Monday, April 19, 2010

Garth Ennis Talks 'Crossed'

Irish comic legend Garth Ennis comic book series 'Crossed' has just been picked up for the big-screen adaptation treatment by Kickstart Productions. The comic published by Avatar Press follows the story of survivors dealing with a zombie-like plague that causes its victims to carry out their most evil thoughts and wishes, including murder, rape, mutilation, arson, etc.

Carriers of the virus are known as the "Crossed," as a cross-like rash appears on their faces. This contamination is primarily spread through bite wounds and rape, assuming that the victim doesn't die first, but can be spread by any bodily fluid, which the Crossed have used to great effect by treating their weapons with their fluids. It does not appear to affect animals in any way.

Garth Ennis has talked to MTV about scripting the film from his own comic:
"We're at the very, very early days," said Ennis' of the current status of the film, adding that his involvement beyond writing the screenplay "remains to be seen."

"I've written a screenplay — a second draft, really," he explained. "So I've done that, but in terms of casting or any type of production, we're not there yet, so it's very hard to say how much I'll be involved."

Given the extremely adult subject matter of the series (it features some of the most grisly acts of violence I've ever seen depicted in a comic), Ennis acknowledged that there's certainly reason to believe a studio might want to tone it down. However, he hasn't seen any indication that the film's producers intend anything other than a faithful adaptation.

"It's hard to say [if it will be changed]. On one hand, it's an incredibly simple story," he said. "You look at it and think it would be hard to make a mess of it. In terms of content, yes, it's possible they might want to tone something down. This is one of those total unknowns when it comes to the film industry — you never know what they're going to do."

"At the moment, I'm very encouraged by everyone I've spoken to at Kickstart — they get it," he added. "They like 'Crossed' for what it is. No one has ever given me the impression they just want an image they can stick on a t-shirt, or a title without a story. They like the characters, they like the villains, and they like the notion of The Crossed. So that's encouraging. As always, it's hard to say where it will end up, though."

Ennis said his script covers the first 10 issues of the "Crossed" series he wrote for Avatar, without any of the tie-ins or spin-off series they've launched subsequently. More accurately, the script will contain half of the first 10-issue run — the scary half.

"For me, 'Crossed' is just those 10 issues. That's my 'Crossed' story," he said. "You'll see many other 'Crossed' books, but you won't see those characters again."

"But the first thing I had to do was effectively chop that story in half, because it's a 240-page comic," he explained. "You want a screenplay to be 110-150 pages, so I had to slice the story in half. What I did was, essentially, concentrate on the more serious, darker, tragic elements of the story and edit out some of the comedy."

According to Ennis, the decision to focus on the horror element was as much a matter of storytelling technique as space.

"In the comic, with 240 pages you can veer from humor to tragedy and back again, because you've got more breathing space and the transition won't seem as jarring," he said. "When you're talking about a shorter story, you can't really make those transitions without it being very jarring — funny one minute, tragic the next. That doesn't really work."

"So I had to decide: is this a horror-comedy or a straight horror?" he added. "And I decided to go with a straight horror story."

With various other comics projects in various stages of development, including adaptations of "The Boys" and "Preacher" comic book series, Ennis explained why he finally decided to take the screenwriting plunge with "Crossed."

"It worked well for me because I think 'Crossed' is incredibly simple," he reasoned. "It's such a simple story: here is the monster, here is what it looks like, and it's instantly recognizable. It only does one thing, and our heroes only have one imperative: to stay the hell away from them."

"So it's a very simple story, and I think that helped when it came to adapting it," he said. "There weren't the 200 elements that you need to deal with in a story like 'Preacher.'"