2009 Movie News Archives
August 28, 2009: Stan Berkowitz Talks "Superman/Batman: Public Enemies"Screenwriter Stan Berkowitz successfully adapts another classic DC Comics graphic novel to film with Superman/Batman: Public Enemies.
"Justice League: The New Frontier" writer brings Jeph Loeb comic to life in all-new DC Universe Animated Original PG-13 Movie for distribution Sept. 29
Screenwriter Stan Berkowitz guides another classic DC Comics graphic novel to animated glory with the September 29 Warner Home Video release of Superman/Batman: Public Enemies.
Berkowitz brought Darwyn Cooke's landmark Justice League: The New Frontier from pages to screen in 2008, and this year he's converted the words of Jeph Loeb into a summer popcorn-style blockbuster with the crafting of the script for Superman/Batman: Public Enemies.
Warner Premiere, DC Comics and Warner Bros. Animation will present the all-new Superman/Batman: Public Enemies in a Blu-Ray Hi-Def edition, a special edition 2-disc DVD, and a single disc DVD. Warner Home Video will distribute the action-packed movie, which will also be available OnDemand and Pay-Per-View as well as available for download on Sept. 29.
In Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, United States President Lex Luthor uses the oncoming trajectory of a Kryptonite asteroid to frame Superman and declare a $1 billion bounty on the heads of the Man of Steel and his "partner in crime," Batman. Heroes and villains alike launch a relentless pursuit of Superman and Batman, who must unite - and recruit help - to stave off the action-packed onslaught, stop the asteroid, and uncover Luthor's devious plot to take command of far more than North America.
Berkowitz has been actively writing for 30 years, focusing his efforts on animated properties for the past dozen years. His animated credits range from Superman: The Animated Series and Batman: The Animated Series to Justice League, The Batman and Legion of Super Heroes, with stops on shows like Static Shock, Batman Beyond and Spider-Man along the way. Prior to moving into the animated realm, Berkowitz garnered credits writing episodes of T.J. Hooker and the latter-day versions of Dragnet and Adam 12.
Berkowitz pushed the keyboard aside to discuss the differences between his film and Loeb's initial take on the tale, the importance of great voice actors and a fine director, reaching into the DC vault for his childhood memories, the little things Alan Burnett does to make a big impact, and the ideal writing environment.
Stan Berkowitz photo courtesy of Gary Miereanu.
QUESTION: Why was this story right for you?
STAN BERKOWITZ: I love the political aspect of it. In the comic book that Jeph Loeb wrote, it was assumed that everyone knew the backstory to how Luthor got elected President. But we needed the movie to show an audience, who might not be familiar with the comics, exactly what would have to happen for Luthor to be elected. I sort of envisioned Luthor ascending to the Presidency somewhere around 2012. I didn't quite predict the catastrophe we'd be seeing in 2008. But I figured that something bad would happen, and then Democrats would be elected in 2008, they wouldn't be able to solve the problem and, in 2012, a tough, Ross Perot-style third party bid would be the one who'd be elected.
It was kind of fun for me to envision the political atmosphere that would have to take place in order for that to happen. And I also had a wonderful time going with Jeph's depiction of Luthor's descent into insanity - always keeping in mind that Clancy Brown would be enacting the dialogue. It was just great to write that.
QUESTION: Superman/Batman: Pubic Enemies follows Justice League: The New Frontier as your second DC Universe film adaptation of a classic DC Comics graphic novel/com series. Are there specific challenges to adapting a well-known story?
STAN BERKOWITZ: Each adaptation is different, and presents different challenges. In New Frontier, the challenge was compressing all the material into a coherent 75-minute story. In Public Enemies, the challenge was making the thematic concerns concrete because the comic author had the luxury of a narrator to talk about the themes. And when we did the screenplay, we had to show the themes in action, having things happen to illustrate those themes.
For Public Enemies, there was also the issue of credibility. We were concerned that if a person who vaguely knows Superman and Batman grabs this off the shelf and sees Lex Luthor as President, he might think, "hey, what's going on here?" It might just put them off, or make them think this was an alternate world story. And that's not how it's advertised. The other credibility issue is that in the comic, Luthor believes that the meteor is coming to Earth because of Superman. As a reader, I could not get past the fact that the public buys Luthor's explanation. I didn't believe an audience watching this as an animated production would buy Luthor's explanation. So Alan (Burnett) and Bruce (Timm) and I had to figure out an alternate way for Luthor to frame Superman. I think it worked very well.
