Surrogates, the movie adaptation of the graphic novel written by Robert Venditti and drawn by Brett Weldele, opens this Friday, September 25. The writer was kind enough to answer some questions from me about how the two different media versions of the story compare.
When The Surrogates was first being published, did you envision it in another medium as well?
ROBERT VENDITTI: Not in a serious way. The most I ever hoped to achieve was to get the book published — no small feat for a first-time comic book writer — so that I could show the finished product to editors and hopefully get more writing work. The feature adaptation was completely unexpected.
How did the movie deal come about?
ROBERT VENDITTI: It started with a producer named Max Handelman, who contacted me about the film rights for The Surrogates back in 2006. Both I and Chris Staros at Top Shelf liked Max, and so we decided to let him shop it around. Max ended up bringing in Todd Lieberman and David Hoberman at Mandeville Films, a production company that has its first-look deal at Disney. They put a package together that included the screenwriters and Jonathan Mostow as director, and then made their pitch to Disney. Disney liked what they heard and decided to move forward under their Touchstone label.
How much have you been involved in the filming? Did you get to visit the set or offer any input?
ROBERT VENDITTI: I was a consultant on the film, and I visited the set on a couple of occasions, but mostly I tried to stay out of everyone’s way and give them the freedom to do what they wanted. I understood from the beginning that directors, screenwriters, and actors are all creative minds in their own right, so if they’re inspired by something I had a hand in, then I’m going to take it as a compliment and not try to inject myself into the process.
Have you seen the final film? What did you think?
ROBERT VENDITTI: I haven’t seen the finished film, but I’ve read the screenplay and seen enough of the footage to feel like I have a good understanding of what they’ve done. They made some changes, of course, but that’s to be expected. What’s always been important to me is that the themes and the subtext of the book were retained in the film, and I’m pleased to say that has been the case.
What is the biggest thing you thought they got right in translating the graphic novel to film?
ROBERT VENDITTI: The strained relationship between Greer and his wife, which I’ve always felt was the most important part of the book because it really humanizes the effects that surrogate technology could have. Bruce Willis and Rosamund Pike do an amazing job translating this to the screen.
What one thing would you have changed about the movie?
ROBERT VENDITTI: I would’ve liked for the film to be set in Georgia, as is the case with the books. I live in the Atlanta area, and I find the South to be a fascinating and culturally complex place. Ultimately that’s a cosmetic change, though, so it doesn’t really have much bearing on the story.
What would you tell moviegoers to interest them in the graphic novel?
ROBERT VENDITTI: That it gives them a deeper background on the future world they saw on screen. The book and the film complement each other very well.
What’s currently on your plate in comics?
ROBERT VENDITTI: We just released The Surrogates: Flesh and Bone, the prequel to the original story. My next book for Top Shelf will be the political/medical thriller The Homeland Directive, which should be released sometime next year. Other than that, I have an Iron Man one-shot coming out in October, and I’m adapting the popular young-adult novel The Lightning Thief to graphic novel format.