ENLARGE IMAGE Sometimes, the planets align and things just go right.
For Cully Hamner, not only does he have a steady comic gig that he enjoys and deadlines with which he's comfortable, but one of his completed comic book series, Red, is on the fast track to becoming a film with an impressive slate of actors.
The lineup for Red, Robert Schwentke's adaptation of the comic by Hamner and Warren Ellis, already featured Bruce Willis as the lead character, Paul Moses, and Julian McMahon as the vice president. Rounding out the cast are such stars as Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, John C. Reilly and Mary Louise Parker.
Earlier this month, Summit Entertainment, which scooped up the rights to Red last year, announced that McMahon, Ernest Borgnine, Richard Dreyfuss and Brian Cox would join the cast.
The story focuses on Moses, a retired CIA operative who spent his career carrying out deadly orders for his superiors in the hotspots of the world. When a new administration takes over the government, they decide Moses knows too much, forcing him to fight against the agency that trained him.
While the movie starts filming in January, Hamner is busy with his latest project with writer Greg Rucka -- The Question co-features in the back of Detective Comics. Since the new creative team took over the book this summer, Hamner and Rucka have been exploring world of Renee Montoya and her supporting cast while the main title has been focusing on her former flame, Batwoman.
Newsarama talked to Hamner about how it feels to have Red moving toward production and how he approached Renee Montoya in his Question co-features.
Newsarama: Cully, how did Red get all these top name stars? My gosh!
Hamner: You know? It's news to me! I find out about these things probably about the same time everybody else does. Someone will send me an article, or I'll see something on the 'net. Very seldom do I find something out before anyone else does.
What do we have so far? Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, Mary Louise Parker, John C. Reilly, Julian McMahon, Richard Dreyfuss, Bryan Cox and Ernest Borgnine.
Is there anybody in this entire cast that's not a major award winner? I think all of them have either won or been nominated for an Oscar or a Golden Globe, if I'm not mistaken.
Nrama: Do these actors line up with what you were thinking for the story? I mean, I know some of these characters are unique to the movie.
Hamner: Well, Bruce Willis is a good choice to play, well, the character in our book is Paul Moses. I'm not sure he'll have exactly the same name in the movie, but I could be wrong about that. But he's a good choice.
But yeah, the book that we did has really only got four major characters in it. It's a tight little book. Paul Moses, in the book, is a pretty lonely guy. But this has a bigger cast than the book ever did.
Nrama: Is that OK with you?
Hamner: I am totally cool with it. I understand the fact that, when you translate a comic to a movie, there are going to be some things that are either not going to make the translation or are going to add to it and become more than what you did. And with a comic like this that was three issues long -- I mean, we're talking 66 pages -- it has to be fleshed out a little bit. So I'm totally cool with that. I am looking forward to seeing it.
To get this caliber of actor on board, I imagine the script is pretty good. So it's going to be real interesting to see. I'm pretty excited about it. It's going to be cool.
Nrama: This has been a pretty quick moving project for Hollywood, hasn't it?
Hamner: Oh, it's gone so fast. It's been the exact opposite of everything I've ever heard about selling a movie option. You hear about selling a movie option and it never gets made. You make a little bit of money; it's nothing crazy. And then you wait until the option expires, and they either renew or you sell it to somebody else. But this was a situation where we finalized it only last year. And boom! They're going to start shooting pretty soon. It's really crazy.
Nrama: Once you guys hand over the film option, are artists usually involved in the filmmaking process at all?
Hamner: You know, I think that's a case-by-case basis. And in this case, I'm not. I think they've got a particular take on this thing. I haven't been asked to be involved. Even if I were, I'm not sure I would have time to. That sounds pretty blas?' I know, but I've got a monthly gig that I'm trying to stay on top of. It sounds to me like they're going to make this thing pretty fast. They start filming in January, and it comes out in November. They haven't asked me to do anything. I don't think Warren really is involved much either. But I'm going to be there in the audience, probably at the premier, when everyone else sees it. And I'll just enjoy it.
