Derek Kolstad is one of the busiest writers in Hollywood. In addition to creating the John Wick franchise and penning the scripts to the first three stories, he wrote Nobody, an action thriller in the vein of Wick, only this time it stars Bob Odenkirk. Even then, that's only the tip of the iceberg.
Earlier this month, it was revealed the scribe is currently developing a live-action adaption of the Hellsing anime and manga series. Then there are the reports of a Splinter Cell anime amongst a slew of other projects like Just Cause, Hitman, and even time spent in the writer's room of Marvel Studios' The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
Ahead of the debut of Nobody in theaters this weekend, we caught up with the writer to chat Nobody, and potential crossovers with the John Wick franchise, and much, much more. Keep scrolling to read through our whole chat with the writer!
ComicBook: The Nobody teaser drops and the internet lights ablaze with Bob Odenkirk and John Wickian action goodness. In this situation, what came first — the script or Bob Odenkirk?
Derek Kolstad: Bob Odenkirk. It was after John Wick 2 and right before John Wick 3, he and his wife were up late one night and they watched John Wick on cable and he was like, "I want to meet this guy. I dig this movie, it's super cool." And so, he gave me a call and I went over to his house and it was like, "Holy shit, Bob Odenkirk."
One of the things I've got to say about him is he is one of those guys that remind me of your dad's best friend or your favorite uncle, you know? Nicest cat and we just instantly clicked. He told me the kind of story he wanted to do, the kind of character he wanted to do.
He was just like, "Look, I don't want to be on a soapbox, I don't want it to be preachy. I want it to be what you do. I want to do Jason Bourne, I want to do all these kinds of things but I want it to have humor. It doesn't need to be overtly funny." It was just, from that first meeting, the classic iron sharpens iron. Every time we talked about the story, it kept getting better and better.
I did the first draft or two and then Ilya Naishuller got involved and we did the next 20, 30 drafts, the way that tends to go because we love the process. Eventually, David [Leitch] and Kelly [McCormick] through Marc Provissiero and Braden Aftergood, they all pushed it over into the end zone to get going at Universal. You think of how long it took — a couple of years, but that's still pretty fast.
It was hard; it was a lean, mean movie machine but I loved showing up on set. When I walked up to the set, it was a day when there was this big action scene and it's in Winnipeg. I've got to tell you man, I would shoot in Winnipeg at the drop of a hat. The people are awesome, the city is awesome. But there is a guy lying on the ground in front of a crashed bus and you hear "cut" and that body gets up and it's Bob Odenkirk. And you're just like, "I ove you, man."
The whole process was like that — just people who were just all grins going, "Man, can you believe we're doing this for a living?"prevnext
John Wick Crossover
You think action movies and, obviously, Keanu Reeves had Speed and The Matrix. But Bob Odenkirk is certainly not the first person that comes to mind when you think of mega-action star — and his resume certainly doesn't show it. You've now worked with Odenkirk and Keanu on similar properties, but who else do you want to make one of these movies with. Is your white whale still out there?
I would say I don't have a favorite character but it's kind of like, "Bring me an actor or director with their favorite character." And that's where I would find my joy, is making someone else's movie. It means the world to them, to see it come to life.
One of the great things about Bob and Keanu and some of these other guys I'm working with like Sterling K. Brown and Patton Oswalt, you look at these guys and they have a passion for it. Bob trained for a year-and-a-half before the cameras started and when he was on set, you'd think he'd been doing this for 30 years now.
Now, he has been acting and writing — and, by the way, his notes are phenomenal because he is a writer — but the physicality, man...he threw himself into it. You talk to the stunt guys in the second unit and they were like, "This guy's a joy."
Think of me, for a second, right? I'm not trained for this shit. You throw me on the ground, I'm going to lie there for 11 minutes or so. Do it a second time, give me a bottle of bourbon and a bathtub somewhere. But Bob would be like, "Did you get it? Let's do it again. You get it? You want to do it again? Cool, I'll do it again." And he wasn't hurting himself because he knew how to fall, he knew how to get up.
