Natalie Portman in the Wachowski Bros. written V for Vendetta
Recently at Comic-Con Movieweb had the privilege of interviewing David Lloyd and Grant Hill about their upcoming project, V For Vendetta. Hill served as a producer and Lloyd illustrated the graphic novel (along with Alan Moore) on which the movie is based. In what was both a funny and insightful conversation, these two men exuded excitement and optimism about their upcoming movie. Written by the Wachowski Bros. (they also shot the 2nd unit photography), and Directed by James McTeigue, V For Vendetta promises to provide action, suspense and a healthy dose of intelligence to today's movie landscape.
Set against the futuristic landscape of totalitarian Britain, V For Vendetta tells the story of a mild-mannered young woman named Evey (Natalie Portman) who is rescued from a life-and-death situation by a masked vigilante known only as "V." Incomparably charismatic and ferociously skilled in the art of combat and deception, V ignites a revolution when he detonates two London landmarks and takes over the government-controlled airwaves, urging his fellow citizens to rise up against tyranny and oppression. As Evey uncovers the truth about V's mysterious background, she also discovers the truth about herself – and emerges as his unlikely ally in the culmination of his plot to bring freedom and justice back to a society fraught with cruelty and corruption.
David Lloyd: I'm not generally a writer, my career is based on illustrative work. There's a book I'm doing for France now, which I've written, and I've written a couple of short stories. But generally speaking, in this business, in comics, if you're successful as an illustrator, they want to keep you illustrating. Because editors want to stay safe, you know they've got their writers and they've got their illustrators, and even if you write as well as you illustrate and you've done it and you like doing it, they prefer to keep people in boxes. Because editors, in the comic's business, they want to be safe. Every book they edit is an important stage in their career, and if they do some books that don't turn out very well their careers are not going in the right direction.
Have you always been drawing since you were a little kid?
David Lloyd: Well, I started doing comics all the time from the age of about 13. When I was in school, and even when I got a job, I got a job training as a commercial artist in an advertising studio and then I was doing them in my lunch hour; I was doing them at home. And then when I left that job, I left it on the promise of actually selling some comics to a newspaper syndicate in Europe. And that fell through and I ended up doing freelance illustration work, for a while, and then at the end of the day, because I liked doing comics and I had a sort of a flair for it, I started doing them full time in about ‘77. And then it just kept on straight from there. I got a break and it just kept on going from one point to another in England and that's it.
How did you approach adapting this material to the big screen?
David Lloyd: It had nothing to do with me, effectively. I mean, I'm glad to say that the producers decided the visual imagery of the book was something they could use for the film, and I didn't work with the guys who were doing it; although it would have been very interesting to do that. So my input was really just from what I'd done on the original book itself.
So they took what was originally done and they went from there? That was a jumping off point for the whole project then?
David Lloyd: Yeah, I guess well you can ask...
At this point 5 military jets fly overhead and producer Grant Hill waits for them to pass.
Grant Hill: (smiling) Makes you feel secure doesn't it?
We all laugh.
Grant Hill: Larry and Andy had done an early draft, 8 years ago I think it was, which David said was very faithful to the graphic novel. Which is what we started out with, actually for awhile it was what we were going into production with. As Joel mentioned, Larry and Andy were pretty burned out when they finished Matrix, they reread it and they were like "We'd really like to get it done", but also because they can't help themselves, once it was being made they were like "We'd really like to do another pass through". And in doing so changed (to David) how did you describe it before? It went from being not as literal as the first draft, and they sort of made it more contemporary. It had some of their own stuff in it.
David Lloyd: Yeah, using some of the political messages of the current world.
(to David Lloyd) You talked earlier in the panel discussion of trying to understand terrorists, and it's interesting because in this country there's like this 60%/40% split, where 40% feel like you do... do you wonder, because this is really one of the first bigger budget films that is really taking a look at that, how do you feel about it?
