S is for Super
Superman’s newest screenwriter, David Goyer, is also an Ann Arbor native
Published: June 18, 2013
David S. Goyer, the writer of acclaimed films such as Batman Begins and The Dark Knight and this summer’s Man of Steel, is from Detroit.
Well, Ann Arbor. And that’s close enough to Detroit in its status as a satellite city.
It was the perfect place for the young writer to have his interest in comics and superheroes jump-started.
“It was a great experience in that it is a very liberal town with lots of comics stores and used book stores,” Goyer says.
He was able to go to a lot of movies and film society movies, thanks to the University of Michigan.
While his mother was involved in special education work and getting her Ph.D., she used to take Goyer and his brother to a comic book shop called The Eye of Ocumato while she was in class on various evenings.
“That’s where the initial craving began,” Goyer says.
Before he decided to become a writer, however, he wanted to be something very different from that.
“Later on in high school, I had decided to become a homicide detective,” Goyer says. “My high school teachers at Huron High School staged an intervention with my mother, convincing her to let me go into writing.”
Goyer was a working screenwriter long before he began his association with DC Comics.
“I wrote a couple [Jean Claude] Van Damme films and had written the first Blade film before I began writing comics for DC,” Goyer says.
It was not, however, his comic book writing that attracted director Christopher Nolan to pick him to work on the Dark Knight Trilogy.
“It was my screenplay for Blade and a small independent film called Zig Zag, Goyer says.
After that, Chris asked him if he wanted to do Batman even though he admits his knowledge of the character’s mythology certainly helped him get the job.
It was then an easy sell for him to write Man of Steel, given his association with the previous three Bat-films and working with Chris Nolan and his screenwriter-brother Jonathan Nolan.
Looking back on the Batman films, Goyer admits it is difficult to do three good films of something.
“It is very rare that three good films are made, and I am incredibly proud of what we accomplished with those movies,” Goyer says. “They feel like they are a part of a whole.”
He thinks they also helped move the art form along.
“A superhero film had never done that well before, like The Dark Knight,” Goyer says. “It changed the game, and brought along a larger audience.”
With The Dark Knight Rises marking the end of their Batman story, they all felt they did not want to go back to the well again of that particular franchise.
With the end of that film, they wanted to bring the trilogy to a satisfying conclusion.
“We wanted to say this was the ending of this particular story,” Goyer says. “We wanted to give Bruce an out, and to say in a way, Bruce’s greatest adversary was Batman himself.”
Goyer said Bruce always envisioned himself dying in the costume, and he managed to escape the curse of his parents’ dying and the darkness which had shrouded most of his life.
“We wanted to give the audience that gift, saying that, in this particular story, he gets away,” Goyer says. “He has some happiness at the end of his life.”
Goyer thinks that in his Bruce’s relationship with Selina Kyle, the two characters were looking for someone all their lives with whom they could identify, and they were able to find that person in each other.
Looking back on his films and television work, he says he had a great time working on the film Blade and television shows FlashForward and Da Vinci’s Demons, but thinks Man of Steel is the one he found the most joy on.
“It was sort of a charmed experienced for me,” Goyer says.
Working on the story for Man of Steel with Christopher Nolan, the process was similar to their experiences before with Batman.
“We met for a number of times, kick around ideas, throw up index cards on a bulletin board,” Goyer says. “I then went off and wrote an outline which I showed to Chris.”
Finally, he wrote the screenplay, which was brought to the screen through the vision of director Zack Snyder.
Goyer looked to a number of comics for inspiration, even though a lot of the film was their own invention.
“We looked to Geoff Johns’ Secret Origins, John Byrne’s Man of Steel, some of Grant Morrison’s All Star Superman, Mark Waid’s Superman Birthright, Denny O’Neil and Curt Swan’s Superman run in ’70s,” Goyer says.
Goyer says, at the end of the day, it was Chris and Warner Bros.’ decision to bring on Zack Snyder but he was involved in the talks of who would helm the film.
Regarding the casting, director Snyder, producers Deborah Snyder and Charles Roven, producer-writer Chris Nolan and Goyer himself discussed all the major parts.
“At the end of the day, a couple of them, like Henry Cavill’s screen test were unassailable,” Goyer says. “He was clearly the right man for the job.”
He was particularly happy with the selection of Amy Adams as Lois Lane.
“I am a huge Amy Adams fan, and I was glad they did not dye her hair brunet,” Goyer said. “I thought they had no reason to be that slavish to the mythology.”
He thinks it is important to respect the canon, but to also question elements of the canon, such as the casting of Adams as Lane and Laurence Fishburne as Daily Planet editor Perry White, Lane’s boss.
For Lane’s storyline in the film, she becomes more integral to the origin of Superman.
“We felt that a hero is only as good as his villain and only as good as his or her love interest,” Goyer says. “One of the things that bothered me with the previous iterations of Superman was that Lois often functioned as the damsel in distress.”
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