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Living Vicariously: Robert Venditti Talks Surrogates - Part 5

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In Part 5 of Broken Frontier’s conversation with Surrogates’ author Robert Venditti, he talks about the people involved with the film, meeting Bruce Willis, the buzz surrounding the movie’s release, what he learned about the movie-making business, what’s next for the Surrogates, and his work for Marvel.

Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four

BROKEN FRONTIER: They’ve got some pretty big people working on this movie; besides Bruce Willis, there’s Ving Rhames, James Cromwell, and they’ve got the director and writers of one of the Terminator movies, right?

ROBERT VENDITTI: Yeah, they did T3 together. It’s actually the same screenwriters that did T3 and T4.

BF: Terminator: Salvation?

RV: Yeah. But the director worked on T3.

BF: So did they get the director, and then he said "Well, these guys are good…"?

RV: I don’t know how that worked out. I think that Max and Mandeville went and got those guys and brought them in as a pitched package together before they even brought it to Disney, so I think those guys were sort of attached from the beginning.

BF: Have you met any of these guys, either stars, or the director, or the writers?

RV: I met Mostow when I visited the set, but I have not met the screenwriters.

BF: What about the stars?

RV: I met Bruce Willis, yeah. Who else have I met? Boris Kodjoe… you know, it all depends on the day you’re on set. Everybody’s not there every day.

BF: Ving Rhames or James Cromwell?

RV: I have not met Ving Rhames or James Cromwell.

BF: So you just kind of had a nice chat with Bruce?

RV: Yeah, I mean it was very quick. He was busy doing his job and all that kind of stuff. But it was very nice. He was in the middle of a take, and as soon as the take was over, he came over and said "Hi" to us. So he was a very nice guy.

BF: Do you know if he read the book?

RV: I don’t know, actually. I know he has it, but at the time it didn’t come up.

BF: Right, you’re not gonna say "Did you read the book?"

(laughter)

RV: Yeah, no.

BF: So, among the people working on the film, the cast, the crew, etc, are there any particular past works of theirs that are among your favorites?

RV: Oh gosh. I mean, for Bruce Willis, there’s a lot of stuff of his that I really like, even going back as far as Moonlighting. I really liked Moonlighting when it was on TV way back when. I liked Unbreakable a lot. I liked Fifth Element a lot, Twelve Monkeys. He’s just been in a lot of really, really, good films. Ving Rhames… I’m a big Pulp Fiction fan…

BF: Did you ever see Don King: Only in America?

RV: I did not, but I heard that was really good.

BF: You would swear that it was Don King. He completely inhabited the character. It was amazing.

RV: Really.

BF: He won… I guess it was an Emmy, for it, and he called Jack Lemmon on the stage who was also nominated, and he said "This goes to him" and it was a really nice moment. Jack Lemmon passed away a few years later, but it was a really nice moment. He seems like a really gracious guy. And James Cromwell… he’s just great too, right?

RV: Oh yeah. I liked him a lot in… I’m having a hard time remembering these movies… the one that was set in the 1950s, and had Kim Basinger…

BF: Oh, L.A. Confidential!

RV: L.A. Confidential, yeah.

BF: He’s so evil in that movie.

RV: He’s really good in that, yeah.

BF: Ok, so what are your impressions of the film, having seen the finished product?

RV: I have not seen the finished product. It wasn’t finished till sort of very late in the game, and at this point, I might as well just see it at the premiere.

BF: Have you heard any of the reactions from the people who have seen it?

RV: Yeah, everybody that’s seen it seems to really like it. Even people that have been to the edit bay, journalists that have gone to the edit bay and seen large clips of the film, it seems to be going over really well. I know from visiting the set and seeing the filming that I did that the movie looks great, and they did a really good job on it. So, like I said, I haven’t seen it all together yet, but I have a really good feeling about it.

BF: Were there any particular interesting comments that you heard or read?

RV: Not really, I mean I kind of know everything that’s going on with it before it gets out to the press, so nothing has really surprised me.

BF: Are you hopeful for a big opening weekend?

RV: Yeah. I want it more for everyone else involved than I do for me, because I know how hard all the people involved with the film worked on it, and you just want to see them succeed. So hopefully that’ll be the case.

BF: Any interesting or fun anecdotes from your time on the set?

RV: The whole thing was such a good time. Not even interacting with the name brand guys, the big actors, and the director, and things like that, but even just hanging out and talking with all the blue collar guys, the set builders, and all that kind of stuff. It’s just a great experience watching them do their craft and talking to them. It was all just a great experience.

BF: Being behind the scenes, what would you say was the most interesting stuff you’ve learned about the process?

RV: Just the whole film-making process. I was such a novice to it. I didn’t understand how films are made. You know, I thought that films are shot in the order that you saw them on film.

BF: Right, like they might shoot the end first.

RV: Right. But just the amount of time and effort that’s involved; like when they’re doing a basic talking heads dialogue shot, they’ll shoot the whole one side of the conversation first, and then they’ll break down all the cameras and all the lights and move them like 5 feet and set them all up again, which takes like four hours, to shoot the other side of the conversation. Really time-consuming, really fine attention to detail, all that was really surprising.

BF: So it was educational.

RV: Oh, very much so.

BF: What’s next for The Surrogates? Are you going to do more comics? Are you hoping for a movie sequel, or perhaps a prequel?

RV: Obviously that would be great, but we’ll wait and see how this one does first. But yeah, I have written out three more graphic novel ideas that I would like to do with The Surrogates, so it’s definitely a universe that I want to return to over the years, but in and around that, I want to be doing other things too; I don’t want to just be doing The Surrogates.

BF: What else are you working on these days?

RV: Well, I have a new book that will be out in 2010 from Top Shelf called The Homeland Directive which is more of a modern day political/medical thriller.

BF: And that ties in with your background, since you were a Poli Sci major.

RV: Yeah. And I have an Iron Man one-shot coming out in October, and I’m also adapting the Percy Jackson & The Olympians series to graphic novel format. So I’ve got a few things I’m working on right now.

BF: Any teases about the Iron Man one-shot?

RV: Yeah, if you want to read about it, you can go to the Marvel website; it’s called Iron Man: Iron Protocols, and I’ll let you read what their PR says for it.

BF: You also did a Marvel Comics Presents story for them, right?

RV: Yeah, I did an 8-page Captain America story.

BF: What was that like?

RV: It was a lot of fun. It was the first thing I’d ever done for Marvel, and it’s a Captain America story, but Captain America’s only in it for like a page and a half. The story’s really about a 4F guy who isn’t allowed to fight in World War II. So it was a lot of fun, you know, to be able to do anything with those iconic characters. I didn’t grow up reading comics, so I haven’t been steeped in all these kinds of mythologies my whole life, but still, characters like Iron Man, Spider-Man, Captain America, they’re part of our national mythology, so to get to work with them as characters is a lot of fun.

BF: Are you looking to do more with them?

RV: Absolutely, yeah.

For those wishing to read the OGN the movie was based on then The Surrogates Volume 1 and Volume 2 are currently available from Top Shelf.

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