Screenwriter David S. Goyer talks creating a new Superman for Man of Steel, debuting in theaters nationwide June 14
For those who truly appreciate the art of screenwriting, David S. Goyer is one of the best in the biz. Not only was he the story architect behind Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight trilogy, but he also wrote the Blade trilogy and brought us the underrated Dark City and TV shows such as FlashForward and the current Starz hit series Da Vinci's Demons. Now he turns to another superhero by reinventing Superman in fascinating ways with Man of Steel, debuting in theaters nationwide June 14 (/movie/man-of-steel/review-REA42Bl3CGXpDG/CLICK HERE to read my full review). I recently had the chance to sit down with the writer at the press junket to discuss his approach to Superman, how long it took him to write the script, and much more. Here's what he had to say.
I was actually on the set back in 2011, and what really struck me was how you came up with the idea, while you were writing The Dark Knight Rises. It was such a fascinating story, but when you actually signed on and had the deal, how long did that writing process actually take?
David S. Goyer: This was the longest birthing process for a script I've ever been involved in. Usually, I can get a draft out in about three months, and I think this one took about six months. It took a long time to sort of hone in on what our version of the Superman mythology would be. It's a harder adaptation than Batman.
Was Zod (Michael Shannon) always at the front of your mind?
David S. Goyer: Yeah. We had arrived, early on, that we really wanted to explore the reasons for why Clark would announce himself to the world as Superman. We felt like, he probably would have been very happy to continue on with his life, working and anonymously saving people. We thought, there's got to be a reason why someone would basically put on a suit and basically say, 'I'm the savior of mankind.' It's got to be a big reason, and it has to be something world-threatening. Because of that, instantly, it felt like that ruled out, at least in the first film (Lex) Luthor, or someone like that. Then we talked about, 'Well, what if he had to make a choice, between his Kryptonian lineage and his Earth lineage. Once we talked about that, Zod and the Phantom Zone villains became the only choice, really, to use.
Admittedly, I've never been a big comic book guy, so I'm not quite sure how much of this is actually canon, and how much is not. Obviously the characters and the villains are.
I was really blown away by the visuals and these fight scenes.
Is it even possible to imagine stuff like that when you're writing, with these enormous fight scenes?
David S. Goyer: It is possible to imagine it, and Zack is extremely visual. The way we would interact on the script is, Zack tends to draw most of his own storyboards. Sometimes he doesn't have time, but he at least thumbnails everything. He would make these thumbnails on the script, as we were doing revisions on the script, and he would show them to me. 'I was thinking about this,' or 'I was thinking about that.' These are early, early drafts of things, and we would talk about them. Sometimes, I would give my suggestions and he would revise them, and sometimes it would be something he drew that gave me an idea for the script. I got a much earlier glimpse at what everything was going to become, because, at a certain point, he would give me the rough draft of all the storyboards for the whole movie. Late in the game, I tried to revise the script so that it was as close to the storyboards as possible. The crew had a real map, so I knew what it was going to be, even six months before we started shooting, to a certain extent.
What really surprised me was the narrative. I don't know why, maybe because of how the marketing was set it, but I didn't expect all these flashbacks. I really enjoyed it, but I think that's what's great about the marketing, that it subverted expectations to a certain degree, but when you get to see it, it's unlike anything you can imagine.
David S. Goyer: Look, (producer) Chris (Nolan) was a big proponent of holding a lot of things back, and slowly dribbling them out. There's been a lot of material that has been released fairly recently, and some people have said, 'Oh my God, I don't want to see anymore because it's going to reveal too much.' In truth, they might have released five to six minutes of the movie, total. There's so much that people haven't even seen yet.
Especially with this day and age, where everyone speculates about certain things, as you're well aware of on the Batman movies, but we didn't really have a whole lot with this one. You knew who you had coming in, there wasn't much speculation about Luthor or anything like that.
David S. Goyer: There's been some speculation, but most of it has been wrong, which is, I think, a testament to the fact that we just kept our mouths shut.
There is that Easter Egg though.
There was a rumor going around about Jenny, and how she might be a female version of Jimmy Olsen.
David S. Goyer: That was, primarily, just the fans going crazy. There wasn't a deliberate decision to gender-swap Jimmy Olsen.
When I was on the Smallville set (in Plano, Illinois), there was so much destruction there. Did it take a lot of work to find a place that would be right for a shoot like that?
David S. Goyer: Sure. I mean I wasn't involved in all the location scouts. I went on a couple of little scouts, but yeah, we had to find a small town that was relatively close to a large production hub (Chicago). We had to find a town that would play ball, and the people of Plano were amazing. We had a large footprint, and we were there for a long time. One of the things that's funny, though, is they had to plant all that corn. They were worried that it wouldn't be ready in time. We couldn't find a house by a cornfield, or a cornfield by a house, so, in the end, they built the house from scratch, and planted the corn, they did both.
Is there anything further in this DC Universe that you're working on, that you can talk about?
David S. Goyer: You know, I've been working on this film for three years. It comes out in two weeks. It'd be disingenuous to say that Warner Bros. doesn't have hopes, but, at this point, we just want the film to come out, and everybody hope it will do well. Then, we'll see where we'll go from there.
I think it will do phenomenally well.
David S. Goyer: Thanks.