While some actors are content to let their agents and managers find future projects with little or no input, Sam Worthington blazes a different path. That’s because Worthington is constantly looking for cool properties to mine for potential big screen adaptations, and he seems to have a good eye for it. Of course while you can attach yourself to various projects from other creators, what better way to land a great part than to produce it yourself. And if you’re a lifelong comic book fan, what about landing your own imprint deal at a young but growing comic book company.
And that’s exactly what Sam Worthington and John and Michael Schwarz (his two close friends) have done, as they’ve teamed up with Radical Studios to create and develop intellectual property under the name Full Clip Productions. The goal is to find and create graphic novels that will be published with an eye toward screen adaptations. Under the deal, they already have two graphic novels coming…one is Damaged, which centers on two brothers committed to justice in different ways – one inside the law, one violently beyond it. The other is called Patriots.
Much more after the jump:
Here’s the deal: about a week ago I participated in a small roundtable interview with Sam Worthington and his Full Clip Productions Partners John Schwarz and Michael Schwarz in the Radical Studios offices. We talked about how the friends got involved in the comic book industry, what their long term plans are, what are they working on now, and a lot more.
One of the things I really respect about Sam Worthington is his brutal honesty. In an industry that carefully sends out press releases and never says what they mean, Worthington is a breath of fresh air as he always says what’s on his mind and he’s not afraid to say what he thinks. Trust me, it’s not usually like this.
Since I always think it’s better to hear what someone has to say than reading a transcript, you can click here to listen to the audio of the interview. It’s a good one. Otherwise, enjoy the transcript below.
Sam Worthington: Yeah, there’s my mate right there.
And there we go, the mate who went to Comic-Con and checked out all the books. So did this all start percolating, like how long ago did this all…
Worthington: Oh no. It was mainly Michael (Schwarz) in his basement playing Guitar Hero and reading comic books. I thought to get him out of the damn basement and send him to Comic-Con, you know. He needs to try and learn that the world is massive. (Laughs) Mike actually astounded me, blew me away, when he came back and he made all of these connections.
Michael Schwarz: Well the last day, I was going around looking at every publisher —
Worthington: Not because I wanted to make a movie, more so because to show Mike how big this world is.
John Schwarz: We’ve always loved comic books and graphic novels. Mike was kind of almost like the professor of it, we were both juniors. He was the master, you know what I mean so we said ‘Why don’t you go to Comic-Con and see what you can do’.
Worthington: Honestly I was expecting you to come back drunk and say ‘thanks for the opportunity’. I didn’t think you’d come back hooked up with Barry Levine and Radical and said ‘Hey, these boys want us to help out. We need to talk to them about where their ideas want to go’ and they had no idea what ideas we had.
Schwarz: Well The Last Days of American Crime got me straight away. The thing about Radical is that they’ve been around for only two years, and during that time they were only a year old, but they’ve kind of got this swagger about themselves that they’ve been around for so much longer. Even though they’re still in their infancy. It’s exciting to be around it, sort of exciting that it’s infectious. John, Sam and me latched onto Last Days and we hopped onboard. Barry Levine became our producing partner and I pitched him more about comics and Damaged, which is an original idea we had years ago. He dug it and from there he said ‘Well why don’t you go and make a bunch more?’ So we ended up getting this imprint.
Can go you back earlier and tell us how you guys met each other?
Worthington: Six to eight years ago. I went to drama school with John Schwarz and Mike’s his younger brother, so he tends to just hang out, that’s it. So we’re a pretty tight bunch of guys, they do whatever they do and they’re my brothers basically.
So when “Kick-Ass” was coming out they were developing a novel and a movie at the same time. So is that kind of the same thing —
Worthington: No no, cause I think that’s arrogantly egotistical in the sense that you’re not even — that your going to have what you think you will. Essentially our idea is, through any kind of creative force, is to create a good story. It’s as simple as that. We’re comic book fans, so let’s create a comic book. If down the line Radical decides to pursue this further then that’s a great opportunity for us. But that’s not primarily why I wanted to get involved, and that’s how it’s kind of come out, been blogged and read about. Well with Damaged they’re sixty year old men so unless I’m weaing a f**king latex mask then I’m a bit sh*t out of luck aren’t I? And Patriots is about a lot of women so I can’t be in that one. (Laughs)
But even to create them you can’t look at it like that. I think the great thing about them is that we’re not limited by time or, you know, ‘we have x amount of days to shoot it’ like on a film. It gives us an avenue to get a lot of creativity and basically the only thing it’s going to cost us is ink and paper. Then we can run wild. Then if down the track something happens, then that’s out of our hands and that’s fantastic, that’s a great opportunity.
