The writing duo discuss the ins and outs of turning everyman Kevin Costner into a brutal murderer
Together, Raynold Gideon and Bruce A. Evans have written some damn fine screenplays. Their collaborative expertise has foisted such classics as Stand By Me, Starman, and Made in Heaven into the world. Nothing, though, could ever quite match the eloquent brutality of their latest screenplay Mr. Brooks.
The story revolves around an everyman who also happens to be a sadistic serial killer. Bruce and Raynold convinced Kevin Costner to produce and star in the flick. They also convinced him that Bruce Evans should direct, since he knew the script inside and out. Kevin agreed, with the condition that nothing about the shooting script be changed. This was a very gracious move on Costner's part. Especially since the only film Evans had directed at that time was the Christian Slater cop comedy Kuffs.
Bruce A. Evans managed to pull a rabbit out of his hat. What he has in Mr. Brooks is one of the best films of the summer.
Evans and Gideon recently sat down to discuss their journey from script to screen. Here is that conversation:
Raynold Gideon: What do you do?
Raynold Gideon: Ah, that's the future. It's just amazing. You can go online now and find anything. It's just so great. Anything. If you want brown shoes, there's an expert on it somewhere.
Bruce A. Evans: Or there's someone who knows all of the calories in Sun Chips.
Raynold Gideon: That's very, very important. Yes, yes.
Bruce A. Evans: When you start your day, wouldn't you like to know how many calories you've consumed already?
Well, my first question is, why did you guys decide to make William Hurt's Marshall character, who is imaginary and only in Mr. Brooks' mind, visible in mirrors and window reflections?
Bruce A. Evans : It was to put him in any place that Kevin wanted him to be. And it was to make it visually interesting. I could have held him in there, or gone in for a close-up. Since he didn't actually exist, he could be anywhere. That was something that was decided very early on.
Raynold Gideon: It also emphasized the fact that he really didn't exist.
Bruce A. Evans: He could be here, and then he could be over there. We had to shoot every scene that William was in twice. So, he was in it. Then we would shoot it again without him in it.
With this particular script, did you guys figure out the ending first, and then work backwards?
Bruce A. Evans: When we finish a project, we sit down and go, "What are we going to do next?" For some reason, I don't know, he doesn't know, why we came up with the idea of a serial killer.
Raynold Gideon: Honestly, we aren't trying to be cute. A week after finishing the script, both of us could recite the script word for word all the way through. A week later, we didn't even know the names of the characters.
Bruce A. Evans: You just empty out, and then you start again. I think one of our agents called, and they wanted to talk to us about a TV series. We thought of this in terms of a TV series. It was an early idea for HBO. They didn't think it was dark enough, so we came back. It was more like what Dexter is today. And HBO just didn't think it was dark enough for them. So, we went back and redid it to the tone of what you see. And they thought it was too dark. So, we were screwed both ways.
Raynold Gideon: We wanted to make an adult piece. We'd made Stand By Me, Starman, and Jungle 2 Jungle. They were all PG or PG-13 films, and we said, "Let's write something adult."
Bruce A. Evans: We sat down and said, "How can we do a serial killer movie that hasn't ever been done before? We don't want the serial killer blown away at the end of the movie." That was a big thing. We don't want the cop to be the brilliant one, and the serial killer to be a sniveling sicko. And we want it to be, where the next-door neighbors would all say, "Oh, my god. He was such a nice man. I can't believe it." Which you hear all the time.
Raynold Gideon: The originality for us was to do it from his point of view. Inside his head. And the other thing we thought, was we gave him the Marshall character. Someone he could speak to. When he needs his alter ego, he turns up. We thought, we hadn't seen that kind of thing in this type of film.
Do you guys have more stories planned for Mr. Brooks? Do you already know the ending of this story?
Raynold Gideon: Kind of. But as a writer you know that once you start writing, the character is going to go, "No, I don't want to stay in the kitchen, I want to go in the closet." But then you go, "Fine, you can go in the closet and jump out, and scary somebody." And they go, "No, I'll stay in the kitchen." Then you have to put the character in the kitchen, otherwise you can't go on. You are forcing plot, and you guys can smell that from a million miles away.
How did Dane Cook get involved with this project
Bruce A. Evans: Well, we had Zach Braff for the part. Then Zach wrote a screenplay for himself, and it got the green light. So, he called, and he regretted it very much. But we said, "You have your own movie to direct?"
Raynold Gideon: "Please, go with God." I think someone's recorder stopped. You got to go digital, man. Digital!
Bruce A. Evans: We wanted to see Dane Cook. But he couldn't come in because he was on tour. One day the casting director gets a DVD, and he tells us that we should look at it. It was Dane in a motel room lit by a bedside light...
Raynold Gideon: Honest.
Bruce A. Evans: And it was shaky video. His manager was videotaping and reading the off stage lines. So, Dane did the scene inside the office with Mr. Brooks, and we said, "There's our guy."
Raynold Gideon: We knew he was a comic, but we hadn't seen his concerts or anything. So we had no prejudgments on whether he could do it or not. He was terrific. And he's just such a great guy. Dane is just super.
Did Dane ever do any improvising?
Raynold Gideon: No. Word for word. Costner said from day one that we wouldn't deviate from the script.
