploited those powers right, you know, cinematically yet, so that's what I'm working on right now.
Mike DeLuca 24:38
And when you sit down and begin to write a movie, like the flash or any movie that you've worked on, do you think in pictures first, and then words or words first?
David Goyer 24:48
In the case of flash, I did something similar to what I've done in Batman when the first thing I did was just sat down, locked myself in a room for a week and just reread everything I could possibly Were reread. And I did two things a, I made a list of just cool moments, or lines, in no particular order that I just thought had to be in the movie. And then also made a list of you know, what, if you boil a flashy boil Batman down or you boil blade down, what are the elements that absolutely have to be there? What's the story about what's the, you know, in the case of Batman, obviously, there are core elements that have to be there. But in terms of the theme, you know, it was a story about fear and overcoming your fear and living in the shadow of your father and being afraid that you're not going to, you know, fulfill, you know, you know, what he was trying to do? And, you know, honor his memory. In the case of the flash, I did do the same thing and figure out what's, what's the metaphor, what's the or theme of this movie. And what I decided for the flash, should we be fortunate enough to make it is it's the Icarus myth in a way, that speed is the only modern bytes. And there's all these vices that exists time immemorial. But speed is something relatively new, right? And it's addictive. And, you know, if you run too fast, you'll run yourself literally out of existence, but you'll also sort of won't be able to stop and smell the roses, and you'll leave the people you love behind. So that's sort of the emotional core of what I'm trying to do with the flash.
Mike DeLuca 26:31
In terms of themes, are there other themes that you'd like to explore over other ones? I know, you mentioned the antihero, but are there other themes in the flash that are similar to some of the themes in your other work?
David Goyer 26:43
Well, I mean, in a lot of cases, I seem to tell stories about either reluctant heroes, or heroes who, you know, I mean, in the case of blade, he's, he's acting heroically, but sort of the rest of the world thinks he's a vigilante, as is the case with Batman. In the case of Dark City, it's, again, sort of a hero acting alone, it's isolated and whatnot. I don't think I would actually ever be good to write Superman, because it's the opposite. Thanks for Yeah, and I wouldn't know the angle because I'm so angst ridden, right, that, you know, I wouldn't know what to do with a character like them, right? Give them x, right. Well, in the case of the flash, the Wally West character, I mean, his angst is that he's a screw up, right? He's just a, he's like the last person that you, you know, he gets these powers. And the first thing he does is he just messes round. He was wildly West Kid Flash. Yeah. And then around 1980 1980 became flash became flash. And so the, you know, the bulk of the major generation of film goers that would be seen that moves while he was he's been wildly West.
Mike DeLuca 27:51
You mentioned Dark City, you know, which is another film we worked on together. It's kind of become a cult favorite. And if it's an odd movie, what were the biggest challenges in putting a movie like that together with? Was that an idea that you collaborated with Alex on?
David Goyer 28:06
Alex had the bird Alex boys. Yes, they had the initial light. You had a tree bend that he sent me. That was amazing. But he incomprehensive Brett, and he knew it. And he said, at the time, you know, I want you to sort of make a movie out of this with me and get direct to the CRO but it hadn't come out and I hadn't seen it. There was nothing to go on. And I just thought it's crazy. I turned it down. He went off eventually found limb Dobbs, they did a draft but and lemons great. But lamb is also not known for Ron, you know, the guy that wrote Kafka when wrote the limy. Right? Yeah, okay, the lime is great. But but if you want if you got to kind of inscrutable Chinese box of envy, the guy that wrote Kafka may not be your guy, the best guy to kind of, you know, make it a little less accessible. Yeah, yeah, we're more accessible. And so eventually, I came back on and my job was to my whole point with Dark City was I said to Alex, you've got all these. It takes place in kind of this parallel universe, you've got all these weird rules, and it's fine. For this universe, they have different rules, they just have to be consistent rules, right? So we just have to there was no consistency in anything that was happening,
Mike DeLuca 29:20
Right! So a big challenge is to make everything conform to one right set of rules so that you could suspend your disbelief and go
David Goyer 29:26
Right and it had a dream kind of logic. But I just said we just have to kind of codify right where these rules are new, you know, the first the first scene I wrote for Dark City. I pointed out to Alex kind of something that I thought was obvious, which was you know, the city is always takes place at night. But no one ever comments on it. Right? That that there is no daylight or that there you know, I just had will they might mention that. Yeah, that's like a big deal. So the first thing I wrote that That movie was kind of out of order, and the first thing I did was the scene between, you know, the protagonist character, the Murdock havieron Bumstead was played by William Hurd. And it's, you know, he's being interrogated. And there's this moment where he says, Let me ask you a question to Bumstead Do you remember daylight and that turned out to be kind of the pivotal scene and Ron V?
Mike DeLuca 30:30
No, got that got the existential thing going in, in the movie. In a movie with big ideas like that, you have to fight for space with trying to get those things in, but also have like, character work and great one liners or, you know,
David Goyer 30:45
Well, the thing about dark city that was kind of nice, is we we were deliberately trying to do a movie that forced the audience to think right, and
Mike DeLuca 30:58
Boy, did we get bitten the ass for that.
David Goyer 31:01
You did. But I but the other problem with Dark City, even though it's a movie that I dearly love, is that it's a movie about a guy with amnesia, right, who sort of doesn't find himself and become more active protagonist until the end of the movie? last 15 minutes of the movie. With the soil. Roofers tool is pretty cool, right? But it's kind of hard to make a movie about a guy with amnesia when you cast an unknown before that there was this moment where we're going to have Johnny Depp right, Johnny Depp, playing a guy with amnesia is still Johnny Depp. Yeah, you know what I mean? Yeah, you've got reversibly stars. Yeah, and unknown, and nobody knows who he is. And there's nothing to deal with. But, but another funny anecdote, we shot that movie in Sydney, Australia, and you don't like to fly. And so no one from Uline would ever come to check on us because we were often part of the world.
Mike DeLuca 31:53
Well, the ultimate irony is now as a producer, I just spent seven months you had to go to Australia know that scene in dark city between Bumstead. And Murdoch is is a very pivotal scene. And it it kind of sets the tone for that existential debate. Was that a difficult thing to come up with? And once you had it, it's fitting great. But did you guys struggle with that one?
