John Wagner on Dredd with Colin MacNeil at the Glasgow Film Festival.
Saturday started off much like any other, as the team had planned for over a month we had arranged to meet John Wagner who was in Glasgow as part of the Kapow strand at this years Glasgow Film Festival.
However needless to say nothing ever goes as planned, Admin and man with the plan Ian lost his phone at a gig last night making him very much AFK, this led to much panic among myself and fellow admin Chris that without the details of the arrangements this wouldn’t come to fruition.
However this proved to be unwarranted since as soon as we arrived the Media coordinator came to speak with us and took us across the road to the GCC interestingly she said this years has proved to be twice as talked about as last years so one would assume Kapow plays some part of that.
I have to say almost the entire time I felt more like a blagger than a blogger, On stage was artist Colin Macneil who you will know as the artist on some classic Judge Dredd story lines such as Mechanismo and America among others, other 2000AD properties such as Strontium Dog and Chopper as well as state side fair such as Batman, Tales of Suspense and Predator.
To his side was John Wagner the evil genius who’s titles I dare not remind you of or I could be here all night typing and presenting the questions was Plan B books very own John McShane.
On the subject of;
The use of 3D in Dredd: Wagner felt “the use of 3D added depth to the film, which I liked”.
The History of Violence movie: Wagner felt that he liked what David Cronenberg did with it, but felt somewhat perplexed by the changes to the third act of the story led to the tone of the it not matching the first 2 acts. Interestingly he said this “I approached the publishers in regards to a follow up but they felt there was no interest in it”.
On Comic Book adaptations: Wagner was somewhat critical of Hollywood’s and America in generals fascination with superheroes in particular stating that he likes to see stuff he believes, where as he can’t believe in most superheroes then when questioned about doing work on Batman replied “he isn’t a superhero” however he did cite liking the comedy of The Mask and is very much a fan of the original Crow film.
On the original Dredd movie: “I actually can’t say anything bad about Stallone because if he hadn’t agreed to take the part it wouldn’t have been made anyway”.
On the Robbie Coltrane TV adaptation of The Bogie Man: “The Thing about that character is that he absolutely believe he is Bogie, That’s why I felt Robbie Coltrane’s performance was wrong as he played it in a self knowing way” then followed bluntly with his opinion on the adaptation in general “It was crap!”.
On whether he has ever been interested in script writing: “It’s [movies] much closer to comics than say writing a novel” “But there are many pitfalls”.
On Button Man: Apparently Spielberg bought the rights to Button Man a few years back and has said writers have been working on it but “no writer seems to be able to get the feel right”.
On Cinema in General: Both Colin and John noted that they don’t attend cinema regularly Colin’s view was that he prefers being able to watch films at home at his leisure “I like to be able to plan a day of it[in reference to the LOTR trilogy] stick the first one on in the morning, then the second in the afternoon and the last one in the evening, I could easily do that every weekend” Where as Wagner cited his favorite film to be the classic James Stewart film Harvey.
On the America story line: Wagner hasn’t read it recently but said “It was one of the very few story lines he planned from start to finish due to the nature of it”, Colin Macneil showed a sense of pride in his work on it as “At that point I had only been working there less than five years, when we worked on that”.
At that point members of the audience were allowed to put forward their own questions, Here are some of the highlights from the Q and A;
As Dredd ages as he would real life (He should be roughly 60/70) what is the ultimate plan for Dredd?
JW: “…The time in question I will be dead, I did actually speak to Matt Smith (2000AD Editor) the other week and said I want to write the Death of Dredd but he wouldn’t allow it… Alex Garland said to me that when I die I should leave the script in my will!”
You worked briefly in America John did you not like it there?
JW: “…You would find you would be invited to go do things like pilots and then get there an find you are there with 7 others which you hadn’t been told about!”
CM: “The work itself is no more rewarding than working here just financially it is… I just prefer working here because It makes me more happy!”
How did you first meet Alex Garland?
