Anime Vice (US), June 23, 2009
Writer Peter Craig Speaks on Cowboy Bebop Flick
by gia manry
So, when the Cowboy Bebop movie was first announced , I spent some time facing the perilous prospect of cold-calling a Hollywood studio in hopes of getting a few questions about the project answered. I was relieved when I was able to get in touch with people involved fairly quickly, and even got my answers-- direct from writer Peter Craig, who's writing the script for the film! Craig is also known for the dark comedy novel "The Martini Shot," which sits well with us here at Whiskey Media, as it happens.
Without further ado, here's more on the Bebop project:
ANIME VICE: How did you come to be a part of the Cowboy Bebop project?
PETER CRAIG: I'm obviously not the most likely writer to land a great project like this. I began as a novelist, and was steered into writing screenplays when I adapted two of my own crime novels after they were optioned. Eventually, I earned a decent reputation for writing certain kinds of characters: disaffected men, dysfunctional families, poker-playing con-women, weathered ex-cops. A couple of things I've written are going into production this summer - but they've been circulating much longer. So studios and producers were familiar with my work here.
Even though I'd never written Sci-Fi, Emma Watts and Erwin Stoff really believed that I might relate well to Spike, Faye, and Jet -- as well as many of the minor characters from the episodes. When I heard I might have a chance for the job, I was thrilled. Fox sent me every episode of "Cowboy Bebop," including a few that had never aired in the U.S. I think I watched all of them consecutively one night until the sun came up - and by the end, I was obsessed with the show. I loved how it mixed genres, how it blended noir, Jazz, Yakuza movies, Westerns, and so much else into a vision of the future that worked. And so I entered that process of going after the job, giving my "take" on the movie, competing with other writers. Ultimately, I got the job because Erwin Stoff and Emma Watts had liked my work in the past -- and they saw that I was passionate about it.
AV: Had you seen Cowboy Bebop prior to coming onto the project? Is there anything about the series that particularly drew you in?
PC: I had seen the show on "Adult Swim" - but not enough to understand it as well as I do now. I had seen the ending first, unfortunately. Then I believe I saw "Honky Tonk Women" next, months later - the episode when Spike first finds Faye in the casino. I'd seen one of the Ganymede episodes at some point, too - Jet with his old girl. I remember being very impressed with it, though, even with limited exposure. I liked the pace, the wide-open space. I liked the extremely droll sense of humor. It was unlike anything I'd seen before.
But then, once I watched all of them in order, I really became a full convert to the show. I've probably watched every episode at least three or four times now - and I really adore what a complete world Watanabe and Nobumoto created. I was also extremely drawn to all of the characters' backstories: Faye's amnesia after being taken out of cryogenic freeze, and the con played on her; Spike's history in the Syndicate and with Julia; Jet's days as a cop on Ganymede, and his run-in with Udai Taxim. Every character was new and interesting, and I felt like I was looking at an encyclopedia of some imaginary world.
AV: It's been reported that the staff who made the anime-- the studio Sunrise --is going to remain involved in the film. Do you know at this point if this will include significant involvement in the script?
PC: Yes, they're very much involved. I met with all of them in Tokyo in December - at a long meeting with Keanu in the room. I thought there was an immediate rapport between all of us, particularly Shinchiro Watanabe and Keanu. I asked questions, presented scenarios, and they were very specific about their vision for the series, and how it might convert to a live-action film. They've continued to be in touch since then; and last month I received a very detailed letter, which I've consulted regularly. I'm close to finishing an early draft, and I believe they'll be very happy with it. Not only does the script stay extremely true to the show -- I also know that Erwin and Fox are already discussing production designers that can reproduce the "look" of Cowboy Bebop as closely as possible. They'll be reading the script soon... so my fingers are crossed.
I know some of you are skeptical about the film due to Keanu Reeves' involvement, but I have to say, after reading this I'm feeling pretty good about it. Craig really pins down some of Bebop fans' favorite aspects of the series-- its involvement with music, its rich characters, and their even richer backstories –without falling into citing a bunch of “keywords” meant to draw up “buzz” or anything along those lines.
I also like how clearly involved the Sunrise people are, too, particularly Watanabe-sensei, who directed the original Bebop film. Between Bebop, Samurai Champloo, and his involvement in The Animatrix and Studio 4C's Genius Party, Watanabe doesn't seem like someone who's going to let his best-known baby get adapted into any kind of lesser film.
What about you guys? Do you feel better about the project after reading this, or do you still have concerns? Or were you already excited about the film anyway?