David Goyer 32:11
We really didn't. It's the first thing I wrote. did. You know I sat home one night, that hour, actually, I was in Sydney at the time, and I wrote that scene. And we never changed it from that initial draft that scene. The trick of Dark City was that it was a Chinese box of a movie. And so many things retroactively had to make sense that we were constantly we had these flowcharts set up, and Alex and I were just constantly getting lost in our own logic. But that was part of the fun of doing it.
Mike DeLuca 32:50
In terms of your own writing, have you ever looked to other screenwriters for advice? Or to be or to have other other writers read your stuff? Or have you ever gotten really bad advice that put you on the wrong path, but do not open yourself up to that kind of?
David Goyer 33:04
Well, I mean, I do have people read my work before I turn it in to studios, I've got four or five friends. Some of them are writers that read it. The more recent friend of mine, Mark parota, Savage, who you've also worked with both the cell II and I have taken two, we write similar kinds of things. We give each other our drafts and give each other feedback. And it's very easy for Mark or myself reading his stuff to see kind of obvious plot holes, and maybe other people might, you know, right, he'll call me up and say your kind of bulging in here, right. And he'll keep me honest, and I'll keep him honest. I think that's important as a writer to have, you know, critical minds looking at your stuff and you know, telling you if it's not good enough,
Mike DeLuca 33:49
Right, why did you decide to be a screenwriter? Was it always that for you? Or did you come to it?
David Goyer 33:53
I was going to be a homicide detective in Michigan. I grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and I had been accepted to Michigan State and I was gonna get a degree in police administration and become a homicide detective. And some of my high school teachers just flipped out and called on my mother and said we think he should be a screenwriter bizarrely
Mike DeLuca 34:13
Wow. Specifically screen
David Goyer 34:15
Oh, yeah. Well, I'd made little email I mean, in high school, they handed her the application for the USC BFA program. Wow. And and you know, and I had never read a screenplay. I didn't know anyone in Hollywood it's so much easier now for people becoming screenwriters. There's there weren't any screenwriting programs I didn't have a computer now you can get all sorts of scripts online, right? There's final draft and there's books on screenwriting and things like that and and digital video cameras, right? But I didn't have any of that crap. And to my surprise, I was accepted to USC and decided to go and upon arriving a USC was promptly kicked out of beginning screenwriting for arguing too much with my teacher. You What was the point of contention? The point of contention was, he said that you could only tell a narrative story. Within within with a living person or animal or something in an animated film, he said you can tell a narrative story within in with an inanimate object, which to me was ludicrous, right? I believe that short film Brave Little Toaster had come out that year. Yeah, but Disney short. Yeah. And I just said, That's bullshit, but you're full of shit. And I remember I stood up on his table, and I was ridiculous. You got a riot? Yeah. And he kicked me out.
Mike DeLuca 35:35
Now what about the high school teachers who push on the path has ever talked to them. And yeah, I stayed.
David Goyer 35:39
I stayed in touch with them. And I had a nice experience a few years back about three years ago, after I directed my first film, zigzag University of Michigan invited me back to kind of do a master class or whatever. And we had a screening of zigzag. There's one movie palace back in Ann Arbor. And tickets, were free to any teachers, former teachers or students from my high school. And they all showed up. And that was kind of cool.
Mike DeLuca 36:04
Was there a particular moment where you gained full confidence of your skills as a screenwriter, where you didn't you know, I don't know if you ever had doubts, but was there a moment where you're like, I got it. This is gonna work.
David Goyer 36:14
Yeah, actually, it was the script for blade. Okay. I mean, I had been writing professionally for at least five years before that. And, you know, looking back on it, I look at some of the stuff I had written and even gotten made and said, Can
Mike DeLuca 36:26
Pretty good van damme movie I thought, yeah.
David Goyer 36:29
But that's like saying, you know, I don't know would you say like, is the best Steven Seagal movie? Right here? It's the best doleful, and everyone has to start somewhere. Yeah, yeah, that that was the first thing I'd done, which was this van Damme movie death warrant. But I think blade was maybe the eighth or ninth script I had written, okay. And it was the first time that I felt like everything just clicked, right. And for me, my prior to blade, even though I wrote the script, it took about four years for the film to be made. Prior to blade, I was still auditioning for jobs, I really did pitch myself really hard. And what was interesting with blade and this can happen with screenwriters, as the movie hadn't been made, but it'd become this sort of infamous script that was circulating around town that people really liked. And, and it happens every once a while and you can make a name for yourself on something that even doesn't get made. And after blade, I, for the first time just got offered projects, right without having to audition for them
Mike DeLuca 37:28
That one script that kind of breaks through and is the writing sample the magic writing sample for writers it things change.
David Goyer 37:33
Yeah. And the script replayed changed my career. What about film school?
Mike DeLuca 37:38
Do you think it does anything for anyone? And do you think did you pick up stuff at USC?
David Goyer 37:42
That was I mean, I clearly did. In my case, I knew nothing about filmmaking, or screenwriting. And I was just coming from Michigan. So obviously, I learned something. But nowadays with the internet, and all these other tools, I don't know that it's entirely necessary to go to film school. I mean, there's so many filmmakers that didn't go to film school, they were successful. And just the whole aspect of filmmaking is so much more accessible to people.
Mike DeLuca 38:08
Yeah. Anyone with a Mac can Yeah, produce a Pixar movie final
David Goyer 38:12
or Final Cut Pro or whatever it is, you know, I mean, that guy that made that film at Sundance tarnation. I don't know if you ever saw that. But he made it for a 1000s of dollars. Right. I saw primer though, which is a primary trade. It was made for $7,000. And it's like a really engrossing movie. Yeah. And I mean, you know, anybody can put together seven grand now, which is tuition for per year. Oh, God. I mean, they even back then I was 25 grand a year or something. undergrad? I mean, no, I
Mike DeLuca 38:41
yeah, I'd rather make the $7,000 move and up at Sundance, but then again,
David Goyer 38:45
You know, there's only one of those a year for Yeah, I I don't know how many films that get submitted. 1000s like winning the lottery, right?
Mike DeLuca 38:56
Is there anything in your life that prepares you for life as a screenwriter or as granted director in Hollywood? Like, is there one quality your tone from way back? When that gave you an edge out here?