QUESTION: What makes Lex Luthor such a great villain?
STAN BERKOWITZ: I think anytime you do a story, you have to ask yourself, "What does the villain want?" And the more complex the villain, the more unusual a thing it is that he wants - and, thus, the better the story will be. In Luthor's case, he's like Salieri to Superman's Mozart. Salieri would have been the era's greatest composer had it not been for Mozart, and Salieri knows this. In the same vein, Luthor would have been the leading light of our generation except for Superman, and there's nothing that he can do about it. He's cast into the shadows, and that's why he has that pathological hatred of Superman.
QUESTION: You've written Batman, and you've written Superman. Now you've gotten to write them together? What's that dynamic like to combine them and use that chemistry to bring out the personalities?
STAN BERKOWITZ: Well, Batman and Superman are opposites. Superman has always been presented as the character from the light, the daytime; Batman from the nighttime. They have decidedly different outlooks. Superman is the ultimate kid from Kansas, who had a real healthy upbringing. Batman is the tormented orphan. In a way, Superman's outlook is too sunny, and Batman's is too dark. The two of them work against each other, trying to temper each other's attitude.
Superman wants to cheer up Batman to a certain extent, and Batman wants to make Superman aware that there is a darker world under what Superman normally sees. It's fun to create banter between them. It was also fun to adapt the banter that was in the graphic novel, and we used a lot of it. Jeph's words were so good, we just pulled dialogue directly from the pages of the novel.
QUESTION: Are you thinking of the cast's voices when you're writing and, if so, does that help you write?
STAN BERKOWITZ: I'm definitely thinking of the actors' voices. Not to denigrate Superman and Batman, but this is Luthor's story. Luthor has more dialogue than either Batman or Superman. And frankly, I actually gave him even more dialogue in those long speeches because I was hoping Clancy Brown would get the part, which he did. It's so pleasurable to watch - and hear - Clancy do those Luthor lines, to watch Clancy's descent into madness. It just brought me back to the days when I got into this medium in the first place. Suddenly, I was just a 13-year-old with a movie camera having fun with my friends and doing these little movies. It had that same visceral pleasure for me. Tim (Daly) and Kevin (Conroy) are sensational, too - those were also the voices I had in mind while I was writing. But this really is Clancy's vehicle this time.
QUESTION: Do you remember your first experience with Superman and with Batman?
STAN BERKOWITZ: Easily. The reason I remember this so well is that when I started working on the show Superboy in Florida, I was flown to New York to meet Mike Carlin and Andy Helfer at DC Comics. And we talked for most of the day about the Superboy show and then they just casually mentioned, "Oh, by the way, we happen to have a library here of all the comics that DC has ever done." Well, I got to go see it. I went into that library and found the very first two comics I'd ever gotten. One of them was an issue of Batman Detective Comics with a character called Garth, and it involved a crossbow being used to kill someone in an empty room. The strings had been held back by a cake of ice. And when the ice melted, the crossbow let go and killed the guy sitting in this deserted room. And the other one was a Superboy Adventure Comics from August of '58, where Superboy played all the positions on a baseball team, thanks to his super speed. And I remember I'd been sick in the evening, and my father went out and got the medicine for me, and also picked up those two comic books. So it was kind of cool, almost like reaching into a time capsule, because I hadn't seen the comics in over 30 years.
QUESTION: What is your strength in this industry?
STAN BERKOWITZ: I think part of my strength is work habits. One of the lessons I learned from my very first job after film school was from Russ Meyer. He said that from the time you wake up 'til the time you go to sleep, when you're on a show, the show owns you. You don't own the show. There's no going home at 6:00 at night. I have no idea if there's any creativity involved (he laughs), but I'm fairly certain that the conscientiousness might explain some of the longevity.
QUESTION: Which presents more challenges: writing an original Stan Berkowitz story or adapting someone else's work?
