Screenwriters Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi both burst onto the scene in 2001 with their debut film Crazy/Beautiful. Nearly a decade after their debut, they have a surefire blockbuster on their hands. Hay and Manfredi are the screenwriters behind this weekend's pre-summer tentpole Clash of the Titans, which will hit theaters nationwide on April 2 and, despite their busy schedule with a growing slate of films they're currently developing, we managed to get them on the phone to chat about their latest projects and so much more. Here's what these hot screenwriters had to say:
The development of this film goes back about eight years or so, with writers like Lawrence Kasdan, Travis Beacham and others. When you guys came on, was it a page-one rewrite or were there elements of the earlier drafts that stuck?
Phil Hay: Basically, Travis Beacham's draft was our launching point. That definitely has underpinnings for a lot of it. Then we kind of came in with Louis and really tried to figure out how to tell this story through Louis' eyes. When we came in, it was taking Travis' work as a great starting point and then going back to the mythology itself, going back to the original movie.
You guys came on in 2008, I believe?
Matt Manfredi: Yeah. July 2008 we came in, right when Louis did.
You guys started shooting in April of 2009 then. Were you both kind of under the gun to deliver this script or did it go pretty smoothly?
Matt Manfredi: It went pretty smoothly. We holed up with Louis and the producer, Basil Iwanyk, and we just had talks about tone, what it had to be and we outlined very meticulously and then we just started going.
Phil Hay: It was a kind of hectic process because there was this release date they were really aiming for and it was up to us to make it happen at that time. We were constantly working with the line producer, with the designers, all through Louis. It was an interesting experience because everything was sort of happening at the same time. It was cool to be basically camped out at the studio, being surrounded by all this stuff. The minute we would write something, it would bounce out to the designers and it would bounce back to us and we would evolve it. It was a very active process at all times.
Had you guys ever been involved in something like that, where everything is going simultaneously?
Matt Manfredi: Not as intensely as this. It was a great thing to be a part of and it was a great learning experience.
Phil Hay: The creature design in Crazy/Beautiful, though... (Laughs)
(Laughs) Ah yes. I've heard that was a very tough process to go through.
Matt Manfredi: Oh yeah. They couldn't afford what we really wanted to do, so...
Can you guys talk about working with Louis Leterrier and his sensibilities as a director, compared to some of the other directors you've worked with in the past?
Phil Hay: We've been lucky to work with a lot of really great directors, all of whom have been really different in style. One of the first things we noted and bonded with Louis over was his energy and his lack of cynicism and his love of genre and his quest for awesomeness (Laughs). That's a way we define Louis' approach. He's a great combination of energetic and spontaneous but with an underpinning of huge planning. He's incredibly prepared and thinks everything through.
Matt Manfredi: Yeah, Phil is right. He has such a great imagination, such a sense of fun and at the same time, it's so well planned out and all the action is thought out beforehand and it's very inspiring to work with him and meld with that energy.
Phil Hay: Exactly. Everybody in the production had that same feeling. Everybody caught on with his exuberant energy and everyone fed off that.
Matt Manfredi: Yeah. Like Phil was saying, with his lack of cynicism and being a big genre fan was exactly what was needed for this. It's Clash of the Titans. It's a big fun adventure movie and you have to commit to that and he has that imaginative, fun style. The energy was exactly what was needed for that.
When this cast started to come together, how did this fit with how you guys mentally imagined the characters? This is an amazing cast here. What were your thoughts on working with Sam and the rest of the cast?
Matt Manfredi: When people came in, we were amazed by each of them. We were just so excited to get people of this level for the part. Sam came in and, it was funny because he had a very strong impact on the character. He had a lot of really good ideas, he had his own interpretations of the script, at that point, that he brought to it. We really jumped in with him too immediately and I think Sam's contributions really enhanced the character.
Phil Hay: Yeah. He's just really great and fun and so good. Very much like Louis, but in a different way, Sam is like a leader. He definitely gets people fired up and he's always pushing and probing for things to be better and people really see that energy as well.
Matt Manfredi: Yeah, and Sam, we weren't as familiar with him because, those big movies that he's been in, Terminator Salvation and Avatar, weren't out when he was cast in this. The producers had seen a little bit of it and obviously the studio had confidence in him and when we finally met him and heard his take on the script, we were in good hands. He's very smart, he's really sharp and he has great intensity that we knew would be great for Perseus.
Phil Hay: And then, when we got to the Gods, there's a very small list of people you can imagine playing Zeus and Hades and guys like that. We got the two that we immediately wanted. It was kind of amazing. Then we spent a lot time in England, right before the movie started shooting, workshopping the script with the actors that formed the Journeymen as well, and they're all great, European actors and British actors who brought a lot of stuff in. Gemma is so great and Alexa is so great. I just feel we really hit the jackpot with these actors. They're all very smart with a point of view and one of the great things about the way Louis works is he wants that point of view. He wants us to incorporate the good ideas that those guys have.
