EXCL: Writer Talks About the Origin of Legion

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Demon army, different directors & Doom adaptation

Screen Gems’ January 22, 2010 release Legion arrives with an army of furious angels, a director with an extensive FX background (Scott Stewart) and an ensemble cast that includes Paul Bettany, Dennis Quaid, Tyrese Gibson, Doug Jones, Charles S. Dutton, Lucas Black and Adrianne Palicki. It’s an apocalyptic frenzy over a decade in the making, believe it or not. The original script was penned in the ’90s by Hollywood editor Peter Schink and, since then, it traded multiple hands before landing at Screen Gems. I reconnected with Peter recently to get the lowdown on Legion‘s past.

Oh, and in case you haven’t heard about the film’s plot, it concerns a group of people holed up in a diner defending themselves from gun-wielding angels who have been sent to Earth to wipe out mankind. Schink’s original concept was slightly different…

ShockTillYouDrop.com: Take me back to the genesis of the project. It existed long before you and I met in 2002.

Peter Schink: Many years ago I went on a road trip. I was out in the town of Mojave and in an unlikely event I got snowed in during a freak snow storm there. Mojave being a small town, all of the motels immediately got sold out. I was stuck spending the entire night in a Carl’s Jr. restaurant. I was locked in with a lot of strange people and there was this old woman in there who was off her rocker. She was babbling through the whole night and when the sun came up and the snow cleared, I was happy to get out of there. I keep this journal of screenplay snippet ideas. So I wrote this blurb about being stuck in a Carl’s Jr. with this little old woman. I forgot about it frankly. Then in the late ’90s, there was the coming of the new millennium and there were a lot of Y2K concerns. That was interesting but what I found more interesting was biblical prophecy and the turn of the new millennium. In the Middle Ages, there was concern of an apocalyptic event during the turn of the first millennium, what might happen during the second? It started as an idea like that. I thought I’d combine the ideas of being stuck in a remote truck stop area and the coming of the new millennium. The character of Gladys, who you see in the trailer, was born out of that idea.

Shock: What was your original draft like in comparison to what audiences are going to see?

Schink: My draft was different. The movie, when it was written in ’97, got immediate interest. It’s almost been made three times now. Finally, it came together in its latest incarnation a few years ago. David Lancaster, whose the president of Bold, had been involved in an earlier incarnation which fell apart. He would call me up every several months saying he loved the script and he was going to get it made. But this went on several years. After a while, I was like, ‘Okay, dude, stop calling me.’ I owe him a huge apology because now it’s gotten made in a bigger fashion. When David came on, Scott Stewart got involved and he did a draft. The original draft involved hell spilling over onto Earth and the diner was surrounded by demon characters. I was inspired by the imagery of demons and medieval art. The art of Gustave Dore, the work he did in “Paradise Lost.” When Scott got involved, he had the idea to change the demons to angels. It’s a twist on the whole thing. It’s a similar story, but they changed the threat and it’s a less obvious angle. I think it’s cool.

Shock: Elaborate on some of the creatures you originally had intended to put on screen?

Schink: These were big goat-legged, bat-winged, anti-angel characters.

Shock: When you and I first met, Gregory Dark was in line to direct. What was his vision like?

Schink: Working with Gregory was great. In his incarnation, it was all about the demons. And he’s an interesting character. His father, I believe, is a professor in cultural anthropology with an emphasis on occultism, if I remember correctly. So Greg was concerned about the names of the demons, the roles they play, the hierarchy of them. He’s got this library, crazy research material of demonic books. I took them home and went through the whole script to make sure my demon hierarchy was correct. When the project fell apart with Gregory I was stuck with these books for a year, it was spooky, I just wanted to get rid of them.

Shock: Well, Greg’s background is interesting too. This was before See No Evil, so were you at all apprehensive about letting him cut his horror teeth on this feature project?

Schink: It’s no secret his background is in adult films, then he moved on to Mandy Moore and Britney Spears videos. But then he did a Disturbed video with a lot of visceral energy to it. When you talk to him, he’s incredibly intelligent, very soft-spoken, but very creative and I’m sure if it came together with him, he would have done a great job.

Shock: Were you constantly shaping your script during this entire time, making tweaks to it even after Dark departed?

Schink: Oh yeah, all of the time. It was even considered to be adapted as the Doom live-action movie. And the timing was bad because Columbine happened around that time. So it was shot down.

Shock: How were they possibly going to turn your script into Doom?

Schink: I was dubious about the idea but I think they liked the monsters, the limited setting and I think they were going to introduce the weaponry and plot devices from Doom. But there were a number of chances to get this movie made in a manner that would be in a second rate fashion and go direct to DVD. I believed in the movie too much to see it get made that way. At the same time, I never anticipated it’d get made in a scale that it got made. This is crazy and exciting.

Shock: How much of a creative say did you still have in the film once things started barreling along?

Schink: Screen Gems had been tracking the movie for quite a few years. I believe before Scott got involved. Clint Culpepper had faith in the whole project and I respect the fact Screen Gems saw something in the movie. In this day and age when everything is a reboot or spawned from a toy, I was really excited they got it. I owe a debt to them. When Scott came aboard and changed it from demons to angels things were pretty much going full steam ahead. I’ve been happy to sit back and watch it go.

Shock: What’s next for you?

Schink: I’m working on a new spec, I’m polishing off an old spec. This whole thing has led to writing projects here and there, doing a little script doctoring but I’m hoping the movie will open well and bring more opportunities.

Shock: Well, they’re talking trilogy with this thing…

Schink: It was definitely intended to be written for sequel potential. I know there’s mention of a sequel but I think they’re going to wait and see how it goes before they charge ahead.

More coverage to come as we near the film’s release date. Click here for a trailer!

Source: Ryan Rotten, Managing Editor