There are few comic book movies that fans will go into with less information than I, Frankenstein; the film was written by Kevin Grevioux and Scot Beattie and adapted to a graphic novel from Grevioux’s first-draft screenplay.
The graphic novel has undergone some permutations since 2009 and will be released ahead of the movie (which comes out in January) but not by much, so many readers will go into the movie cold, knowing not much more than who’s in it and the basic sense for plot that the trailers give.
Taking time on the floor of the New York Comic Con, Kevin Grevioux–the creative force behind Underworld and I, Frankenstein–joined ComicBook.com to talk about his new film.
Kevin Grevioux: Uh, no. See, the way it worked is that Lakeshore didn’t buy the graphic novel; there was no graphic novel to buy. I actually sold them the screenplay that I wrote. That’s how this whole thing started. The graphic novel pages I had were merely for illustrative purposes. And you have to be smart in this modern age of filmmaking when you’re a content creator so that you can expand the universes you create and also take as much control of them in their nascent forms as you can.
So I first brought the idea of I, Frankenstein to Lakeshore back in 2007 but they did not understand it–and this is typical of a lot of producers. When you’re working with genre, they don’t really understand the fantastic worlds that you create so you’re going to have to help them along.
So in 2007 they didn’t understand it but I had other projects that I had to do first and then in 2009 is when I actually wrote the screenplay. They were the first ones to take a look at it and loved it and I had had some artwork commissioned that I was going to use later on as a graphic novel, so I augmented my pitch with that artwork and that convinced them even more that they needed to do this film.
So I kind of put the cart before the horse and that, ultimately, is what helped sell it and is what has helped set up a lot of projects that I currently have around town right now. You know, you write the screenplay first and you sell the screenplay but then you pitch it along with what will eventually become the graphic novel and they love it; they love the cross-pollination and that’s what I love about it, too.
Grevioux: Exactly, exactly. And then when Stuart [Beattie] came along, he had the freedom to do what he wanted to do. Of course, he had to use my screenplay and he tweaked the story but in essence it’s everything I created; it’s just not the monster-fest that I originally had. He simplified it somewhat, and that’s what we have today.
ComicBook.com: A lot of people know you from Underworld, but even just taking a cursory look at your IMDb page, you’re no stranger to comics, from The Mask to Young Justice. Is it cool to kind of be looking at that world in a new way now?
Grevioux: Yeah, exactly. A lot of people, once I broke into the comic book industry, wrongly assumed that I was a Hollywood guy coming in to do comics and I was like, “No, no, no, no.” I was a comic book guy first. I’ve been collecting since I was 12. I have 15,000 issues of comics at home, so I’m a fan, a big geek from way back.
So I kind of resented people calling me a Hollywood guy but I also understood where they were coming from. Being a part of the comic book industry and the film community is really a dream come true and I think one of the important things you can do with your life is to make your avocation your vocation. So it’s interesting that I’ve been able to come full circle like this and really make a living doing what I love to do.
ComicBook.com: You’re also all over this film as a writer, a producer and you’re starring in it as a character who’s big enough to have his own poster released this week. That’s a bit of a cool thing, isn’t it? Most guys, when they get their dream project thrown together, they’re lucky to get it done and you don’t get necessarily on the movie poster unless you’re Stallone in Rocky.
Grevioux: [Laughs] Yeah. My thing was, you do what you can to increase your influence on whatever you create. I think it helps if as a writer you help produce. And if you have the gravitas, the presence to be an actor on it, I think that’s all the better.
My thing is not number one on the call sheet; I’m content being number five or ten. But it is fun. Really being on set and really immersing yourself in a world that you’ve created, that you sat down in your hovel, in your mancave, in your office without any help and just beat out the story, created a world which someone else wanted to buy, and that’s fun. And I think the cherry on the top is being able to act in it because as you know once a writer finishes his job, it’s like, “We’ll see you at the premiere.” That’s it. And I can’t think of a more offensive way to be treated as a creator, you know what I’m saying?
ComicBook.com: But here, you get to physically inhabit it and that’s as involved and interactive as you get.
And you know, of course not everything looks like you expect it to–that’s just the way it is, because film is a collaborative medium. You take the good with the bad; there are some pleasant surprises, there are some unpleasant surprises but at the end of the day, hey, you got your movie made. That’s the fun part and that’s what’s most important.
ComicBook.com: You have this broad palette to work with, too, with both the film and the graphic novel to work with so you get a broad cross section and somebody’s bound to get it close.
Grevioux: [Laughs] Exactly, and that’s what I hope to do with I, Frankenstein and with all my creations: expand them so that you have a crucible of things to play with and that’s what’s important.
ComicBook.com: In this picture, you’ve got Aaron Eckhardt, and you don’t necessarily think of him as the tough guy. Is it cool seeing him stretch those muscles a bit?
Grevioux: Yes, but you have to understand: what Aaron may lack in being a tough guy, he more than makes up for with the gravitas of his performance. You’re talking about a man who’s a prodigious actor, who understands the process of how to create a character and how to bring something that is unique to him to everything he does.
He doesn’t have to be that physically imposing character who is that morphologically speaking; he can do that with a look or with an inflection of his voice or with a movement of his body and that’s what his Frankenstein, his Adam, is all about.
ComicBook.com: When we spoke with Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, we talked about that same challenge, since his character in Bullet to the Head was in a wheelchair. Do you think sometimes that kind of tweak of expectations can create happy results?
Grevioux: Exactly, and of course you’re never going to know exactly how the audience is going to react but that’s what being an actor is about: taking chances, making decisions, making a choice and really not only being an actor, but being a creator, as well. Being a writer, being a producer, is about picking a direction, taking a chance and seeing what happens and hopefully the audience will be on board.
ComicBook.com: Has it been cool working with Lionsgate? It seems to me that at any given time, they have like one or two movies they’re working on and your film is their business.
Grevioux: Oh, yes, and they’ve just been great. They know how to market a film, they know the care that a big epic film like this requires. So from the moment they started seeing footage they knew that had something special and that was really good.
ComicBook.com: What is the thing about this film that nobody necessarily would expect out of the movie from just watching the trailer?
Grevioux: I would have to say that it is Aaron’s performance that really gives the film legs. The way he brings the character I created to life is nothing short of phenomenal.
What we basically did is something that has not been done before in cinema; we have turned Frankenstein into an action hero, and that was my goal from the beginning, keeping in congruence with what I did with Underworld; it’s about taking a creature of lore that is typically associated with horror and spinning that on its heel and turning it into this slick action character, and I think the audience will really enjoy it.