David Goyer 39:05
No, there's no quality. I mean, writers come from all walks of life. And I used to think that that, that you had to be tortured, right, to be a good artist. And and I think to a certain extent, that's true that whether you're a musician or a screenwriter or a director or a novelist, that oftentimes if you got a really idyllic childhood, would you produce is somewhat boring because you haven't had any adversity or any conflict in your life. That doesn't mean you have to be miserable now, but but there Yeah, there was a certain amount of adversity or things that I had to deal with as a child. And, as is often the case with writers, you get into that as an escape, right? You know, you don't want to deal with whatever it is that's going on. So you you write stories or you draw comic books, or you write songs, and, you know, they've everything was hunky dory and dandy. you'd be out. stickball team or you know,
Mike DeLuca 40:14
Right whatever it is, you have to write a lot of screenplays before your first produced one.
David Goyer 40:18
My first produced movie was my second screenplay. Okay, so I didn't have to write a lot. And I was one of those sickening guys that I sold my first script about six months after I graduated college and didn't have much in the way of a real job and have no idea what I would do if I didn't do it. Now, I mean, I don't have any real applicable skills,
Mike DeLuca 40:40
Right! Through the skills that you you refine over the course of writing a lot of screenplays, does it result in a better one each time out?
David Goyer 40:49
I think that writing is something that you can continue to get better at. 30 40 50 60 you you know you're I mean, I think as unless you're suffering from Alzheimer's, that Yeah, I think so. I mean, I I'd like to think I put it this way. When I wrote blade I look back at the scripts part of that and thought they were crap. But and then when I wrote that in begins, I look back at blade. A blade was crap right now, I hope five years from now that whatever I'm running at the time I look back at and think Batman Begins right crap, because that means I'm evolving and continuing to kind of hone my craft.
Mike DeLuca 41:26
Did you know that films like puppet masters or death warrant, we're good way into the business, the movies, people, we're going to make that we're going to probably make a profit.
David Goyer 41:35
Now, when I started out, I mean, I everybody's different I was just doing I would just try to burst a make a living right, as a writer. And then it was okay, now let's try to get something made. Yeah, I mean, the bar kept on being raised, right. And then let's try to get something good made in the, you know, I've had a lot of things made. I've had, I think, feature wise, something like 17 things made. And I'm lucky enough, I remember a teacher in film school said, Look, making a good movie is so incredibly difficult that as a screenwriter, if at the end of your career, you can look back and feel that there's even one movie you're truly proud of, you should consider yourself as successful. I can look back between TV and movies now and say there's maybe seven or eight that I'm proud of. And you know, I've got seven or eight that I'm embarrassed by in seven or eight that I'm indifferent to, or I've also got a fair number of things made that I've written under a pseudonym, right, which is something kind of fun. Now what what caused that? Well, if you have enough crappy things made the problem with writing for film, is that you are at the mercy of the director. Right. And I mean, I've been fortunate enough to work with a lot of good directors, but I've also worked with a lot of crappy direct, right? And that's where you use the pseudonym. Yeah, well, at the beginning of your I wish I could retroactively go back in time, right? Put a pseudonym on kickbox or two or demonic tours or something like that. But right, but I didn't, but once I kind of got wise to that. Yeah, I've used the pseudonym three or four. What is your pseudonym? Oh, I have a bunch of them. I have a Cynthia Verlaine. I have Ricardo come out at night. Yeah, your chin. I have Ricardo fist diva. And the studio is no people. No, you have to you have to let the studio know that is you're using a pseudonym. And then I also have you Shiro Tegan, Midori. So those are the three so far. And I have another one that I registered that I've yet to use flex gamble.
Mike DeLuca 43:32
So who knows he's on deck. Yeah. Have you ever had a film that you thought was going to sell into production? Not go into production? Never go into production? And was there one thing that stopped that from happening?
David Goyer 43:44
That's the thing. I mean, you learn in this business that anything can happen. I mean, all the time you meet with producers or studios. They say, You don't understand. We're making this movie. You know? And right, cut two. We're not making this movie, right? Yeah, I had a movie once that the plug was pulled eight days before shooting, which is very late in the game. Sometimes there are movies, the plugs pulled in the middle of shooting.
Mike DeLuca 44:06
What was the what caused the eight day plug loophole?
David Goyer 44:09
I think it was casting and you know, they just ultimately decided does this movie worth it? Or something like that? Did not that movie was ultimately made as a TV movie. And Cynthia Verlaine?
Mike DeLuca 44:23
I say how do you know when to really give them a fight? And when to pick your battles? Like what? How do you know when to to really throw up to fall on your sword for a point of view or a project or
David Goyer 44:39
That's a hard one, especially as you're starting out? Because, you know, there are a couple of different factors involved. I mean, first of all, if you're a beginning writer, you're too difficult or too argumentative. You will ultimately run yourself out of jobs because people say he's just too much of a year she is just too much of a pain in the ass.
Mike DeLuca 44:59
But they want to put point of view too, probably right?
David Goyer 45:01
They do want the point of view. But then But then the other thing that happens is, as you become more successful, you've got a body of work, so you can speak with more authority, and throw yourself around. Now, I reached this aha experience where, I don't know maybe about 10 years ago, I was given a set. The other thing is that you have to be open to the idea that to constructive criticism that just because it's a studio doesn't mean that what they're saying isn't a good idea. You have to really challenge yourself and find this balance between listening to the criticism, and possibly doing what they're saying, and also fighting for your instincts. And there are cases where you could be in a room of people who are all tentative or saying don't do this. And you think, no, I should do the opposite. And you absolutely should stick to your guns. And what I realized 10 years ago, as if I really hate the notes, and I really think that these notes, just completely screw with the integrity of the piece. I won't do them a walk. And usually nine times out of 10 That's so freaks them out. Right? You know, I'll say give back the money. What not on that I did it with you once your appears to me which one refreshment? I was I did an early draft of Freddy vs. Jason. Ah,
Mike DeLuca 46:16
I don't remember it. No, I don't remember. And, and I chose that when Rob butene was,
David Goyer 46:21
Yeah, truth be told, I didn't really want to do the project right in with and you kind of talked me into it. And my heart wasn't in it. And we did a draft and it sucked. And, and I said it sucked in. You know, you guys wanted me to do certain amount of notes. And I just like I
Mike DeLuca 46:37
Get me off this train.
