Interview: Roger Avary and Neil Gaiman

Last week we got the chance to sit down and talk with Roger Avary (Pulp Fiction, Rules of Attraction) and Neil Gaiman (Sandman, Stardust), the screenwriter’s of Robert Zemeckis’ Beowulf. During the roundtable interview, we heard tales about the 10 year struggle to bring Beowulf to the screen, the magic of performance capture, the troubles with adapting a poem into a feature film, the possibility of comic books during the Writers Strike, and the mismarketing of Stardust. Check out the interview below.


Question: When did you guys start on Beowulf?

Gaiman: 10 and half year now. We went off to write the first draft of the script for Beowulf in May 1997. And wrote it, in two weeks of absolute madness, and then we came back and sold it to Bob Zemeckis’s company for Roger to direct and it even got green lit, which is one of those funny things about movies because green lights can also get turned off again. So, just before he was about to go scouting for locations. And then Imagemovers and we tried to get it made together, and we eventually got the rights back, and Roger was about to make it himself when the phantom call came.

Avary: I was planning on doing a very small production of it with a French producer.

We were looking at 20 million dollars and glove puppet things.

Avary: Can you imagine Terry Gilliam’s Jabberwocky or Polansky’s Macbeth. Ya know, Excalibur was actually a small production in it’s day. Those were the markers, ( “A lot of fog.”) That was what sort of over stylizing to compensate for the lack of ability to do 3D modeling.
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Return to Castle WolfensteinMany of you might not remember this but, before Quake, Before Doom, there was Wolfenstein 3D – considered to be the first first person shooter video gameof all time. It’s even more popular sequel, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, was released in November 2001. And now Pulp Fiction co-writer Roger Avary is set to write and direct a feature film adaptation.

The game is based on Castle Wewelsburg, a 17th century castle occupied by the Germans under Heinrich Himmler’s control, and used for occult rituals and practices. The game begins in Nazi-occupied Europe during 1943 and revolves around U.S. Army Ranger B.J. Blazkowicz, who, along with another agent, is sent to investigate rumors surrounding one of Heinrich Himmler’s personal projects, the SS Paranormal Division. The agents are, however, captured before completing their mission and are imprisoned in Castle Wolfenstein. Blazkowicz must escape the castle and continue investigating the activities of the SS Paranormal Division, which include research on resurrecting corpses, bio-technology, and secret weapons.

While Return to Castle Woldenstein is technically a sequel, without the name and the occasional in-game references, it might be unrecognizable as a part of the series.

There are not many video game properties that have the potential to be made into an entertaining movie, but this may be one of them. And Roger Avary is a geek an academy award winning writer in his own right. In addition to co-writing the upcoming Robert Zemeckis computer animated Beowulf with Neil Gaiman, Avary was also behind The Rules of Attraction and Killing Zoe, two very underrated indie films which you should probably add to your Netflix list. Oh yeah, and he helped scribble out a little film titled Pulp Fiction.


Note: This article was posted live from Comic Con during the panel. So please excuse us if we dont go into many details on some stories. I’m typing as fast and accurately as we can. :)

6,500 people have packed the big exhibition hall (which looks like a very large warehouse or airport hanger) for the Paramount panel. Before the panel we got the usual lecture about not video taping the video and photo presentations. Apparently last year a few things turned up on YouTube. Te program director warns us that if this keeps happening that the studio will stop bringing the great footage to the con.

They announced this year that the questions will be screened ahead of time. And if someone starts asking a question that is not the question that was screened, they will press the kill switch and the person will be removed. I’m wondering if this is just to protect the panelists from inappropriate and rude questions or if it also is to protect the content (ie don’t allow anyone to ask any questions about _____)
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Comic-Con Preview: 20 Minutes of Beowulf 3D


Last night a movie theater full of film press packed a big digital theater in downtown San Diego to watch 20 minutes of Robert Zemeckis’ Beowulf. Screenwriters Roger Avary and Neil Gaiman were on hand to field questions following the screening. The screening started late because the theater was at the end of a multi-level labyrinth they call an outdoor mall. Security was tight – we weren’t allowed to take in our camera, iPhone, or even digital audio recording device. We are the first public audience to see any of the footage so it seems reasonable enough. Although I’m not sure what someone would do with blurry handheld footage of the double processed 3D footage. I assume such footage would be totally unwatchable.

They began the screening with the movie trailer which is now online. Gaiman, in a Superman’s Dead t-shirt, told the crowd to put on their “magic beowulf glasses.” Te lights went out and the trailer played in digital 3d. I won’t focus long on the trailer since it’s now public, but I will say that it was definitely much better in 3D. At one point the blood sprays off the screen at the audience, which is a cool effect.
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