Hollywood tradition dictates that an Academy Award nomination begets lucrative offer after offer, and the nominee usually reaps the immediate seven-figure benefits. But sometimes, boyhood dreams take precedence.
Buoyed by his Oscar nod for scripting “A History of Violence,” Josh Olson has become one of the most sought-after writers in Hollywood. But amidst the offers following his nomination came the opportunity to pen a chapter of “Batman Gotham Knight” â€“ and that was an offer simply too tempting to resist. The result is an impressive opening segment to the film that not only arrests the imagination with visually stunning perspectives of Batman, but sets the thematic tone for the entire six-chapter film.
In the segment, entitled “Have I Got a Story for You,” Olson tells the story of how chance encounters with Batman by a group of street-wise youngsters leave each kid with a very different impression of the Dark Knight.
Since “A History of Violence,” for which he was also nominated for the British Academy Award, the Writer’s Guild Award, the Edgar and the USC Scriptor award, Olson has been busy drafting screenplays for both film and television. Olson has adapted the Dennis Lehane short story “Until Gwen” and will be directing the project himself. He worked on a draft of “Halo” for Peter Jackson, and is currently adapting L. Frank Baum’s “Oz” books for Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow Pictures.
Olson will join fellow “Batman Gotham Knight” writers Brian Azzarello, Greg Rucka and Alan Burnett, along with executive producer Bruce Timm, on the panel following the film’s premiere at Wizard World Chicago on June 28. “Batman Gotham Knight” will arrive July 8, 2008 on DVD and Blu-Ray disc, and will also be available that day On Demand via digital cable and for download through broadband sites.
Olson strode off the yellow brick road for a short discussion of his role in the creation of “Batman Gotham Knight,” his amusement over 1960s Batman action verbiage, and his passion for a good, old-fashioned decapitation.
Without further ado, the Q&A with Josh Olson â€¦
Question: You have arguably the most visually diverse chapter in the film. How did you communicate the direction in your script for your variety of Batman looks, and how detailed did you go?
Josh Olson: My feeling was that I’d never worked in animation before, so if I was going to write a cartoon, I wanted it to BE a cartoon. I tried to come up with something that would be as visually entertaining as possible. Having worked on film crews in the art departments and around the digital effects guys, I know the best people for creating those visuals are the people that actually do it. So I was specific in relation to the story â€“ I described a creature that grows out of shadows, a creature that is more bat than man, things like that. But I didn’t get into too much detail because I wanted the directors and designers to knock themselves out. The animators got the chance to go nuts â€“ and with them, and for this, nothing is too wild.
Question: Are they any particular moments in your segment that exceeded your vision?
Josh Olson: Honestly, I love them all, but there are some little flourishes that the director incorporated that really make me happy. In the robot batman segment, I love the way Batman hops off the building, and the way he sort of skids when he’s turning around. There’s a wonderful sense of whimsy in that direction that I really love.
Question: Most folks leverage an Academy Award nomination into seven-figure deals, but you opted to draft one-sixth of an animated direct-to-DVD? What were you thinking?
Josh Olson: I’m a comics kid going way back, and we’re talking about my favorite character. I got offered a lot of jobs after Violence, but I’m picky. I have to really love the subject to write it. You’re supposed to take your big money-making job right after you get a nomination, but I took this Batman project because it was an absolute no-brainer. You don’t buy a house off this, but I was absolutely thrilled to do it. I got the chance to write the cartoon I would have wanted to see as a kid, and would still be entertained by today as an adult. I always wanted to write Batman â€“ and when Chris Nolan is done with them, I’m ready.
Question: Did you take a different approach to writing for animation than you normally take to live-action?
Josh Olson: This is so much more about the visual, and you have to be keyed into that. You have to justify the medium you’re working in â€“ in other words, it’s animated for a reason. It’s not an arbitrary choice. So I had to do something that justified that medium, and this one definitely does.
Question: Is there anything in your segment that we might not see if we weren’t looking for it?
Josh Olson: There are all sorts of little in-jokes. When the girl is describing the fight sequence, and she’s saying “biff!!!” and “pow!!” — that’s my little tribute to the on-screen sound effects from the old Batman television show. But one of the words they had on screen back then was “flrbbbb!” â€“ that drove me nuts as a kid. That’s not a sound effect! So I had to throw that in.
As a nod to Chris Nolan and “Memento,” I thought it would be fun to approach this by telling the story backwards. So you’ll notice that each time the villain appears, he seems to be gaining weapons instead of losing them. That was an intentional nod to Chris Nolan’s film, and I love playing with that type of structure.
Question: Where did the inspiration for your segment initiate, and how did that play into your approach?
Josh Olson: The idea that was pitched reminded me of a great old 1970s Batman comic â€“ Dick Giordano drew it, but it could have been Jim Aparo â€“ that was a short story about three kids, each of whom saying what they thought Batman looked like. I remembered there was also an animated version that had three kids describing him in different iterations. Now you get a third story, so it becomes a legitimate genre. I always loved that story â€“ kids sitting around a campfire talking about Batman, and he shows up. I thought it would be fun to make it more active.
Question: How did you decide on the street slang the kids used in describing their brushes with Batman?
Josh Olson: That was tough because I didn’t want it to be completely locked into contemporary slang. I used some writer’s tricks to cover up the fact that I’m way too old to know how kids are talking today. I wanted it to be timeless and a little futuristic, so I used classic street kid slang tossed in with contemporary slang. I thought that was it would become clear that this was not set yesterday â€“ it would be more likely take place tomorrow or the day after, at the latest.
Question: Was there anything you definitely wanted to include that you’re particularly proud made it into the final film?
Josh Olson: Just because it’s a cartoon, and because of the nature of the story, I wanted to do the one thing you’d never see in a Batman segment: a decapitation. I was so happy they let me keep it. I thought, “I’ve gotta get it in there.” The director did such a beautiful job. Batman never kills anyone. I wanted to have him do something really grotesquely inappropriate, and yet get the point across that Batman never kills. That was fun â€¦ very dark fun.
Question: So, ultimately, how did you feel about your segment and the overall film?
Josh Olson: It’s fun â€“ really visually pleasing. It was the best version I could possibly hope to see. I’ve never seen a movie that so honored the script â€“ it’s up there word-for-word, perfectly translated, and it’s really exciting to see that it worked. I’m a huge fan of this film â€“ the visions of Batman are amazing, and the visuals are incredible. I especially enjoyed Alan Burnett’s segment â€“ there’s a visual of Deadshot on the Ferris wheel with these balloons and fireworks â€“ it is really amazing. This project was an absolute blast.
via Warner Bros. Home Entertainment