But right now, I'm just concentrating on the Question. It's been nice to be on one title for awhile. It's sort of a rare thing for me. Until the last couple of years, where I did Blue Beetle and the Black Lightning stuff. But this is the first time in awhile where I've just been month-in, month-out on this book.
Nrama: Let's talk about the Question. How has it been working out for you doing a co-feature?
Hamner: It works out for someone like me, because I'm not the fastest artist on the planet, but I can be consistent when I have the right situation. So I'm not called upon to do 22 pages a month, but I can fairly comfortably do this. And it's nice to be in one place every month, where people know where I'm going to be and they can check out whatever I'm doing. It's a good thing for me. It's kind of the best of both worlds. I don't have to have the commitment of having to do that many pages a month, pencils and inks, but I can definitely do this.
Nrama: Were you a fan of Renee before doing this series?
Hamner: No, and it's funny because when Mike Siglain first asked me if I was interested in doing it, I was kind of stuck on the original Question, the Vic Sage version of the character. It was mainly because of the iconography of how he looked, you know, that cool '60s fedora and suit kind of look. And I was, at first, a little unsure I wanted to do the Renee Montoya version. 'Cause you know, usually, it seems like successor characters, even though I've worked on a few of them myself, if they're not different enough, they tend to be watered down versions of the original characters.
ENLARGE IMAGE But once I read what Greg had been doing with the character and what he had in mind, I was on board at that point. I was impressed with the depth of the character and how much he had going on. And once I realized they were going to let me interpret her in my own way, it became a no-brainer.
Nrama: What do you mean interpret?
Hamner: Well, first was just making her act within the stories, and giving her sort of a personality of her own to go along with what Greg was writing into the character, visually giving her a personality. But I also wanted to bring back what I thought was cool about the original Question, which was that that iconography that I mentioned. But I didn't want to dress her like a man, you know? I didn't want to have her wearing a tie and stuff like that, because that's what always seems a little off-putting about the Renee version of the character. You had a character that had a fedora, but had a ponytail, and would wear leather jackets, but would wear ties. And it seemed to me that they were missing the kind of equivalent that the female version of the Question could have -- suits that were cut to a woman's figure, a more modern fedora, that sort of thing.
Once I realized what they were going to let me do, I was whole-heartedly on board.
Nrama: What's been your impression so far of working within this shorter format?
Hamner: You have to be all about economy. You don't want to give a short shrift to character, but you have to be more strategic about it. But both of us have to kind of, for lack of a better term, rein in your impulses a little bit, and just do what you absolutely need to do to tell the story. It's an interesting contrast, I think, between what we're doing and what Greg and J.H. Williams are doing. If you look at what they're doing in the front of the book, it's just really, really inventive layouts and a lot of room to do that sort of thing. It's incredibly impressive. And it's something I wouldn't even bother to try in an eight- or 10-page story, for a couple of reasons. First, you just don't have the room. And second, I just don't think it's smart to try to tell a story in a way that would try to compete with the first feature in the book. I think the idea is to complement rather than compete.
ENLARGE IMAGE You look in the front of the book, and it's just this incredibly inventive look. And in the back of the book, it's more of a traditional, kind of bare-to-the-bone type of storytelling. And that's something I'm better at anyway. I really like that kind of storytelling.
Nrama: Can you tell us anything coming up in the books that you've been drawing?
Hamner: I've gotten to draw the Huntress, which is pretty cool. And she's going to be kind of hanging out in the book for a little bit. I just got done talking about having to be strategic about where you place character type stuff. Issue #860 is going to be a little bit more of a breather. It's going to be a little bit more of getting to know Renee, I think. So that's been kind of interesting for me to draw, because I've had several issues now of drawing pretty balls-out action and fight choreography. And that sort of thing. And this is a little bit of a wider one. It's an interesting contrast to what we've been doing.
I don't want to give away anything that Greg's got planned, so I would just say, keep watching. Keep reading. And I would just want to say to the fans that I really appreciate the fact that you're buying the book and are still enjoying it.