September 03, 2003
I expect I'll have an ulcer by the time this movie's made...

No good can come of this.

The forum reports:

"The Hellblazer adaptation called Constantine is going through rewrites. Frank Cappello's script is being rewritten by Akiva Goldsman who is also a producer on the project. Why? Warner Bros want Constantine to be a PG-13 movie and Goldsman is toning down the darker elements of the story. He did a similar job last year on the Batman/Superman crossover that was in the works."

Do a Google groups search on Akiva Goldsman and share my misery.

(I'm going to put a few of the films that Mr. Goldsman has written (or re-written) on my Netflix queue and watch them. And I may do some research on that Batman/Superman project and try and find out if it's the re-write that's stalling that picture, and if so, why?)

Yesterday, in BAD SIGNAL, Warren Ellis dropped this quote from HIGH CONCEPT, the biography of "dead film producer and epic drug abuser" Don Simpson (clarification-this is not to say that Warren was speaking of the Constantine film, it was just a "happy coincidence"):

"The pursuit of making money is the only reason to make movies.

"We have no obligation to make history. We have no obligation to make art. We have no obligation to make a statement. Our obligation is to make money, and to make money, it may be necessary to make *history*. To make money, it may be important to make *art*, or some significant *statement*. To make money, it may be important to win the Academy Award, for it might mean another ten million dollars at the box office. Our only objective is to make money, but in order to make money, we must always make entertaining movies."

Entertaining being in the eye of the beholder. So often the eye of the lowest common denominator. The wasted youth with disposable income that've been weaned on PS2, American Pie movies and an MTV that doesn't even play videos anymore. So now the video directors have to make movies. Visual Ritalin.

So I'm back to dreading what the Hollywood machine is going to do to this movie.

I'm sure it will be entertaining.

constantine | from inside the mind of krix at September 03, 2003 12:15 PM .

don't worry about it too much. Speed was considered a weak script in the beginning (I've read it and I agree). Keanu is given much credit for transforming Jack from a one-dimensional, unlikeable lug to someone the audience could connect with a root for.

I have a lot more to say on this topic, but maybe another day. :)

Posted by: amphora on September 3, 2003 12:42 PM

I hope they sort it out...

Posted by: Jen on September 3, 2003 12:45 PM

That's a very good point. :)
I want to like this movie, and root for it through the entire process. A rewrite I can take, even PG-13 I can grudgingly accept. I'm just concerned about how this particular writer will "tone down" the darkness of a story/character whose essence is that darkness.

Believe me, I will waffle on this whole thing over and over. Someone should keep a tally.

Posted by: krix on September 3, 2003 12:50 PM

Akiva won the 2002 Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for A Beautiful Mind, which is an amazing and complex film. His skills as a screenwriter are immense.

Of course, he also produced Lost in Space.

Hollywood, as usual, is a mixed bag.

Posted by: SeaSing on September 3, 2003 12:53 PM

A Beautiful Mind has gone to the top of my Netflix queue, I've never seen it.

Posted by: krix on September 3, 2003 12:58 PM

I'd like to know what you think of it. It's also rated PG-13 and has some very dark moments and some serious depictions of mental torment. If anyone can move Constantine down to PG-13 and keep the intensity, I think he can.

Add in Mr. Reeves talent for torment, and I'm not as worried about the film as I might be with lesser creative skills.

Posted by: SeaSing on September 3, 2003 01:04 PM

OK, I'm going to start posting everything that freaks me out on here, because you guys are making me feel better already.

Posted by: krix on September 3, 2003 01:07 PM

Hey, we all went to see Sweet November didn't we -and that script sucked persimmons, IMO (please don't persecute me for my opinions). Yet this is an example of what trimming to get a PG-13 does to a perfectly nice story.

My only experience with Akiva Goldsman's work was with "A Beatiful Mind" which had it's sappy moments, but did win him the Oscar for adapted screenplay.

Be that as it may, I don't like the sound of this. When will they stop shopping Keanu to the pre-teen set? Don't they realize that the Matrices are R rated? DUH?

Posted by: Chianti on September 3, 2003 01:12 PM

I'd like to add that what SeaSing says makes sense, so I feel better now too. ;) (I was writing my rant and didn't get to read those posts until after I had added my two cents.)