David Goyer 46:38
Yeah, exactly. 10 years later, they made it.
Mike DeLuca 46:41
Did you ever say the eventual movie?
David Goyer 46:43
Did I ever see it? The irony is 10 years later, I ended up being Boone swagel into Script doctoring the day. Since I spent by weeks on that, that
Mike DeLuca 46:54
It was fated to be you and Freddy and Jason. Yeah, you're lucky they didn't draft you for the Freddy Jason Chucky ash from Evil Dead movie.
David Goyer 47:00
I know. I know. That, like every writer in town, like worked on. Right? Pretty versus JC. I mean, there were 13 different scripts written and nothing.
Mike DeLuca 47:12
Cynthia Verlaine took a shot probably now that you're directing your own material, the new line, trust you more because it's one stop shopping for the vision that dealt with you as a writer?
David Goyer 47:21
Yeah, I think newline did trust me because I, in terms of things that have been made, I'd been involved in five or six things in the one that I made and maybe 10 things, you know, all the things that hadn't been made. There's definitely a comfort level between us.
Mike DeLuca 47:37
Have you turned down other assignments besides running away from Freddy vs. Jason? Oh, yeah.
David Goyer 47:41
I turned down assignments all the time.
Mike DeLuca 47:43
I know, you turn that you turn me down again for Ghost Rider?
David Goyer 47:45
I did. I did. I did turn you down for that.
Mike DeLuca 47:50
I guess it was it. Your schedule. But also, you have to be turned on by the material? You will?
David Goyer 47:57
Yeah. I mean, in that case, I actually could not do it, right. Because I was about to drag a pilot. But I turned things down all the time. I mean, that's one of the nice things about hopefully becoming more successful is you can become progressively more selected. And, you know,
Mike DeLuca 48:11
Do you think you'll continue to be open to direct other people's scripts as well as right?
David Goyer 48:14
Yeah. Well, we'll see what the experience is like after I do it. But I think so you're gonna let the writer on the set? Yeah. Yeah, I'm, I'm, I think it's, I think it's good to have the writer on the set. Because it it's important to have somebody who can protect the integrity of the story, because when you are directing, you're shooting it out of order, right. And he says, and his little pieces in, you're overwhelmed by costume and continuity, and the actor won't come out of their trailer and whatever it is that you're dealing with. And the actor might want to make some line modification, and you're not thinking at the time. But if I change that line, it's going to screw up this scene later on down the line that the writer is because the writers got it in his or her head. So I think that's important.
Mike DeLuca 49:01
At this point, your career What do you know what the best thing you've ever written is? I think I'm produced or not produced. But do you know, yeah, that's the best thing.
David Goyer 49:07
The best thing ever written, I think for me produced is Batman Begins so far. I think the best script I ever wrote, not yet produced is not a patient of a Neil Gaiman short story called murder mysteries. And that's admittedly, something I hope to direct but it's more of a dark city. It's led to much more challenging, not sort of downright mental movie.
Mike DeLuca 49:33
Do you like Do you still like those complex narratives as puzzle boxes?
David Goyer 49:36
I do. Right? I do that. I mean, you do too. They're not they're not always gonna burn up the screen in terms of box.
Mike DeLuca 49:43
I think what I learned is that we have a peculiar taste and yes, budget should be watched. Yeah. I mean, although we did have matrix two seconds before matrix,
David Goyer 49:52
I know what's frustrating is the matrix came out. Yeah, you know, a year later or something like that
Mike DeLuca 49:58
And with the ah, That's how you make that idea commercial.
David Goyer 50:01
Exactly, I forgot how to do that.
Mike DeLuca 50:14
This is a hard question to answer, but what do you feel you have one weakness as a writer, I know you want to broadcast this to the studios.
David Goyer 50:20
I think that writers tend to gravitate either more character writers or more plot writers. And I think that that's a kind of a fundamental way that writers approach things. And a lot of writers will write characters person sort of see where those characters take them. Right in no other writers will work from a place of structure and plot and, and back into them. I mean, you know, it's still difficult for me, I think to write female characters. Just because I don't have a vagina. Right.
Mike DeLuca 50:52
You know, they saw those done on Melrose. Yeah, the robber.
David Goyer 50:56
I, yep, that's still difficult for me.
Mike DeLuca 50:58
So what do you do to improve in that area? Knowing that that's a weakness?
David Goyer 51:02
I mean, do you seek go down to Melrose?
Mike DeLuca 51:05
I mean, do you show do you talk to women about characters when you're writing a strip of female?
David Goyer 51:09
Yeah and do you say, we read this to you? Can you see if it rings true or not? You know, and you try to do whatever research you can ask?
Mike DeLuca 51:19
The Katie Holmes character and Batman Begins and nimbu che right and blade we're both pretty strong female characters.
David Goyer 51:25
Yes. And I like writing strong female characters. But you know, I'm, but I'm aware of the fact that I don't want to make them to stride into a book. I'm not. I think I can do it. It's just something that I
Mike DeLuca 51:40
that's one area. Yeah, yeah. You and Oliver Stone. Was there a point in Batman Begins where you guys had a roadblock, and it took you a little bit of time to bust through it was anything difficult in the in the RE fashioning of that myth?
David Goyer 51:55
I remember saying to Chris, at one point, near the end of the second act of the film, that would be great if there were a certain amount of symmetry if, if if Ra's al Ghul when he comes back could burn down Wayne Manor. And I remember thinking that a that would be something the audience wouldn't expect, because it's not in the cannon. Right. I think they're not going to destroy Wayne Manor. Because, you know, Wayne Manor continues exists, but I knew it seems obvious now. But it took us months to figure out how she was, you know, just to figure out well, they can rebuild it. Oh, I mean, it's like
Mike DeLuca 52:34
da right. Well, that's how reverently you treated the cannon in your mind that has always existed and glider down it's gone. Right right.
David Goyer 52:42
But then we thought the debt the debt then fits with the theme in the movie of rebuilding Gotham Ryan
Mike DeLuca 52:47
and you and you managed to get a few lines about you know, that imply that the can make improvements to
David Goyer 52:52
the debt to build a better Batcave and things like that, right? I mean, I think that the was also trying to figure out the machinations of getting Ra's al Ghul back into Gotham and in in linking Rossignol in the League of Shadows into sort of having, perhaps a presence Gotham before, you know, day was that was a tricky movie to write. Right? Also, because we were dealing with a nonlinear structure,
Mike DeLuca 53:17
right? You've worked in the same genre a lot. Have you ever like cannibalized? unproduced scripts for all their stuff became produced all the time?
