Screenwriter Marti Noxon Talks FRIGHT NIGHT, I AM NUMBER FOUR, MAD MEN, DR. HORRIBLE, Comic-Con, Joss Whedon, DEFENDERS

     July 20, 2010

Marti Noxon image slice

One of the more interesting panels at this year’s Comic-Con is the “Girls Gone Genre” panel on Friday at 5-6pm in room 24ABC.  That’s because the panel features a few of the women that have made it in an industry statistically dominated by men.  Included on the panel are Felicia Day, Kathryn Immonen, Laeta Kalogridis, Melissa Rosenberg, Gail Simone, and Marti Noxon.  All of them are writers, and some are writer/producers.

Anyway, to help promote the panel, I got to speak with Marti Noxon yesterday.  As the screenwriter of the upcoming Fright Night remake and the currently shooting D.J. Caruso movie I Am Number Four, we covered how she got involved in both projects and what fans can expect with the remake of Fright Night.

Of course, we also talked about the other things she’s worked on like Dr. Horrible, Mad Men, the Comic-Con panel, and she also told me what it’s like to go around Comic-Con with Joss Whedon.  If you’re interested in any of the projects I mentioned or just want to hear some great stories, hit the jump:

Collider: I wanted to talk toady because you’re going to be down at Comic Con…

Marti Noxon:  Right.

…on, uh, this week.  So, let’s just talk with, the basic, of course, what are you doing at Comic Con and, uh, how many times have you been before?  Have you never been?

Noxon:  Oh, I’ve been a lot.  Uh, I’ve been with Buffy, of course.

Oh, yeah.

Noxon:  Yeah. (laughs)  Oh, wait.  Yeah.  Uh…

Don’t worry.

Noxon:  Um, been a lot.  Uh, been with Buffy a number of times.  Uh, went for other things.  Went a couple years ago for Dr. Horrible.  Um, you know, usually I roll with Joss, so, I roll, I roll Biggie style.  (laughs)  It’s like going with Elvis.  Um, but this year, uh, I’m sure I’ll see him, but we’re, we’re going down for a panel called “Girls Gone Genre” with, uh, a couple of other writers.  In particular, two of my very good friends, uh, Laeta Kalogridis and Melissa Rosenberg.  Um, Laeta worked on Avatar.  She wrote Shutter Island.  She does a lot of big action movies, and Mel wrote, uh, Twilight, a little, a little known series.  (laughs)

Yeah.  I, I’m familiar with Melissa.  I’ve spoken to her a number of times.  Well, what, what was the genesis s of the, of the–that sounded terrible, but whatever–what was the genesis of you guys getting together to do, like, this panel that you guys are going to be doing?

Noxon:  Um, you know, we’re all, we’ve all been very fortunate in the last couple years that, um, them in particular because they have movies that have already come out, um, but in the last year, I’ve written a couple of movies for DreamWorks, both of which are in production right now.  Um, and so we were, we were just talking amongst ourselves saying, you know, “Wouldn’t it be fun to go down, and how do we get credentials this year?”  (laughs)

I don’t think that would be hard for you guys, but anyway.

Noxon:  Yeah.  You know, it, it, it’s a, it’s always a thing.  So, um, so we started talking about doing something together and then it all, it all came together through our, through our various, you know, representatives and such.  So…

Well, did you guys, like, obviously, do you have, like, a game plan for the panel, or is it going to be one of these, like, moderated kind of things?

Noxon:  It’s moderated.  Um, and, I’m sorry, I’m blanking on the names of all the women, but there’s some other great women on the panel as well.  Um, so, it’s moderated.  Uh, I think we’re, the main thing is, that we’ve discussed, is not wanting to make it about, you know, women versus dudes.  Um, or discussion.

Not that we know…  No.

Noxon:  Yeah.  (laughs)  We’re not not gonna talk about dudes.  We’re just not gonna talk about, um, uh, the idea that, that, you know, I don’t think we’re going to dwell on how hard it is to be a woman in the business.  I think that that’s changed a lot, and I think that being a woman in the genre business has changed a lot.  So I think our, our emphasis is going to be on the projects we’re doing, the things we’re excited about, what, you know, what’s going on in the culture.  All that kind of stuff.  Yeah.