So, my white whale, really, is people who are like, "Dude, I want to ramp it up, I want to do differently." We saw Kingsmen for the first time, you saw Colin Firth do it. You're like, "Yes. That's the kind of shit I want to see," you know? You think at the time with Die Hard, no one saw Bruce Willis in that role until he did it. And that, I think, is the most exciting thing about an action movie. Is taking a guy who's fucking good at what he does and making him kick ass in such a way where you're like, "I believe it." He gets to death's doorway, he makes it. And at the very end, he gives the camera a smirk, walks off into the sunset because he's going to do it the same time, same thing in the next town over.
You mentioned how Bob watches John Wick 2 and calls you up. Throughout this process, either on your end, or with the studio, was there ever a worry it might be too like John Wick?
I mean, dude, let's be honest — most of these things are like one another. There are elements in regards to world-building that you can't avoid, they're in every spy book I read growing up and every noir. You could try to completely separate yourself and build up a concrete, platinum wall saying, "No, we're different," but that's always kind of douche-y. I'd much rather think of the voice from the guy who narrated those old movies and you hear him say, "He thought he left the war but the war followed him home."
So, there are elements that are John Wick but there are elements that are Nobody and there are elements that are Bob Odenkirk. I'm not going to avoid anything I love to do. They're universes of themselves.
What are the odds we'll ever see the ultimate Nobody, John Wick crossover? Are they zero?
You know, honestly, they're so different. Growing up, I loved Narnia, Lord Of The Rings, Star Wars, and Dungeons and Dragons. They're very, very different creatures but they're very, very, very similar. Right? I think these are two very separate things that if they were to ever converge at a certain point, it would be the two of them walking through an airport and just giving each other a nod. You know?
Like, "Hey, Bob," and "Hey, Keanu." And off they go. "Hey, John." "Hey, Hutch." Do you know?
I think that's much more interesting because at a certain point, when worlds collide, as a guy who loves these kinds of movies, it always feels desperate at that point. And in none of these things do I ever want to find ourself in a desperate place. I would rather it be a little bit of a wink and a nod to each other and the audience. You know?prevnext
Have you broken ground on Nobody 2 or have you not thought that far ahead?
No. We haven't yet, man. But I got to tell you, even before the first one started shooting, we would riff on it. Like, "Where can we go? What can we do?" It's a joy because I really do believe that the best idea wins, and when you are imagining when you're 11 years old, hanging out on the playground or wandering about with your buddies, playing video games and you go, "You know what would be cool? Is if Boba Fett fought so-and-so." That's where we are with Nobody 2. In talking to Bob and talking to Ilya, I want to do as many of these as we can just because it was an absolute joy.
More importantly, everyone encouraged everyone to paint themselves in the corner and then lean on everyone else to find their way out, so that you have something where you're like, "I don't care if anyone refers to anything I've ever written as a guilty pleasure because those are my favorite fucking movies."
With Nobody 2, 3, 4, or however they want to do, it's going to be Bob Odenkirk bringing a soul and levity to a character that oftentimes is just simply a faceless denizen of badass-dom. What he brings to it is love and hope and joy and that frailty of the smirk. Dude, I want to do this one forever. I know we always say those in the press but, God damn it, this is true.prevnext
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
You brought Marvel up earlier and I know, obviously, there's probably a red dot on you right now since I just said the word. Bringing everything back to John Wick, of course — do you consider The Falcon and the Winter Soldier to be the most Wick-ian Marvel thing yet?
Yeah, because they uncap in regards to the action. They would encourage us to go big and then, we would go big and they'd come back with, "That's awesome, you can go a little bit bigger." And yet, it was still rather grounded because one of the things that Marvel does so well is what the best TV does so well — it begins and ends with character.
Do you care about them? Do you wish to emulate them? Do you struggle alongside them? Do you really, honestly, want to stay with them on their hero's journey? And upon it, reaching their end, do you feel satisfied? Do you feel a sense of loss?
