Michael Uslan: Man Behind the Batman - Part 2
by Edward Douglas
(snipped for Keanu)
SHH!: There's an interesting phenomenon going on with comic book fans and the movies. None of them are too happy if the movie is too different from the comics. "Constantine" is a great example of this, because it got a lot of negative early flack because you had Keanu Reeves, a dark-haired American, playing the role. Can you talk about this desire to separate the movies from the comics?
Uslan: Two key things here: #1 that was critical to us was to get the full support of Karen Berger, the editor of the Vertigo line. We wanted to make sure that in her heart, she could stand up and say that this captures the essence of Constantine, the characters, the stories and most of that movie was derivative from various storylines that are found in the comics. Tim Burton said something to me early on, which directly applies to "Constantine". At the time of the first "Batman" movie, when I had been dedicating my life to doing a serious dark version of Batman, I get a call one day asking what I thought of Michael Keaton playing Batman. So I laughed, because I thought it was a joke. "Great. Mr. Mom as Batman." It took him 20 minutes to convince me he was serious. I thought he was going to destroy everything I had been working towards. He told me that first, he was a serious actor, and they actually set up a screening of the rough cut of "Clean and Sober" for me, but physically, he doesn't look anything like Batman. He's my height, he doesn't have the musculature and he doesn't have the square jaw. And Tim Burton said to me "Michael, a square jaw does not a Batman make. In cinema, it's about the character and about creating a portrayal of an obsessed, driven to the point of nearly being psychotic Bruce Wayne, who I can get audiences to suspend their disbelief about, to buy into the fact that this is a guy who would get dressed up as a bat and fight crime in Gotham City." He said "You want to do it seriously? That's the only way I know we can do it without getting unintentional laughs from the audience. If I try to put Harrison Ford or Dennis Quaid or Kevin Costner, serious actors quote-unquote, in a Batman costume, I'm going to get unintentional laughs." And as it turned out, he was exactly right. It was the greatest call and all of fandom, after me, learned that and then nobody wanted anyone else to play Batman.
The same thing's true with Constantine. A British accent does not a John Constantine make. Blonde hair does not a John Constantine make. It is about the essence of that character and his personality, which is nailed in that movie, and I'm very proud of it. (Uslan's partner F.J. mentioned that the turning point for the change in attitude towards Keanu as Constantine happened when Warner Brothers showed fifteen minutes from the movie at Comic-Con International.)
SHH!: Who found Francis Lawrence to direct that movie? I thought that he did a great job.
Uslan: I think he's potentially the next Alfred Hitchcock. He's one of the greatest storytellers around.
SHH!: Has Keanu been signed to do another movie yet?
Uslan: There are discussion ongoing at the moment.