STAN BERKOWITZ: Doing an original presents more challenges. The adaptations are already there - the studio knows they want to do it. In both the case of New Frontier and Public Enemies, I was approached by the studio and asked if I wanted to adapt them. Getting your own thing off the ground is much, much more difficult because even in our little world of animation, the, pre-selling is an important factor. And in both the case of New Frontier and Public Enemies, you had best-selling comics that the fans already knew.
QUESTION: What's the perfect environment for you to write in?
STAN BERKOWITZ: I like an empty room, and that's all I really need because there are absolutely no distractions. No TV, no internet, just a quiet room. It works for me. And it helps me to work faster. From the day they decided to do Public Enemies until the day that the first draft of the script was ready, it was exactly 60 days - which is really, really fast for a feature-length project.
When I started writing in film school, I'd have the TV on. Now I can't even have music on. It just has to be dead quiet with nobody around, nobody coming to bother me. It's all about concentration. I can go for about two hours before I need a distraction, then I come back and go for another two hours. If you plan your whole day carefully, you can get in eight hours of work and probably six to seven pages of finished screenplay a day. There are other writers who can do 10 or 12, but they're probably burned out after about a week or two.
QUESTION: Beyond the narrative, are there any other key differences between Jeph Loeb's version and what we'll see in the movie?
STAN BERKOWITZ: I think the largest one involves what Superman is framed for. We just didn't find it credible that the American public would believe that Superman was somehow drawing the meteor to Earth. We thought we needed something that made a little bit more sense.
My first instinct was to have Superman accused of an attempted murder on Metallo, and then have this whole thing where ultimately Metallo plays a key role by donating his skeleton to be the nose cone of the rocket. That didn't work, and then Alan (Burnett) suggested having Metallo murdered and framing Superman for that. Then Alan asked the next question and answered it himself. "Why would anybody believe that Superman had killed Metallo?" And the answer that Alan gave for why people would believe that Superman would kill was that Superman's mind was already being affected by the kryptonite radiation coming from the approaching meteor. Suddenly, the public is afraid that a crazed Superman could just go off the handle and kill anyone. I felt that that was a very effective way of framing Superman.
QUESTION: What's the influence of Alan Burnett on the DC Universe films?
STAN BERKOWITZ: Alan Burnett has become an uber editor of all of the DCU DVDs, and hopefully that remains his role from now on. I started working for Alan in 1996 and, in my opinion, you could not ask for a better guy in that position. He's almost always one of the few adults in the room. Inevitably, he'll come up with something that seems really small, but then changes the whole story and makes it work. The radiation effecting Superman's mind is a perfect example. I never would have thought of that. But then here's Alan sitting quietly and then saying something that fixes everything. That's what Alan does. His criticisms are always constructive. And you never, never see much ego involved - at least I haven't in the past 12 years.
QUESTION: What it's like for you to hear your words take life in a recording session?
STAN BERKOWITZ: It's fun, but it makes you appreciate just how good everyone else involved really is. For starters, Andrea (Romano) makes it look very, very simple, but I urge anyone who thinks it's simple to actually try to direct actors. It's hard. Very hard. They speak a different language. We were working on an episode of Justice League, and I happened to get to the recording session early and the only other person there already was the lead villain. We started chatting and, of course, the conversation turned to "How did you see this guy?" So I tell him my concept of the character. I swear to God, it took Andrea an hour of recording time to undo the damage I'd done because I spoke to him from the wrong perspective. An actor wants to know the internal emotional aspect of how the character feels, and I was describing the character from the outside, as how you would see him.
I've been blessed in that Andrea is one of the few dialogue directors I've worked with since 1996. When you hear an actor - who's either bad or who's badly directed - doing your dialogue, you start thinking, "Oh my God, I'm a terrible writer." And then you hear your words being directed by good director, working with good actors, and you say, "Hey, I'm good. I can write dialogue." That's the pleasure of being in a recording session for one of your scripts.
2009 Movie NewsListed below are all the Movie News items archived for 2009 organized into various categories:
New Movie News:
- January 6, 2009: WB Seeking Superman Villain For Next Superman Movie
- January 8, 2009: Warner Bros. Has All DC Films On Hold
- February 5, 2009: Superman Franchise Still High on Time Warner Agenda
- February 9, 2009: McG's Thoughts on Rebooting Superman
- February 11, 2009: Wachowski Brothers Approached for Superman Trilogy
- February 17, 2009: No Superman For Wachowski Brothers?