So the script rewrite redux may be why they don't start until October now, huh.

Krix, A Beautiful Mind is excellent; Mr. Crowe is brilliant. Don't get me started about the Oscars. They stopped being about the performance long ago.

Posted by: Chianti on September 3, 2003 01:36 PM

...I never bought the official reason for changing "Hellblazer" into "Constantine" (too much phonetic similarity to "Hellraiser"). Now I begin to understand why they did what they did..., if they call it "Constantine", they can say it's only loosely based on "Hellblazer"... I will remain sceptical about Mr Goldsman...

Posted by: Niobe on September 3, 2003 02:05 PM

Sigh... Nothing but bad news today :-(

I wonder how Keanu feels about all this? He refers to some films he made in interviews as 'I liked the original version' or 'I liked the version before they changed it'. Hm.

Sigh... :-(

Posted by: Julie on September 3, 2003 02:12 PM

Chianti, you're right about Sweet November. NOT my favorite Reeves film. But, if memory serves, the cuts to make it PG-13 happened in the editing process, not the upfront writing. My faith is that since Mr. Goldsman does have a good track record with adapting difficult and intense material, it'll work out better than SN did. Mr. Crowe truly lifted that film as well - I admire his acting, even if I'm not crazy about his public persona.

I liked your question about directing films toward the teen set, but I think that's as fact of life we'll just have to live with. I suspect, however, that the ratings game is spiralling out of mode. Some PG-13 films I've seen were a joke at that rating. You get asinine films that kill, maim, and blow up, and are rated PG-13, while some of the best dramatic and uplifting films get slapped with an R because someone flashes a breast or butt.

As Mr. Reeves aptly said in one SN interview, it would have been ok to kill CT, but not kiss her intimately. It's insane.

Just as a side point, two of the best films this summer (aside from MR) were Finding Nemo and Whale Rider. Both were rated PG, and great for kids or adults. So it's possible to be a success, artistically and monetarily, without pandering to the supposed taste of 16-year-old boys.

I wish the producers would take note of that.

And, by agreement, we won't talk about the Oscars...(but you're right there as well.)

Posted by: SeaSing on September 3, 2003 02:12 PM

If you take everything unique about a character and change it because you think that an audience might not relate then what is the damn point? Who the hell do they think John Constantine is, Harry Potter?

I just want to know, not necessarily in relation to this project, but at what point can an actor just leave, say "I'm outta here cause this sh*t ain't what I signed up for?"

Posted by: Sunny on September 3, 2003 02:27 PM

Sunny, unfortunately he isn't likely to get out no matter what's happened. Once everything's been signed, that's it-he can't get out unless at HUGE financial cost. Check out the history on Kim Basinger's involvement with Boxing Helena and Keanu's own misadventure with The Watcher. That's what happens when a verbal agreement is made, however informally. Backing out is more trouble than it's worth.

I just find this choice of him to do Constantine to be out of character...iffy script and now a rewrite in the works, no director until a little while ago and now a video director doing his first feature film? Something smells here.

Posted by: Raiza on September 3, 2003 02:50 PM

One of the reasons the first director, Tarsem, dropped out was because he didn't think Cage was right for the part - that it would go in another direction from the original character; then later Cage quit.

I do hope that they can keep the character's essence that Keanu found so intriguing and he doesn't end up having to do it because he signed on the bottom line already.

Posted by: Chianti on September 3, 2003 02:57 PM

As I understand it, the more power you have in the business, the more things you can have put into your contract - like script approval, director approval, co-star approval. I would guess that Keanu has progressed to that level and hopefully he'll never have to regret being involved in another project!

