Thursday, August 5, 2010

DC Entertainment's Diane Nelson & Geoff Johns On Adapting Heroes To The Big-Screen

The president, chief creative officer, and a few more representatives speak with the LA Times heavily on the task adapting their superheroes to the silver-screen.

According to the LA Times,The president and chief creative officer, Diane Nelson and Geoff Johns, of DC Entertainment main task is to go through the massive library of DC heroes and finally get as many characters such as Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Flash and Aquaman on the big screen for parent company Warner Bros.

Speaking on the experience of attending the premiere of Iron Man 2, which is produced by DC's rival Marvel Studios, Johns says,"You look at that success …it makes you want to achieve the same sort of thing but do it in our own way, "they've done great things and now we want to do great things."

At last month's San Diego Comic-Con, promoting the upcoming Green Lantern, Nelson and Johns stated that they'll coordinate everything DC-related for instance, hinting that there may be a half-dozen or more potential television projects in pipeline, suggesting "Smallville" and "Human Target" may soon be joined on the air by other DC-based properties. The film group president Jeff Robinov speaks as though the 75-year-old comic-book company is a fresh new commodity saying "We're looking at DC as an untapped asset,". "since we need to find a way to fill some of the holes in our event movie schedule created by the end of Harry Potter."

The star of the upcoming Green Lantern, Ryan Reynolds says "Integrity officer' is a great way to describe (Geoff Johns)". "He's quality control in terms of the source material and making sure we use it in the right way. If something doesn't sit well with Geoff, then everyone knows that's worthy of sounding an alarm. But he also doesn’t come in with this agenda that he tries to shove down your throat. And his passion for the material is obvious."

The biggest challenge for Nelson and Johns may be merging the cultures of the Warner lot in Burbank and the offices of DC, which are in Manhattan but may soon move to L.A.

Movies based on Marvel heroes, meanwhile, have grossed more than $7.2 billion worldwide in the last decade for a variety of studios, a track record that led Walt Disney Co. to buy the comic-book company last year for $4.3 billion. Marvel Studios is now an independent unit of Disney cranking out its own films.

Nelson and Johns say they're not out to copy Marvel and they view the competition as friendly and motivational. But the success of their competitor has clearly put the pressure on them from the highest levels of Warner parent company Time Warner Inc.

Nelson, 43, is accustomed to that type of intensity. As the lead executive overseeing the Potter franchise, she played a key role in successfully steering author J.K. Rowling's characters from the page into theaters, toy stores, theme parks and home-video collections. One Warner executive praised Nelson as a key part of the team: “If, as they say, success has a thousand fathers, in this case the successful marketing and brand management of the Harry Potter movies has one mother: Diane." She has been tasked with replicating that success for DC characters.

"It's no small challenge how few people have heard of these properties or understand their stories outside of fans of comic books," she said. "Sometimes the comic-book fans who love this stuff...want us to get too precious about this stuff and if we do, we'll kill it off. We need to figure out how to evolve and grow it and bring it to more people."

Johns read that director Richard Donner, famed for "Superman" in 1978 and the "Lethal Weapon" films, was developing a film based on Marvel's “X-Men” comics and he cold-called the office seeking an internship. He was put on hold and, in a moment of wild serendipity, Donner inadvertently picked up the line. The director chatted with the then-22-year-old for a moment and liked his eagerness. Johns started the next day.

"Geoff knows how to make these characters contemporary and yet stick to their core values, which is a fantastic asset for us," said Robinov.

Among the DC properties Robinov would like to see on the big screen after "Green Lantern" and Nolan's Man Of Steel are the Flash, Wonder Woman and the Justice League, which would unite big-name DC superheroes into a team. If that last movie does happen on the new team's watch, it would be a wry twist because Nelson and Johns got their posts in part because of a previous Justice League movie that was killed shortly before filming was to begin in 2008. It was one of several ill-fated projects, along with a comedic take on Green Lantern set to star Jack Black in a story written by “Triumph the Insult Comic Dog” creator Robert Smigel and a TV show featuring Batman sidekick Robin that didn't mesh with Nolan's movies or his "world view" of Batman.

The development of movies based on DC characters were previously done with little supervision or coordination. Former DC publisher Paul Levitz, who worked in New York, and an L.A.-based executive who reported to him were useful resources but not integrated into Warner’s film unit, they said. As a result, different producers and executives would sometimes work on competing versions of the same characters or ones that veered wildly from the comic book source material.

But the most divisive DC project the last year, according the LA Times, was a movie adaption the DC super-team Justice League which would'vee featured different, younger versions of Batman & Superman than the ones in the then-recent Batman & Superman franchise. And would've also introduced Flash, Wonder Woman and Aquaman. But Executives at the company disagreed over whether the Justice League movie was a wise idea, but it was killed at the last minute for a variety of reasons, including trouble securing tax credits in Australia, where it was set to be shot.

"In the past, there wasn't coordination or a cohesive plan for making movies out of DC characters," said Jeff Katz, a former executive at Warner sibling studio New Line Cinema who now runs film and comic production company American Original Entertainment. "It appears that Warner Bros. has realized they need a new strategy to get the maximum value from DC, which is clearly a smart decision."

Johns, still penning comic-book scripts at night & weekends, seems a bit startled by his ascension but also thrilled at the opportunity. On visiting the set of "Green Lantern" last month, he says,"To see a movie set for a character that I had spent so much time and creative energy on and to see it actually get shot, it was amazing. And more than that, I had been dreaming of seeing a Green Lantern movie since I was 8years old."

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