Schwarz: I think the integrity of the actual comic would be totally compromised if we were just thinking about it as changing it to another medium and selling it along the track. You’ve got actually think to yourself ‘let’s try to create a piece of art’. The strongest piece you can do without compromising down the track saying ‘let’s think about Nic Cage playing this dude’ or whatever.
Worthington: I know I’ve said this again but putting your integrity at stake I think audiences can smell that. We’re a lot smart, all of us are pretty damn smart to notice ‘I can see what you’re doing here, to be honest the story is just a vehicle to make the movie’. And they don’t even dig the story so why in the f*ck would they go to the movie? If you deal with the story, then suddenly people jump on board and say ‘I’d like to see this developed further’. Then a decision has to be made.
What’s the hallmark of success for you guys on this project because in the comic book world, especially in this day and age, it’s a small business. Sales are small, there’s a really core audience, so are you looking to break out of the mainstream or just trying to hit into that core?
Worthington: We’re happy to get the f*cking imprint to be honest, brother. You’re talking to three Australian dudes here who some crazy guy who used to photograph some Motley Crue and basically taking a run on it. That’s an amazing opportunity in itself so I think the goal is short-term rather than long-term that the first goal is for people to go out and actually dig our stories.
Schwarz: And Damaged in particular, it’s an idea we had as a comic five or six years ago. Just the realization finally getting to be able to see that. That’s satisfaction right there.
Worthington: Yeah, and we’re doing other things as well with it to get the comic books and get them out and actually get them to the stage where the core audience is going to be responsive to them and it will be successful. At the moment that is our goal, which may or may not seem very massive-orientated.
Well Sam, since you are the star in the biggest movie of all time, maybe 1/1000th or one percent of that audience will probably read the comics because that’s the nature of the publication. It’s a small core audience.
Worthington: Yeah but we all have our own separate careers. But together, collectively, we did start a small business and that’s kind of a cool thing. That’s how we looked at it, we aren’t looking at it like we’re going to dominate the comic book world, that’s ridiculous. Right now we’re just touching our toe in the water to see if one kid down a the Golden Apple can say, “He, that’s cool, man.
This is more a labor of love thing. You were a kid who just loved this sh*t and —
Worthington: Yeah and then sometime I realized down the line ‘Holy sh*t, I’ve got a comic book’. All you need in any industry is someone to back you, and Jim Cameron backed me up and Barry’s backed him outta nowhere. and the first thing I said to him today was ‘You don’t know Mike from Adam, why the f*ck would you ever want to produce anything from Mike Schwarz?’ And he said that he’s got passion and integrity, commitment and creativity, and that kind of drive and hunger is exciting. So yeah, in a way he’s a labor of love for us too in an exciting world.
Schwarz: Well it’s like a dream come true. We’ve loved, I’ve loved comic books ever since I was a kid, I learned to read by reading Batman. So to be able to create these books that are going to be around for a long time is great. It’s very important.
John Schwarz: We’ve got a bunch of nephews back home between us. The next book, we’ve got two that we’ve announced so far with Damaged and Patriots. The next one we’re going to make it a little more geared towards a 9-12 year old market.
Worthington: So we’re switching, these guys are making a comic book for 12-9 year olds. Who the f*ck are they thinking?).
John Schwarz: It’s something we can enjoy with our nephews.
So you guys are sort of looking towards the broad spectrum of comics?
Worthington: Totally. If you look at Radical, Radical is very spread not necessarily dealing with any specific genre. If he likes an idea he runs with it. He gets other creative guys like Joe Strazynski come in here, Antone Fuqua, and they were developing comics with him. To us we need to go and it’s like now you’ve got as many comics as you want to create. He is enthusiastic with any kind of genre we give him an idea for.
