It's been said that movies are composed of shadows and light. So it's fitting that "The Darkness" and "Magdalena" two Top Cow Publishing characters that are associated with these forces are in development for the big screen. Comics2Film spoke with Platinum Studios' head Scott Rosenberg about the latest developments on each film.
Most recently the production of "The Darkness" has signed a director, two in fact. "We've attached a directing team, the Pang brothers," Rosenberg told C2F. "When they direct a movie, one directs one day while the other is editing. They switch back and forth everyday. They're that much in synch with each other. It's really cool."
Danny and Oxide Pang are most famous in the US for their work on films such as "The Eye" and "Bangkok Dangerous" and they were only slightly familiar with "The Darkness" when they had their first meeting with Platinum Studios. "They were over in our office taking a look at the different things that we had that might work out for them and they fell in love with it," Rosenberg said. "The way they're talking about the directing style is they want to do something that hasn't yet been done in a movie."
There is no script for "The Darkness" yet but both Platinum and the Pangs feel that the movie will begin with glimpses of Jackie Estacado's early life. "What they like and what we like is basically starting with Jackie when he's a kid in the orphanage," Rosenberg explained. "It just stuck with me that if we start at the orphanage and you meet this kid when he's younger, there's a real way to get into this character. That way with those first few minutes of the film you understand by the time he's an adult what he's gone through as a kid and how it was traumatizing."
Rosenberg feels that The Darkness's troubled childhood is one of many important traits that need to be captured in the film. "His past and his feelings for the girl he's into are really important elements of the character," Rosenberg said. "There's also the betrayal that he's gone through, and how he moves forward from that."
"We're thinking about getting him away from the Mafia world relatively soon in the movie," Rosenberg continued. "Just so it kind of feels more main stream. From a story stand point it works with the betrayal and him wanting to get away from that world. But we're not sure. We're going to end up going through a number of different takes back and forth."
One change that Rosenberg feels will probably occur will be to the Darkness's elaborate costume. "Our feeling is to tone down the costume and make it more accessible that way," Rosenberg stated.
Jackie's costume may change but his powers and his infernal helpers should remain intact in the film. "We love the interaction with the demons and the demons themselves," Rosenberg explained. "The Pangs went nuts trying to find cool ways for the demons to pop out of the dark."
The Darkness's powers mean that the film will have many effects shots "The Pangs are really good at figuring out how to do things for costs that are reasonable," Rosenberg said. "They want to bring scary stuff and action stuff to it."
Even though it will include a number of visual effects shots "The Darkness" won't be a film with a bloated budget. Rosenberg said the film's budget would be comparable to the "Blade" films and would be in the $30 million range.
The "Blade" franchise was a series of well received R rated horror/action films but the rating for "The Darkness" is still being discussed. "There are some commercial aspects to PG-13 and R," Rosenberg explained. "These are economic aspects which really have to be taken into consideration. Partly it's going to depend on how all the financing feels about R or PG-13. Obviously if it's PG-13 it will be extreme PG-13 with an R or unrated cut on video and DVD."
"With DVDs, I've always been for shooting additional footage," Rosenberg continued, "I'm a geek for that stuff. I like to know what was cut out and cut out on purpose. What are the cool elements that you can go to that you couldn't do in the movie."
With "Magdalena" Platinum is aiming for a PG-13 rating. "As much as I prefer going to an R rated movie and always have I also know that generally speaking you sell more tickets if it's PG-13 than R, which means you have a better shot at financing and getting it distributed," Rosenberg explained. "It's not so much what the film maker wants as it is what's realistic."
The latest development with "Magdalena" is a screenwriter has finally been chosen for the film. "We have a screenwriter now. It took a long time to find a take that made everybody involved happy," Rosenberg said. "Part of that is because of the material is difficult. We're facing a market where female driven action is difficult and it's not going to get much easier right now. But we found a writer that we like and feel has a take that a commercial audience could get into. The take doesn't run away from her faith or faith ultimately driving the character but on the other hand doesn't push the religious elements so much. So it's there but it's not really pushed. Someone is not going to walk away saying, 'Oh this is a very religious movie so it's not for me.'"
The portrayals of the religious elements in "Magdalena" are being carefully considered. The production staff wants "Magdalena" to be a film with a universal appeal. "You can't presume that audience knows more than you're going to let them know is necessary for the mythology of the movie," Rosenberg explained. "I can't assume that everyone knows that Jesus was stabbed in the side and by whom."
"For the religious aspects we're really going for more faith than religion," Rosenberg continued. "Some of the religious publications that we talked to about this film seemed to like what we were talking about because it's more of a universal theme that people can understand."
Kevin Taft's recently completely script treatment involves Patience, the newest Magdalena, who starred in Top Cow's recent "Magdalena" mini-series. "What we like a lot is she starts as a normal girl and has no idea what she's in for," Rosenberg explained. "She's a normal girl right off the street and stuff happens to her and her friend. Her first motivation is to help her friend. She slowly gets drawn into things."
One person that draws her into things is Kristoff, another character from the "Magdalena" mini-series. "We're using him a lot," Rosenberg said. "In fact that's how she finds out a lot of what she is."
"There have been other Magdalenas before her. We're preserving that element as well," Rosenberg continued. "It kind of puts a person in their place when they realize they're one of a lineage. Meaning, if she bites it there will be another."
Rosenberg feels that the character's mundane beginnings are one of the most important elements for the film. "It really comes down to the audience believing at the beginning that she's as normal as anybody," He said. "Then all this stuff comes to pass, to me that's a major element."
The lead character's everyday origins are also being considered in the casting process. "We wouldn't want someone who everybody knows can kick ass because she's done it on screen twelve times before," Rosenberg explained. "We want someone who can be balanced so that you're somewhat surprised and she's somewhat surprised herself when she kicks ass."
The only character elements that the production will be tweaking is the Magdalena's costume. "The costume needs to be modified. We want her to wear something that's great and sexy but also something that she could walk into a bar and look hot in," Rosenberg said. "Other than that we really like the mini-series that we're drawing the story from. We're going to downplay some of the very religious elements but the faith inside her is still there and with Patience it was played down more than it was previously as well."
"Magdalena" has had some studio interest but Platinum is not actively shopping the property around to studios. "We know that if we went straight to them with female driven action right now and literally for the past year, we would end up getting stuck in development hell," Rosenberg explained. "We at least want to control the development and choose our own fate not that we're going to be any more successful but at least our chances are a hell of a lot higher."
"If we were able to bring some financing like we're doing with 'Darkness' that will help," Rosenberg continued. "We're able to do that now some movies which is terrific. We weren't able to do that before."
The projected budget of "Magdalena" will be similar to the "Darkness". "It will be in the $25-30 million range," Rosenberg said "When I say that, because we're independent in terms of raising financing 25-30 really means low 40s because what happens is you end up with tax incentives and if an independent studio is making something you literally pay the same people less money. Actors and writers will do it for less than a normal quote. So, you end up with the exact same people involved but you don't end up in the same quote system that you are in Hollywood. It just means that you are more accommodating in terms of timing and all that so it kind of goes both ways when you're working with a team.
Top Cow Publishing is part of the Platinum production team for both films. Marc Silvestri is executive producing both films and Matt Hawkins is producing.
The "Magdalena" made her first appearance in an issue of "The Darkness" and if both films are successful Rosenberg would love to see an eventual big screen meeting between the two characters. "I'm a total comic book and universe geek. I would give that a big yes," he said. "It's possible and has been talked about."