Thursday, July 22, 2004
CATWOMAN'S JOHN BRANCATO
LOS ANGELES -- Today The Continuum continues a series of interviews from the Catwoman movie press junket, with screenwriter John Brancato, who again teamed with Michael Ferris.
Following is an edited transcript of the interview.
Question: From the beginning, were you set on creating a whole different universe for this character and taking it out of Batman's world?
Brancato:I think that is the issue that has most disturbed the comic-book lovers, when they hear this Catwoman has nothing to do with Selinna Kyle. That was actually a decision that was made in the depths of corporate history before we got involved in the projects.
At first, it seemed like a pretty weird decision to make, to keep the Batman universe out of it and get out of Gotham City. But as we got involved with it, it started to make a lot more sense. Because with Selina Kyle you always have a character who was fundamentally founded on Batman. It was all in reaction to Batman. You'd have to explain where she was and where Batman was and it becomes a movie that is about, still, the Batman world and the Batman universe. And to think about the idea of what Catwoman could be an developing it fresh just gave us a story that was much more based on Catwoman herself, and didn't require the opponent to be the primary reason for her existence.
Question: How do you think of names like Hedare and Patience?
Brancato: A lot of it is legal issues. You'll use a different name in the script you're writing and at the last minute the legal department will say, "No. There's a cosmetics company with a name just like this." It didn't start out as Hedare, it was something else and finally you're just trying to find a name that will get through the legal loophole and it will work. So you lists like 40 possible names and find which ones will clear legally. It's a mess, trying to find character names. By the time it gets to screen, it almost all changes.
Question: There couldn't have been problems with a character named Patience.
Brancato: Patience was actually a character name that was involved very in the process. It was sort of a given that they wanted to call her Patience. In some early drafts, we made jokes about that, but they wound up getting dropped.
Question: Were you a fan of the original comics series? Did you have to do a lot of research?
Brancato: I went through and tried to find ... I mean, Catwoman has multiple origins in different comics. In the early comics, I think she was queen of the prostitutes. That's where she got going. I am not a huge comic book aficiando, but it was fun just seeing all the variants, the different kinds of costumes, the different ways she was portrayed. Sometimes she was totally evil, and other times she became more sympathetic. It did seem like there was a lot of freedom there, just there wasn't such a clear origin, as there was for example, Spider-Man, with Uncle Ben all those sort of classic elements. We were, I hope in minds of the people who love the comic books, true to the spirit of it without having a distinct, specific origin to answer to.
Question: Do you think Catwoman will be helped by the successs of Spider-Man 2?
Brancato: I hope so. I don't know. When you write these things, you just don't think about what we're coming out against or what is the future have to hold with it. You just try to find a story that has a resonant center to it to write from, to sort of come alive on the page.
And Catwoman did for us. I mean, for all the fact that there were multiple writers and a long history of development and Warner Bros. trying to find the right way to develop a new franchise, as soon as we started to think of woman and cats, and the idea of a character torn between her unselfish way she was raised and trying to be a people-pleaser, and the selfish, mischievous cat nature, that that sort of animated the writing process for us and, I hope, brought the character to life. And obvously, Halle (Berry) responded to it and developed it even further.
Question: The storyline of the poison makeup was reminiscent of the original Batman movie with what the Joker was doing. Were trying to allude to that or was it in your mind?
Brancato: Oh, it obviously did with the Joker issue. The backstory, the villain plot changed a lot in the process of the writing. Originally, as sort of a joke of Botox, we played with the idea of how about a Bubonic plague, watered down the right way, sort of made people swell up or turn pink in a way that made it seem like youth. That was sort of a fun idea, but we then we thought, "OK, we can have rats and have the cat going after the Bubonic plague rats. That, OK, that's probably not so great when it comes down to it." Our original idea was to have it called Bubonique.
Question: Catwoman was really on the line between good and bad. Is that going to continue?
Brancato: I sure hope so. That was a lot of the fun of the writing. As we were trying new ideas out, we did things that everybody else in the process said, "Oh, no, no, that's too nasty."
A lot of the fun in the character is that she isn't always doing things because they're right. She's doing what she feels like. That seems like the essentially cat nature. Doing what she feels like can sometimes have good consequences for everybody involved, as I hope the story shows, but she's not out there to right wrongs. She's sort of out there to pursue her own agenda. And I think that's so essential to who Catwoman is.
Question: It makes her unpredictable. You don't know what she's going to do.
Brancato: Yeah. It's a fine line, though. We did try things where she was doing more outwardly vicious stuff and more sadistically playing cat-and-mouse games with some of the villains, and when it came down to shooting it and acting it out, it started to feel like, "Ooh, this will make people hate her." So we tried to stay on the line.
Question: In the future, will Catwoman go up against adversaries with super-human powers?
Brancato: Well, I sure hope there is a future. If there is one, yeah, I think so. It's funny with her powers, because when we first started writing the story, they didn't seem so natural or extreme. She was more human powers with some cat blood inside of her that gave her some specialness. And then, as we worked on it, it seemed to take her in new directions where she did become more of an extreme super-hero. So I think to have a sufficient opponent, we're going to have to find villains who are up to her level.
Question: Have you been approached to do sequels yet?
Brancato: We'll see what happens after it opens.
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