David Twohy began his career as a screenwriter of low-budget genre pictures, starting with the less-than-immortal Critters 2 but quickly moving to surprisingly decent fare such as Warlock. He eventually landed the screenwriting job for The Fugitive, and his success there soon led to directing. He stuck close to his roots, with the sci-fi thriller The Arrival, the submarine ghost story Below… and Pitch Black, which launched the career of Vin Diesel as well as spawning two sequels. The second of them, Riddick, opens today. Twohy sat down at a recent press conference to talk about it, and the process that got it to the screen.
Question: What’s your working relationship with Vin Diesel like?
David Twohy: He’s a guy who aims high and pushes me to aim high. He’s a guy who dreams, who thinks that anything is possible. Me, I’m a practical guy. I try to be a responsible filmmaker and live within the constraints that I’m given to make a movie with. But Vin doesn’t think like that. Vin thinks that anything is possible. He thinks big. Sometimes it’s almost folly to do that, but other times, it can be inspiring, and it can open up my ideas to other ways of doing things. He has all the confidence in the world. Always has, ever since I cast him as a guy, an actor in Pitch Black. He just seems to see the future… or maybe just will a future into being. He’s great like that. He dreams no small dreams.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about casting Katee Sckhoff?
DT: I remember a story from the first Alien that Ripley was scripted as a man and Ridley [Scott] decided to make her female, thinking that these parts should be gender neutral. I’ve always remembered that. The women in my movies always do stand up on their own two feet, and they aren’t arm pieces to anybody. I like that.
In terms of Katee, she was the first person to read for the role out of let’s say 100 actresses. That I remembered her throughout the process speaks well of her. I said, “Who is that girl who came in in the first day with the blonde hair? The one of kind of killed it?” I didn’t really follow Battlestar Galactica, so I didn’t cast her because of that. She was just the best actress for the job. She’s a gem on the set… and like the character, she holds her own among the men.
Q: What was the decision behind the “R” rating?
DT: It was important to us because, as a filmmaker, it gives me the freedom to do what I want. With PG-13, I feel like I’m pulling my punches. In the script, working with my actors on the set, coming up with stupid analogs for the word “fuck.” I get tired of that. And it gets to the point where people aren’t talking like people talk anymore. The “R” also plants a flag in the ground for our fans as well. It lets them know that we are true to the character, and we’re true to the nature of the series.
Obviously, with the second film, we had the backing of a major studio, we had a lot of money in the budget, and the studio wanted it to reach the widest possible audience. That means PG-13, and there’s sound reasoning behind that. But Vin and I are more comfortable back in the R-rated universe.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about the primitivism on display in the film? It almost felt like Conan the Barbarian at times.
JT: It’s part of the character. He thinks at the story’s outset that maybe he’s gotten a little slow, a little soft. That he’s dulled his own edge as King of the Necromongers, and wonders what happen to him. The exploration of him trying to get back to basics… it’s a good evolution for Riddick, and some would say it’s a bit of a parallel to what the franchise as a whole has undergone.
Q: You deal with the Necromongers very briefly here. Do you plan on going back to that story, should this film prove a success?
DT: Vin and I are talking about two more movies, and probably just that. Assuming success and assuming we’ll have the flexibility to go where we want for the next movie. It would be good to do a close-ended franchise rather than a franchise that just keeps spitting them out to spit them out. And yeah, we would like to get back to the Necromongers. There’s more information there. I’m actually in the middle of doing the director’s cut for the DVD right now, which includes an epilogue that has him returning to the Necromonger Empire and setting the injustice that started this movie to rights. And his search for Vacco [Karl Urban], who thinks has the answer to where his homeworld lies.
So a couple more movies in the franchise would be nice, and in success we’ll be able to do that. The next few weeks will be telling for us. We want to pay off the fans who have stuck with us all this time. It was they who opened our eyes to the possibilities of making another movie.