David Goyer 53:24
I mean, they're yours. Why not? Yeah, exactly. I mean, I remember utilizing a bit from I wrote a unproduced script for Dr. Strange persone. And I utilize that in another bit, or sometimes they'll come up with a line or, you know, a scary sequence and cannibalize. You're allowed to copy from yourself, especially if it's never seen the light of day.
Mike DeLuca 53:45
Where do you find inspiration for the stuff you come up with?
David Goyer 53:49
I'm a voracious reader. It oddly enough, I'm not a voracious consumer of movies, right? I mean, I watch movies, and I watch TV, but not I'm not wanting to describe myself as a student of Bob. But I do read constantly in my bed table. There's four or five books that I'm reading simultaneously and I read all sorts of stuff.
Mike DeLuca 54:12
Now, I know you'd like to think on your feet. So yes, we've got a little screenwriting exercise for you. And we call it the object.
David Goyer 54:19
my loins are yearning Norris. Try
Mike DeLuca 54:25
So here's what's here's what happens here. Okay, we're gonna present you with an object. You're going to tell me its story in any way you see fit. And after that, you're gonna tell me why you chose what you chose. Other than that, there are no rules regulations or limitations
David Goyer 54:38
you bastard Okay, ready?
Mike DeLuca 54:39
Yeah, you know what's going on?
David Goyer 54:40
I'm I know it I yeah, I grok it ticket. Your objects Oh, God. Well, I mean, I see this and immediately I go to some kind of horror film. Oh, no. I mean, you know, this is just You know, some guy cop pursuing, you know, killer or something like that and some god forsaken place it's been condemned. And you know, there were the killer is taken 40 children and he's the murdered them. And you know, this little object is sort of there when the guy finally kills the killer in some.
Mike DeLuca 55:22
So you've taken a child's toy thing built well I am the prince of
David Goyer 55:27
darkness but But I look at this toy and I think this is a disturbing toy like that Jack in the Box or the monkey comes out or do that thing right and monkey II, that bed dolls, those kinds of things really scare me and this little clown and clowns are inherently scary as well and just wrong. And so you've got like an old tin toy of a clown. And it just it's disturbed romantic. And I maintain that if you put this thing in like an empty room with you know, holes in the wall and graffiti and stuff like that, and just some moonlight coming down on that. You'd be scared. And you'd say the souls of 40 murder children have been consecrated into that little toy and they're going to come out and terrify people later on. I don't know. I mean, I seriously though I look at this and I say this is like, right. This is disturbing. I don't know why, right. Maybe it's indicative of my fucked up childhood or something like that.
Mike DeLuca 56:25
I had a fucked up childhood I see a clown on a bike.
David Goyer 56:28
So this is just a benign object. I
Mike DeLuca 56:32
didn't write Batman Begins.
David Goyer 56:33
Right? Well, that's true. But you wrote in the mouth and I mentioned that. And the most disturbing thing about the object is that he I now have to have it sit there in front of me.
Mike DeLuca 56:43
You can put anywhere you want. Really? It's your object. Okay. One might say it's an object lesson. Whoo. So far, you mentioned you wanted to be a cop, a homicide detective, not even just a cop a homicide. I
David Goyer 56:58
was very interested in solving homicides as a kid. You put
Mike DeLuca 57:01
this thing at the scene of a crime not even a crime. child murder a homicide. What's eating you David?
David Goyer 57:06
What's eating? I know as a kid, I watched a lot of monster movies. And a lot of I would just inherently be drawn to you didn't get
Mike DeLuca 57:17
in the car with a group of guys.
David Goyer 57:20
Yeah, I didn't. Yeah, I didn't. I didn't have a scout mouth.
Mike DeLuca 57:25
Never too late.
David Goyer 57:26
Had you had me when a very specific merit badge? No.
Mike DeLuca 57:30
Do you like to be scared? I mean,
David Goyer 57:32
as I do, like, I love to be scared. I love the vicarious right sort of you know, I love that experience of seeing something that's absolutely terrifying. Or reading something that's absolutely terrifying any it's very rare these days when I watch a movie or television that I myself am scared right audience member and I could probably count on one hand in the last decade or two decades the movies that really scare me but I vividly remember for instance, seeing alien reverse time in absolutely losing my shit as an 11 year old and then you know another just really disturbing movie is Don't look now yes the end of Don't look now and that's a movie that movie so disturbing. I remember showing it to a woman who broke up with me afterwards futures isn't debt so terrible. You ever you say hello to that's a breakout? Yeah, yeah, that's a good makeout film.
Mike DeLuca 58:26
You're making out with freak Bala Madonna. Yeah.
David Goyer 58:30
But I think that, you know, Jacob's Ladder, scared me and unhinged me and disturbed me and I think parts of 20 days later and it's really hard to make a really scary movie actually,
Mike DeLuca 58:41
in Batman Begins. I thought it it comes close to true horror and several sequences but
David Goyer 58:47
mostly with a scarecrow. I
Mike DeLuca 58:48
think well, the one I'm thinking of is the Scarecrow has inhaled his own magenic and what Nolan put on screen is his hallucinogenic version of Batman, you know, threatening Scarecrow was truly horrific.
David Goyer 59:02
Well, that was the epiphany that you know, I when I was talking with Chris, when we were first talking about the story, I said, it always bothered me and it didn't Batman comic books and things like that, that they could be some scene where the guy would plop down a newspaper and it would be some man on the streets description of a giant bat in the artists, you know, read edition was a giant bat. And when it looked like a giant ad, saying to Chris, well, what are we going to do? Because it doesn't look like a bat, right? It looks like a guy that's going to a costume ball or something like that. So then I realized oh my god, the Scarecrow uses this hallucinogen. And I mean, the idea of adding the Scarecrow himself see is that that came later but right when we realized that we were getting gas, Gotham, I thought, holy crap. We have this opportunity to ever so briefly, show Batman VM. A fair point is to be your point of view. And he does look like horrific demon and That is what cements bad man's reputation in Gotham. where the legend spreads because hundreds of 1000s of people or at least 1000s of people, Shaw, a giant flying demonic bat, right? Because they were all high. They were all right, you know? And then we backed into the idea of the Scarecrow seeing Batman in the same way. Just a few medicine doctor what have you been doing here? He's near right now. If you'd like to make an appointment.
