Writer Marc Guggenheim Talks Eli Stone, Green Lantern Movie
Eli Stone & Green Lantern, two characters in the mind of writer Marc Guggenheim
By Vaneta Rogers
Marc Guggenheim is among the growing list of comic book creators with their feet firmly planted in Hollywood.
The current Amazing Spider-Man writer became well-known in the comics community when he worked with DC Comics to end the Flash: Fastest Man Alive series along with the life of the main character. But he's also a busy man in the world of television and movies, having a resume that includes writing gigs with Law & Order, CSI: Miami and Brothers & Sisters.
His latest TV effort is ABC's quirky legal show Eli Stone, the series he co-created with Greg Berlanti. The show, which stars Jonny Lee Miller as a lawyer who's guided by hallucinations caused by a brain aneurysm, originally aired as a mid-season replacement in January, in the middle of the highly publicized writers strike. After the initial 13 episodes, Eli Stone gained enough of an audience for ABC to renew the show for the 2008-2009 season.
At the same time, Guggenheim and Berlanti are working with Superman/Batman co-writer Michael Green to draft a script for a live action Green Lantern film for Warner Bros., which Berlanti is slated to direct. (Green is another of those Hollywood-comics folks, having been a writer on Heroes and of the new NBC show Kings.)
While Newsarama talked to Guggenheim last week about his upcoming "new Kraven" storyline in Amazing Spider-Man with artist Phil Jimenez, we chatted with the writer about both the renewal of Eli Stone and the status of the Green Lantern movie.
Newsarama: First, Marc, congratulations on Eli Stone getting picked up for a second season.
Marc Guggenheim: Thank you.
NRAMA: Have you started back with the show?
MG: Yeah, our very first week back was [last] week. We have a spectacular season planned. I haven't even told the network about this stuff yet, so I probably shouldn't spoil things in an interview. They probably wouldn't appreciate that. But we've got some really huge things going on.
NRAMA: If you can't talk specifics, can you talk in general terms about the season? Or maybe what makes it different from last season?
MG: If last season was about Eli changing the fabric of his law firm, if Eli's efforts are like a stone being dropped into a pond and you felt the ripples, in the first season, the ripples never went really beyond the four walls or corners of Wethersby, Posner, and Cline, the law firm where he works. This season, it's all about the ripples extending out to the entire city of San Francisco. Basically, making the show bigger, bigger, bigger. More epic.
NRAMA: Epic is a big word.
MG: Epic is the word I always try to use when I explain to the network what the end of the second season is going to be, and also when I remind myself what our intent is here. We want this season to truly be epic.
NRAMA: So the "big" stuff happens at the end of the season? The first season seemed like it got much bigger toward the end of the year.
MG: No, this time we jump right in. There are certain things we were talking about ending the season with, and Greg and I were talking, and we said, "Why not [i]begin[/i] the season with those big things? What are we waiting for?" So we're going to come out of the gate with a series of episodes that I think are going to sort of rock your world.
Toward the end of the first season, we were writing as if we didn't know if there was going to be a second season. And it gave the stories this incredible immediacy and these incredible stakes, and even though we're sitting more comfortably in the second season, we're still going to write things from that perspective. That was actually an observation of Greg's, and I totally agree with it, because when I was doing The Flash for DC and I knew I was only on for five issues, and I knew at the end of those five issues that I was going to kill off Bart, it gave all of the stories this incredible feeling, like you really could fly without a net. We're going to bring that sort of storytelling philosophy to season two.
NRAMA: Can we talk to you about the Green Lantern movie? Are you guys still working on it?
MG: Oh, yeah! Actually, Greg and I are wrapping up the draft. I can't tell you anything, to be honest with you. That's the funny thing with these superhero movies; you do tend to develop them in secrecy. Maybe I'll get smack from the message boards for this, but I think that's in large part to how, when stuff leaks out, people hear about it out of context and get upset. There's always the concern on the part of the studio that things will leak out out of context and people will get upset and make up their minds before the movie has even finished or even starts filming.
Although, I actually think fans are going to react really positively to the Green Lantern movie.
NRAMA: Can you tell us why you think the reaction will be positive?
MG: Because, it's not only a respectful approach to the character, but it's a loving approach to the entire mythos. So while there is this desire to be quiet and secretive and let the movie speak for itself, it's hard for me, because I feel like I know -- as a comic book fan -- I know what I want to see in a comic book movie. And I know... look, I'm like everybody else. I vividly remember Tim Burton's Batman movie. If you look back, there's Superman: The Movie and the first Batman movie, and those two movies are the first big budget, superhero tent-pole movies.
And you kind of hold your breath because we've all seen the disastrous effect that the Batman TV series had on the respectability of comic books. So I actually feel like comic book movies need to be better than your average movie. I think it's wonderful that we're living in a time and I'm working at a time when comic books have really gained that respectability, but I don't take it for granted. I don't want us to lose mainstream respectability. I think comic books have come an incredibly far way and I want to make sure we don't take a step back. I certainly don't want my name on a movie that would take it back.
I think Green Lantern has the potential to be a very highly regarded superhero movie. We're approaching it with such respect and such care. And really, it's written to be a movie that everyone who's not familiar with the character can enjoy, but there are so many nods to things that I know the fans love and care about that I think people will be very happy.
NRAMA: You said it's the whole mythos. Can you tell us what characters might be included in that? We've been told it's about Hal Jordan.
MG: I can confirm that it's Hal Jordan, but I can't really talk about anything else. I really wish I could, because there's lots of stuff I want to brag about.
Green Lantern is a great, great character, and Greg and I are always talking at every step of the process about what makes Green Lantern great. We want to be focused on that. We always start all our meetings and story discussions and all of our scene discussions with, OK, what's cool about Green Lantern? Why Green Lantern? And we always come from that place, which is an incredibly useful thing to do because you don't want Green Lantern to be a generic superhero movie. You want it to be all the things you expect when you buy a $10 ticket that says Green Lantern on it.
NRAMA: Is there anything else you reveal about what's in the script?
MG: It's so tempting. Really. But not yet.
NRAMA: To pull off a Green Lantern movie, there has to be lots of special effects, doesn't there? Is it a case of right now being the time for a Green Lantern movie because movie special effects are finally good enough that they can do the concept justice?
MG: Yes. That's exactly it. That was one of the very first things, in our discussions with the studios, that we talked about. Basically, its time has come because now the technology exists to do it right. And you're 100 percent correct that you would need to wait for that to happen.
And what's great about Eli Stone is that we're such a visual effects-heavy show. It's given Greg and I an incredible amount of experience with visual effects and doing very ambitious computer and practical effects. I mention that because Greg is also going to direct the Green Lantern movie. So we're getting our boot camp going on Eli, as far as the visual effects side of the equation.
NRAMA: Well, you have to know that expectations for superhero movies are high right now after the success of Iron Man. As a final question, do you see any similarities between Iron Man and Green Lantern? Either the movies or the characters?
MG: The similarity between Iron Man and Green Lantern is, unlike Superman or any of the X-Men or Spider-Man, anyone can be Green Lantern or Iron Man. All you need is the ring or the suit. Even Batman, who is a "normal" person, is really not normal [laughs] in the sense of who's got millions of dollars and a decade to spend in East Asia training?
But the road to superpowers or superhero-dom is a lot quicker with Iron Man and Green Lantern. It's just, [i]put the thing on[/i], whether the thing is a suit of armor or the thing is a ring. They both have in common that wish fulfillment, as well as incredible action and flying and cool powers. And all the fun things that you want to see in a superhero movie.