Screenwriters Matt Manfredi and Phil Hay Talk R.I.P.D., Crafting a Buddy Cop Movie in a Supernatural World, Changing the Finale, Sequels, and More

     May 1, 2013


While their previous filmography is rather diverse (Crazy/Beautiful to Clash of the Titans), screenwriters Matt Manfredi and Phil Hay tackled a whole new genre with the upcoming R.I.P.D.—a buddy cop movie.  The film is based on the Dark Horse comic of the same name and stars Ryan Reynolds as a newly deceased cop who joins a group of undead officers in the “Rest In Peace Department” to help combat a rising force of nefarious corpses.  Reynolds is introduced to the world of the dead by an R.I.P.D. veteran played by Jeff Bridges, and what follows is a buddy cop film of sorts with a supernatural bent as gleaned by the pic’s recent trailer.

Steve recently sat down with Manfredi and Hay for an extended interview, and the two talked extensively about their work on R.I.P.D.  They spoke about how they were first brought on to the film adaptation, the difficult road to production, nailing down the right tone in the vein of Blues Brothers or Ghostbusters, script changes throughout development that resulted in a new finale and a much larger scope, the possibility of starting a franchise, changes to the comic book, and more.  Hit the jump to watch the interview.

You can watch Steve’s video interview with the duo below, followed by a full transcript of the conversation.  If you missed our previous interview with Neal Moritz about R.I.P.D., click here, and if you missed what Manfredi and Hay had to say about The Boys movie, click here.

matt-manfredi-phil-haySteve: I definitely want to jump into R.I.P.D.  I saw test footage from set, a year ago at CinemaCon and just a few weeks ago, I saw an extended trailer – it looked really cool.  How did you guys first get started on this project?

MATT MANFREDI:  It was brought to us by over by Neal Moritz and Ori Marmur over at Original and David Dobkin, who was the director at the time, when it first got underway.  They gave us the comic book and they were looking to set it up at Universal and we responded to it, we loved it.  We came up with a story–

PHIL HAY:  Started this journey that has been just amazing.  It’s interesting because this is a movie that’s been up the mountain several times and almost been made and for some reason didn’t.  There was always a core to this experience that it kept coming back and we were just relentless about it and Neal and Ori were relentless about it.  We just kept trying to get the movie going and once Ryan Reynolds got attached to it, he sort of planted a flag in it and was like the rallying point around getting the whole thing going.  He really kind of threw the movie on his back and was like, “We’re doing this.”

MANFREDI:  I think in reading Peter Lenkov’s comic book one of the things that appealed to us about the many things was that there’s an opportunity there to make the kind of movie that we grew up loving like Blues BrothersGhostbusters –  It’s something like 48 Hrs., a buddy cop movie with a lot of supernatural trapping.  It’s kind of the best of both worlds for us, you’ve got the kind of dynamic we love to write and also you have the big spectacle that lends itself to the kind of movies that are big summer movies.  

HAY:  And that was the thing that we immediately gravitate to and tried relentlessly through the whole production, which was great.  We were incredibly involved because Robert Schwentke, the director, was very comfortable with us, very confident and trusting of us.  The three of us made a really strong, creative connection and we were able to be involved and around all the time.  I think for this movie, and the thing that I’m most proud of how the movie came out, is that what we really wanted to capture was a feeling and that’s interesting that there’s a lot of different movies that people could compare this movie to.  I think what Matt said, it’s like the 80’s are weirdly a big part of this movie, both the way it looks and the vibe.  We’re chasing those great John Landis and Ivan Reitman movies that we love the feeling of – that kind of anarchic craziness that is possible.  I think that’s the core of R.I.P.D. for us.  There’s this crazy, comic vibe that I hope people really dig.    

Obviously every movie changes along the way.  How did this one change, whether it be production, or pre-production?  Were there any seismic shifts or was it pretty much what you guys set out to make?

ripd-jeff-bridges-ryan-reynoldsMANFREDI: It’s funny.  A lot of the core scenes from our early drafts are still there.  They’ve remained through every version of the script.  I think where it changed a little bit from the first draft to the last draft is that it just got bigger and bigger in scope.  And so, the finale was a smaller set piece in our first draft and it developed.  We were in a meeting recently, and we were like, “do you remember when this ended on a farm, like Witness?” (laughs) It also evolved in terms of screenplay structure and in terms of the desire for more spectacle.  Things had to build and build, and it got bigger. 