Mike DeLuca 1:01:11
Now that that must be a case as a writer where there was a happy marriage of your ideas and the director's execution of the ideas you discussed? It doesn't always go that way. But was there a point in the Batman process where you saw dailies or you saw assembly and you knew this, this is one of the best versions of director taking my words and US collaborating on what shouldn't be on screen?
David Goyer 1:01:36
Well, I think the two best versions of that that I've had were dark city. And, and Batman Begins. And the reason for that is because I developed both scripts with the director. And, you know, from the inception, the two of us were on board. So everything that Chris or Alex was going on to design right was coming from that as opposed to writing a script in a vacuum, and then giving it to Norrington or Guillermo del Toro even though I had a good experience with those guys different and then interpreting it in different way or coming at it from a different way, in that in both those cases, we were able to sort of approaching it from the same angle, right?
Mike DeLuca 1:02:17
Did you know When did you know when you saw the Director's Cut, that this was going to work and reinvent the franchise.
David Goyer 1:02:22
I knew before then, because we also started pre production, we brought on Chris brought on his production designer, as we were writing, and he worked in the room next to us. And we would just go back and forth. And he was coming up with designs for Gotham, or the Batmobile. And we would come in and kibbutz and then some of that would plug back into the script that we were writing so deep, this sort of visual evolution of the film was it was happening parallel to the script.
Mike DeLuca 1:02:49
I assume it's gone the other way. For you,
David Goyer 1:02:51
when I've had terrible experiences with directors.
Mike DeLuca 1:02:54
When do you know what those experiences? Is it when you see the director's cut, or before just
David Goyer 1:02:59
from you know, sometimes when you're shooting and I've had experiences with a director, you realize with horror, that the director actually doesn't understand the scene, right? Like missed the whole point of the scene. Right? And, and you try to sort of talk sense into them or things like that, and, you know, debts that's bad. Also, it's bad if you have I've a couple of times work with directors where it kind of became a free for all, and they would listen to anyone because they were terrified. So I mean, yes, my voice was in there, but it's committed to and Midian is done. It's just a mess.
Mike DeLuca 1:03:41
Where's your workspace, where you work out of and what's in it.
David Goyer 1:03:43
I have an office at home. And I do a lot of work there. And my sort of prized possession is a photograph in the 70s of Marlon Brando. In behind him is a paparazzi photographer named Ron vallila who used to stalk Marlon Brando and one point Brando turned around and punched him in the face and broke his nose so from that point on we're gone for a football helmet with his name Ron on it's the photo is Marlon Brando, Iran and the football helmet behind him and that kind of sums up Hollywood
Mike DeLuca 1:04:15
that's great completely the guy wants to punch the nose and the guys figured out what to wear to protect it
David Goyer 1:04:19
and stalking you right you know, but but most of my scripts I write the bulk of the March break the back of all my scripts at a place in Wyoming that I go up to in Jackson Hole, and I just locked myself away in this lodge for 10 or
Mike DeLuca 1:04:32
15 days. Does that evolve over time that that Yeah, I had a writer's retreat for it.
David Goyer 1:04:36
Yeah, I realized it's just better to go away and just really focused
Mike DeLuca 1:04:41
do listen to music or have little rituals while you write or I don't I
David Goyer 1:04:45
don't listen to music. I can't I need complete silence. I can't even have anyone else in the house wish list the room. So there's that I always write from about 10 in the morning till two in the afternoon. I don't write on the weekends. I don't What makes that kind of discipline unique, really important? I mean that some people write in different ways. But for me, you know, I think one of the reasons that I've been successful is that I created my own discipline. And I'm very rigid about it and I treat it like a real job and I found that once I started doing that, I became more effective writer you mentioned,
Mike DeLuca 1:05:19
you read a lot the reading does it help you write? Do you read while you're writing or just like I read before use get inspired to write a screenplay I read
David Goyer 1:05:28
while I'm writing? And inevitably I find out it's, it's usually subconsciously, but inevitably, I will realize as I'm writing, that there's certain thematic elements to what I've been reading or it's selected to read, but I don't it's not apparent to me until I'm sort of much further along in the process.
Mike DeLuca 1:05:45
You just kind of divine out the mood of what you're writing stories or books present themselves. Yeah,
David Goyer 1:05:50
yeah. Like our I'll be on Amazon and I'll, I don't realize it, but I'll be reading descriptions or reviews of books and ordering them, but clearly, in the back of my head, they're thematically linked to whatever it is that I'm writing,
Mike DeLuca 1:06:02
and you've been busy on originals for so long, but you get called on to come in and rewrite other writers screenplays. Yeah, I've
David Goyer 1:06:08
done a certain amount of what they refer to as Script doctoring. Right. And a key frankly, it can be very fun because sometimes it's just a totally mercenary aspect to doing it where you come in for a week or two or three and your job isn't to reveal the fort. Your job is to just do the notes do the nodes or you know, a one movie I was brought in nearly to rewrite Michael Caine's dialogue. That's all I did, is he played a villain and I was just making his dialogue snarky er right and it's kind of fun because I think it's very pretentious to
Mike DeLuca 1:06:44
designate the villain in that Steven Seagal movie
David Goyer 1:06:46
Why yes, he was was that possibly the that was possibly the one the ones to Steven Seagal directed right
Mike DeLuca 1:06:52
his debut his debut What is it Big Mountain Railroad or something? What was it called?
David Goyer 1:06:57
It was escaped a Witch Mountain. That's what it what it was called On Deadly Ground deadly
Mike DeLuca 1:07:01
grounds. The Indian moonwalk,
David Goyer 1:07:03
yeah, all of his movies at the time at Indian American reading that is three words right Delhi ground above the law hard to kill March per death.