Speaking as a comic book fan, and you guys are comic book people, who have been around the block with “name” creators coming in. Famously, they come in and they kind of disappear. What’s your involvement, in the real specific aspects as far as sticking with them is concerned?”
Worthington: Every time we came up with an idea we’ve always agreed that — with Damaged these boys had an idea so they can shepherd the story. For example. Lapham comes to the story and then he says ‘this doesn’t work, this doesn’t work’. And with Patriots, Schwarz had the idea and Mike becomes the hammer, and that’s how it works. The origin of the story or the idea does come from any of us. If Mike’s got an idea by himself then me and (John) Schwarz will help him shepherd it. That’s how a good trio works. We work pretty fast and since we’ve known each other for so long we’re not afraid to be brutally honest with each other and say ‘Mate, that idea sucked. I see what your doing there, you’ve written this for Lucy Liu you f*ck’. (Laughs) You know, you can see what’s happening.
You’ve seen people taking properties they’re involved with and then licensing it to make comics out of it.
Worthington: Well if we made film —
Well I’m talking about like if they would make an “Avatar” comic or something.
Worthington: If you look at the whole world now it’s just computer games, graphic novels, film, TV spinoffs, spinoffs of spinoffs like Deadpool spinning off of Wolverine. So I think that any kind of smart producer looks at all of those bases. Once it comes down to the integrity of it audiences are very smart, they smell that they’re just kind of being played. So if the computer game of a certain film isn’t up to the standard of the film or it’s basically just a re-hash the same damn story. Someone said to me ‘Hey, why do I want to play a computer game on a movie if I’ve already seen the movie?’ I’m doing the same thing and it’s a hundred times bigger and a hundred times better. So if your going to make a computer game off a movie, is it going to be like “Avatar” where it’s going to be a prequel before Jake even got to the planet. You’ve got to be smart because audiences demand that. They aren’t going to sit there and be force-fed anything I believe.
Full Clip is a production company as well. So is there any projects that you guys put together for Full Clip that would turn back —
John Schwarz: Well, for example, me and Schwarz took the idea of Quartermaine to DreamWorks and not really expecting anything to come out of that. Not expecting DreamWorks to have their own kind of Quartermaine idea. Then they jumped together to find out that they’re ideas are working with our ideas. Now that kind of does happen, that kind of cross-pollenation does occur. If Quartermaine came out it was a kick ass new movie and they wanted to go and make a comic book out of it. Yeah, but it has to stand alone and not just be ‘let’s just cash in on it’.
How did David Lapham get involved?
Schwarz: That was Radical approached, and so far all those that have approached are just top named talent in art and writing. He was the first to be approached. I was a bit star-struck to talk to him for the first time and I was really nervous to see what he would do with our story. A man with his caliber, would he just take it and make it his own completely? What he did with it was great. It’s still our story, our characters but it’s still got his stamp on it without taking away from the story we created. He’s given it his voice which is my favorite thing. He stands aside in the comic industry, my favorite writers just have really distinct voices and he’s added his voice to our story.
Worthington: Which is the same with the artist. We at that moment went through who we think would be best to do the artwork for it. Partly that was the case of Barry saying, “Go for your dream team and all they can say is no.” And that’s kind of a cool kind of thing, and it is nerve-wracking. You’ve always got to be smart enough to go ‘Well they’re going to have to bring some of their own in’. We don’t want to be a monopoly where we get shoved out, it has to be symbiotic.
In regards to Damaged, what’s the time line? When are we going to start seeing this out in comic book stores?
Schwarz: We were looking around January/February for the first issue. It’s quick.
John Schwarz: Well we gave David our treatment and he gave us like a five to six page treatment. Then about a week later he gave us a thirty page treatment.
Worthington: So that just shows that the idea of the story is compelling enough for him to work on it immediately.
Schwarz: Yeah, and a week later he gave us issue one. So it’s going to be a six-issue series and it should be out probably around January/February. We still have a lot of things to do with it, mess around with the story, and make it as good as we can.
Worthington: Yeah, so Barry, what do you reckon? Damaged, January, February?