- February 19, 2009: Wachowski Movie Rumor Debunked Again
- February 20, 2009: Legendary Pictures Lists Superman Unleashed
- February 23, 2009: Superman Unleashed Under Development
- March 5, 2009: Brandon Routh Talks Next Superman Movie
- March 19, 2009: Mark Millar Moves on from Superman Movie
- May 30, 2009: Smith Says Abrams Should Make Superman Reboot
- June 1, 2009: Bryan Singer's Vague Answer on Superman
- July 20, 2009: Is Warner Bros. Preparing a Bizarro Superman Movie?
- July 20, 2009: Who Was Mark Millar's Superman Director?
- July 24, 2009: Spacey, Huntington and Routh Talk Superman Movie
- July 26, 2009: Variety Article on DCU Movies
- July 30, 2009: Dave Gibbons' Thoughts on Next Superman Movie
- July 30, 2009: Brandon Routh Video Interview
- July 31, 2009: Superman Movie Director/Producer Rumor
- August 7, 2009: James McTeigue Vague on Superman Movie Involvement
- August 21, 2009: James McTeigue's Thoughts on Superman Movie
- August 25, 2009: McTeigue Wants a Darker Superman
- September 15, 2009: Mark Millar Talks Superman... Again
- September 16, 2009: No Superman Movie Plans at DC Entertainment
- September 17, 2009: On-Going Litigation Blamed for No Superman Movie Plans
- September 21, 2009: Mark Millar Denies MTV Comments
- September 27, 2009: Fans Want a Superman Movie Before Any Other
- October 2, 2009: James McTeigue Elaborates on his Superman Movie Ideas
- October 27, 2009: JJ Abrams Says Returning to Superman Would Be A Blast
- November 26, 2009: Superman Movie Franchise Still On Hold
- November 26, 2009: Kevin Spacey Still Interested in Superman Movie
- May 5, 2009: Tarantino a Big Fan of Superman Returns
- May 22, 2009: Executive Producer Talks Superman Returns
- June 3, 2009: Superman Movies Showing in Crystal City, VA
- July 3, 2009: Brandon Routh's Contract Expires
- August 28, 2009: Lois Lane's Sydney House For Sale
- September 9, 2009: Spice Girl Missed Out on Lois Lane Role
- November 14, 2009: Fans Petition for Extended Superman Returns Release
- March 12, 2009: Miller Still on Justice League Movie
- December 24, 2009: Dan Lin Talks Justice League Movie
- January 8, 2009: Harrison Ford Was Considered for Superman
- January 21, 2009: Richard Donner to Receive ACE Award
- February 20, 2009: Superman Celebrities at WonderCon
- March 2, 2009: WonderCon Interview with Jack O'Halloran
- April 10, 2009: Marc McClure on Shokus Internet Radio
- May 12, 2009: Superman III Costume on Auction
- May 26, 2009: Superman III Costume Sells at Auction
- June 3, 2009: Superman Movies Showing in Crystal City, VA
- July 3, 2009: Superman Celebrities at Comic Conventions
- July 24, 2009: Cinemaquette Unveil Christopher Reeve Superman Statue
- July 25, 2009: Exclusive Photos of Mattel Chris Reeve Superman and General Zod
- August 3, 2009: Superman: The Movie Screening Re-Scheduled
- August 7, 2009: Wizard World Exclusive Margot Kidder Signed Print
- August 8, 2009: Margot Kidder at the Wizard World Chicago Comic Con
- August 24, 2009: Superman Celebrity Reunion at Hollywood Show
- September 17, 2009: Gene Hackman Audio Interview
- September 17, 2009: Help Honor Christopher Reeve
- October 13, 2009: Superman Screening at Pinewood Studios
- November 26, 2009: Robert Vaughan Appearing at Gotham Super Collectors Show
- March 14, 2009: Superman/Batman: Public Enemies Animated Movie
- March 18, 2009: Jeph Loeb Talks Superman/Batman: Public Enemies
- June 29, 2009: The Making of Superman/Batman: Public Enemies
- June 30, 2009: Superman/Batman: Public Enemies Press Release
- July 1, 2009: Superman/Batman: Public Enemies Official Website & Cover Artwork
- July 24, 2009: Superman/Batman: Public Enemies Preview at SDCC DCU Animation Panel
- July 30, 2009: Public Enemies Preview on Green Lantern: First Flight DVD
- August 11, 2009: Back Cover Artwork for Superman/Batman: Public Enemies
