Screenwriter and director David S. Goyer sat for an in-depth interview during Comic-Con@Home on Saturday (July 25), recapping a career (so far) that has included writing films like The Crow: City of Angels, the original Blade trilogy, Batman Begins and Man of Steel, as well as TV series like Da Vinci’s Demons and Constantine.
Goyer continues to work on high-profile projects to this day, with writing and executive producing credits on two massive upcoming TV series: The Sandman, based on Neil Gaiman’s legendary comic book, and Foundation, adapted from Isaac Asimov’s classic series of science fiction novels.
But in addition to working on iconic titles like the ones mentioned above, Goyer — like every other filmmaker in Hollywood, no matter how successful — has seen a number of projects slip through his fingers, caught either in development hell or a changing of the studio guard. Goyer has worked on a number of unrealized adaptations, touching on several of those during his chat with journalist Jeff Goldsmith.
Early in his career, for example, Goyer wrote a feature film script that eventually became the 1998 TV movie Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., based on the character later popularized in the Marvel Cinematic Universe by Samuel L. Jackson.
“I originally wrote a draft of Nick Fury as a feature film, and Marvel at the time was obviously not the Marvel that they are today, they weren’t even close,” Goyer recalled. “It was a fairly representative adaptation of the (Jim) Steranko era (in the comics), but updated with Baron von Strucker and the Satan Claw and all sorts of things like that. Nothing ever happened with it, it went into development hell, and the studio that had it lost the rights.”
Goyer continued, “Years later, after Blade had been made, some people called me and said, ‘Hey, we’re gonna make a series of backdoor pilots for Fox and, good news, we’ve optioned the Nick Fury script that you wrote.’” But while his script was budgeted at a relatively inexpensive (for a feature) $20 million, the TV version was pared down to $3-4 million. “I just said, ‘Forget it, I don’t want to be involved.’ So they had someone else rewrite it and I had absolutely zero involvement with the TV version.” (Goyer is still credited as the writer).
Another Marvel character that Goyer was involved with before the glory days of the MCU was the Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Strange, whom he adapted for Columbia Pictures in the early 2000s: “It was a fairly faithful adaptation involving Baron Mordo and Morgana Blessing. I turned it in and was really excited about it, but this was one of the ones that got away from me.”
Goyer said that his Doctor Strange script was a casualty of studios wanting to make comic book movies without really understanding the properties: “I remember the executive at the time saying, ‘We love this script and we want to make it, but there’s a lot of magic in it and we wish you could take a lot of the magic out.’ It was then that I realized that they had no idea what they had optioned. They couldn’t get their hands on one of the first-tier characters so they had gone for Doctor Strange.”
Fortunately, Goyer immediately saw the writing on the wall: “I snapped back and said, ‘Oh, I’m sorry, I thought you wanted Doctor Strange but I guess you wanted Doctor Mundane. They fired me the next day.”
We’ll have more nuggets to come from Goyer’s interview later, including his thoughts on Man of Steel’s two most controversial scenes, as well the status of Foundation and The Sandman in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.