Um, uh, you’ve rolled with Joss.  So, what’s that experience like, rolling with, essentially, Elvis, through Comic Con?

joss_whedon__2_Noxon:  Uh, it’s pretty powerful, you know.  It, it, rolling with, uh, rolling with Joss at Comic Con is, um, it’s overwhelming.  It’s, uh, you know, it always reminds me of, like, the Last Supper in a way.  You know, the night before.  Fortunately, so far he hasn’t had to, um, you know, he hasn’t had to do that whole resurrection thing.  But, it could happen.  You know, you feel like one of, one of the apostles.  You’re just sort of following along and everybody wants to touch the (indistinct) of his garment and, um, it’s pretty amazing.  Yeah.

Um, with Dr. Horrible, uh, can you talk about your involvement in that project?  What exactly, you know?

Noxon:  Um, I mean, my involvement was showing up one day, singing a song, uh, dressing up like a newscaster, um, and pitching very hard that I would be the villain in the next.  (laughs)  Pitching very hard for a solo.  Yeah.  That was really my experience.

Well, what was it like for you, though?  Did Joss call you on the phone and say “I have something.”  Or was it sort of like “Come by the set?”  Could you talk about–

Noxon:  Um, yeah.  I mean, he had been talking to me about the project, um, just letting me know what he was doing during the strike and, you know, I’d see him on the strike line a lot.  So, I was hip to everything.  And then he was, like, “I think I’m going to write you and David into Dr. Horrible as kind of an homage to the Buffy musical” and, and we were just totally thrilled.

Well, he’s talked about, and I could be wrong about this, but he’s talked about doing a sequel.  Has he talked to you about where that is?  ‘Cause he’s kind of busy with this thing called Avengers.

Noxon:  Yeah.  I, I, I think everybody would love a sequel and the continuation of the Dr. Horrible saga.  Um, I don’t know how far along they are because everybody got busy.  So… it’s, it’s, you know, it’ll happen.

Well, um, you mentioned you have two things that are in development.  One’s I Am Number Four.  The other is Fright Night.

Noxon:  Right.  Right.

Um, can you talk about, uh, did you, did you get approached to do these projects?  Did you fight for them?  Can you talk about how you got involved?

Noxon:  Fright Night was the first of the two.  And it came to me as a, a just a potential meeting, you know.  They were talking about revamping the movie and, um, and I got really excited.  I loved the original, um, really had fond memories of it as being a, a movie that was really character based and had a lot of humor as opposed to just being a straight gore-fest, um, and scary.  Um, so, I would say I fought for it in the sense that I was, um, I was loaded.  You know what I mean?  I was loaded with ideas.  I was, I was loaded with enthusiasm.  And it’d been a long time since I wrote vampire stuff and I also felt like I had something to say back to the genre.  Do you know what I mean?  I was, I was ready to see a vampire who was just strictly about killing, and not about romancing and, you know.  Like, in, in this movie, the vampire is, uh, his beauty and his charm are all there to draw in.  It’s just part of his predator package.  But he’s not emotional.  You know, he doesn’t have an inner life.  (laughs)  You know.  Other than to friggin’ kill stuff.

No, no.  Totally.

Noxon:  Yeah.

Well, what’s your take on the whole, like, Twilight phase?  Uh, the, the, the popularity of the vampire genre right now is just…



…it’s almost bigger than superheroes.

Noxon:  Yeah.  Yeah.

It’s just monstrous.  You know, not to be, use that pun, but like, uh, but what’s your take on it?  What do you think is the reason why the vampire genre is so popular?  And what’s your thoughts on True Blood and Twilight and, you know?

Noxon:  Right.  Um, it’s interesting.  I mean, you know, there’s a lot of, um, fairly highfaluting academic theory on this kind of thing, that during times of real uncertainty and fear we get really invested in these stories of life after death.  You know, I mean, if you wanted to go really big into that stuff, I would say it has to do with also sexual politics.  You know, life is very confusing right now between men and women and in the vampire world not so much.  (laughs)  You know, uh, men are predators.  Uh, women tend to be in these, in these particular movies, they tend to be the weaker sex.  Um, I have some feelings about that, you know.  Coming from Buffy, I really wish there were more kickass women in, in these movies and television shows.  I mean, there’s great characters, but they’re not generally rivals for the male characters.  The male characters are the, the actors, and the women are the reactors a lot of the time.  And I’m, I have some feelings about that.