Bruce A. Evans: We've been very fortunate twice. On Stand By Me, Rob Reiner said word for word. Once we finished the script, Rob said he would only do it word for word. Some of the kids tried to be clever. No. The writers are very smart. They work very hard. You kids say the words. With this, we would want it to be word for word, but Kevin was even more adamant than we were. This was going to be the script that we do. If we deviate from this, and we try and be clever, we could end up with less than what we hoped. So Kevin was a very strong advocate for keeping the script in tact.
Raynold Gideon: Yeah, Bruce said, "You know, next week, we should cut a few lines." And Costner goes, "No! Don't do that! Leave it alone! Don't screw up your own script! Believe me, you're not smart enough to know where you were six months ago, so just don't do it." And it's just so unusual to have a star protect the script like that. My God, you know.
Did you always intend to end the film with a dream sequence?
Bruce A. Evans: It's not a dream. I prefer to call it a nightmare. It was always there. It always ended the way it ends. It was always in the script. We wrote the script. We finally got it to Kevin. And from that moment on the script hasn't changed.
We don't want to give away the end of the movie...
Bruce A. Evans: Thank you.
But just to understand the thought process behind it, was there a reason that you would want to show Daniel's character doing that?
Bruce A. Evans: At the beginning of the movie, Marg says to Kevin, "Nothing she does is wrong to you." And it was always our conceit that Daniel was the love of his life. She was Kevin's hope for the future. You know, he loves his wife. But he has this child that could be better than him. And nothing that she does is wrong. He loves her to pieces. But, at the end of the movie, the thing he loves the most is now the thing he fears the most. So, the killer didn't get away with doing all of the bad things he has done. Now, he is tortured beyond belief. Mentally.
Raynold Gideon: He now has a worse fate than if he had been killed. Now he will live in torture.
Well, we see that his soul is tortured at the beginning of the movie.
Raynold Gideon: And if you thought that was bad, wait until now.
It's interesting that you don't show Mr. Brooks' life without Marshall. Why do you start off at that point.
Bruce A. Evans: It's the old idea that you get into any scene that you're writing at the last possible moment. We felt that we had got Marshall into the movie at the last possible moment that we had to get him into the movie.
Raynold Gideon: And you have to get out of the scene at the earliest possible moment. Before the audience goes, "Uh-uh!"
Bruce A. Evans: We didn't feel that we needed to explain Mr. Brooks. You are going to get to know him in the next two hours as well as anybody does. For you to know a whole lot up front, then you'd just be bored for the rest of the movie.
Did you take any inspiration for this movie from real life? Is this based on anybody you know?
Raynold Gideon: Oh, yes.
Bruce A. Evans: It came from our sick minds.
Raynold Gideon: (pointing to Bruce) He is the real killer. He is the real killer...No, we just became suddenly fascinated by doing a film about a serial killer. All of a sudden we said, "Ah, a serial killer." Unfortunately, when we become that interested in something, we don't let go of it until it's done.
Bruce A. Evans: It's like when people ask us where we got the idea for Starman. We wanted to do a love story. We thought, what separates people now? People get a divorce, they get together. Two people are gay, they get together. There's really nothing that separates people anymore. Maybe he's from Prague. Then you go, "How boring is that?" Then one day, we say, "What if the next real immigrant came from the stars?" Then it all just started pouring out. It was the process of constantly putting the story in, and asking, "What if?" If we're bored with the answer to "what if?" Then there's a good chance the audience is going to be bored with it too. You try to come up with something that is unboring.
Did you ever get any resistance from the studios about making the film?
Bruce A. Evans: When we got the script out, some of the studios said, "No, this is not a serial killer. You guys are way off base. Serial killers are loners, like Ted Bundy. They are total sociopaths, they have no one around them. Then they caught the BTK Killer.
Raynold Gideon: Six months after we finished the script. Here's a guy, he's an elder in the church. He was the pillar of his community. He had kids, which he never harmed. But he killed twenty-five people. So, you go, okay...
Bruce A. Evans: Was it twenty-five or twelve? We don't know, but he killed enough to be a serial killer. I'm not sure how many people you have to kill to become a serial killer. I don't know if there is a cut off point.
Raynold Gideon: Since the BTK Killer, the FBI has changed their profile about looking, because as you said, they are looking for weirdoes and addicts. But they're not just weirdoes and addicts. It's also the guy next door.
How did Kevin come on originally?
Bruce A. Evans: We always had Kevin in mind. Kevin Reynolds is a very good friend of mine. We wrote a script that Kevin Reynolds was interested in directing, and we got to be very good friends with him. We asked Kevin Reynolds to give Kevin Costner the script for Mr. Brooks with the idea of me directing. We didn't want him to thank that, since we were handing the script to Kevin Costner, that we wanted him to direct it. We wanted to be very upfront about that. So, Kevin Reynolds read it, and then through a series of misadventures, he got it to Kevin, and Kevin read it. Otherwise, we would have gone to agents and managers, "Please read this." "No, he is busy forever. We don't have an offer." All of that.
Raynold Gideon: It's so hard to get a star to read. Kevin is probably one of the only major stars that will read a script without an offer. We were very fortunate in that way. He does it all the time.
Mr. Brooks opens on June 1st, 2007.