JW: “He emailed me and arranged to meet at the train station, he asked how he would recognize me and I said I look like the one that’s a bent copper so when he stepped off the train he spotted me immediately, we then drove to a restaurant … it was called Peach Trees!”
You had vague plans for a sequel?
JW: “Originally it was to feature Judge Death … But it would be too much in this world to follow … there has also been talk of Chopper and America and trying to adapt something like that!”
You say you don’t like superhero films I was just wondering why?
JW: “I just don’t believe in them… It’s this American comic obsession which is depressing since it stopped them for many years doing what the medium allows then imprints like Vertigo changed that… I can accept the occasional superhero but a whole genre on them is to much!”
How did you get to do Batman?
JW: “Can’t remember really… But it was easy enough a transition from Dredd, Batman is just a man who has honed his body to it’s peak!”
Have you read any of the current IDW Dredd Run?
JW: “No I haven’t, They have sent me some just haven’t read them yet!”
Is Dredd maybe too subtle for America?
JW: “It is a very British view of America in a way, which was why Alan [Grant] said it never did well over there!” “That’s why I think in the film they stripped a lot of that [irony] out of it!”
Recently in 2000AD there was a story that hinted at Dredd being gay I was wondering where you stood on that?
JW: “…I wasn’t happy about it really, It just shouldn’t be an issue that being said I am working on a Dredd story that has certain gay elements to it…But it is just irrelevant to use for Dredd.””It doesn’t matter if he is gay or straight it just shouldn’t be something to put into it”.
As you said you don’t like Superhero adaptations is that perhaps why the first Dredd didn’t work in that they tried to make it like another one of the comic book adaptations of the time?
JW: “There was stuff like the flying bikes which just didn’t work for me … Though I thought the productions were fantastic the uniforms, The ABC Warrior looked great even though it couldn’t move and shouldn’t have been there in the first place… and Mean Machine and the Angle Gang but it was like they were just throwing all this stuff at the wall”.
I was just wondering what your take was on the new Dredd films look, like how it looks like a future that gradually built up rather than one than just started from scratch?
JW: “I liked how the judges looked like they had been fighting for days and days without a break, so they had a worn look to their clothing where the original everything looked new and shiny… Some readers objected to a some things from the look but I understood why they gave him a paramilitary look, It didn’t bother me” “But there were one or to thing that bothered me like originally Dredd was supposed to give Anderson a kiss in the end however this was just a joke”.
Has there ever been any actors in your mind who would make the perfect Dredd?
CM: “From the seventies Nick Nolte is always who I have in my mind he just has the voice and physical presence for the part.”
JW: “Well I have always said my choice would be Bruce Forsythe because of the chin” “But I felt Karl Urban did a great job though in some early versions he sounded very Clint Eastwood and that was rerecorded quite a lot”.
I was just wondering what you feel about the Judge outfits [in general]?
CM: “The Thing about the Knee pads and all that, even if you draw the chain at any size and any style but you can always tell it’s a Judge regardless of what they are doing.” “It casts a silhouette… but I suppose the eagle shoulder pad can be a struggle just because of angle and whatnot!”
On Tuesday the GFF is showing Judge Minty which is a fan John what was your take on it?
JW: “…I would recommend it!”
CM: “It’s like the comics from the 80’s but real!”
Did Rebellion like it?
JW “No well I wrote to them to see if I could get some money for the people that did it or to see if they would put out the DVD on their own auspices but never heard back from them or DNA [film]!”
When did John feel the character had legs?
JW: “Well it was never designed to last years … I was never in favor of a continuous story!”
You never actually wrote the first Dredd story?
JW: “No I wasn’t working with 2000AD at the time due to a dispute, one of my many over the years, but having no work poverty forced me back!” “But when I saw the outfit a few swear words were used, originally I gave Carlos Ezquerra a picture from Death Race 2000 of Frankenstein and Carlos sent back this Spanish conquistador!”
Be sure to check back for our overview of what you SHOULD see at the GFF and Chris will be bringing you BCP’s personal interview with John Wagner himself.