Richard Kelly recently appeared at Kevin Smith’s Smodcastle in Hollywood California to present a screening of Southland Tales. Before the screening, Smith recorded a one and a half hour conversation with Kelly which begins with his childhood and spans his filmmaking career. It’s a very interesting conversation and definitely worth checking out (you can listen to it online here). One of the interesting takeaways from the conversation was the mention that Kelly still hopes to someday direct a movie adaptation of the Southland Tales prequel comic books. Actually, he’s already written it — twice!

“There is another screenplay in place. It’s funny because I wrote scripts that I handed over to Brett Weldele to illustrate for the graphic novel, and now I’ve taken that graphic novel and adapted it into a new screenplay, which is streamlined and more coherent. So it’s becoming so meta that I don’t know what”s reality anymore.”

For those of you who don’t understand, the film Southland Takes was meant to be chapters 4-6 of a six chapter story. The first three volumes were released as graphic novels (available here).

“I knew I had bitten off more than I could chew. I knew that people wouldn’t understand Southland Tales unless they read the graphic novels. And .5% of the people who see this movie are going to have read the books… … But I still to this day feel like Southland Tales is an unfinished film, and if it takes me until I’m in a wheelchair breathing oxygen, I’m going to figure out how to advance the graphic novels further — whether its trying to put them together as a low budget animated film, whether it looks like Waltz with Bashir or it looks like one of The Animatrix prequels… I still want to figure out a way to tell the entire Southland Tales story over six chapters because I think it would make a lot more sense to people and I think people would reassess the entire film and what it is.”

But it gets even more complicated. The graphic novel trilogy contains actual pages of the screenplay that Boxer Santaros (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s character in the movie) is seen reading in the film. Kelly has not only adapted the three prequel graphic novels, but has written an adaptation of the screenplay within the film that appears in the comic for the prequel screenplay adaptation. Confused? Kelly explains:

“When you see the movie, you see that Dwayne Johnson is reading a script called “The Power”, and there is actually excerpts of the script in the graphic novel. And you realize what the origin of the script is really all about, it’s this crazy analysis of the book of revelations. I’ve actually, to be honest, I’ve taken the graphic novels and in my spare time, I’ve written a screenplay based on the three graphic novels, which I know sounds a little confusing. Basically, I took the three graphic novels after having a few years away from them, and I streamlined them — I wrote a 120-page screenplay for if I ever make an animated film out of the graphic novels. And I would basically handle it as whenever Boxer is reading the screenplay, you go into his mind and you see the actors portraying the ridiculousness of what happens in that screenplay — with the baby, the farting and the earthquakes. The insanity of the screenplay within the graphic novel. There is a very specific plan I have to do that, i that day ever arrives when I can figure out how to bring it all together and make it visual.”

I’ve read the graphic novels, and they do explain a lot and make Kelly’s 2006 film a better movie. But it worries me that Kelly has been able to take the 360-page graphic novel and turn it into a lean 120 page script. My guess is that the screenplay adaptation will confuse rather than inform. I still prefer the original cut of Donnie Darko to the Director’s Cut, which attempts to explain too much by including some of the added material from the supplemental websites.

As much as I’d love to see Kelly make an animated Southland Tales prequel, I’m not sure there is an audience. The film has not developed the cult following that Donnie Darko did. But with costs getting cheaper as new technology is developed, it could eventually happen.

You can listen to the whole one and a half hour discussion with Kelly on Smodcast.com.

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