What Drew Composer Michael Giacchino To Direct Marvel's Werewolf By Night? [Exclusive]

Michael Giacchino is no stranger to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He has composed the scores for "Doctor Strange," "Thor: Love and Thunder," and the entire Spider-Man "Home" trilogy, where he reworked the classic 1960s "Spider-Man" theme.

In his latest MCU project, though, he's directing as well as composing. Giacchino helmed the upcoming Disney+ special "Werewolf by Night," which adapts the Marvel horror comic character. Gael García Bernal stars as Jack Russell, the fittingly-named lycanthrope. According to a released plot synopsis, the special centers on monster hunters who gather at the Bloodstone Temple to mourn their late leader. They soon come face-to-face with a monster who may or may not be their doom.

"Werewolf by Night" came out of left-field. The comic and character aren't exactly household names at Marvel and this will be the studio's most overt foray into horror. Plus, Giacchino doesn't have much of a director's portfolio, with only a short film and a "Star Trek: Short Treks" episode to his name. "Werewolf by Night" is not quite feature-length (running about 52 minutes), but it's still the most ambitious project Giacchino has directed.

According to reviews from the special's surprise Fantastic Fest premiere, Giacchino pulled it off. "Werewolf by Night" is a fun, genuinely spooky Universal Horror homage and a refreshing change of pace for those who are Marvel-ed out. Following the premiere, /Film's own Ryan Scott spoke with Giacchino about why he wanted to direct the special.

Why Giacchino wanted to do Werewolf by Night

Giacchino has wanted to direct since an early age; like most aspiring filmmakers, he made home movies as a child. Despite his comfortable composing career, he never let go of that desire to make movies. 

According to Giacchino, while Marvel's Kevin Feige asked him if he was interested in directing an MCU project, Giacchino himself asked that it be "Werewolf by Night." What drew him to the character? Childhood nostalgia for Marvel's own horror comics. Giacchino recounted:

"There's something about that run of horror comics in the '70s that I just absolutely loved. As a kid, I had my share of Iron Man and Spider-Man and Avengers comics. I had all those things. But the things that I almost treasured the most were the horror comics. I loved Werewolf by Night. I loved Man Wolf. I loved Man-Thing. I loved Dracula, Frankenstein. All of those things were incredible."

Based on the brief appearance of Man-Thing in the "Werewolf by Night" trailer, Giacchino managed to include more than one of his favorite characters. However, his influences don't stop there.

Black and white horror fun

With his love of horror comics, it's not surprising that the young Michael Giacchino also loved monster movies. He told /Film:

"My brother and I, we spent every Saturday watching monster movies. That's what we did. That was our church. And our religion was 'Creature Double Feature.' Nothing would stop [us], no matter what we were doing, we were in front of that television every Saturday, outside of Philadelphia, watching 'Creature Double Feature.' So I have this huge, huge, huge place in my heart for those movies. And when you're doing, especially something like 'Creature Double Feature,' you're served up everything. You get the Hammer Horror films, you get the Universal [Monsters] films, you get the Japanese monster movies, you get everything. It was just a smorgasbord of delights that we grew up with. I think that had a lot to do with it."

This love, mixed with an uncertainty of what he "could add" to the superhero side of the MCU, is why Giacchino wanted to direct "Werewolf by Night." Despite his name-dropping of Hammer and Kaiju movies, "Werewolf by Night" looks to be first and foremost a homage to Universal Horror. It's the first MCU project shot primarily in black-and-white and the footage has an added grain effect to replicate the film those old horror movies were shot and projected on.

Marvel's history with horror

Giacchino adds that the horror side of the Marvel comics universe was an area the MCU had left, "completely untouched. And I was like, 'Guys,' I remember telling Kevin, 'You have all these great characters. You have Frankenstein, you have Frankenstein's monster, you have the Werewolf, you have all of this. Let's have some fun in that playground.'"

Indeed, Marvel Comics does have a long history with horror. During the 1950s, superheroes were out of vogue. Marvel (then known as Atlas Comics) published a variety of other genres, including horror. Fin Fang Foom, now an "Iron Man" villain, debuted in one of these monster books, "Strange Tales #89," as a one-off villain.

However, the Comics Code Authority explicitly forbid creatures such as Ghouls, Vampires, and Werewolves. In 1970, writer Marv Wolfman's credit was even flagged as a code violation; his colleague Gerry Conway had to explain "Wolfman" was his name, not a werewolf reference.

The CCA's power waned in the 1970s and horror enjoyed a resurgence at Marvel. Villain Morbius the Living Vampire debuted in 1971's "Amazing Spider-Man #101" (by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane). The next year, Marvel launched a proper vampire book with "Tomb of Dracula." "Werewolf by Night" spun out of Jack Russell's debut in "Marvel Spotlight #2-4" (by Roy & Jean Thomas, Gerry Conway and Mike Ploog). 

Superheroes remained Marvel's bread and butter, though. The company even intermingled horror and superheroes; Dracula faced many heroes while "Werewolf by Night" featured a backdoor pilot for new hero called Moon Knight. While "Werewolf by Night" is apparently refreshingly standalone from the MCU, the special's success could determine if Marvel continues to embrace its horror history.

"Werewolf by Night" premieres on Disney+ on October 7, 2022.