He may have been a “classic nerd” but now screenwriter David Goyer is the embodiment of cool. The brains behind ‘Blade’ and ‘Batman Begins’, Goyer somehow turned a childhood love of comic books into one of the most enviable careers in Hollywood. But what’s really cool about Goyer? He fully believes in and supports real science in television and film—and he even has his own science heroes to look up to! Recently, he took some time to answer some of our questions—which makes him even cooler—so, check out the interview below to read how Goyer got his start in Hollywood, if he thinks you can overdose on superhero films and what projects he’s working on now.
What first inspired you to write for the screen?
I was interested in creative writing as a kid. Initially, I wanted to write comic books. But by chance, I happened to meet Lawrence Kasdan (screenwriter of Empire Strikes Back and Indiana Jones, among others). He went to school at the University of Michigan and I grew up in Ann Arbor. I skipped high-school English to hear him speak and he inspired me to go to Hollywood.
Every superhero has an origin story, so what’s yours? Has there been a defining moment in your career that you would say was your “first break?”
Honestly, that big break was the meeting with Kasdan. I cornered him after his speech, asked him some questions. Another break was landing an agent while I was still in college. I was a pretty bull-headed young man. Too inexperienced to not be tenacious.
We know you spent a lot of time immersed in comic books when you were growing up and many scientists did, too. As a kid, why were you drawn to comic books, and why do think many future scientists share your passion for comics?
I liked comics because I loved the speculative nature of the stories. I like speculative fiction in general—what ifs? I had a huge love for science-fiction and fantasy growing up. And I was a classic nerd. Literate, but physically small. Bullied. I used to hang out in the library to avoid getting my ass kicked!
Science is often used to explain superhero and/or villain powers, or build a story arc, in comics. Why do you think there’s such a strong connection between science and comics and how does science benefit a story in both forms?
Most super-hero films (including the ones I’ve worked on) require an enormous suspension of disbelief. Even with the best of intentions, it’s hard to make the science really work for Spider-Man, Superman, etc. But I find that if you can inject a veneer of authenticity in these stories—make them as grounded as possible (given the crazy circumstances)—then the audience is more willing to go along for the ride. Believe it or not, I did an enormous amount of research for Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and Man of Steel. I also try to justify these stories and ground them in science as much as possible. Sometimes you just have to do what I call “hand waving science” and make something up—but the more you can ground it, the easier it is for the audience to go along for the ride.
There are a number of superhero/comic book-based films coming out this year. Is it possible to overdose on superhero films or do you think there’s always room for more?
I’m sure it’s possible to overdose. Four is a lot for one summer. But I don’t think the genre will ever go away. There have been good super-hero films, mediocre ones, and bad ones. To a certain extent, there is a gold rush going on. The studios think they can just shove something out there and then they are surprised, perhaps, when the audience doesn’t immediately embrace it. But I think the audience can tell the difference between something that has more creative integrity than something that is more paint-by-numbers.
What qualities do you think scientists and filmmakers share? What qualities could they learn from each other?
In the best scenario, scientists and filmmakers can both inspire people to dream. They are also both capable of teaching people things—introducing them to new worlds and new concepts. I wish more filmmakers (in cinema and television) would take the time to make their science more accurate. I think it hurts the films when they don’t.
Who are your greatest heroes in real world science, past or present?
Real world scientists would be: Leonardo Da Vinci, Nikola Tesla, Richard Feynman, Richard Dawkins, Jared Diamond, Carl Sagan, and many others.
What should we have asked you that we didn’t? Anything you can share about your next project?
My next projects include Man of Steel, Heaven’s Shadow (based on a novel I co-wrote—heavy sci-fi), and Murder Mysteries (an adaptation of a short-story by Neil Gaiman). As for what you should have asked me… what was the biggest mistake I’ve ever made in my life? What are my biggest regrets? (But I wouldn’t tell you.)
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