Well, in True Blood, you do have some very strong female characters.

Noxon:  More so now.  Yeah.  Yeah.

So, are you a fan of the show?

Noxon:  I am.  Yeah.  I do.  I like that show a lot.  I, um, what I love about it is how, um, you really don’t know what’s going to happen.  You really don’t.  I mean, like, there have been a couple scenes in that show where I was just like, “Ah, yes.  I’ve never seen that before.”

Are you talking about a certain sex scene?

Noxon:  Yes.  Yes.  (laughs)

That was–

Noxon: That was awesome.  You know, I kind of came out of my chair going, like, okay.  You know?

Even, even last night’s episode, which I know I–

Noxon:  I haven’t seen it yet.  Yeah.

Well, I would not spoil anything but I know how much I’m enjoying the show when I have to watch the night it airs.

Noxon:  Yes.  Yeah.

Otherwise, if it’s on my DVR for a while I’m lukewarm.  Last night, had to watch.

Noxon:  Yeah.  Yeah.

Great, great episode.

Noxon:  Great.  No, it’s kind of, it’s, it’s wildly unhinged in a way.  I just, and I, I love the sort of over-the-top kind of, um, you know, southern gothic feel.  I mean, I love Near Dark.  It’s one of my favorite vampire movies ever.  So, that kind of southern gothic quality to it I love.  And the characters are great.  It, it’s definitely, of what’s going on right now, it’s my favorite.

Jumping back into Fright Night for a second, uh, you guys are filming it this summer in New Mexico.

Noxon:  Yeah.  Yeah.

So how did the script change at all, if anything, when you found out you were filming in New Mexico?

Noxon:  Well, actually we’re filming in New Mexico because of the script.  Uh, one of the things that I was really, um, hopeful about and looking forward to doing in a genre move was setting something in Las Vegas, because, to me, there’s no better place for a vampire or an undead evil-type creature to be.  Um…

Makes sense.

Noxon:  Nighttime.  City.  You know, lots of people who sleep all day.  Lots of freaks.  Lots of sin.  Lots of people who disappear.  You know, what better?  You know?  And now kind of a virtual ghost town in some parts of the county, um, because there’s so many abandoned homes.  So, I was like this is just, if I were a vampire there’s no place else I’d be.  So I set it there.  Um….

Oh, so, the, so, the, so you’re filming in New Mexico…

Noxon:  For Vegas.  Yeah.  Yeah.

So there’s going to be some exterior scenes filmed on the strip?

Noxon:  Yep.  Exactly.

That could be very interesting.

Noxon:  It is.  You know.  It, it, it’s definitely a comment on, on that world and that culture, too.  So, it was a big part of the script.

Well, what was you, also, I mean, you guys have a hell of a cast coming together for Fright Night.

Noxon:  Yeah.  Yeah.

So, what was your reaction?  Colin Farrell.  You know, like, all these people?  What, what was your reaction?

Noxon:  Um, I think when Craig Gillespie, who directed Lars and the Real Girl came on, um, I, I had a feeling we were going to bring some interesting actors to the table because he’s such an actors’ director.  Um, but, yeah, I mean, it’s beyond my wildest dreams.  I, I think we, we– Um, one of the things that, that we tried to do and probably one of the most flattering things I’ve ever had said about something I, I wrote was, you know, Mister Spielberg said, um, that it felt like an Amblin horror movie.


Noxon:  Yeah.  That was awesome.  (laughs)

That’s a strong statement.

Noxon:  Yeah.  That he’d always wanted to make an Amblin movie, but really scary, and that this felt like that to him.  Um, and, and, I think, hopefully the reason we’re bringing this great cast together is because the script and the director are both there to actually make a character movie that is also really scary.  Not a horror movie that happens to have people in it, you know.

Is it, are you guys going for, like, showing a lot of the extreme gore or is it going to be sort of implied off screen?

Noxon:  There’s some, there’s some, there’s some gore, but it, but it’s, um, mostly, actually, I’d say the really gory moments are mostly comedic.  Yeah.  I mean, there’s a couple of really strong visual scenes, but we’re playing them more for horror comedy.  Um, and that’s the other thing I’d say about the movie is, is, hopefully it’s pretty funny.  It has, it has a sort of, I wouldn’t say, Buffy-like, ‘cause Buffy had its own voice, but it has a pretty strong comedic…

Well, I mean, how would you compare it to just…

Noxon:  …thread.