Obviously, when you guys were writing this, you didn't know that it was going to be converted into 3D. If you had known that, would that change anything with the writing at all? Would you have written scenes that are more geared towards 3D or would that not have had any impact?
Matt Manfredi: I don't think so. The way that 3D is being used, I think it's being used to create this more immersive experience, as opposed to focusing on things popping out at you. As we were writing it, we were close with Louis in talking about what the action was going to be. It was always going to be kinetic and very energetic.
Phil Hay: It's an interesting question because, as Matt said, we were intimately involved in working out the action beats, being a big part of this experience and I don't know if it would. I don't think it would change the actual writing as much, as opposed to the shooting of it.
Louis Leterrier recently revealed that he had a sort of master plan for a trilogy. Have you guys been talking about that at all or are you hatching any ideas?
Phil Hay: Sure. During the whole process, you never know if you're going to get the opportunity until you see it and if people demand it. We certainly hope they do and it would be great to do. We've definitely been kicking around a lot of very specific ideas and interesting ways we could go. We've had a little time to imagine our best case scenario, so that would be really exciting to do it again.
There was one story I read that Perseus might not be in the other films, that they might go into the whole mythological universe. Is that one of the areas you guys are shooting for?
Matt Manfredi: I think we definitely want Perseus.
Phil Hay: Yeah. We've always imagined it with Perseus.
A Perseus trilogy, perhaps?
Phil Hay: If we're that lucky, I'd be a very, very pleased man.
You guys have a lot of high-profile projects in development now. I was wondering if you could talk about R.I.P.D., with David Dobkin attached to direct. Are you getting into casting now? What is the status of that project?
Phil Hay: I know that the casting part is very active right now. I can't really say anything about it, but I think there are some big possibilities coming up. They are definitely making a lot of moves and I think the studio is really ramping up the efforts to put that movie together. We would be very excited about that.
Do you think we'll be hearing more about that in the near future?
Matt Manfredi: Yeah, hopefully soon.
Phil Hay: We don't mean to be cryptic.
Phil Hay: There has been nothing specific but it's always pretty awesome to hear that people are into it and that are excited about it. I know that the studio is actively trying to put it together right now. Nothing official has happened and I just think there's some good freelance excitement (Laughs). We're just waiting to hear how it's going to come together, at this point in time.
What would you think of Rob Corddry starring in that film?
Matt Manfredi: Oh, I love that guy. I think he's amazing.
Phil Hay: I think there are actually a couple of parts in there that he would be well-suited for.
You also have films like Staycation and The Talent Thief in development as well. Out of these four, which one do you think would have the best chance of going forward next?
Phil Hay: Well, it's interesting. Staycation we're very actively writing right now. We're basically about to turn it in. A lot of our efforts are very focused on trying to make that happen. It's for Todd Phillips, who is amazing and we love working with, so hopefully we can get excited about that. With The Boys and R.I.P.D., once they figure out, knock on wood, that they're able to get them casted and get going, we'd obviously be readily available to jump back into those, as we love them both so much. They're very different from each other, but they both reflect a part of us.
I believe all of these have been kicking around for quite awhile now. Is it nice for these to all be getting some traction these days?
Phil Hay: Yeah. The not-so-secret secret of Hollywood is that it's very rare that you write a draft of a script, you send it in, and everybody is like, 'OK, let's go' (Laughs). It's a long process. The Boys, actually, is fairly recent. There's been a great sense of momentum ever since we've got that to the studio.
Matt Manfredi: When did we do that?
Phil Hay: Just before Christmas. That's a really good thing. R.I.P.D. is a kind of different thing where it's persistent. It's been so close to going, so many times and for a movie as big as that is, there are so many factors that have to come together.
Matt Manfredi: The scale is obviously a factor in that.
Phil Hay: The fact that it's persistent and that people really seem to like it, have stuck with the script and have been a passionate advocate for it over the years, it's an awesome thing to see. I can't wait to see it going.
Finally, what would you like to say to any fans of the 1981 classic or anyone else who is curious about checking out Clash of the Titans this weekend?
Matt Manfredi: Well, we're fans of the original as well and obviously we hope you enjoy this new version of it.
Phil Hay: Yeah. We hope you have fun with it and see it in the spirit that it was made, with a lot of love and a lot of nods towards the original. Yeah, we just hope everybody likes it.
Excellent. That's all I have for you guys. Thanks so much for your time and best of luck with all your new projects. They all sound rather awesome.
Matt Manfredi: Cool. Thank you.
Phil Hay: Thank you.
You can watch Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi's script come to life when Clash of the Titans hits theaters on April 2. The film was directed by Louis Leterrier and stars Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Alexa Davalos, Gemma Arterton, Mads Mikkelsen, Jason Flemyng, Pete Postlethwaite, Polly Walker and Danny Huston.