Posted by: MC at RD on September 3, 2003 03:02 PM

Hi there. I posted a couple weeks back re: the Becky show and now I'd like to put my 2 cents in here on the work of Francis Lawrence. I've known him socially for about 5 years now (used to do profile pieces on him for MTV, and see him semi-regularly at social functions) and I have to say, after watching almost every major video director come into their own in the past 5 years, I think he is the most talented video director around. Bar none. Not only that, but he is a down-to-earth, quiet, funny and just a really fabulous human being. Francis' talent lies in the fact that he attempts to craft a story arc in each video he creates. Additionally, he really has a handle on how to use visual effects to enhance and not overpower his story. He knows what he wants, I've never seen him freak out, he keeps a cool head and is excellent at communication and problem-solving. Clearly, I could go on. I'm really excited to see what he's going to do with Constantine as well - Hellblazer being one of my fave graphic novels. Funny, a few weeks ago a friend who is also friends with Francis told me "hey, did you hear that Francis got a movie?" and I thought nothing of it, until I found out that he was directing Constantine. I flipped! Francis and Keanu - it's like my own personal dream team! I'm really proud of him. They start shooting in a couple of weeks - if I hear any details or juicy tidbits, I'll let you know. Still enjoying your site...

Posted by: indbiz on September 3, 2003 03:13 PM

oh yeah. so the whole point of that whole diatribe is that - you've got nothing to worry about. the movie is in good hands! :)

Posted by: indbiz on September 3, 2003 03:14 PM

That's good to know, indbiz. I think I'm not so worried about how Mr. Lawrence will handle the movie, but worried that WB will be worried and exert unnecessary influence over the direction.

I think that the smartest move ever in moviemaking history was when the Wachowski's took the first Matrix production to Australia so they didn't have the suits looking over their shoulder.

In any case, thank you for the reassurance, and yes, please drop in if you hear anything about this or any other project of Keanu's.

Posted by: krix on September 3, 2003 03:21 PM

Or, you know.. Just dropping in to say "Hi" is great too :)

Posted by: krix on September 3, 2003 03:22 PM

Two thoughts:

(1) Does Keanu have script approval?

(2) Goldsman and Ron Howard took a lot of heat on A Beautiful Mind because they toned down some of the more unlikeable aspects of thier subject matter personality.

Without knowing the comic as well as I should in order to talk semi-intelligently about it, I think that Hollywood is trying to make a PG13 comic book hero out an R rated character in order to maximize their investment.

Perhaps they should have chosen another property?

Sorry Krix, my twinge of apprehension has become full on dread. It won't be the writer who takes the fall if the movie tanks -- there is a much easier target out there. :(

Posted by: Tyler on September 3, 2003 03:28 PM

well damn, I don't know what to think now......that's all I got............

Posted by: tess on September 3, 2003 04:35 PM

MC you make a good point about Keanu having script approval after being burned before. Certainly he would be in the position now to have that power.

I'm starting to let the good karma back in. Thanks also to indbiz for your reassuring words!

Posted by: Chianti on September 3, 2003 05:49 PM

Okay, so it could be really fabulous or it could be really sucky? Is that the consensus? LOL Sorry, I'm in a weird mood. ;O) I think I'll just wait and see, but I am heartened by what indbiz said about the director. Could be interesting in his hands.

Krix what you excerpted from that book "High Concept" made me ill (or it could be the fact that I wish I was living in L.A. so I could attend the Becky/Orlando Jones screening at Dublins tomorrow night! Damn the short notice!!!). About money being the only reason to make movies. I guess I see it a different way. Can art and commerce ever get along I wonder? It's my feverish hope that someday "enlightened" people start making films and that they reach a wide audience. And to add to this, there have been some really great, high quality films that nobody (hardly anyone) has seen and that's a shame. Sorry, didn't mean to blah, blah, blah... :O)

Posted by: Natasha on September 3, 2003 06:33 PM

I was really looking forward to this movie, the premise looked like something meaty. But now, I am in two minds... although some of what I am reading is reassuring, I hope it's not another Watcher or Chain Reaction... There's a lot to be said for the studio NOT exerting undue influence.

Maybe he could come out to Oz and make the movie.. it worked for Matrix!

Posted by: Sue on September 3, 2003 11:46 PM

Writing a movie down for PG 13 is always a bad sign.
But today most of the movies in America are written for PG 13.
This group visits a movie more than once. But most of the trimmed down movies run bad in foreign countries - the visitors feel betrayed.

Matrix Reloaded made more than twice as much money in the foreign countries - many of the PG 13 movies made less money than in the US.
And it is not the cruelity - its the prudeness of the American movies.