Mike DeLuca 1:07:12
Have you ever turned down a rewrite job? Because you respect the original writer? Yeah,
David Goyer 1:07:15
absolutely. I was actually approached possibly to rewrite SpiderMan from David CAPP script and the new one, the new with the world of the first Oh, sorry, this is the first part of it. Yeah. And, and I thought is script was really good. And I told them, You guys are crazy. Like, you should write it. And yeah, that happens a lot. I've also turned on jobs, because I've been asked to rewrite friends were right, or whatnot. But you know, I've been rewritten by people, those many questions, and I've gone on to rewrite them. And, you know, once you're in this business long enough that that kind of stuff out why the musical
Mike DeLuca 1:07:53
chairs so much you think on scripts, and because it's
David Goyer 1:07:58
on one hand, I mean, on one hand, stuff can be developed and can be helped. But I also maintain, I swear to God, I wish one day, for one year, Hollywood would only make first drafts. Right, and I maintain them films would be no better or worse, right? And they probably see a lot of money in development. But sometimes they get better, right? But I always build it in the development process. Maybe by the third or fourth draft, they get better. But then there's sort of a law of diminishing returns, and then they're not as good again. Yeah. And I think the main reason is, well, they're it's twofold. One, it's inevitable that as an executive or a producer, read a script for the third or fourth time, it doesn't feel this pressure anymore, right? And so you get the note, this doesn't feel as fresh anymore. Exactly. And you're like pulled up because you know what all the scares are, you know what the jokes are, you're at, you don't have that experience. And there's that, but it's also, it's the only real element that can change that can be continually fuck with once you're shooting the movie, translate the statues left the station. So it's the obvious place for the studio to second guess themselves
Mike DeLuca 1:09:04
because they can and it right, it gives you that sense of security suitable, right?
David Goyer 1:09:08
And there's also a sense of, Well, this script is great. But if we bring on high paid screenwriter acts bright for a punch up, we did what we could we did what we could, and we protected ourselves. And maybe he gave that little pixie dust. But a lot of times then people just go in and kind of bone it in
Mike DeLuca 1:09:29
out of your approach receiving notes from executives, or producers or managers or actors or like, Are you pretty open minded or have the years kind of built up a healthy cynicism about it all?
David Goyer 1:09:41
I try to be open minded, even though by nature, I'm very cynical about it. But I do try to be open minded and do try to listen a lot of times it's just about them being heard, right? A lot of times you can talk people out of notes, you know, and sometimes you get good notes, but nowadays, I'm much more in the position Being able to pick the people that I'm working with.
So, the producers, the directors, you know, as much as you're gonna be rejected, right? So there's a bit more of a safety factor there.
Mike DeLuca 1:10:24
Do you think genre films have to fight to get the same respect as, even though there's this mad rush to make more genre pictures and bigger temperature, the
David Goyer 1:10:32
most successful films of all time have been science fiction or fantasy.
Mike DeLuca 1:10:36
There seems to be like a weird paradox of in a way the screenplays need to be better crafted than something taking place in the real world because you have to do so much heavy lifting to suspend disbelief and make it believable. Well, that
David Goyer 1:10:49
there is that obviously, there's a suspension, you're dealing with all that suspension of disbelief is a factor that you don't have to deal with. If you're doing fried green tomatoes, or if you're doing you know, I don't know American Beauty or something like that. Will we ever see a science fiction film nominated for Best Picture?
Mike DeLuca 1:11:07
I remember when Sauce Labs got this picture was almost out of Hearthstone, one best
David Goyer 1:11:10
pixel and also when Sigourney Weaver Weaver as actress was nominated for aliens, that was a giant deal, right?
Mike DeLuca 1:11:17
Do you think they're still kind of looked down upon? Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Do you ever look at when you're constructing a script? Do you put monologues or action description that you feel is going to help hook an actor or hook a director? I think that's able to do it.
David Goyer 1:11:32
Yeah. I mean, sometimes you have to do that right. And especially if you know that you're you know, you're going out to a certain star right? Sometimes we'll take an extra little pass and try to I remember on blade two for instance, Wesley Snipes, eight, get getting wet, hates getting wet. And we had this sequence where we wanted blade to fall into a bad bout of blood and become totally submerged and and then walk out covered in blood, right? Kind of a problem was he doesn't like to be wet. And I had this bad with Peter Frankfort and Guillermo del Toro, producer and director. They say you're never going to get it in the movie. You're never he's not going to do it. And I said I can get him to do it. So I went back and rewrote the scene and did the descriptive adjective adjective, Florida, Florida, Florida, and I said, and he emerges from the blood looking so like some primordial god of war. And I actually wrote in the description not unlike Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now.
Mike DeLuca 1:12:34
I swear to God, this means you read closely
David Goyer 1:12:37
you are Martin Sheen and Apocalypse Now you are the primordial god of war. And sure enough, he agreed to do it. Right. So sneaky, but we weren't Yeah, we do that all the time. You know, in the I joke that like every every description of like, a leading lady is always like, attractive, yet fiercely intelligent.
Mike DeLuca 1:12:56
Right? She's gotta be Mensa. She also has to know karate. Ya know, if I remember correctly, you you have a nice balance between writing the action and the descriptions in your scripts to be entertaining. But they're not
David Goyer 1:13:08
show off the like some writers. Why try not to be obnoxious right,
Mike DeLuca 1:13:12
now that you're directing your own scripts? Will you write the pros to be less? Yeah, because you're there
David Goyer 1:13:18
when I mean, partially when you're writing a script, you're trying to attract a director and or stars. But if I am the director, you know, I know what you're doing. There's less kind of Hootenanny involved, you know, verbal who nanny but I will also change my writing style depending on the movie, right? So zigzag with the independent film I did was written very sparsely the blade films were a bit more florid, kind of in your face in terms of the prose style Batman was written, I literally went back and read scripts for Lawrence of Arabia Man Who Would Be King, because we were trying to ape, that feeling of this sort of classic epic, right and try to write Batman Begins in a more sort of classic mannered style.
