Screenwriter Jeremy Slater scored a pretty big job a couple of years ago when 20th Century Fox enlisted him to reboot the Fantastic Four franchise. While he originated the project and deservedly earned a “screenplay by” credit, we all know the film went through plenty of rewrites, reshoots, and post-production tinkering that resulted in a pretty underwhelming experience overall that was quite different from Slater’s original script. But Slater is moving right along as he created the upcoming The Exorcist TV series but also has his hand in two other projects that are of significant interest: the Death Note movie that Adam Wingard is directing for Netflix and a TV series adaptation of Gerard Way’s comic The Umbrella Academy.
Collider’s own Christina Radish recently spoke with Slater in anticipation of the premiere of The Exorcist on Fox this Friday, September 23rd, and during the course of their conversation Slater provided an update on The Umbrella Academy, of which his involvement hinges on the future of The Exorcist. Slater also teased Death Note and explained why he had to leave the project, which he worked on before Wingard signed on to direct. See what he had to say below, and look for the full interview later this week.
JEREMY SLATER: Everything depends on whether or not America likes The Exorcist. I definitely wrote the pilot for The Umbrella Academy. I think it’s really exciting. I think it’s really surprising and funny. I took the job because I’m such an immense fan of what Gerard [Way] and Gabriel [Ba] did with that book. It’s one of those things where I would rather be the guy to screw it up than sit back and let someone else come in and do the bad adaptation. So, I was really adamant about taking the job, but the only way I was going to do it was if I could make it weird and make it true to the spirit of the book. There’s a lot of weird shit in The Umbrella Academy, and it would be very easy to sand down some of those weird edges and make it more familiar to American audiences. I’m fighting very hard to not let that happen. We’re shopping around the pilot, at the moment. We’re trying to find the right home for it and trying to find someone as excited as we are. I would love to be involved in that project, in the future, if possible, but right now, The Exorcist is taking up 20 hours of my life, every single day.
They’ve tried to make The Umbrella Academy as a film before and, for whatever reason, that didn’t work out. Why do you think it’s better suited for a TV series?
SLATER: I think the relationships and the dynamics are so rich in that book that, if you tried to distill it down to 90 minutes, everyone gets reduced to a cartoon and a caricature. It really is The Royal Tenenbaums with superpowers. In order to do justice to that premise, you need time to unpack those characters, and dig into what makes them tick and the different relationships that they have with each other. There is so much fertile material there to tell really interesting, really funny, really unique stories that to compress it all into an hour and a half and throw in a bunch of giant action sequences, you’re going to wind up with some total mish-mash. It’s going to be Mystery Men. It’s going to be yet another wacky comedic superhero movie that no one really wants to see. It has its own unique DNA, and I think people should respect that DNA, or they should not do the project.
At Comic-Con, you said that you had to end your involvement with Death Note because of The Exorcist. Do you know if they’re using the work that you did on that, or did they have to move forward with that, with another writer?
SLATER: They brought on another writer, Kyle Killen, who is incredibly talented. I know he did the final production rewrites on my script. There’s an entire arbitration process on who wrote what, but I think they used quite a bit of my script, as a jumping off point. I think it’s going to be really special, not only because Adam Wingard is such a fabulously talented director, but I think we really found a cool, fun approach to Death Note where we narrowed in on what it is. It’s the movie Heat, except with teenagers, and one of those teenagers has superpowers. It’s much darker, much funnier, and much more exciting than I think people are anticipating. We’re also trying really hard to stay true to that great moral complexity of the source material.