Interview with DD director Mark Steven Johnson

UGO scored a good interview with Daredevil movie director Mark Steven Johnson. Not only did they talk DD but Ghost Rider as well. Check it out! Hit the link for the full interview!
Mark Steven Johnson, director of Daredevil (Fox)

Mark Steven Johnson is another one of those lucky guys in Hollywood that is bringing all my childhood heroes to screen. I was very worried that the Daredevil movie wouldn't be good, but I was pleasantly surprised. The DVD is even better than the theatrical experience, because it has a second disc that is filled with goodies for both the comic book and movie Daredevil fans. Included is a documentary that interviews such Daredevil luminaries as Gene Colan, Frank Miller, Brian Michael Bendis and John Romita Jr. Shockingly enough Johnson turned out to be even more of a Daredevil geek than I am.

Check out the website the Daredevil DVD:

UGO: Now that the Daredevil has come out and was a hit, is there anything you would have done differently?

Mark Steven Johnson: Oh, yeah [laughs]. Absolutely. It was only my second movie, and my first was so small. This was learn-as-you-go.

UGO: I'm a Daredevil geek, so were the scenes that were cut out things I would have noticed? Also, what would you have changed?

MSJ: One of things I love about the DVD is the making-of stuff, but I can't watch it. It's honest and brutal. You see all the fights that I had to go through to get all the things that the geeks like you and I want. The simplest things are a battle. Even having him wear a costume was a battle. I was constantly fighting over things like that, and if I was a more experienced director with a bigger track record, I might have won more than I did. There's some story that got cut out, and that's always hard, because I was the writer as well.

UGO: What was that?

MSJ: A whole subplot of Matt Murdock and Foggy Nelson in the middle of a murder case. The case ultimately leads them to the downfall of the Kingpin. There's a whole great bit of Matt being the blind detective and getting all the clues together.

UGO: I just wish someone had gotten thrown out the front window of Josie's Bar and Grill.

MSJ: [laughs] I had that in there, too. It didn't work out. You wanted to see Turk go asses over elbows out the window.

Also, some of the effects weren't as good as they could have been because of the rush. Daredevil isn't Spider-Man, X-Men or The Hulk. Most people never heard of it. So there won't be awareness for it like those movies had, which, for me, was cool, because I got to make something a darker character piece. In the middle of shooting, the Spider-Man movie came out and was, of course, huge so the studio wanted more big moments in Daredevil, which isn't the way the movie was constructed. But I do think that, sometimes, the movie jumps from a dark brooding film to a poppy Spider-Man type.

UGO: What was it like recreating Elektra's death almost panel for panel?

MSJ: Wasn't that cool? That was an easy one. You just rip out pages from the comic, put them on the wall and say that's what we're doing. That was really exciting and a big night.

UGO: I do understand, story-wise, why you had Daredevil kill that guy in the beginning, because it connects to the ending of the film. But it still doesn't seem right or true to the character.

MSJ: Some people say that, and I don't buy it. With those story arcs that Frank Miller did, if he didn't kill some people, then he came damn close. He tried to kill Bullseye, but then changed his mind at the last minute.

I agonized over that, and I thought that if Daredevil doesn't kill him, then he's Batman, and every other superhero. If he stands there and lets the guy get cut in half, then that's something I haven't seen before. Every time I could, I would try to do something different. Could the audience root for a guy that isn't even sure if he's a good guy or a bad guy?

Frank Miller was on set when we were going to do this scene, and I asked him what he thought. Frank was like, "Kill him. You have to let him die. It's so much better."

UGO: I guess he would have let Daredevil kill some people if Jim Shooter [editor in chief of Marvel Comics at the time] had let him.

MSJ: Absolutely. He would have been totally happy with Bullseye or Kingpin dying. Once I had Frank's blessing, I was totally fine with it.

I was talking with [Marvel editor in chief] Joe Quesada, who I think draws the best Daredevil of all time, and I told him that I want the Daredevil and Bullseye costume to look exactly like the comic. He told me I was crazy because the Bullseye costume is lame. He showed me his ideas, which were very radical. The actual creators want you to change things.

UGO: It kind of looks like Bullseye fell asleep on the stove.

MSJ: [laughs] A little bit. I thought it was cool, though. That was the idea of scarification, because everyone gets tattoos, so he carved it right into his forehead.

UGO: Any special reason the rapist was named Quesada? Do you know something we don't?

MSJ: No, I was just trying to give a nod to the creators. Joe is a great guy.

UGO: A lot of superhero comic book movies don't adhere to the comics at all, while your movie had scenes directly out of them.

MSJ: Yeah, a lot of changes I was worried about, like a black Kingpin. You're always going to get hits from the fans, but probably the overall criticism the movie got was that it was too much like the comic. It's still reverential to the source material. That's probably true, but I'd rather err on that side than just throw it out and reinvent it.

UGO: You had five main characters to do this movie. That must have been tough to service them all.

MSJ: It was tough. I was pulled in every direction, and that's a drag. Sam Raimi, Bryan Singer and Ang Lee, who did the other Marvel movies, aren't writer/directors of those films. When you're a writer/director, especially a new one like me, you really have to believe in your vision so that, even if it doesn't work out, at least its true. It's tough when you've got so many fingers in the pie and, at the same time, that's what I signed up for. This isn't an arthouse film. There's a lot of money at stake, and you have to try to make their money for them.

UGO: The biggest criticism people seemed to have was that they couldn't separate Ben Affleck from Matt Murdock. Could this movie have been made without him in the main role?

MSJ: Sure.
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