- August 19, 2009: John C. McGinley Talks Metallo on Superman/Batman: Public Enemies
- August 21, 2009: LeVar Burton Talks Black Lightning in Superman/Batman: Public Enemies
- August 28, 2009: Stan Berkowitz Talks Superman/Batman: Public Enemies
- August 29, 2009: Superman/Batman: Public Enemies Website Updated
- September 2, 2009: Clancy Brown is Lex Luthor in Superman/Batman: Public Enemies
- September 5, 2009: More Image from Superman/Batman Public Enemies
- September 11, 2009: New Superman/Batman: Public Enemies Video Clip
- September 14, 2009: Superman/Batman: Public Enemies Sweeps
- September 15, 2009: New Superman/Batman: Public Enemies Video Clips
- September 16, 2009: Plot & Cast for Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths
- September 16, 2009: Another Video Clip from Superman/Batman: Public Enemies
- September 16, 2009: Official Press Release for Superman/Batman: Public Enemies Sweeps
- September 18, 2009: Superman/Batman: Public Enemies Downloads Available
- September 24, 2009: Kevin Conroy Talks Batman in Superman/Batman: Public Enemies
- September 26, 2009: New Public Enemies Video Clip and Images
- September 29, 2009: Another Public Enemies Video Clip and More Images
- September 30, 2009: Tim Daly Talks Superman/Batman: Public Enemies
- October 1, 2009: Justice League: Crisis of Two Earths Animated Movie
- October 18, 2009: Public Enemies Animated Movie Sequel?
- October 29, 2009: The Making of Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths
- November 13, 2009: Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths Trailer
- November 24, 2009: Press Release - Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths
- November 24, 2009: Superman/Batman: Public Enemies Opening Title Examined
- November 25, 2009: Crisis on Two Earths DVD and Blu-ray Artwork
- December 3, 2009: Chris Noth Talks Crisis on Two Earths
- December 4, 2009: Crisis on Two Earths DVD & Blu-ray Covers
- December 11, 2009: Pre-Order Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths
- December 12, 2009: Directors Discuss Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths
- December 17, 2009: William Baldwin Talks Batman in Crisis on Two Earths
- December 26, 2009: More Crisis on Two Earths Images
- January 15, 2009: McG Would Have Used Doomsday for Superman Villain
- January 21, 2009: Unproduced Movie Scripts Unveiled in Siegel Court Case
- March 3, 2009: Unused Superman Film Concept Art
- March 17, 2009: Max Fleischer's Superman: 1941-1942 DVD Collection
- April 22, 2009: The History Behind Fleischer's Superman
- April 22, 2009: J.J. Abrams on How the Internet Killed Superman
- May 7, 2009: Henry Cavill on Nearly Being Superman
- May 19, 2009: An Historical Look at the Fleischer Superman Cartoons
- June 15, 2009: From The Vault - Interview with Nicolas Cage
- June 18, 2009: The Evolution of Superman's Flight
- June 21, 2009: A Couple of YouTube Videos for the Weekend
- July 8, 2009: Tim Burton's Superman Lives Brainiac Designs
- July 9, 2009: Superman Cameo in Green Lantern Film Still Happening?
- July 15, 2009: Gotham Group to Make Joe Shuster Film Biopic
- July 21, 2009: Last Son Documentary to Screen at Comic-Con
- July 27, 2009: Helen Slater Supergirl Interview
- September 5, 2009: Superwoman Exploited and DC History Examined
- September 10, 2009: Warner Bros. Creates DC Entertainment
- September 10, 2009: Paul Levitz and Diane Nelson Fan Letters
- September 22, 2009: Nicolas Cage as Superman Revealed!
- September 26, 2009: More Tim Burton Superman Lives Concept Art
- November 8, 2009: Superman Lives Chest Symbol Sneak Peek
- December 8, 2009: Helen Slater Talks Supergirl
- December 18, 2009: Is Taylor Swift the Next Supergirl?
- December 24, 2009: Supergirl Movie Rumor Swiftly Shot Down
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