Interview: David S. Goyer, Charles Roven for "Batman Begins"

By Garth Franklin Tuesday June 14th 2005 06:35PM
David S. Goyer, Charles Roven for "Batman Begins"

David Goyer burst onto the scene of genre writing with 1998's "Blade". Having scripted all three of that franchise's movies and Alex Proyas' acclaimed "Dark City", he went on to pen contributions and scripts for a number of projects including this recent re-invention of the "Batman" franchise. Of all the people involved in "Batman Begins", Goyer had one of the hardest jobs in writing an origin story that would satiate fans turned off by the previous films and justifably reinvent Batman whilst paradoxically being more loyal than ever to its true nature.

Helping him along was  Charles 'Chuck' Roven. A producing veteran, Roven has been involved in many films over the past decade including "12 Monkeys", "Fallen", "Three Kings", "Scooby-Doo", "Kicking and Screaming" and "The Brothers Grimm". Both of them sat down with the press in Los Angeles recently to talk about the new look "Batman": 
  Question:  David, did you have a list of banned words--words that people couldn't say?

David Goyer: You mean in the movie?

Question: Yeah.

David Goyer: Like what?

Question: Like, I don't think we hear "Batmobile," do we? Has anybody called it "the Batmobile"?

David Goyer: No, nobody. There wasn't a list, but--I don't think that ever occurred to us.

Question: That's funny.

David Goyer: Yeah. But you know what? I think that's a natural progression of the fact that we were trying to tell a more realistic story. I think, in the movies, from here on out, if the name Batmobile came out, someone else would call it that--not him. But it never occurred to me. It's funny.

Question: How did you strike a tone between--because there is humor in the movie--how did you strike that tone between the seriousness and the humor?

David Goyer: Well, in even the darkest movie, you need a little bit of humor. But a lot of the humor comes in private moments with Bruce. It's either Bruce and Alfred--where he feels like he can let his hair down--.

Charles Roven: Or Bruce and Gordon.

David Goyer: Or Bruce and Gordon, or it's Bruce when he's playing the public Bruce Wayne--where it's very deliberate, you know.

Charles Roven: You know. And I think a lot of it has to do with just how exceptional the talent of the actors are who are in the movie is that they could take lines that, in other hands, may not be as warm or funny--their delivery, their timing--you know, Michael Caine's timing is just incredible. Morgan Freeman's timing is just incredible.

Question: David, you pay homage to the comics, but make this story your own. Can you talk about the integration of the well-known characters--Gordon, for example, shares an element of Dr. Leslie Tompkins, and Ra's Al Ghul becomes a part of Bruce's training.

David Goyer: There's a long question--the integration from comics to our film? And I have fucking laryngitis! (All laugh.)

David Goyer: We pulled from a lot of different sources. We pulled from sixty-four years of material. We had to boil it all down--figure out what would work best. I mean, yes, Gordon is a little bit of Tompkins. We based a lot of it on Year One. Ra's Al Ghul we pulled from the '70s Denny O'Neill and Neil Adams stuff. Jesus, it's a hard question to answer right now.

Charles Roven: But I think it's really--it's more we found bits of the characters than drawing from other characters. Not that amalgamating characters. Your question was the amalgamation of characters, right?

David Goyer: There wasn't a lot of amalgamation. Was not a lot. It's more like, "Oh, we'll pull Ra's from this story." I mean, in some cases--a lot of the lines Chris and I came up with on our own. But in some cases, I literally took this line of dialogue from this issue, and this line of dialogue from that issue. And then wove it all together.

Question: Did you always have Ra's and Scarecrow as the villains?

David Goyer: Yeah.

Charles Roven: And Falcone.

David Goyer: Falcone.

Question: Now here's a question for you. What a way for DC to launch itself with Batman Begins, or re-launch itself. With the success that you've been having, you're writing The Flash?

David Goyer: Yeah.

Question: Do you think Ryan Reynolds will still be attached to this?

David Goyer: Who knows?

Charles Roven: He's not attached at the moment.

David Goyer: He's not attached. I haven't even finished it yet. Chuck's one of the producers on it. He's riding me to finish it.

Charles Roven: That's right. He should be writing right now. I don't know what he's doing here.

David Goyer: Until I finish it--then we'll get into my plan.

Question: Avi, during the Blade premiere--I spoke to you last at the Blade premiere--said that you were also going to tackle Thor? No?

David Goyer: No. I don't have time right now. There's no way.

Question: Given the successful iterations of Batman that have already existed, what was sort of the creative mandate for reinventing or reviving this character both in comparison to the previous Batman films and then maybe lessons that you learned, David, doing the Blade films?

David Goyer: Batman and Blade are so different because, first of all, a lot of people are familiar with Batman. Nobody knew Blade. There've been other depictions of Batman before. There hadn't been a Blade. And, more importantly, there've been four other Batman films. So that was the biggest issue. So I think for us, the biggest thing was making it real. Making it not seem like a comic-book movie, even though it had been inspired by a comic-book film.

Charles Roven: You know, the studio had, before our involvement, decided that they wanted to try to revive the Batman franchise and had been working on it for a number of years, and there was a lot of different kind of iterations. They knew they wanted to do something different from what the character was after Batman and Robin, but they didn't know exactly, and they were trying different things. But when Jeff Robinoff came on as a president of production, with Alan Horne there, they sort of focused in on a desire to create--to do an origination story. And when Chris Nolan came in to talk to them, and talked with David about it, they also, coincidentally, thought that the best thing to do was an origination story, and one that would be grounded in reality. And that's really how it came about.

