The other day I spoke with to screenwriter Stuart Beattie about his work on “G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra”. We did a phone interview as he’s currently in Australia scouting locations and prepping his first feature “Tomorrow, When the War Began”. In a few weeks I’ll post everything he said about “Joe”, but today I wanted to focus on what he said about all the other projects he’s involved with.
In case you didn’t know, Stuart is writing/developing “Tarzan: Lord Of The Jungle” for director Stephen Sommers at Warner Brothers, “The 89th War” for Ron Howard, “Bra Boys” for Russell Crowe, Tom Clancy’s “Without Remorse”, and “Spyhunter” for Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. He also wrote a script for a “Halo” movie completely on spec and he told me his take on the material and when he believes Hollywood will finally make a great video game movie.
It’s a great interview so check it out after the jump:
Since we talked about so many projects, here’s some of the highlights:
Tarzan: Lord of the Jungle
- Says Warner Bros. and Stephen Sommers are trying to work out the budget right now and if they can agree on a number, it could be his next project.
- It’s a period piece. Takes place in 1933.
- Has a supernatural element
- Calls it a, “big, fun summer spectacle”
The 89th War
- Says he’s delivering the first draft this week to Ron Howard
Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse
- Says it’s at Lionsgate and they’re thinking about making it. Says, “It’s my favorite [Tom] Clancy book and I was really proud of that script. It was the hardest adaptation I’ve ever done and I guess they’re looking for a filmmaker.”
- Says when Russell Crowe is done with Robin Hood they’ll dive back into that. He also says they’re “almost ready to go” with it.
- Says it’s a $100 million dollar movie and it needs a filmmaker that the studio trusts with that kind of budget. Calls it a fun summer movie. Says he worked very closely with Dwayne Johnson on the script. But the way he talked about it…it’s not happening anytime soon.
Tomorrow, When the War Began
- It’s his directing debut that’s an indie Australian film
- Starts shooting later this year
- Casting will be announced in a few months
- About eight teenagers that kind of get trapped on their own when Australia gets invaded
- Based on a best-selling series of books called “The Tomorrow Series”
- During the writers’ strike Stuart wrote a script for a possible Halo movie. He wrote it completely on spec – meaning he wasn’t paid. He wasn’t told how to write it or what it should be about. He just loves the game and did it for himself. Saying that, if you’re curious what he wanted to do with the movie, at the end of this interview he describes the entire story and what it’ll take for Hollywood to finally make the great video game movie. Sounds very cool.
And with that, here’s the entire transcript of our conversation. Look for what he said about “G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra” closer to the film’s release.
Collider: So what’s the status of “Tarzan: Lord of the Jungle”?
BEATTIE: It’s at Warner Brothers. They’re deciding how much money… there’s like a battle over the budget of that. People do it one way, studio wants it another way and they’re just trying to find a middle ground.
So do you think that could be [Stephen Sommers'] next project, if the budget comes together?
BEATTIE: Yeah. Yeah, if they reach an agreement, yeah. Very much could be.
With Tarzan, is that a modern day thing? What’s your take on it?
BEATTIE: Oh no. It’s a period. It’s a period. You have to be “Tarzan” period, I think. It’s kind of like…”Tarzan”, I think, probably the most filmed story of all, so our belief in doing a “Tarzan” movie today was you couldn’t go tell the raised by gorillas and loincloths and “Me: Tarzan and You: Jane”-story because it’s been done so much and it’s just not interesting anymore. So it was much more big romantic action-adventure film with supernatural stuff and witch doctor and lots of really fun stuff. And mythic Africa, like that deep dark heart of Africa stuff, you know, where the trees are twice as big and the vines stretched forever and the canopy is a whole world in itself and just really cool looking place to spend a couple of hours.
So you’re trying to say…
BEATTIE: So it’s that kind of a movie. Big, fun summer spectacle.
Okay, so you’re trying to say it’s maybe influenced a little bit by something you worked on called “Pirates of the Caribbean”?
BEATTIE: (laughter) No, no. I know that’s been bantered about, I mean maybe because there’s a supernatural aspect to it. I don’t know if it’s just a freak of my involvement but yeah, if you’re creating a big summer movie that’s a good song to be compared to. It didn’t do too badly and a lot of people they loved it. So yeah, you always aspire to make something that people really want to go see and really enjoy and tell their friends to go see. That’s why we do it. We do it for the entertainment to entertain as many people as we can all around the world. That’s the fun of it.