HAY: But in this case it’s like the core scenes that are the soul of the movie.  Interestingly, so much around it changed as we pursued different avenues, and got more interested in certain characters and others fell by the way side.  But there were these anchor scenes that are all about the relationship between Nick and Roy – the characters that are played by Ryan and Jeff – that relationship has always been the guiding light of this movie.  Because, really, what we realized, is that in the trailer, you see a lot of great spectacle in there.  But in the movie, it’s a lot of two guys driving around in a car together and driving each other insane.  That’s what this movie is and what’s it’s always been.  I think that Jeff and Ryan do incredibly well together. 

MANFREDI: Yeah.  The core of the movie is those two guys getting along or not getting along- 

HAY: And dealing with their issues. 

MANFREDI: And you can put those two guys into any set piece along the way and hopefully it will be fun.

ripd-ryan-reynolds-jeff-bridgesObviously, we’re all Jeff Bridges fans.  What was it like being on set and hearing Jeff Bridges say his lines?

HAY: Tremendous. 

MANFREDI: Awesome. 

HAY: It’s as good as I imagined it would be. (laughs) And I imagined it would be great! 

MANFREDI: We were in rehearsals with the actors.  The first day of rehearsals was Jeff and Ryan, and they were running lines, and it was just a dream come true (laughs).

HAY: And the great thing has been, with all those guys, with Ryan and Jeff and Mary-Louise and Kevin Bacon – such amazing actors in the movie – they really were committed to doing the script.  They would experiment and have fun and try different things, but Jeff particularly really respects the work.  He wants to do the movie because of what he has read on that page and he’s going to do that.  It’s just amazing to see the nuance that he brings to everything.  He’s basically just as you would want him to be. 

Based on comic/graphic novel, how much do you think of what was there made it into the movie, you know what I mean?  How would you compare it for fans of the material?

MANFREDI: There’s a relationship between Nick and Roy that’s established in the comic book.  Nick dies.  Spoiler alert. 

It was in the trailer.  I think it’s okay.

HAY: What if they didn’t see the trailer? (laughs) What if they stumble into the film having seen nothing, seeking shelter? 

ripd-ryan-reynolds-mary-louise-parker-jeff-bridgesMANFREDI: He’s met by this partner.  It’s his initiation to the R.I.P.D.  The story that unfolds, and the plot of what the R.I.P.D. is trying to foil, is very different from the graphic novel.  

HAY: I’d say the relationship between the characters, the vibe, some of the visual cues, and the plot are quite different.  I think what was important to us, and has been great, is that Peter Lenkov, who wrote the comic – also a very large writer in the TV world – was really supportive from the very beginning when he read the script.  That was incredibly meaningful to me, because we wanted to make him happy with it, and so that’s hugely important to us.

I hate asking this question, but everyone asks it, so I’m gonna throw it out there.  When you guys got this together, how much was the studio thinking that this could conceivably be a franchise?

MANFREDI: I think that, with a movie of this scale, it’s always in the back of everyone’s mind.  Also, for us, that was always a great question to ask, because we like writing those two characters so much.  We have so many ideas of where they could go and what they can do that are not specific to just one plot.  It’s very much in the vein of Ghostbusters or Blues Brothers.  You could see more happening, and so I think it’s natural to think about it that way.  Does that answer your question? 

Yeah, totally.

MANFREDI: Sadly, we don’t get to decide. The public gets to decide, and I have faith in the public! 

You mean it comes down to the box office (jokingly)?

MANFREDI: Yes, it does.  But we also had so much fun making the movie.  All of us creatively had a tremendous time doing this movie together and had great relationships.  We just started thinking about what could go and what could happen and, I think it’s true that it’s naturally to some sort of continuation.  If we get that opportunity, it would be amazing. 

Click here for all our R.I.P.D. coverage.


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