Grant Hill: I think it's incredibly important. I think that by sticking to the original material in the sense that you took a character who was all manner of things, a very complicated individual... I think all you can do is put all that out there. I think people need information. I don't think anybody needs to be told anything. I just think it needs to be brought up for discussion. Varying people have strong points of view, that's fine, I just wish that they would be informed strong points of view. Whatever they are.
David Lloyd: When people were asking me, before I knew that they were going to make "V", people would ask me, "Do they think they'll make a movie out of it?" And I would always say to people, "I don't think that they will because it's about a terrorist who blows up buildings." The first time I started saying that to people was after 9/11. I never actually thought that it would be done, but the mere fact that you have a big Hollywood studio actually taking that risk... I remember when I spoke to you (Grant Hill) on the phone, you were saying that there was a big debate in the offices about which movies the go for, it's quite brave to do that.
Grant Hill: Studios have what they call a sort of weekend read, everyone gets loaded up on Friday night with 6 or 8 scripts, they have a production meeting on Tuesday, on Monday everyone comes in with their reactions, they all agree what they're going to say when they get in the meeting. What happened is this got taken home for the weekend read. On Monday, it was just, the studio was buzzing. Half of them were saying this terrible, the studio can't link itself with this sort of thing, and the other half was going finally...
We all laugh.
Grant Hill: ...a film that should be made. Look I'm not saying who's right or who's wrong, but the mere fact that people are talking about it... look, a couple of people sit down over lunch and have a discussion about it, well that's a good thing.
It seems that graphic novels, the material, stuff that's derived from it, goes a bit deeper then "comic book movies", I just wanted to know why you think that is?
David Lloyd: Well that's purely because in the last decade, I think, well maybe more then that, 15 years, you've had a series of creators who've come up. Who were very intelligent writers. Frank Miller started it, along with Alan, but Frank Miller had a go with "Dark Night Returns", which had Batman with a psychological subtext. A very complex version. Also, the other thing I think you should bare in mind is DC's "Vertigo" line. Tom Berger set up a line called "Vertigo". The whole intention of it was to print up a comic book miniseries which had a great degree of intelligence. There are lots of really great writers in the business, who want to combine intelligent thoughts and discussions and topics with adventures of one kind or another.
Whether they be the regular, everyday adventures of life or like V For Vendetta?
David Lloyd: Yeah. Also, I'm going to be a little bit patriotic but I'm going to say that a lot of the writers are British. A lot of the writers working and producing some of the best work are British. (Smiling) I just wanted to make that point. As an Englishman.
We then digress a bit to talk about how someone I know thinks the best boxing fans are British as well.
Do you guys feel that the talk and the criticism, that you mentioned, when the script went out, towards the terrorist aspect of the script are justified?
David Lloyd: Has anybody actually made that criticism?
A friend of mine and I were actually just talking about it... wondering if anyone had made any type of comments like that?
David Lloyd: No, I think it's early days to hear any type of adverse reaction, isn't it?
Grant Hill: I think one of the most interesting things in all of this, and it's a credit to them, is in order for us to be able to do what we did in London. Which was basically to shut down all of Westminster for 3 nights and all of the front of Parliament, driving tanks, put soldiers on the perimeter around the palace. In order to do that, we had sort of 6 to 9 months of going through every Anti-Terrorist police, the Metropolitan police, Diplomatic Protection Crew, whatever... . Now along with that goes a lot of negotiations to allow us to be able to do that. People brought up difficulties of a logistical type, nobody ever said we don't want to support this... I was surprised, I have to tell you, that somebody didn't say, "Did we all read this?"
We all laugh.
Grant Hill: No, a number of them were quite enthusiastic. I just hope that the broader public, if they can take the attitude that this is a film, it is just postulating a set of circumstances, I would hope the public could sort of do that.
David Lloyd: And if there is controversy it could be good.
David Lloyd: It'd be good for the subject and good for the film. It will be good.
Grant Hill: Informed controversy.
David Lloyd: You know, I think anybody that gets upset about it, even if they protest on the streets, that's fine because they have a right to protest, and they have the freedom to protest and that would make an important point.