I am sure that Constantine will fail at the box-office. Why - too many movies about comic characters out yet, Hellblazer is an unknown comic character, they have to change the character from British and blonde to American and dark and they have to trim down his issues to PG 13, like chainsmoking, swearing and the religious background.
Oh, and they changed the content already - the character in the comics is ill with lung cancer, due to his smoking habits and they changed to brain cancer.

Keanu may have script-approvement, but he seems to look at one special point of the character and not the whole script.

Posted by: Anna-Marie on September 4, 2003 01:25 AM

why do people get on a rant about a script no one has seen? if a movie differs from a book, doesn't make it a Bad Thing. gone with the wind, anyone? fight club? blade runner? film and text do not need to match. look at the mess of the lord of the rings for that - a try to match and it's a heaving, hulking, shambling groaning drag with the weight of the books on it. it's bad enough keanu projects gets ragged on AFTER the film comes out, do we really need a pre-game show?

Posted by: optimo on September 4, 2003 03:36 AM

The cons and pros were both discussed and it's been my experience that that's what the comment section is about. Sometimes searching for the pony in the barn creates some perspective, even if you haven't seen the pony yet. Oh, IMO, of course.

Posted by: Chianti on September 4, 2003 06:59 AM

Sometimes you're looking for the freakin' pony in the chicken coop.

Posted by: optimo on September 4, 2003 10:50 AM

Hey now.
Nobody's "ragging" on the film. This is a nice civilized discussion about concerns about a project that has gone through many changes, from director to lead actor to script rewrites. And while I only discovered the Hellblazer series because of Keanu's involvement in the film, I have read quite a few issues now and have grown very fond of it. This is more than the movie being different from the book. I don't think anyone here wants to badmouth any of Keanu's endeavors. But I'm not going to be all sunshine and lollipops when the majority of the info I can find on the writer who will be doing the rewrites decribes him as a (paraphrased) hack who ruins films and is the subjuct of a long running joke regarding mechanical spiders in misc.writing.screenplays. And because I have this blog I'm going to voice those concerns, to start a dialog.
It's because I want this film to succeed that I rant and worry about these things.

Posted by: krix on September 4, 2003 11:16 AM

Shiesh..why can't they just let it be a nice adulty- R rated -comic-book film? I think the viewing audience would enjoy it more and it would make teens wanna see it more anyway (let's face it- in today's world teens and adults, though it's the teen's that are market to sooo much, would rather say they went to an r rated comi movie than a pg 13 one...)

Posted by: stacey717 on September 4, 2003 03:19 PM

I'd just like to see something with GUTS, not some watered down version. I haven't read the 'Hellblazer' comics (not being a huge fan of the genre), and to be honest, only stumbled across it for the K content, but once bitten, was intrigued.
I was given 'Spiderman' but couldn't last past the first 30 minutes. Bought (to my shame) 'Daredevil', and woke up when Colin Farrell came on the screen. Thought about watching 'Hulk', because Eric IS an Aussie, and I admire Ang Lee's work... but I can't bring myself to bother.
It seems I can't get past that first Tim Burton 'Batman' scene, when Michael Keaton descended onto the rooftop, and I thought.. 'whoa.. here's something different!'
I have oft heard it said that women prefer character development, whilst blokes will always go for the 'splosions. It would be nice to think that the writer/producers/director/studio would concentrate more on the character, than the obvious big budget stuff that has failed, or not done as well as hoped, of late.
Or is it just a pipe dream?

Posted by: Soo on September 4, 2003 05:16 PM

Another super thread!
Before Kanu's involvement with the character, I'd never even heard of John Constantine. After taking advantage of some of the referenced websites (thanx, krix!!!), I see how cool/tuff Constantine is in his own quirky way. I so hope too much of the character's integrity isn't compromised (for a PG-13 rating) in that so-called script redesign. (Thinking about Spiderman, Daredevil and Hulk as I say this.)

Posted by: phoenix IX on September 6, 2003 03:51 AM

well, i'm not of two minds, and you'll find no waffles here...keanu, get out while you can! he just should NOT do it. and i mean that...

Posted by: lori on September 7, 2003 06:31 PM
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