Question: This movie really sets up sequels, obviously. And Christian said that they're signed for three. Now, do we see the Joker really being the next villain?

David Goyer: Who knows, honestly? And I know--I'm not being coy, but none of us are signed for another one yet. We're all sort of waiting to see what Chris wants to do. So, we'll see.

Question: One of the projects that has always been rumored is the "Batman vs. Superman." Do you think that'll ever see the day of light? Or would you like to see it get the day of light?

Charles Roven: That's a great script.

David Goyer: Yeah, maybe one day. But, I think with this new film, they're not going to do it for a while. You know, maybe one day. The fact that Warners owns DC, and those guys are both DC properties, makes it more likely.

Charles Roven: I mean, certainly, y'know, this movie clearly shows that there is more life in the franchise, and I would think that if there was another Batman done in the near future, whether any of us were involved, most probably it would flow from this. Plus you also have to wait and see what Bryan Singer's Superman is gonna be. And I don't think the Batman-Superman movie is even gonna be brought up again until those kinds of decisions--or that movie's seen--and what's gonna happen here--is those decisions are made.

Question: Who came up the concept of being a depression into Gotham City? They refer to that a lot, that there's been this economic depression. And one of my other big questions is: what's the time frame for the movie, because when you first see him as a kid, it seems pretty modern-day, and then it moves to the fore, and it still seems like it's in this nebulous time frame. Is that obviously intentional?

David Goyer: A little bit, yeah. I mean, I honestly don't know where the depression--I can't remember anymore. We had so many fucking conversations.

Charles Roven: You know, one of the things that was--we wanted to try to do--was to tie everything back together. And Chris always talks about the fact that--while the movie's grounded in reality--there is one superpower that Bruce Wayne has: that's he's one of the wealthiest guys in the world. And economics is a power. And so the flip side of that is a depression. And the irony of the story-and the fantastic reveal, of course--is that the bad guys have created--have already been there before. And one of the weapons that they use--one of the super powers that they use--was that depression to try to destroy Gotham.

David Goyer: I can also say this. We wanted to link Bruce to Gotham in a way that hadn't been done before. And we wanted to link his father to Gotham. And so, necessarily, for Batman to exist, Gotham itself had to fall on very hard times. And we also wanted to show that it'd been--it had a golden age prior to that. So that was one of the things we talked about.

Question: People are reading a lot of political themes into popular entertainment these days-- The Incredibles and Star Wars. What's the political line on this? There's some fairly conservative sounding stuff about how criminals thrive on understanding coddling, and Wayne Enterprises almost bankrupted by the philanthropy of Bruce's dad, and comes back strong with military-industrial stuff under Rutger Hauer-is there any thought to--is there a consistent message here?

David Goyer: That's for you guys to decide. Obviously, you know, we talked about all those things. But, I think it's for--

Charles Roven: You know, you're quoting only one side. I mean, Rutger Hauer does bring a lot of economic success to Wayne Industries with that philosophy, but at the end of the movie, he's no longer the chairman.

David Goyer: He gets his comeuppance.

Charles Roven: He gets his comeuppance, and the character who spoke the words about the coddling of criminals--you know, that's one of the things-I mean, the great--Bruce Wayne says something very interesting: that the thing that separates him from the other guys in the League of Shadows is that he believes in rehabilitation and he believes in compassion.

David Goyer: And he believes in hope--.

Charles Roven: And he believes in hope.

David Goyer: Which Ra's doesn't.

Charles Roven: They believe that that's a sign of weakness; he believes that it differentiates him from the criminals.

David Goyer: The point is, and the main point, is that I don't think the movie necessarily falls on either side, but we wanted to engage the audience in those debates in a real way. I mean, Bruce debates with Rachel--Bruce debates with Ra's--Bruce debates with Gordon--Bruce debates with Alfred. That's the point. Some of those questions can never really be answered.

Charles Roven: And the other thing is we wanted to create a character in Bruce Wayne who had a lot of complexity and darkness within him and within his life experience, just like the bad guys do, and show exactly how close we are as humans to being both good and bad--we have it both inside us: the light and the dark. And so that's exactly what Bruce is. And that's why our bad guys are very interesting, complex guys. They're not just black-and-white guys.

David Goyer: Look, Bruce almost crosses the line. And the bad guys--particularly Ra's--have some good points as well.

Charles Roven: Exactly.

Question: One quick question. Your next project--the Blade TV series. Do you think Michael J. White is going to be--?

David Goyer: God, I have no idea. No idea yet. Hasn't even been written yet.

Question: In terms of casting Christian Bale, can you just talk about his appeal?

David Goyer: The thing about Christian that's so amazing is he has the ability to do all things that were required by Bruce Wayne in all the incarnations of his character. He needed to be able to give the darkness of the real Bruce Wayne, he needed to be able to give the physicality of Batman, and he needed to be able to give the light touch and charm of the public Bruce Wayne. And if you know anything about Christian, he throws himself into his roles completely in every way. The role he did before this movie--The Machinist--he lost 110 pounds--got down to 110 pounds. On this movie, he gained all that weight back, plus. And, you've seen him: he got incredibly buff for the movie. So all those things, plus he did a screen test that just blew everybody away.

Question: Was that a concern for you: the weight loss?

Charles Roven: It was during the screen test, but he gained it back. He gained back enough.

Question: Thanks, Charles.

Charles Roven: Thank you.

Question: Hey, Charles, who's directing Get Smart?

Charles Roven: That hasn't been decided yet.