Did you say…it’s a period piece? Is it like on a certain year? Or is it just sort of not…
BEATTIE: It’s set…I mean the main action is set around 1933, I think. ’33? Yeah. ’32 or ’33.
The time before technology.
BEATTIE: Yes, exactly. No cell phones, satellite phones, helicopter, any of that, yeah. But it’s more of a romantic time, you know? It’s the period of “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. It’s that kind of swashbuckling, fun, I mean Great Depression–I can’t believe it’s that much fun–but you know it’s that era of all those serials and everything that was so great and so popular. Big jungle adventure film. So I think you have to do it in that era, so we did.
So what’s up with “The 89th War”?
BEATTIE: That’s just…working on the 1st draft. I’m just actually delivering that this week.
Okay. What’s that about?
BEATTIE: I’ll let Ron (Howard) talk about it. It’s actually a story of his that he’s had for like 30 years and really, really cool though.
BEATTIE: Good movie.
Okay, “Without Remorse”?
BEATTIE: “Without Remorse”, I believe is at Lionscape. I think they’re thinking about making it. I hope they do. I love that story. It’s my favorite [Tom] Clancy book and I was really proud of that script. It was the hardest adaptation I’ve ever done and I guess they’re looking for a filmmaker. I’d do it one day if I ever get out of this because I love that story. I love that character, too. John Clark. Fantastic.
BEATTIE: Oh, that’s with Russell. You know, that’s Russell Crowe’s directorial debut so he’s in “Sherwood Forest” right now so as soon as he gets out of that world, we’ll dive back into that. That’s waiting in the wings almost ready to go.
BEATTIE: “Spy Hunter” I believe is at Warner Brothers. I think they bought all the Midway properties. Loved that script too. That was a lot of fun. I worked very closely with Dwayne Johnson on that and I think the movie is all there and they make filmmakers $100 million movie. So again, if it’s still available and Dwayne’s still interested 5-10 years from now….if I could ever do it, I would, but until then it just needs that filmmaker that a studio will trust with that kind of budget. But being a fun, summer movie and with Dwayne it would kill.
And you’re about to start a film “Tomorrow, When the War Began”?
BEATTIE: Yeah that’s what I’m down here doing. I’m prep on that, so that is my first feature. Did a lot of short films before I started screenwriting and I’ve been looking for the thing to kind of get back into directing and this came along and it was just everything I was looking for, so I dived in.
Is there like a quick synopsis for it or a quick like…do you want to tell people a little what it’s about?
BEATTIE: Yeah, I mean it’s no secret. It’s based on a best-selling series of books called “The Tomorrow Series”. You can actually read that on the computer. It’s really great, great stories. It’s following these eight teenagers that kind of get trapped on their own when Australia gets invaded. So it’s kind of like on the run survival. That kind of thing. Very exciting and great, great characters.
When do you…have you already announced casting or when is that going to happen?
BEATTIE: Casting probably in the next few months. We’ll start announcing. Yeah.
And is this a studio film? Are you doing it Indy?
BEATTIE: Yeah it’s an independent Australian film, yeah.
And how is the economic like recession and stuff affected putting your film together?
BEATTIE: It’s very, very hard, you know? Everyone’s got to be extremely cautious about how much money they spend and what they spend it on. So it’s, yeah, it’s just another thing you have to deal with-these hard economic times. People haven’t got money to throw about so you take what you can get and you make the most of it.
Something else I wanted to ask you about, is you wrote a spec script on “Halo”.
And my question is what is going to take for Hollywood to finally make the great video game movie?
BEATTIE: It’s going to take someone in a position of power, whether it’s the filmmaker or the head of the studio, who has grown up with video games, plays video games, loves the games and loves the specific video game that’s being made. Right now we don’t have that. We have the generation of filmmakers and studio heads that grew up with comic books and love comic books and so we get great movies like “Spider-Man” and “Batman” and those kinds of things because the big powerful filmmakers right now that’s what they grew up with. Once we get big powerful filmmakers and studio heads that…once that generation kind of comes to age in that sense, you know comes more to the top of the chain, I think that’s when we’ll start seeing some really great video game movies. Probably the next 5-10 years.