Mike DeLuca 1:14:03
What was the main difference between those screenplays from that time and scream even screenplays of epics today? Like were they written in a more minimalist style? Yeah,
David Goyer 1:14:11
and they weren't showing right. And there was no kind of wink wink, nudge nudge, A, we know, you're a highly paid studio executive that's reading this right. And they were approached and much more in a no nonsense way. I remember when I was first starting out. I was very impressed with Walter Hill's early scripts, like the scripts, Birth of a driver was a great driver and hard times and they were just like these, like almost haikus because they were so sparse, long riders is very sparse. And you know, I just remember I was very impressed with those scripts. And that's the direction you you were especially that's the direction I ran in and then I realized that I would change it up depending on what the movie will
Mike DeLuca 1:14:50
do. intimidate people in meetings the people that don't aren't familiar with you, they just know the body of work. And then well, who's this dark guy coming in
David Goyer 1:14:57
to see Yeah, and sometimes the tattoos it's funny that I get that because cuz I think I'm relatively affable. You're one of the nicest guys in the business. I think I am. But you know, I've had people, you know, right. Be freaked out.
Mike DeLuca 1:15:08
Just look by it's covered. Yeah. Do you use that ever to your course?
David Goyer 1:15:12
Make them fear you, right? Have you ever there's nothing that will scare them more than just not saying much. Just letting it hang. Yeah, just nodding or something like that.
Mike DeLuca 1:15:25
Aside from just having the talent itself, what's what can't be taught about screenwriting or what's what's the one piece of
David Goyer 1:15:31
tenacity, tenacity, yeah, and having a hard skin because, you know, it's not enough, unfortunately, to be talented in this business, because it's such a social business. And so much of it is not only the work, but getting in the room and convincing these people that not only are you the right guy to write this, but you know, they're developing so many movies, hundreds 1000s of movies that are given studios, and they're only going to make 12 to 25 a year, right. And so for every script of yours, they're going to make your script, they're not going to make 100 others, right. And they're going to spend, in the case of Blade $60 million on the movie in another 30 million, you know, 100 million dollars in marketing. And that's a lot of money. And a lot of people's careers are hanging in the balance turns and making the right decision. So your job is also with the script, or whatever you're conveying personally is, yeah, not only should you not make those movies, you should make mine and your career is going to advance because of it. Because to make even a smallest movie like zigzag. It's millions of dollars riding on it's not the same as just publishing some small book or something. Right.
Mike DeLuca 1:16:42
So now it's not enough to just bring in the material that's commercial and that they can say there's going to be a hit movie that has to be personalized into this will advance your career.
David Goyer 1:16:51
Yeah, you terrified guys that are because it's mostly a studio executives job to say no, because anytime you say yes, right. Your career is on the law of averages
Mike DeLuca 1:17:00
is with you if you say no, exactly.
David Goyer 1:17:02
So if you if you say I believe in this one, you're on the hook for it, right? So your job as the writer or director or whatever is to come on communicate to studio executive A, B or C do your you're gonna get a nice bonus if you do it,
Mike DeLuca 1:17:18
right. Do you think you know i know i love horror films. You love horror films. I'm enjoying the fantasy films that are getting made now. Are we in danger of burning it out? Now?
David Goyer 1:17:27
It'll be cyclical, right? I mean, it'll I think these genres are perennial, right? And everybody will jump on the bandwagon bandwagon like they are. And you know, comic book films, you know, in a year or two that the cycle will burn itself out and it'll go more dormant and then we'll come back again
Mike DeLuca 1:17:43
right I mean, now the most famous characters have kind of been adapted I guess for unless precede unless sequels to those films, you know, that launched the new franchises. Do you think people will start looking for the hidden gems like way
David Goyer 1:17:55
they will but then, you know, 20 years from now they'll probably do another cycle of Superman rhymes and Batman films and Lone Ranger writes in the you know, I think those characters are sort of cultural icons they're just here to stay right?
Mike DeLuca 1:18:08
Why do you think they endure it's a uniquely American kind of invention these these these characters that came from pulpy you know, like, nickel, escapist comic books from the during the Depression days
David Goyer 1:18:21
they have they have resonance and they've they've stood the test of time and Batman, Superman had been around for 75 odd years, something like that any of the character a survived through that and many permutations, there's something about it. I mean, Superman is is the Christ myth, right? I mean, literally, my only son save Yeah, I'm going to give you a God like being I'm going to send him down to save you, and he's going to suffer rereads Christ. So it's kind of obvious why that one endures. And Batman is sort of the ultimate kind of dark wish fulfillment that gets terribly romantic. It's got Granta scenes to vampire stories, Phantom of the Opera, stuff like that, what is the car phones are doing bigger business now than they ever have in a long time? You know, with between the garage and the jet, but I think it's cyclical, it's just people. People like to be scared. They go in and out of fashion. And, you know, I think in another couple of years that'll Abate, they will become dormant again for a while. And I just think, you know, every generation or every other generation, there's, there's going to be a cycle of these things. And people will come up also the public as a very short memory, right? No, everything old is new again, right? And people don't realize that films being made now. You know, you have all these forefathers and films being made 20 years ago and 40 years ago and things like that.
Mike DeLuca 1:19:45
Now after the film, you're about to direct the invisible invisible after that you think flash will be next for you? Probably yeah. And then when can we expect the next Batman and release?
David Goyer 1:19:55
Probably 2008 Summer 2008 We're just talking about a trend to figure out what the hell can we do it? Connect be cool again, that kind of thing. Well, excellent.
Mike DeLuca 1:20:05
Good luck with everything. Thank you. We want to thank David Goyer, director, writer, producer, thank you as well. Please be sure to check out our other great interviews. And remember, it all starts with you. The next written by credit could be yours. I'm Mike DeLuca.
Alex Ferrari 1:20:18
I hope you guys enjoyed that sneak preview of the dialogue with David Goyer. And if you want to watch this on Indie Film Hustle TV, all you got to do is go to indiefilmhustle.tv and sign up. And there you can watch another 32 episodes of this amazing series as well as tons of other courses, movies, documentaries, all about filmmaking and screenwriting. Again. That's indiefilmhustle.tv. If you want to get links to anything we spoke about in this episode, head over to the show notes at bulletproofscreenwriting.tv/220 Thank you again for listening guys. As always, keep on writing no matter what, I'll talk to you soon.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.
- FREE DECISION-MAKER MEETINGS Masterclass: How To Connect with Producers, Financiers, & Agents!
- FilmConvert Nitrate – Film Stock Emulation Plugins – Get 10% OFF (Coupon Code: IFH)
- Need Distribution for Your Film? – Check This Out!
- Bulletproof Script Coverage– Get Your Screenplay Read by Hollywood Professionals
- Audible – Get a Free Filmmaking or Screenwriting Audiobook