Screenwriter and Producer discuss bringing Philip K. Dick's futuristic saga to the big screen
Based on an adaptation of Philip K. Dick's The Golden Man, Next sees Nicholas Cage play a man who can see into the future and change it any way that he wants. As he tries to avoid capture by a government organization, he must win the love of a woman (Julianne Moore) who he learns will be the mother of his child.
We recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Next Screenwriter/Executive Producer Gary Goldman and Executive Producer Jason Koornick. They spoke about the film, working with the cast and what they have coming up next...
What attracted you guys to the story of Next? Did it have anything to do with the fact that the main character can control the future somewhat?
Gary Goldman: Absolutely. The ideas was two things, one, it was a slightly differently take on the idea of the Precog which occurred in Minority Report. In this case the character is much more normal. It takes place in a contemporary setting. It involved his personal choices and how he uses his power in his own life, rather than for any kind of futuristic justice system. The other part was the cinematic possibilities of actually showing his point of view on screen. Showing what it would be like to be a Precog and to have to your future, to see it numerous times and be able to choose the best path out of many.
What for you guys was the most difficult part of making this movie? Philip K. Dick's stories they take you for a ride and I can only imagine how that is putting it on the big screen?
Jason Koornick: The Philip K. Dick stuff... that was the easy part. I think the challenging part, when you sell a movie to a studio is to know that your fate is in somebody else's hands. There's a very anxious period of waiting for your movie to get greenlit. That was one of the biggest challenges for me.
Gary Goldman: You can go very, very far down this road trying to imagine what it's like trying to be able to see not only one future, which is supposed to happen, but to sort among the various futures that can happen. You can really get lost and make a movie which is too abstract. In this case the challenge of the production was to streamline all these possibilities down to a simple story that would begin to explore, and would begin to demonstrate the possibilities of that concept. In a sense it was kind of limiting. We had to figure out where to stop because we could have done something that was more intellectual and abstract.
Was there anything about the production that really surprised you guys? Something you thought was going to be easy but ended up being difficult? Or, vice versa?
Gary Goldman: I think some of the most interesting sequences in the screenplay ended up not contributing to the forward motion of the story. Some of the best stuff didn't make it to the screen. They were decided that they had to be sacrificed for the good of the picture.
What was it like working with Nicholas and Julianne Moore?
Gary Goldman: Julianne was attracted to the material in part because her... she hadn't played anything quite like this. Basically, she gets into an intellectual battle with Nic Cage's character because in order to catch him, he's a person, because of his ability, is impossible to catch, to contain, to shoot, to hit, to confine. In order to get what she wants, to capture him and use him in fighting terrorism, she has to come to understand his ability to really get into his mind. That is what was most interesting for her.
For Nic, this character is a man who is not like the rest of us. Nic Cage has a real identification with the outsider and he brought that feeling to the screen more than any other star.
Jason Koornick: Add to that he's such a fan, a genre fan, he knows Philip K. Dick. The project was on his radar from the very beginning. When Gary turned in the completed screenplay he read it right away and loved it. That kicked everything into gear.
Jason, having produced a documentary on Philip K. Dick was getting to produce one of his stories as a feature a passion project for you?
Jason Koornick: Yeah, I'd define it as a passion project. Not in the sense that I go off and make non-passion projects. As a Producer I feel like, "Yes, I'm looking for material that is commercial and sellable in the current marketplace." At the end of the day I have to believe in it. This is one of those projects, like the others I am working on, that I can get behind and speak of and get excited about. Thankfully, it's also commercially viable. They're all passion projects.
Gary, as a writer on the film, what was the most difficult part in adapting Philip K. Dick's story?
Gary Goldman: In this particular case I wasn't concerned about the budget in part because I wrote it on spec and I didn't have to worry about it. It seems like I specialize in these giant movies and that they want me to write it big. In fact the movie has a certain scope to it. I would say the scope of the film is bigger than the screenplay that I wrote. The hard part for me is that I start out wanting to be completely faithful to my source material, whatever it is. I have a huge respect for Phil Dick and I would like to have done a very faithful adaptation of his work.
The problem was that there had been earlier attempts to adapt this project that didn't go anywhere. I knew that it wouldn't be possible, really, to do the straightforward story. Then the question became, "What do you have to do differently?" There are any number of important ideas in this story which could be separate stories all on their own but which there really wasn't room for. I suppose the answer is, I had to find the one idea in the story to use as the kernel, the seed, for the whole movie. In that case it meant restricting it strictly to his power which is his ability to remember his future the way that we remember our past.
Other things are that he's spectacularly handsome and all women are attracted to him the instant they see him and want to have sex with him and have his babies. You would think that would be very cinematic but in the end it was kind of a line. If he went down that path, you've got a very cheesy movie that undercuts the real value of the deeper concept.
What are you working on next? Which is kind of an ironic question to end the interview with.
Gary Goldman: (laughs) Hopefully it will be the sequel to Next. The Next: Next. I've got another Philip K. Dick project based on a short story called the The Hoodmaker, that I'm working on. We're trying to set that up now. That's about telepathy in the future. In the context of total information awareness. Then I have a screenplay that I wrote on spec for myself to direct which I hope will be... I'm in the process of casting right now.
Does that have a title?
Gary Goldman: It's called Brainchild.
Jason Koornick: I'm producing a mini-series about Magellan's circular navigation of the globe. I'm involved in the biopic of Philip K. Dick starring Paul Giamatti. I'm Executive Producer of that. I originated that project. We'll hopefully shoot that in a year from now. There's no script yet. I just optioned a graphic novel called Bluesman. Which is a story about two traveling Blues Musicians in the South during the Depression.
Next comes to theaters everywhere April 27 from Paramount Pictures.