EXCL: Writer Cory Goodman on Priest, Apollo 18, Last Witch Hunter & More!


Previewing his upcoming works

The name Cory Goodman may not be familiar to you now, but it will be soon. He wrote the screenplay for Priest, due out May 13. He co-wrote the recently delayed Apollo 18 (opening January 6, 2012), which is currently scheduled for release in January 2012. Goodman is also penning the upcoming Last Witch Hunter for The Crazies director Breck Eisner and wrote a script for the remake of David Cronenberg’s The Brood.

Goodman took some time to discuss his various projects with us, along with how he got started in the business, his influences, Eurotrash vampires and more.

ShockTillYouDrop: Your career is really taking off. How did you break into Hollywood and get involved with these projects?

Cory Goodman: I bopped around the industry for many years working menial jobs. It was fantastic. It gave me the opportunity to wrap my head around the way the Hollywood System works. Everything from the mail room, to working with ‘readers,’ to assisting directors on studio productions. I got to see every aspect of ‘how the sausage is made.’ After awhile I figured out writing made the most sense for me. Unlike directing you didn’t need a crew or a couple thousand dollars. All you needed was your imagination. Once I made that decision, I purposely took a series of jobs that allowed me to pay the rent but didn’t bankrupt my creativity or vitality. That way I could come home and wrestle down the basics of screenwriting and fumble my way toward eventually crafting a script I could be proud of.

Shock: Vampires are pretty popular at the moment. Though Priest clearly isn’t a traditional vampire tale, while writing how conscious were you of embracing or avoiding familiar elements of vampire movies?

Goodman: Priest really came about from my frustration with the then current vogue of the Eurotrashy ‘sexy’ vampire’ – little did I know things were about to get worse with Twilight. I wanted to get back to the creature concept of a vampire. More Nosferatu. Less Stephen Dorff. I knew it was important to stick to the established rules – sunlight, crucifixes, etc. – but I also wanted to put my own spin on what these beings were and what their world was. I was really writing for myself in terms of what I wanted to see up on screen: What kind of movie would me and my friends be lining up for on that opening Friday night, hoping for something special. For me, it’s important to hold onto that throughout the writing process.

Shock: Priest appears very ambitious and looks to incorporate elements from many different genres. How do you try and balance style versus substance while also effectively blending various genres into a coherent story?

Goodman: I’ve always worshipped at the feet of people like Walter Hill, George Miller and John Carpenter. Three artists who have previously bent genres to their whims with wonderful results. I used to work as a DJ and I was always fascinated how you could take two completely separate pieces of music and by interlocking their beats together you could momentarily create a new song that was unique in its own right. I thought that approach to screenwriting could be truly exciting. I decided to take my love for both westerns and supernatural horror and throw them in a blender to see what would come out. It was a way of taking something that had become a bit ‘shopworn’ and make it more fresh and alive. I don’t think this approach would work for all genres, but for certain blends it can be fun.

Shock: With Priest being set in a post-apocalyptic alternate world, what were the most important aspects of that world for you and why?

Goodman: The Road Warrior has always been a touchstone of mine. I love how George Miller took the elements of the classic western and infused it with a whole new sensibility. It was clearly a setting that I felt worked for Priest. A world that become battered and bruised by a centuries long vampire war would make a fantastic backdrop. One of my favorite aspects of the writing process is ‘world-building.’ The tricky part is to make sure that the ‘world’ doesn’t overwhelm the mechanics of your story. In the case of Priest, there was always a clear drive for the main character: His pursuit of Lucy. Anytime I found myself getting lost in the ‘tinsel’ of the world, I forced myself to come back to Priest’s central goal and make sure that was the focus of the script.

Shock: How is the Catholic church going to feel about Priest? Is religion an important part of the film? The church can be a little touchy about Hollywood tackling religion.

Goodman: Was I getting out some of my feelings toward organized religion with this story? Absolutely. Would I want that to hold anybody back from having a good time while wolfing down their popcorn? Absolutely not. It’s a vampire movie. Not a manifesto.

That said, I do doubt the Catholic church will give this movie much thought. Hard to imagine it’s even on their radar.

Shock: There wasn’t a lot of time between the announcement of Apollo 18, production, and its release, though it has since been delayed. Were you under a strict deadline and how does that impact the writing process?

Goodman: The film was going into production in just a couple weeks. I was hired to implement ideas that both Gonzalo [Lopez-Gallego, the director] and Timur [Bekmambetov, the producer] wanted to inject into the story without losing the tone that Brian Miller already established in his excellent screenplay. It was tight but very exciting. I spent a LOT of time in hotel rooms. Remember the sequence in Apocalypse Now when Martin Sheen is in Saigon waiting for an assignment? It was a lot like that.

Shock: For a screenwriter, what challenges and opportunities are present in a found-footage story?

Goodman: It was a fantastic opportunity to get under the hood of a found-footage film and help understand what makes it tick. I quickly discovered there are two elemental concepts that are inherent to any found-footage film: 1.) Have a valid reason why someone would constantly be filming the proceedings, something that the audience can believe and accept. 2.) Keep the story simple. In a typical screenplay you’d have ‘twists,’ ‘callbacks’ and all those other terms that get development executives squirming with excitement. If you do that here, it feels too ‘movie-ish.’ The trick is to find the right balance so that it still feels like you’re watching something that actually happened.

Shock: Is Last Witch Hunter a straight-up horror movie? What can you tell us about it?

Goodman: From the beginning, my goal for Last Witch Hunter has always been to write a psychedelic action movie. Kinetic. Cool. There are elements of the supernatural laced throughout it…but I wouldn’t couch it as a straight-up horror movie. If we do our job the movie will help people look at our world in a fun and different way, opening up our imaginations to what goes on between the cracks. I think life is truly wonderful…but the older I get the more mundane it seems to be. Last Witch Hunter is my way of tapping into that younger self who hoped that scary and wondrous things lurked in the shadows around us.

Shock: I read where you said that witches are more universal than we may realize and don’t explicitly fall into simple categories of ‘good’ and ‘evil.’ Does the script explore that gray area and also introduce audiences to things they may not be aware of?

Goodman: Witches still feel like unexplored territory in film. Generally, we see the same manifestations over and over: Either Glenda The Good or the Wicked Witch Of The West. It’s my goal to show us witches that we’ve never seen before. The more I delved into my research, the more I found that virtually every single culture has their own version of a witch. For me, that was very exciting. It meant that there was something truly universal about this ‘monster’ that had yet to be tapped into. In our film witches are all around us but nobody knows. Thanks to a secretive but brutal campaign by the church they’ve been marginalized and forced into the lower depths of our society. I wouldn’t classify our witches as either ‘good’ or ‘evil’…but more as characters who struggle to do what they feel is right for themselves and their own kind given the situation.

Shock: How did you approach writing The Brood, something so beloved by genre fans?

Goodman: It was a daunting process. Here I was, attempting to craft a remake of a film that made an indelible impression on me when I was younger and a true horror classic. What drew me in was that The Brood‘s central conceit has even more relevance today than it did back in the ’70s. Divorce and alternative forms of therapy have both grown more ingrained into our society. I thought it would be rich territory to explore. I’ve really become frustrated with the ways American horror films have become watered down over the past decades. My goal was to write a truly disturbing horror film that would get under the skin…something Cronenberg did so well in his original. I also think it’d be wonderful to see The Brood creatures up on the big screen, ready to terrorize once more – an opportunity for the little buggers to take their rightful place alongside the great monsters in our film collective unconscious.

Source: Paul Doro