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Living Vicariously: Robert Venditti Talks Surrogates - Part 3

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In Part 3 of our interview with Surrogates creator Robert Venditti, he talks about his appreciation for Blade Runner, Bruce Willis vs. Harrison Ford, and why anyone would use a surrogate.

Part One

Part Two

BROKEN FRONTIER: How does Bruce Willis match up with Harrison Ford?

ROBERT VENDITTI: [Laughs] What, in a fist fight? I think Bruce could probably take him. I don’t know, it’s hard to beat "Die Hard" Bruce Willis, I mean that’s kind of as tough as it gets. Although Harrison Ford has definitely had some good movies himself, but if you’re going for a straight action guy, I think you gotta go with Bruce. But I’m a huge fan of Harrison Ford. The Indiana Jones movies, obviously Star Wars, Blade Runner is one of my all-time favorite movies… they’re both really quality guys, so I don’t know if I want to pick one, if they were going head to head.

But I will say that as far as the character of Greer, when I was writing the story back in 2002, there was one occasion when my wife and I were just sort of talking pie-in-the-sky stuff. Comic book films had been gaining popularity – X-Men had done well, Spider-Man had done well, and they were starting to look outside the bounds of Marvel and DC continuity and Hollywood was trying to see what other kinds of properties were out there.

So, we were just sort of talking (we didn’t know who the publisher would be), but if they were going to make a movie out of this, who would be good, who would be cast in the film, and we both thought that Bruce Willis would be perfect for the lead role of Harvey because he’s one of those very few actors that can do the really strong action stuff like Die Hard, but also do the really emotional, character-based moments that are so key to the story, like the relationship with Greer and his wife, and so there’s not a lot of guys that can do both of those things, and do them both well, and convincingly.

BF: Just from what I’ve seen of what he’s going to do in the movie, it brought to mind his role in Sin City: that kind of detective, very low-key but anguished kind of person, you know?

RV: Yeah, very much so.

BF: Alright, well, another thing I was curious about; they’re using these surrogates to replace their regular physical interaction; do you think there’s a point where humans don’t need the physical interaction? Is there going to be a point where we’re all going to be electronic consciousnesses on a network, or something like that?

RV: I think we’re social animals, and that we do need the interaction; and the thing about a surrogate is, it’s not just a one-way thing; you’re not just out their driving this machine, you’re getting the input that comes back to you, so for all intents and purposes, you are experiencing life as if you were really there, so you are getting all that interaction, all those kinds of things.

I do think that’s something that’s necessary to us as a species, because like I say, we’re social animals. So I don’t know that we would ever become completely detached, without a way to sort of reach out into the dark and communicate, and have contact with each other.

BF: Alright. So Harvey is using this surrogate up until it proves that he has to go out into the world. What kind of person is he? How did he come to be so dependent on this surrogate?

RV: Well, like I was saying before, if you live in this world where everybody is using surrogate technology, you might be forced into that scenario yourself. And what I wanted to do in the book, is I wanted to have more than just personal appearance be the reason why you might have a surrogate; the book is much more about identity than appearance (whereas in the movie I think they probably focus on the physical appearance aspect of it much more), but if you were…

BF: Socially awkward?

RV: Well yeah, that would be one reason, but we’re talking about Harvey specifically… you know, he’s a police officer; he would want to be able to do his job and insulate himself from the dangers of that job, and the police department would probably necessitate that he does that.

BF: That’s what got him into it?

RV: Yeah, he’s a guy that used it for more utilitarian reasons, but when he goes home and his shift is over, he puts his surrogate away and he’s himself again. His wife has so identified herself with her surrogate that she locks herself up in a separate room, and sends her surrogate to the dinner table, and sends it to bed with him, and he has not actually seen his wife in quite some time.

She so identifies herself with the machine that she will only interact with him through it, because she’s uncomfortable with getting older, and the effect that it’s having on her appearance, and those kinds of things.

BF: She’s way more addicted to it than he is?

RV: Yes. She has lost herself in the identity of the machine, where the two are now indistinguishable; there’s a scene in the book where she actually states that. She says something to the effect "This is who I am; I’m young and I’m beautiful and I like it." So she’s completely identified herself with the technology.

BF: Is Harvey prepared when he has to get back into detective work? I guess psychologically is one question, and the other is just the physicality of it; chasing down suspects or whatever. Is he ready for that, having to go right back into it?

RV: His pants are a little tighter than they used to be, and all that kind of stuff. He’s maybe a couple of inches on the waistline bigger than the surrogate was, but he is still able to do his job. He’s not reached such an advanced state that he can’t do it. But there is actually a scene in the book where the police department is faced with that, where there are so many people on their payroll that are not physically up to the job that it becomes a concern; if all the surrogates were to be lost, how would they police the city? But that’s not an issue specifically for Harvey.

BF: Has he interacted with other people besides his wife, without the surrogate?

RV: In the book you don’t ever see him do that, no.

BF: Is he kind of a shut-in, as far as just cut off from other human contact?

RV: That’s something that’s never really defined in the book. His co-workers only know him as his surrogate because they only see him when he’s on the job. But there aren’t any scenes where you see him going out into the world as himself to go get take-out or anything like that.

BF: So that’s not really an issue for him, in terms of having to emotionally deal with face to face interaction.

RV: No, no, not at all. His reason for having the surrogate is purely that it’s like a bulletproof vest.

To be continued...

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