I’m curious. Obviously you have a lot of Hollywood connections now, is there any talk of you guys about certain people that you’ve worked with or certain people that you want to work with in this town crossing over from the movie world, writers in that industry, work with you guys on your imprint? You know, partnering up on something or finding a cool idea and how it would work.
Worthington: Yeah it’s definitely something that I haven’t discussed.
John Schwarz: Yeah right. (Laughs)
Worthington: Well we know a lot of boys that are quite shocked that all this comes down to one guy backing me. As Jim backed me Barry is backing this company. I’m sure the other guys, there’s millions of ideas out there, many creative forces out there. To work with them on something we think of down the track then who knows.
John Schwarz: We’re just focused on comics at the moment. We’ve talked to different people who obviously express interest in what we’re doing. We’re just trying to get these set up and rolling along down the track.
Would you mind saying a little bit of what each of the comics are about?
Worthington: Damaged is about basically brotherhood. Two cops, one becomes a vigilante. It’s basically about redemption, passing fathers and sons, and all of these kind of brotherly things that these guys have come and dealt with in their lives set in a violent kind of noir-like world. Patriots is quite simple; there’s seven continents in the world, if you had to sacrifice one continent and make it six would you do it? That’s the question we’re posing with that one.
So you haven’t released a reason?
Schwarz: Well with this one I think we’re going to try and handle it like Chris Nolan handled Inception. Keep it under our f**king hats. This one, Damaged is a six issued series and this one (Patriots) is a stand alone graphic novel.
So Patriots is a graphic novel?
Schwarz: Yeah, it’s a graphic novel.
Worthington: Because it’s more epic in scope.
Now how do you guys, I know there’s like price points and lengths of issues, how do you–
Worthington: We get advice from Barry.
So with Patriots is it like you guys have an idea how many pages it is?
Worthington: Yeah Barry was the one who said we should make it into a graphic novel. Because we’re illustrating this whole world and we can get an understanding of what it is having a serial comic book or graphic novel, trying to see which one suits us best. At the moment it’s all learning from Barry.
So the next thing is you’ve been working on a lot of films, so I would probably assume that you’re very busy. How does it work with the 9 to 5 running this thing? You guys on the phone or Skype when your filming or something?
Worthington: Yeah we e-mail each other. Like we said we’ve known each other for fifteen years so we know each other from back to front.
Schwarz: We’ve always talked to each other.
Worthington: Yeah, every day for about ten years so we can tell each other ‘hey, this idea sucks’ if I’m off in the middle of the Moroccan desert or something. Because we do live in a world where that is possible. (Laughs)
Can you talk a little bit about The Last Days of American Crime and what am I missing about the connection?
John Schwarz: I basically saw this comic book and talked to Barry about it, it hadn’t even had come out yet. Barry at the time liked it and he was wanting to pursue it and pushing Radical to go and start making films, that’s what Barry’s looking at. And with Last Days you can see it on the pages that it could make a great movie. Mike ended up coming to me as a mate of Sam and then Sam talked about it with what we were going with this. You could see what was happening, and Barry wanted to push it. So then it’s now to the point of where Mike, myself and Barry are going to produce it and were out looking for directors and writers at the moment. The problem is it’s a very stylistic looking, so at the moment we’re finding writers that understand what I want to say with the substance so it’s not just taking a comic and making it into a film, you have to increase that. Any kind of movie has to be bigger than the actual comic so at the moment we’re just taking it out and finding the right people involved.
Is there a backlog of ideas here that you have a bunch of things planned —
Worthington: Like I’ve said we’ve known each other for fifteen years We’re a bunch of young, idealistic Australians who happen to be able o play in your pool. I mean I got involved with f*cking “Avatar”. Some other people have opened up to us, and we’re lucky enough to have all of these creative kind of outlets over here to help us get involved. It shows that the spirit that America has, the American industry creativity it has where anything is possible. Three idealistic Australians bringing in new ideas and being able to make the damn comic books that they’ve always dreamed about, it’s kind of a cool thing. You get to go and play with the big boys, it’s a very privileged thing for us to do. So I’m sure we have more ideas than what we actually have time for.
John Schwarz: Not all of them good. (Laughs)