Gary Goldman loves Dick – Phillip K. Dick to be precise. No stranger in adapting Dick’s mind-f**ck escapades into films, such as Total Recall, he adapted Dick’s lesser known short story The Golden Man into the Nicolas Cage starrer Next, which opens this Friday. In this exclusive interview, Goldman and co-executive producer Jason Koornick talked to Paul Fischer.
Question: So let me just ask you guys what it is that attracts you as producers to get a film off the ground to begin with.
Jason Koornick: This one?
Question: Well any film really. It’s such a competitive market, so what is your first instinct? What do you look for?
Jason Koornick: Well in a case like this I’m looking from a business point of view to follow up on the fact that I’ve done a number of Philip K Dick movies. And so I was looking for another story by Phil and one that had some of the same qualities of one, what audiences like and two, studios are willing to produce. So in this case it had to do with another great Phil Dick concept, in this case about a man who is able to see into his own future, in that it had a kind of a chase structure which allows it to, you know, which is something audiences respond to. You can see that when you give them A Scanner Darkly, give the audience A Scanner Darkly, this is where the film takes its vision but on the other hand they don’t seem to turn out and appreciate it, so in this case it was to try and follow up.
Question: Phil Dick’s work, there’s a certain degree of, shall we say, mind fucking, involved in a Phil Dick story. So how do you take that and I suppose simplify it so that audiences will be able to get it?
Jason Koornick: Well Gary’s a master at that. I mean, you can just ask him about Total Recall. People are still asking questions about that movie.
Gary Goodman: Well the mind fuck, really that’s my favourite part (laughs). And in this case the idea is you have to try and, what you want to do is you want to think a hundred times more than the audience things. I mean you’re not necessarily smarter than they are but you have more time to contrive a puzzle and then to take all your accumulated intelligence from thinking about it and then dazzle them in the two hours that they’re sitting there and to do it in such a way that they are just the right amount of lost and just the right amount of found.
Question: How did you decide upon Lee Tamahori to direct this one?
Jason Koornick: He came from the studio really. It was right as we filmed the project at Revolution. Nick Cage was attached and I guess I didn’t have much say. I mean I wasn’t involved in the process as much but the studio wanted to be in business with Nick and he liked the screenplay, they did too and …
Gary Goodman: Well you know there were a few things. Nick was a big fan of The Edge, the movie that we directed with Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin. And of course Once were Warriors is one of the great movies ever, I think. It’s one of my absolute favourite movies and so the idea that Lee had gone on to show a lot of proficiency in the action genres, I think they felt that you put these three together and you have somebody who can bring an extra dimension, or many extra dimensions to an action movie.
Question: Gary you worked on the script obviously very heavily for Next right?
Gary Goodman: Oh yeah, I wrote it on spec in fact.
Question: What are the major differences between the original Dick story and your screenplay?
Gary Goodman: Oh it’s very different. Really I was only able to retain the basic concept, in this case a man who is able to remember his future in ways that other people remember their past. And then there were a couple of scenes in the short story, one where his power is tested and he is able to dodge bullets and prove exactly how untouchable he is and another in which trying to escape from a completely secure area he is able to use his power to go down every possibility in a matrix of futures and pick out and define the impossible way that he’s going to escape for this situation. And keeping those things plus the idea that it was important to try and imagine what it was really like to be a person who had this power and the rest in a sense had to be invented.
Question: Given the kind of demographics that studios are after, what are the dangers in making a story like this too complicated for that particular kind of demographic?
Gary Goodman: Well I think that the producers and the director and the studio really asked that exact question. The movie that’s made is really a much more streamlined, more straightforward version of the original screenplay because I think they felt that we were going down too many – there was a danger that it would be too complicated for the audience. It’s always a hard thing to do. You want to challenge them but you don’t want to go too far in case the movie – I mean, I don’t think it will be too taxing for the audience but I think it will take them to some new places they haven’t been before.
Question: In fact movies like this don’t get made very often, I mean really good, complex thrillers are not made very much. Why do you think that is and do you think that a film like Next is going to change that?
Gary Goodman: No I don’t think that Next will change it because to a certain degree I think that we played it a little bit safe in going for the mainstream story. I do think we’ll expand it a little bit. I’m hoping that if the movie does well then we will get a chance to do a sequel that will show the full possibilities of the concept and Next will be kind of a training session for something that’ll really blow their minds.
Question: What else are you guys planning at the moment?
Jason Koornick: I am producing a mini series about Magellan’s circumnavigation of the globe based on a best selling book.
Question: I can see that’s obviously got some parallels with Next.
Jason Koornick: (laughs) I guess, going into new dimensions in new ways.
Gary Goodman: Going in circles!
Question: Why Magellan?
Jason Koornick: Oh well it’s the greatest adventure in human history that no one knows anything about and there’s a great hero and Magellan’s confidante, who was one of the eighteen, out of two hundred and sixty, survivors. So it’s really tailor made for a mini series. I mean it’s got a great beginning, middle and end and it’s a fantastic story and adventure.
Gary Goodman: There was a book too right?
Jason Koornick: Yeah it’s based on a book.
Gary Goodman: …that came out. So there’s a new book that Jason’s messed up.
Question: Is there a network involved or a production company?
Jason Koornick: We’re talking to a number of networks right now and the writer of Star Trek – Wrath of Khan, Nicholas Meyer, is doing it. I recently optioned a graphic novel called Bluesman which is a three volume story about travelling blues musicians in the south during the depression. And so that’s a couple of the things I’m working on. And a biopick of Phil K Dick of which I am executive producer staring Paul Giamatti.
Question: When’s that happening? Or is it finished?
Jason Koornick: Well we want to shoot that in a year from now. There’s no script yet. It’s being written by Tony Grisoni who wrote Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
Question: And Paul has already signed on for this?
Jason Koornick: Oh yeah, absolutely, yeah. He’s a huge Phil K Dick fan and he was honoured when Phil’s daughter Isa called him up and asked him to play her father in the movie. And most of that is 2008, and hopefully not too far beyond that.
Question: And Jason, you directed once before as well, right?
Jason Koornick: Yes. I made a music festival documentary.
Question: Would you want to continue doing directing? I mean do you desire to direct a feature?
Jason Koornick: No I don’t have ambitions to direct. That was a low budget project. You know, we all wore a lot of hats but you know, but I still remain connected to the music business.
Question: And what about you, Gary? What’s up for you next?
Gary Goodman: I have another Philip Dick project based on a short story called The Hoodmaker that I’m doing and my manager , Lenny Beckerman, is also a producer of the project. And it’s a political thriller involving telepathy and the future.
Question: Does that have a studio yet?
Gary Goodman: No, we’re just in the process of setting it up now. And then I have a big action disaster movie in space with Warner Bros, kind of a tent pole movie, and then I’ve just finished writing a smaller, more dramatic piece that I’m going to direct myself.
Question: Is that going to be an indie project?
Gary Goodman: Yeah I think so. I mean I would like to get, you know, at the moment, I just finished it a couple of weeks ago or a week ago and yes, I mean it really is a kind of an independent film. It could be as big as something like, say, Kramer v Kramer or it could be as small as a Sundance picture. It all depends on the casting.