stuart beattie interview

This weekend, crowd’s will have the option to “Go Joe,” with the live action adaptation of the popular Hasbro toy line, G.I Joe: Rise of Cobra. Recently, I was lucky enough to interview the film’s screenwriter Stuart Beattie. He opened up about this feature as well as several high profile projects he has on the horizon, which include Halo, Tarzan, Tomorrow, When the War Began, and Spy Hunter just to name a few.

With so much ground to cover Beattie was eager to answer all my questions, check out the goods after the jump…

How long has the G.I. Joe movie been in the making?

Um, I’m not sure. They had several writers on several drafts for several years. I was called in around September of 2007. I was told to start from scratch basically. From that point on, it’s only been a year and a half. I think it was a long time in development, but when it actually got down to making the movie it went very fast.

You were brought on board after the massive success of another Hasbro based film, Transformers. Was there any extra pressure on you to really deliver with this script?

Sure, I mean I always feel pressure to deliver a script, that’s part of the job. The fact that it was such a huge property just tripled the pressure. Especially when the one they’d done before, [Transformers], had obviously been incredibly successful. So, yeah it was really stressful. Also, stressful because of the limited amount of time I had to come up with the story, to write the actual script. I only had about 6 weeks to come up with everything, write it out into a script, and make the green light. There was the time pressure, and also the bigger pressure of taking something like G.I. Joe and turning it into a film.

There are a lot of characters in the GI Joe universe, how did you decide which ones to put in the film?

It’s actually a two part process. The first part is, what are the core groups? What characters do you need to have to make it a G.I. Joe movie? Right off the bat, I knew I had to have Duke, Baroness, Destro, Cobra Commander, Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow, and Hawk. Just a certain core group of people, because without them it wouldn’t be G.I. Joe. That was the first part, then the second part was alright, now who else do I need in order to tell this narrative? I need Duke to have a best friend. Well, who’s the best character out of the G.I. Joe cannon that can pull off these things? Well, that’s Ripcord. You kind of start looking at the narrative and let the narrative dictate the rest of the characters.

One of the greatest mysteries surrounding this film is Cobra Commander. What can we expect from his character?

Well, the movie is the Rise of Cobra Commander, and how he came to be. In many ways its an origin story for a lot of the characters. I started kind of knowing that I couldn’t just start the movie with those people, the way that we know them in G.I. Joe lore. I had to introduce them as real people, and how they became those iconic figures. So for Cobra Commander, this is how he comes to be. He starts off as someone who’s not at all Cobra Commander, and you see what makes him that way.

How’s Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s portrayal of him? Does he bring his A-game?

I was on the set everyday and I saw it all being done, being created, and it was really, really great. He goes to some really cool places with it. I’m excited to see how other people will respond to it.

There’s been word that this is the first installment of a possible franchise. How many sequels will there be, and will you be on board?

I don’t know if anyone can say for sure if there will be a sequel right now. I think that’s a decision that will be made at least in the next few weeks after the film comes out. I would love to be a part of it, I’m actually directing a film down here [in Australia] so it’s more a question of availability. There are a lot more characters that I’d like to bring in. I’d love to be a part of it, so hopefully I’ll be able to get to it.

That’s right! You’re currently in Australia preparing for your directorial debut, Tomorrow, When the War Began. Can you tell me a little about that project?

It’s coming along very, very well. I just met with the author [John Marsden], and he loves the script. He’s given us his special blessing, and we’re on out way. We’re in week three of prep right now.

I know the Tomorrow series centers on a group of teenagers. Are you going for the PG or PG-13 audience with the film?

I’d say PG-13. It’s a war movie, so it’s real people getting shot. It’s not gonna be ‘R’ or anything, I don’t want it to go that far, but it will have real jeopardy. It will be very much a “real” ride.

Can you clarify your involvement with the developing Halo movie. Were you a part of the Peter Jackson, Neill Blomkamp collaboration?

No, I wasn’t involved at all with them. I was following it, just like everyone else was. I’d read in the papers like everyone else, about how it had fallen a part. It was really because of the writers strike that I came on, because after I’d finished G.I. Joe there was nothing to do. G.I. Joe was already in pre-production, and I thought well what am I gonna do? I always had an idea of how I think the Halo movie should be. I really just wrote it for me. I wrote it as an outline, then I thought I’d just add a little bit more. It became like a treatment, then a 50 page treatment (laughs), and then a script.

Do you think the film will ever get made?

I’ve been relentlessly at it for the last year and a half now, trying to convince Microsoft to make it, and trying to find a big filmmaker who wants to make it with us. I have a lot of hope for the Halo film, it’s not dead in my book. I won’t let it die. It’s too good to let go, I mean it’s our generation’s Star Wars. The whole thing is so cinematic, I just think it’s dying to be done. Anything I can do to be a part of it, to help get it going, I’ll do it.

What can you tell us about your involvement in the upcoming Jack Ryan movie, Without Remorse?

Without Remorse is actually about John Clark, it’s not a Jack Ryan book. John Clark is the C.I.A., shadowy figure that pops up in several Jack Ryan books. He’s in Clear and Present Danger, Sum of All Fears, and The Cardinal of the Kremlin. He’s actually kind of a side character that Tom Clancy took and gave a backstory on how he became John Clark. It’s my favorite Tom Clancy book. I had to update it [it takes place in the seventies], but I’m very proud of that script. You’ve got a highly trained KGB officer letting loose on the drug cartels in Washington D.C. on a personal vendetta. That’s how you get a name like Without Remorse. It’s pretty wild.

We’ve heard that Paramount is trying to revive the Jack Ryan franchise, and George Clooney is attached to star.

Uh, no I don’t have any involvement in the Jack Ryan stuff or any other books. I’d love to see the other books get made. It would be tricky to do The Cardinal of the Kremlin or Red Storm Rising now, because times have changed. But, I’m not involved in any of them, Without Remorse is over at Lionsgate I believe.

Can you tell me a little bit about the developing Tarzan project?

Yes, Tarzan’s over at Warners. They’re doing a remake of it right now. Hopefully, they make that movie. We all want to make that movie.

What about the live action version of the video game, Spy Hunter?

Yes, that’s also at Warner Brothers. I worked very closely with The Rock [Dwayne Johnson] on that. I think what we came up with is really, really cool. I know that he can nail that performance, and be launched as a huge action star.

How long has Spy Hunter been in development?

Oh, God. They’ve had writers on before me, but I came on to that about five years ago. Five or six years, I’d imagine. It is a big tent pole movie. It’ll cost a load of money, and they’ll need a big filmmaker to come on and do it.

What about the adaptation of Man Without a Gun?

Yeah, that’s a passion project of mine. It’s just tricky because it [takes place] in the Middle East. It’s events that transpired in the late eighties, early nineties. It’s hard to get things going right now, because all the recent movies about the Middle East haven’t performed as well as people would have liked. We just have to figure out how to make it. It’s a wonderful story, and a true story. It’s one of the very few positive stories to come out of the whole East versus West struggle. It’s a wonderful message, because it’s all about being in the Middle East….without a gun. It gives us a look at how this one guy did it, with just a pen and paper. It’s really an incredible story. I’d love to make that one day.

Thanks for your time!

Check out G.I. Joe in theaters this Friday!