…with the, with the Final Destination movies or like the My Bloody Valentine?  There’s a lot of violence, a lot of gore, but it’s played for laughs.  Are you going to that side of the corner or is it sort of… Do you know what I mean?  Like, you’re not going that far.

Noxon:  No, no, no.  No.  I mean, it’s, this movie, I, I, I hope is going to be really, really scary.  There’s just, the few times that it gets a little bit graphic, it’s more in the service of, of, you know, graphic scenes, what you see on camera, I think it’s more in the service of funny.  But in general, I’d say, the, the idea was to go very real with the horror and very stark, as a contrast to the, the other parts of the movie.

Jumping into I Am Number Four…

Noxon:  Yeah.

…currently filming in Pittsburgh…

Noxon:  Yeah.

…um, uh, I want to say more but I can’t.  Could you talk a little bit about, uh, how you got involved in that project?

Noxon:  Um, it’s funny, because someone said, “Were you the first writer on it?”  And I think, in fact, I am number four.  (laughs) Um, only because there was a writing team and then someone else and then, and then me.  Um, I got involved because they were still, um, honing in on, on things in the script as they were getting pretty close to shooting, and I’d just done Fright Night.  So they were, um, you know, feeling positive.  And, um, I, I did a pretty large rewrite on, on the draft.  So, um, and what I loved about that project was it has, again, has a really strong teen voice.  Um, it, unlike Fright Night, it’s definitely more broad in its appeal.  Um, it’s definitely a movie that you could take kids to.  Um, it’s not as graphic.  Um, and it’s more in the, in the school of, kind of, almost like a Spider-Man.  You know.  It’s about a, a, a somewhat average person who comes to incredible powers.  And, and sort of discovers their true legacy and what their calling is in the course of the movie.  And more about almost the first step in a long journey, um, and sort of learning how to use your powers and, um, you know, superhero stuff that I’ve always really loved.  And, and also about, sort of, being an outcast, you know, regardless of how you look, what, what your internal life is could be really different.  And so a bunch of the characters in the movie are, you know, for whatever reasons they’re, they’re not part of the regular teen world, you know.  So it was really fun to write.

Well, I know that they have, uh, the book’s getting ready to come out and then there’s the possibility of more books, which I think are coming.  How did that sort of change of affect the way you were writing it?  Were you taking a lot of meetings like, “What’s going to happen?  What do I need to know?”  Or were you given a lot of freedom to, sort of, do your own thing and, you know, if it works out with the book it works out with the book.

Noxon:  No.  It was more a dialogue.  You know, going back and forth, saying “Well, what do you think?”  And because the other books are, are just in the process of being written, there was even some, well, can this change a little bit or, um, and we certainly, um, you know, worked with the author on some things that were really important they stay the same, um, so that, you know, to service the rest of the series of books.  Um, so it was a dialogue.  We went back and forth.  Although, I think there are some things in the movie that are definitely going to feel different than the, the first novel.  Yeah.

Um, have you been, have you gone toe Pittsburgh to be on the set at all?

Noxon:  I did a little bit.  Yeah.

And are you doing the rewrite?  Like, are you doing the rewriting on set or are you just going to the enjoy being…

Noxon:  No.  I’ve been doing rewriting from here mostly.  Yeah.  Lots of, (laughs), lots of, um, you know, lots of phone calls, lots of daily watching, lots of that kind of thing.

Oh.  So you’ve seen, you’ve seen dailies?

Noxon:  Sure.  Absolutely.

What’s your, what’s your reaction to seeing all that stuff?

Noxon:  You know, I have to say, um, Disturbia was one of my favorite, um, sort, of, genre movies in the last five, eight years, you know.  Really fun.  Just, um, you know, although it was, sort of, firmly in a, a sort of genre and, and kind of, story that we’ve seen other times, it felt really fresh to me and really beautifully directed and the performances were great and that’s how I’m feeling about what I’m seeing.  It just looks, um, it looks big and sexy and sweeping and, and definitely there’s an element of romance in this and I think there’ll be a lot of girl appeal, too.  And that stuff is really working, too.  So, so far so good, you know.

