EXCLUSIVE: Max Landis Explains The New Approach To FRANKENSTEIN And What It's Rooted In!!
The Kidd here...
When I heard of Daniel Radcliffe's casting as Igor yesterday in FRANKENSTEIN, I was pretty excited about the possibilities. Radcliffe has been doing excellent work since the end of the HARRY POTTER series, trying to create a career for himself outside of The Boy Who Lived, a familiar trapping that has consumed plenty of actors over the years who have been unable to escape such an iconic role.
However, there is still a great deal of mystery surrounding the project, which we've heard this time is centered around the character of Igor, an interesting idea indeed as we've always seen Igor as this peripheral persona in the past, a sidekick/henchman to do the dirty bidding of the doctor. Therefore, I reached out to Max Landis, who penned this version of FRANKENSTEIN with Paul McGuigan set to direct, to see if I could get a better idea of this new approach to the monster we think we've become quite familiar with over the years. I wanted to see if we could get a better sense of how this take on FRANKENSTEIN would be tailor-made to be told from the perspective of Igor, and how a certain balance would be struck between making this his movie while also not relegating the doctor or the monster to being secondary characters.
I heard back from Max this morning, and, while he described himself as "excited" and "hopeful," there was only so much his enthusiasm would allow him to spill to me with the project still in the process of coming together. However, from his words, I think we get a pretty decent idea of this new approach to FRANKENSTEIN and exactly where the idea came from. Here you go...
This is one I'm excited about and hopeful about and who knows if it all comes together but I'm hoping it does. It's always risky to do interviews before the movie's actually out, you know?
About two years I had an interview where I said it was my favorite thing I'd ever written, and it's still up there for me. When I say that I hope I don't sound like an asshole, I just think it's important to enjoy your own work. I'm not going to say anything here that will "spoil" it, but I can hopefully more eloquently express "how," if not "what" the movie is.
A little bit back I went on the Nerdist podcast, and I had a great time. During that I pitched an idea for an adventure movie trilogy I'd had recently that sort of started as one story and then revealed itself to be a 'reimagining.' Someone posted it on youtube, me pitching it to Chris and Jonah and Matt, this random adventure idea. If someone wanted to, they could watch that, and get a feeling for my tone, and what I like to do. Frankenstein is sort of like that, in spirit.
Most of my projects that are set-up right now are my original ideas. In my career, I've only written a couple "reinvention/reimagining" type stories. I'm not a guy who guns too hard on the "HOLLYWOOD IS CREATIVELY BANKRUPT" issue, because one, I don't believe it, and two, I'm in the business, and from the business side of it, reinventions and namebrands do seem to be making an awful lot of money, don't they? And that's no one's "fault," and that's not "the downfall of filmmaking," that's just the stage we're at in the industry.
I am, at the end of the day, a guy who loves story. So I came up with this idea for a story that I thought was touching, and exciting, and then as I was coming up with it I realized "Oh, shit, this is Frankenstein."
And it's not some "dark and gritty retelling/bad ass action reimagining," that's not what I do, that's not what I'm interested in writing. Sure, a lot of my stuff is dark, and this does have dark bits and bad ass action, but it's ultimately about characters.
And that's what's funny about it being a retelling of Frankenstein. I'm going to pose you a funny question here: When did the character Igor the Hunchbacked Assistant first appear in the Frankenstein Mythos?
He certainly wasn't in Mary Shelley's revolutionary, but extremely dry novel. That novel was about a college dropout on a boat in the arctic being hunted by a monster that he'd made in some unspecified way. And the monster was SMARTER than him, get that.
Nor was Igor in the iconic Universal Karloff movies. Those were at first about an insane Doctor obsessed with defying God and creating life for himself, and then, after the doctor died, became about the wanderings of his creation, a barely-intelligent simpleton neanderthal.
And in that one, Frankenstein had a hunchbacked assistant, a real creepy bastard...named Fritz. And then in the sequels, Bela Lugosi showed up as "Ygor, a broke-necked asshole blacksmith who'd manipulate the Monster into doing shit.
I realized we were missing Igor, the Igor everyone seemed to know, and I was like, "Wait, what?" So I started watching ALL of the Frankenstein movies, from Mel Brooks to Peter Cushing to Robert Deniro, and realized that the only time Igor's actually been (Doctor?) Victor (Henry?) Frankenstein's assistant was in the fucking Monster Mash.
I was like, "Wait, what?"
That's when the idea came to me: instead of trying to do some high minded "revisionist" Frankenstein, why not try to stay true to a version that only lives in the zeitgeist, and has NEVER REALLY EXISTED.
And why not do it in an intelligent, hopefully, thoughtful way, about friendship and science, genius and madness, love and ambition, life and death?
Why not use that imaginary, fairy dust framework of "guy with hunchbacked assistant makes monster" and make it fun, sad, scary and hopefully, I really hope this, moving.
Let's just hope it comes together, you know? I think it's really cool.
Also, Doctor Frankenstein, I hate to break it to you, but if man wants to create life, there's already a process he can undertake to get that done. It's called "having sex," and believe it or not, if you're doing it right it's way more exciting than a lightning storm.
But often twice as dangerous.
There you have it - a FRANKENSTEIN that has never really existed before, creating from our own lying eyes. I'm further intrigued, to say the least.
"The Infamous Billy The Kidd"
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