With peak nerd TV upon us, there’s never been a better time to be a fan of genre programming – or David S. Goyer, a devotee and prolific writer-producer of genre fare.
Goyer and his Phantom Four Films partner Keith Levine produced Hulu’s new David Bruckner-directed “Hellraiser” movie, which launched Friday, and are in the middle of filming their latest take on classic IP, “The Omen” prequel movie “The First Omen,” in Rome. Beyond that, the pair are in post-production on the second season of Apple’s “Foundation” adaptation, breaking the writers’ room for Season 1 of the Winston Duke-led “Batman Unburied” podcast for DC and Spotify. They’re also working on two spinoff podcasts, including “Riddler,” featuring Hasan Minhaj, and a Batgirl/Barbara Gordon project. And they’re in the early stages of developing a dramatic series revolving around Michael Moorcock’s “The Eternal Champion” books for Skydance and Apple TV+ with “Foundation” writer Dana Jackson. If that’s not enough, they’re also holding their breath for a renewal of the Warner Bros.-produced “The Sandman” at Netflix.
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“I remember there was a period 15 years ago where I was predominantly known as a ‘genre guy,’ but now I’m an ‘elevated genre guy,’ whatever that means,” Goyer told Variety. “I think it’s following the combination of Disney and the streamers, or HBO with ‘Game of Thrones,’ that have elevated the content to where everyone realizes genre is the business. Or it’s 90% of the iceberg and everything else is the tip now.”
Levine likens genre programming to a cheeseburger. “People have been eating it for years and now, all of a sudden, everyone is doing artisanal burgers,” he says. “We’ve just been the people eating and making them for years and now we’re finally getting our due.”
Goyer, who has a development deal at Skydance and describes himself as truly “platform agnostic,” has a longstanding relationship with Warner Bros. Discovery’s DC Films. He co-wrote 2005’s “Batman Begins” and 2008’s “The Dark Knight. He’s interacted with at least five different tiers of DC leadership but he has “no idea” where things stand with the parent company’s search for a new head for the division. No matter who takes the job, one thing is certain: Goyer will be one of DC’s busiest producers.
“I think with most of these people, one advantage I have is I know the material as well, or better, than they do,” Goyer said. “In almost every instance, I’ve had fan letters published in DC Comics, which none of them have, so I have the cred to be able to say, ‘Actually, I disagree with you because in this run, this writer did this,’ and they know they can’t argue with me on that.”
And having someone like Goyer, who knows his IP inside and out, in your corner when adapting, rebooting, remaking or reviving is an essential element of success in the current overcrowded TV landscape.
“There’s a risk up and down the spectrum of these adaptations and there can be fan backlash and internet trolling,” Goyer said. “Keith and I have been approached to adapt or reboot many, many other projects that we’ve said no to.”
Added Levine, “Things that could be profitable too.”
For Goyer, those decisions come down to a gut check based on his own level of fandom for any given project.
“For us, personally, it’s do we have an affinity for it? Are we actually fans of it?” Goyer said. “Then the question becomes, ‘Is there something we want to say?’ and, ‘Is there a way that we can realize this project more properly than might have been available because of technology or whatnot?'”
“In the case of ‘Hellraiser’ wasn’t just, oh my God let’s remake ‘Hellraiser,’” Goyer said. “In this case it’s an allegory for addiction and that seemed very relevant and very evergreen.”
One of their biggest choices was to avoid what Goyer called the “black-leather fetish/Marilyn Manson/S&M” space with this one. That decision was key for source-material author Clive Barker.
While no official decision has been made by Hulu or 20th Century Studios regarding additional movies to follow this new iteration of “Hellraiser,” Goyer and Levine say they have definitely laid the “ground-floor” for future films and that Barker and Bruckner are game for more.
“Story is fungible,” Goyer said. “Do we have notions (for more ‘Hellraiser)?’ Yes. But there wasn’t a specific setup plan. We didn’t beat out a trilogy.”
Meanwhile, Goyer and Levine have plenty of other adapting challenges to take on, including a very new one: The two are working with “Foundation” writer Dana Jackson on developing sci-fi author Michael Moorcock’s “The Eternal Champion” and “Von Bek” books into a suite of interlinked dramatic series for Skydance and Apple.
Goyer notes that before the multiverse became all the rage, Moorcock invented the concept with many of his stories centering around Elric, a hero doomed to be reborn again and again on different planes.
“He is cursed to always remember his previous incarnations, and sometimes those incarnations are female, as well. Sometimes it’s male, sometimes it’s female, spanning different races,” Goyer said. “And until he can heal the world’s pain, he’s going to continue this quest.”
(Pictured: David S. Goyer, Keith Levine)
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