Um, you also worked on Mad Men.

Noxon:  Yeah.

So, let’s, which is one of my favorite shows.

Noxon:  Oh.  Thank you.

So, what are, are you still on it?  Are you not on it?

Noxon:  No.  I’m not on it because, um, you know, knock wood, I started writing movies.  Yeah.  And I have a couple of projects with DreamWorks now, too, so…

Well, I’m getting to that, but I want to hear your experiences on being on Mad Men and what it was like working on the show.

Noxon:  It was amazing.  I mean, it, it was, um, it was kind of like going back to writing school in a way.  Because that as opposed to other things that I’ve worked on, um, is so, so much lives in, um, subtlety and, and writing away from the point or, or a theme, in a way.  You know, you’re really just trying to write truthfully, um, and entertainingly, obviously.  Um, and it’s, it’s kind of, um, it’s so sharp.  It’s so well crafted, um, that it, it kind of took me back to, uh, really writing from character, really trying to be truthful in what I was saying, um, and, and, um, and it was just refreshing.  It was really refreshing, ‘cause it’s also slower, um, as opposed to most TV right now.  It’s just slower paced.  It takes its time.  All of that was just really good for me as a writer.  It was amazing.

Well, Matthew Weiner, Wiener?  Oh, yeah.  Matthew…

Noxon:  Weiner, yeah.

…is known for secrecy.

Noxon:  Oh, yeah.  (laughs)

So, how was it for you?  Did you have to be very careful as you were writing stuff about, you know, making sure no one’s looking, no one knows plot points?

Noxon:  Oh, heck, yeah.  No.  We were under, like, I mean, we were under a gag order all the time.  We could not talk about it at all.  I could not talk about things I knew about this… I mean, nothing.

Which is always interesting.



I have to wrap with you, but I definitely want to ask what other stuff are you writing that I might not know about?

Noxon:  I just started working on a project.  Um, I, the, with, um, Kurtzman and Orci and John Hamburg, um, which is, you know, a ways off in terms of production and that kind of stuff.  It’s in the script stage.  Um, and has been real exciting, ‘cause–

Does it have a title?

Noxon:  I think it’s called, right now it’s called The Defenders, but it won’t stay The Defenders.  Um, and that is a big science fiction comedy.


Noxon:  Awesome.

Right.  I’m a huge fan of Orci and Kurtzman.

Noxon:  Yeah.

You don’t have to, and Hamburg, so you don’t have to sell me on this.

Noxon:  Yeah.  It’s fantastic.  Um, so I’m doing that.  I’m doing a couple other projects with them that I sold as pitches.  So, those will have to be written.  And one of them I’m really excited about.  I can only say that it’s called Bad Baby.  (laughs)  Kind of in the John Hughes tradition.  Um, kind of Home Alone.  But that’s really all I can say about it.

Um, well, um, I definitely have to do a follow-up on The Defenders.  Is this an original… is this an original thing that someone came up with or is it based on existing material?

Noxon:  It is an original thing.  Um, Masi, um, I can’t remember his last name, who, um, from Heroes.

I know that guy, Masi Oka?

Noxon:  Yeah.  Masi Oka, um, he pitched them the concept.  Um, so it came from him.  And it has to do, it’s, it’s in the world of, um, of gamers and, you know, guilds and that kind of thing.


Noxon:  Um, it’s, it’s awesome.

Uh, is this something that Masi is thinking he could star in or is just an idea he had?

Noxon:  Um, I don’t know what he thinks about, and I could totally see him doing that, but, um, but he’s, Masi’s, um, Masi is, um, really acting as a producer, too.  He’s got other projects in development.  He’s been super active and pro-active and….

He, he’s a smart guy, actually.

Noxon:  He’s a totally sharp guy.

Yeah, I know.  He used to be a programmer at ILM before he got into acting, which is crazy.

Noxon:  Yeah.  No, he’s the real deal.  So, um, so he’s, he’s maximizing this opportunity, as he should.  You know.

Absolutely.  Um, I have to wrap with you or she’s going…

Noxon:  Okay.

…to get very mad at me.  So, I’m just going to say thank you.

Noxon:  Thank you.

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