Yeah, I completely concur with what you just said. With your “Halo” script, is there…I mean can you tell people a little bit about it? Because it’s an interesting story as you wrote this for spec.
BEATTIE: Yeah, well I mean I was on-strike so what else was I going to do? I can’t stop writing. I can’t stop creating so I just thought, you know, I’d always had my own opinion about what I thought the “Halo” movie should be, and once the whole Peter Jackson incarnation went away, which I was never involved with any of that, but I was just kind of like one of millions of disappointed fans all over the world except that this is what I do for a living, so I kind of thought, well yeah I probably put my money where my mouth is and I thought it would be a lot of fun honestly, and it was a lot of fun. It was a total passion project.
Well, what was…I’m a fan of the “Halo” series, what was your take on the film? How were you going to play it?
BEATTIE: Well, you know it’s such a rich world and such a rich mythology that, and like with “G.I. Joe”, when you make a movie like this with such a huge fan-base, you’ve got to reach beyond the fan-base. So and even then the idea of just taking that first game and adapting it, for fans I think fans would have fun with that for like 10 minutes and then kind of go well, I know where this is going to go now. I’ve played this game 1,000 times and you can’t do a straight adaptation of the game. You’ve got to treat it like, well, who are the characters, and like you do any movie. So, the story that I loved was the “Fall of Reach” story by Eric Nylund. Thought that was fantastic because that whole story is basically about a kid. It’s a kid that nobody likes. Gets beaten up in the school ground all the time and he doesn’t like anybody-doesn’t care about anyone. And this 6-year old kid ends up being the savior of humanity, you know? And that just on its own is interesting. How does that happen? So, to me, that was always the way to tell the story because that allows you to tell a story about people, you know? It allows you to introduce you to the world 500 years in the future where we’re living in colonies scattered throughout the galaxy and there’s this top-secret military program that are conscripting these 6-year old kids. Kidnapping them. Really dark stuff but out of that dark stuff comes this bright shining light.
This kid that ends up saving the universe kind of a thing. Then you’re allowed to slowly get into the Covenant and the Covenant war and who are the Covenant? And of course it does the same thing where if you’re not familiar with the game when you see a grunt for the first time and you’re wondering what the hell is that? That the characters in the movie are also going what the hell is that? We’ve never seen that before and that allows an audience to kind of stay on the same page as our characters. You never want your characters to be ahead of your audience in that sense, you know what I mean? You never want the character to go “oh yeah, that’s a grunt and I can kill it like this.” You know you have to be this weird alien creature you’ve never seen before, you don’t know if you can kill it or what or what it’s going to do because that creates the jeopardy and that kind of pulls the audience into film rather than kind of watching these actors kind of being blasé about it, put a bullet in its head and its done.
So it allows you kind of…it was a great way to kind of get into the world, get into the characters, get into the big Covenant-Human struggle and kind of end with the discovery of the first Halo ring. So it was a way to kind of tell a great story basically I thought and set it within the world of the “Halo” universe. Because Halo now is so much more than just that ring. It’s this entire really 100,000 year history with the forerunners and the search for the 7 sacred rings and all this kind of stuff, so it just felt like now is the time to kind of expand beyond just the battle on the ring world and tell the greatest story of what’s going on with mankind and all those other great things. So, that was really it and I’m really proud of that script and hoping that one day we can get it made somehow.
Did you ever try budgeting the script? Was it $100 or $200 million?
BEATTIE: (laughter) No, it’s big. I mean it’s “Halo”. I mean digital alien creatures, you know? There are big space battles. There are, you know, different worlds. There are space stations and training grounds. I mean it’s a huge film. Absolutely huge film. So it needs a big budget and again it needs a big filmmaker. Maybe one of a dozen, at the most, filmmakers for that kind of crap to kind of get that movie off of the ground. But it’s the right movie. I absolutely believe it’s for the right movie. If you’re going to make a “Halo” movie, this is the way to do it. So maybe one day, again one day. If “Tomorrow” works out well and maybe I’ll make a couple bigger films and if “Halo’s” still available, I’ll chase it again. And chase for the director this time.