John August talks SHAZAM and HANCOCK

     August 28, 2007

Opening up this Friday is a great movie called “The Nines,” anditwas written and directed by John August. Of course while a lot of people know who John is…for the ones who don’t, he’s written “Corpse Bride,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Big Fish,” “Go,” “Charlie’s Angels” and the sequel “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle.” As you can see, he has some experience writing big budget movies.

Anyway, while I was very happy to talk to him about how much I enjoyed his directorial debut, I’ll admit that I wanted to talk to him about how the script for “Shazam” was going and what exactly he did on the currently filming Will Smith movie “Hancock.”

And while I’ll be posting the full transcript of the interview tomorrow or Thursday, I figured you’d want to know this stuff right now. As always, if you’d like to listen to his comments click here. Just know it’s the full audio of the roundtable interview.

Question: Could you talk about Shazam? What’s the status? Are you writing it with any sort of budget in mind?

John August: The last question is easy. I’m writing it for the budget that’s capable of making it, which is probably a pretty substantial budget, because it’s a big superhero movie and those aren’t cheap. So I don’t know what the budget’s going to be, but ample. To me, what’s so appealing about Shazam as a movie is that it’s a superhero movie where the characters in it would actually read the comic book that they’re based on. It had that ability to be meta without being incredibly annoyingly knowing. These are characters who are not only excited to be superheroes, but sort of really understand the rules of being a superhero. And they take the responsibility of being a superhero a little differently than other people would. And it’s actually a movie that’s inherently funny. The underlying premise is funny. So it’s not just Spider-Man plus jokes. There’s something inherently funny about a 13-year-old boy who gets to become a big, studly superhero, and sort of what’s a priority to him wouldn’t be a priority to a normal person who gets those powers.

How is it coming up with these crazy big action sequences?

John August: I’ve written a lot of set pieces, and I really enjoy them because I’m the kind of person, if I’m sitting around, waiting for a meeting to start, I’ll be like, where could I land a helicopter? And that’s just the sort of daydreaming that a screenwriter gets to do, is thinking about what’s almost impossible but kind of believable in a movie. With Shazam it’s been exciting to figure out things like, “How does flying work? If you were suddenly able to fly, how would you describe what it’s like to another character?” So figuring that out was really interesting. The bases of Shazam’s powers are different than Superman’s. They’re not based on the yellow sun; they’re magical. And that’s unique opportunity.

Would you say that this is more of a PG kid’s movie?

John August: I don’t know what it will ultimately be. It’s not rated R. The thirteen-year-olds who are reflected in the movie will really love the movie, and I think other people will too. At this budget, it’s gotta be one of those classic four quadrants, where everybody and their brother goes to see it.

Which incarnation of the character are you basing it on?

John August: I think it will take a fair amount from the current mythology and a lot of sort of the classic mythology, in terms of that wish fulfillment. Like, it’s hard to say what decade Spider-Man takes place in. It’s sort of like a perfect, utopian kind of…this is what a big city looks like. Our story has all of the classic qualities but is also set in a modern age. It’s like, kids can have cell phones. There’s been a lot of questions about, “Oh, is he really Billy Batson when he converts or is he really Shazam?” That I really can’t get into.

Can you talk about Hancock?

John August: Hancock used to be called Tonight, He Comes. I came on to do a couple weeks of work shortly before they went into production and it was just an amazing script. I passed on it four times because it was like, “I can’t. This is great. Ok, maybe there are a few little things I could work on.” So I just stayed on for a few weeks and helped out. But it’s not my movie at all.

Can you tell us a little about the story? Not much is known about it.

John August: Honestly — it’s not The Sixth Sense, but there’s a big secret that’s sort of at the heart of it, and I don’t want to ruin it for people. It’s a revisionist superhero movie in the way that Shazam is a revisionist superhero movie, but just 180 degrees different.

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