Interview: Mike Allred pt. 4 [of 4]

Categories:  Interviews

In this fourth and final part of our interview with alternative comics legend Mike Allred, we’ve got what you’ve no doubt been eagerly awaiting: more Madman movie talk. Huzzah! We talk to Allred about Sin City director Robert Rodriguez’s involvement, why the project has taken so long to get off the ground, and of course that ever important question: soundtrack, soundtrack, soundtrack.

[Part One]
[Part Two]
[Part Three]

At what point in the process did Robert Rodriguez become involved?
Robert Rodriguez came into the picture, because Universal asked me to make a dream list of directors, and he was right at the top. I was impressed with what he did with no money on El Mariachi, and then he was given this chance and a larger budget with Desperado and I was still impressed, and Dusk ‘Til Dawn. So anyway, it was like this is the guy. He’s got the energy, the efficiency—there’s no waistfulness. And his stuff is a lot of fun and stylish. So he was approached and turned it down. He didn’t want to work in the big studio system, but of course I didn’t find that out at the time that he passed. I got a phone call from him and he explained why he passed and he loved what I did and I should go to him and we could do it independently, and that was music to my ears, that there would be one person besides me who was championing what I wanted to do.

At that point, any enthusiasm that I had for Universal was gone. It just felt like I was constently spinning my wheels when I went down that. So when the option ran out, I didn’t re-up it. Robert and I had stayed in touch and become friends, and I told him, “it’s all mine now,” and he said, “great, get down here.” And I went down to Austin, and we started out long trek, which we’re still on now. In fact, this July will the ten year anniversary of him optioning it. A lot of it’s been my fault in slowing it down at times, and there have been his obligations, too. It was going to be his next movie after Spykids, and then that was a surprise smash and he had the opportunity to do sequels, and his kids weren’t going to get any younger, so that took him a few years and then he had an obligation to fulfill a third Mariachi movie, and that was Once Upon a Time in Mexico, and then he called me up and he wanted to do some experiments with this visual filmmaking and though that Sin City would be the perfect story for that experimentation and asked me how to get in touch with Frank Miller [laughs].

The last big break was the writers’ strike, as we were trying to finish the screenplay. And he hooked me up with Geroge Wang, one of his first Hollywood friends. In fact, he slept on George’s floor when he first got to Hollywood. If you’ve ever seen the movie Swimming with Sharks, George is pretty much the Frank Whaley character in that movie. That’s what sold me on George. That movie was just brilliant. And he’s worked with Robert on just about everything he’s done, so Robert hooked us up to do the screenplay. The three of us are approaching Madman in very much the same way that Robert and Frank Miller and Quentin Tarantino did Sin City.

Are you going to get a director’s credit?

That’s the one difference from Sin City. Robert had no problem leaving the Director’s Guild in order to do it the way that they did. I don’t want George to have to leave the Director’s Guild, so he’ll get the full credit. I don’t have that kind of ego. For me it’s the thrill of the collaboration and just knowing that we’ll be at Robert’s facilities in Austin and it’s the three of us that will be making every creative decision. Dimension Films is going to release it, and they’ve been very great, too. Now we’re just tring to get on track again. But now everyone’s talking about an actor’s strike, and we’re just waiting to see if that’s going to happen. But I’m hopeful that we’ll get into production by the end of the year.

As you said before, your three passions are movies, comics, and music. So, what’s going to go on the soundtrack?

Well [laughs]. I don’t know if this would happen with song rights and money, but there’s a David Bowie song called, “Lady Grinning Soul.” There’s one key moment in the screenplay that a song will play and it has to evoke a certain emotion. This old Bowie song is exactly that. It could also work with this old Hollies’ song called “The Air That I Breathe.” If you listen to those songs, you might get the idea of the kind of emotion that has to be there. Other than that, if I had my choice, I’d just fill it up with Mott the Hoople songs and early Stones.

I’ve always imagined some be-bop playing in the background.

Ah. There’s been some composers that I really admire. I think Danny Elfman has done some really great soundtracks. I really like what Howard Shore did with Lord of the Rings. I really want it to have this classic symphonic Star Wars-style soundtrack, but I also like how Wes Anderson uses songs to evoke moods in his films. One draft of the screenplay had Frank carrying around an old transistor radio, so I could have the perfect song come on at the perfect moment. That was really indulgent on my part. Also, he ends up using it as a weapon, which is a scene I ended up using—I did a little no budget movie called Astroesque, and I ended up using that in that film. So that exorcised that out of the Madman film.

–Brian Heater

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