Writer takes stab at directing -- with third `Blade'

Boyhood love of comic books serves him well

December 07, 2004|By Terry Lawson | Terry Lawson,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

David S. Goyer grew up in an Ann Arbor, Mich., home where books were everywhere, and he was raised by his mother to believe that reading was "pure pleasure, not some chore or duty."

So although other relatives may have expected Goyer to study law or medicine when he was accepted at the University of Michigan, his mother, whom he describes as a "frustrated artist," not only accepted but also encouraged her son to concentrate on writing. But did she ever imagine his talent would be put in the service of comic books?

"Probably not," says Goyer, in Detroit last month to attend a sneak preview of Blade: Trinity the comic book-inspired action movie he wrote and directed, and to sign posters and comics at a local shop. "But I didn't, even though I always loved them. I used to spend a lot of time at this comics store in Ann Arbor that was owned by this guy named Norm Harris.

"I'd go in there with bag of [fast food] and hang out all afternoon, reading more than I bought. Then when I got home, I would find that Norm had slipped some old, valuable comics worth $10 or $20 each in my bag. He was sort of encouraging me to go deeper, I guess, without making a big deal of it."

It obviously paid off. After graduating from Michigan in 1984, Goyer enrolled in the film school at the University of Southern California and eventually became a teaching assistant to screenwriter Nelson Gidding, who had written scripts for, among others, 1958's I Want to Live! with Susan Hayward, the 1963 horror classic The Haunting and 1971's The Andromeda Strain. Only months after he graduated, Goyer had a job writing a movie called Death Warrant for action star Jean-Claude Van Damme.

His understanding and affection for comics and fantasy made him the natural choice to write the first installment of Blade, based on the comic about a half-vampire half-human who seeks vengeance on the underground gang of vampires that infected his pregnant mother.

The 1998 film, with Wesley Snipes in the title role, was a box-office hit, and Goyer returned to write and produce the 2002 sequel, Blade II, directed by another comic obsessive, Guillermo del Toro.

The Mexican director's stylish approach to the material, says Goyer, was responsible for getting him released from "movie jail" -- his two previous U.S. films had failed to find much of an audience -- and recruited to direct one of the best-ever comics movies, last year's Hell Boy. With del Toro's encouragement, Goyer felt ready to take over the directing job on the alleged conclusion of the series, which opens nationwide tomorrow. (The Sun will review the film in tomorrow's editions.)

Soon after, Goyer was tapped to write the screenplay designed to re-launch the biggest comics franchise of them all -- Batman Begins, coming in June.

Directing was "a little scary," he admits. "But I had done some assistant directing on the first two Blade movies, and I produced the second one, and I spent a lot of time with [del Toro], who was really helpful.

"And I had directed a movie before, although it was nothing like this."

Goyer said he felt more confident he had written something with more wit and character depth than your everyday comic-book movie when he sent a script to Parker Posey, suggesting she would do a great job as snarky vampire villain Danica Talos, and she accepted.

"She's not an action-movie kind of actress, but I really wanted to upset some of the preconceptions, so I thought I'd ask," Goyer says. "I tried not to act shocked when she called to say she wanted to do it, but I was."

"I'm usually not a fan [of action movies]," Posey says. "I just thought the Blade movies were more grounded." And being a fan of vampires, she "thought playing one could be really cool."

Goyer also recruited Jessica Biel of TV's 7th Heaven and versatile Ryan Reynolds, who had the title role in Van Wilder, to play the leaders of the Nightstalkers, with whom Blade teams to take on a vampire uprising that is led by the biggest bloodsucker of them all, Dracula (Dominic Purcell). He then enrolled them all in a training program to prepare them for the physical challenges of making the movie and to acquaint them with the weaponry involved. The old stake through the heart just doesn't do the trick these days.

The ending of Blade: Trinity leaves room for, at the very least, a spin-off, but Goyer says this will be probably spell the end of his involvement.

He was already at work on Batman Begins when Trinity was being shot and says that if the re-imagining of the Dark Knight saga -- on which Batman Begins is based -- is successful, he would be more than happy to work on another chapter.

"The reason we're excited is that the original story has never been told on-screen, not even in the old serials. So this is really a fresh start, and what I've seen of it looks fantastic. I think [Nolan] and Ang Lee are about the best directors in the business now, so I'm really honored to have had the opportunity. But I'm just like every other Batman fan now. I can't wait to see the finished film. I've got my fingers crossed."

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