I mean, it's the classic storytelling structure we're all after and that was a blast because Malcolm [Spellman] running the room and Kari [Skogland], the director of the series, being in the room, it really was iron sharpens iron, the best idea wins.
The action, I can't even say what they allowed us to do — but what they encouraged us to do — was as John Wick as anything I'd ever done before, man.
Marvel likes recurring collaborators and all that. Are you lined up with your next Marvel project yet?
No, but it was such a joy. The geek and nerd in me are fully realized in regards to the job. And Kevin Feige, for as massive as a name and an individual and a personality as he is, was a joy. When you saw him, he remembered your name and he would geek out with you for a bit and then go on to move one of the 10,000 chess pieces. So, there's nothing in that pipeline yet but, God damn, I hope.prevnext
Speaking of other geeky, nerdy things. Hellsing was recently announced, you have Splinter Cell on your plate still. I swear you're the busiest person in Hollywood.
Here's the thing though, I love to write. I didn't get my first movie made until I was 38 and this really wasn't a paying job until I was 40 and I'm 46 right now. So, it isn't a matter of making up for lost time, I just fucking love what I do. I love to write. And even though all of these things are going on, I still spend an hour every night just spec-ing something new because I get to do it, and how much of a joy is that?
But now, when you look at something like Splinter Cell, an animated series on Netflix and Ubisoft, and then when you look at Hellsing. Dude, my brother, when he was just post-college, introduced me to the anime series and I was just blown away at the creativity, I had never seen a character like that. And honestly, when you talk about dream project, that is one, man. I can't wait to get my teeth into that.
You learned about the anime and the manga from your brother itself. There's been plenty of live-action adaptations of anime and manga. Some good, some not so great.
Let's say, most not so great.
Yeah, yeah. I was being nice there, I'll admit that much. What do you need to make the best possible adaptation? What are you going through to make sure that's breaking the mold of whatever's come before you?
Honestly, it just comes down to what I'm reminded of more and more, in regards to the movies you love.
Do you give a shit? Do you really dig the main character? The reason we go back to watch the movies that we love so much is, yeah, they have cool scenes but it's that character you like who's in that cool scene. I fucking love The Raid, one of the best movies ever made and you think of that hallway scene. Yeah, it's one of the best Kung Fu sequences in history but you cared about the character too and that's why that scene is even better.
I think with something like Hellsing or what I did with Darker Shade of Magic or Splinter Cell, or some of these other things I have in the mix in regards to IP, is you respect the world, you emulate it as best you can but then you rip the character out of it and you really respect and don't change the soul. I think by doing so, that is an easier pathway to success.
Everything in film and TV, there's a little bit of a crapshoot every step of the way which makes for a massive crapshoot as to, is it going to be made me and is it not going to be a steaming pile of shit? Who's to know, right?
But if you love the character, if you love the conflict, if you're intrigued by the world, and if it leaves you both satisfied and wanting more, it comes down to that. Alucard is such an interesting character that you can reinvent, much like the original creators did and yet, when you think of the world having changed since the publishing of the manga and the production of the anime, it's pretty easy to take that character and go like, "Here he is in the postmodern world and he's just as fucking cool."
What's more intriguing is looking at the secondary and tertiary characters and building it on in such a way that when you get to the third one, much like Bond has Q, you want to follow that guy for a bit. Because through his eyes, that perspective shift, you get to see a larger world, still. My favorite World War II movies are always intimate. I love Saving Private Ryan but one of my favorite movies is Hell Is For Heroes and that whole movie is about taking out a pillbox. You get that little sliver of life and it alludes to a much larger one. Dude, you can't do Avengers: Endgame game without the first Iron Man. You have to earn your way up to it.
By the time you get to it, it makes sense why you're there. But those first couple projects, it's 100-percent character with some cool shit that they do. And I think by keeping it at simple and not getting on some kind of soapbox saying, "I'm going to say all these things." And in reality it's like, look, the best movies to me are the ones that are enjoyed both by the people who seek them out and those who are stoned out of their mind on a Friday night. If they can both enjoy it, you're doing something right.
Nobody enters theaters on March 26th.prev