Years before “Twilight” captured the attention of ’tweens around the world, Kevin Grevioux gave vampires and werewolves new life when he created the gothic-action epic “Underworld.”
Now a decade removed from that franchise’s debut, the writer and actor aims to reanimate another horror icon with the 2014 film “I, Frankenstein.”
Based on Grevioux’s unpublished graphic novel, “I, Frankenstein” stars Aaron Eckhart as Adam Frankenstein, the legendary creation of an equally famous mad scientist. After wandering the Earth for 200 years, Adam finds himself at the center of a war between gargoyles and demons, who hope to harness the electrifying secrets of Dr. Frankenstein to build an army of resurrected corpse soldiers. The film co-stars Yvonne Strahovski, Bill Nighy, Miranda Otto and Grevioux as a gnarly demon named Dekar.
At last month’s New York Comic Con, I caught up with Grevioux – who’s penned comics for famed publishers IDW and Marvel – to talk about the evolution of “I, Frankenstein” and find out what fans will be buzzing about when it hits theaters on January 24.
David Onda: Is it true you studied genetic engineering in college?
Kevin Grevioux: In grad school, actually. I got my degree in microbiology from Howard University. And then I was in the master’s program for genetic engineering, but I did not complete the master’s. I decided to get stupid and come out to Hollywood and try to make a living as a screenwriter. [laughs]
Onda: Did your stint in genetic engineering lend itself to your interest in Frankenstein?
Grevioux: Yes, it did. More to the point, it’s probably the end result of my loving science-fiction. When you’re a kid reading comic books and growing up in the ’70s, like I did, is it possible to do science-fiction for living? The natural thing for me to do was go into real science, which I did. It’s just that, looking at what I was doing – it was fun, it was interesting and I wasn’t in it for the money – but it just wasn’t as rewarding as I thought. It wasn’t long before I heard the call of the wild, so to speak.
Onda: Can you tell me a little bit about how the story for “I, Frankenstein” was born?
Grevioux: After “Underworld,” I wanted to repeat the success I had with that, which was basically taking what are traditionally horror characters and spinning the concept on its ear, and turning it into an action film. I wanted to do that with another monster character. I had a couple ideas, but Frankenstein was the more logical choice given his creation. In 2007, I actually pitched the idea to [production company] Lakeshore, and they passed on it. I thought it was a great concept and I thought, “Why don’t they get it?” A lot of times writers will say, “I guess it doesn’t have any legs.” I said, “Naw, screw this.” So, what I did was, I wrote the screenplay. Then, I made sure I had artwork, and I created a graphic novel. When it was time for me to go wide with the screenplay, I decided to show it to Lakeshore first. I showed them the script, and then I showed them pages from the comic book. And having the pages from the graphic novel helped illustrate the world I was trying to convey. Then they understood exactly what I was doing, what I was talking about, and they bought the screenplay right there before it went wide.
Onda: But the film hit a few bumps in the road before going into production, didn’t it?
Grevioux: There were some creative differences and they wound up bringing in [screenwriter and director] Stuart Beattie. And instead of the monster mash it was going to be – which is still an amazing story – Stuart was able to simplify it, and just have it be about gargoyles and demons. But we still kept the same basic spine of the story, which was the main antagonist trying to get the secret of Frankenstein’s creation and create an army of Frankenstein creatures to take over mankind and, thus, the world.
Onda: Now that the film is complete, or close to complete, how has it lived up to your original vision?
Grevioux: It’s close and it’s different. It’s more different than close, but my thing was to create the ultimate monster movie. My main antagonist to go up against Frankenstein was actually Dracula, Prince of Darkness. [laughs] And Stuart changed him to a demon prince named Naberius. The vampires I had in my film, he changed to demons, but left them with vampiric weaknesses. And the gargoyles were something I added, that I thought were really cool, and Stuart incorporated them as well. It’s different, but he kept a lot of the same elements. The theme is still the same – what does it mean to be a monster? Am I man? Am I monster? Or am I both? That’s what Adam Frankenstein’s personality is; to be more than what he’s always been treated like, which is a monster.
Onda: Coming off of his success in “The Dark Knight,” it must have been a boon to get Aaron Eckhart to play Adam. What has he brought to this character?
Grevioux: What he brings is a sensitivity to the material that I don’t know has been seen before with [Frankenstein]. Usually the monster is large, bigger than life. So he had to walk that fine line between being a monster, not being a part of either world fully. Only a great actor can do that, and that’s what Aaron is.
Onda: The pictures of you as Dekar are amazing. What is Dekar all about, and how much time did it take to get your makeup done?
Grevioux: My character is Naberius’ right-hand man. So whenever there are dastardly deeds that need to be done, I’m the one who executes them. It didn’t take as long as some other makeups I’ve been in. That was about an hour and a half of work.
Onda: Did you initially write the Dekar character for yourself?
Grevioux: What happened is that I created another character for myself to play, but when Stuart came on board, that character did not survive. So I wrote another role to play, and that’s how that came about. But I do write myself a part in everything that I do. Not number one on the call sheet, but number five-ten. And the reason I do that is because, typically writers are invited to the set, or maybe they’re invited once. Usually, when you turn in your script, they say, “See you at the premiere.” But my thing is to actually experience being a part of something you created as a set piece – that is fun. That’s important.
Onda: You’re living the dream of so many superhero-loving kids right now. What have been some of the career highlights for you?
Grevioux: There’s been, actually, quite a few. The first thing I did was a Michael Jackson video, where I actually got to talk to Michael Jackson – the “Remember the Time” video that John Singleton directed, and it had Eddie Murphy and Magic Johnson. The first part I had was in the movie “The Mask,” which incidentally was a comic book movie. Then, I have to say, being in “Batman Forever”… [laughs] you know, I’ve been a big Batman fan all my life. It was fun being on that set. But, “Underworld” – to have one of the things you create finally get to screen and to play the role you wrote for yourself … the first time I saw Kate [Beckinsale] in that suit, and then one of the Lycan werewolves in full regalia, I’m like, “Wow, this is what it’s all about.”
Onda: I think we all said “wow” the first time we saw Kate in that outfit.
Grevioux: [laughs boisterously] Yes we did, yes we did. Also, like I said, I’ve been a longtime comic book fan, but when I was working for Marvel, I created a character called the Blue Marvel. And that’s a character that I actually created, at least in part, when I was a kid growing up reading Marvel comics. Now it’s come so far that Marvel has actually made the character an Avenger.
Onda: When fans finally get to see this movie, which scene is going to blow their minds?
Grevioux: I think it’s this fight between Adam and one of the demons. I also think there’s a shot of the gargoyles that I say, “That’s what I’m talking about.” I remember when I first wrote the screenplay, I said we have only seen gargoyles once or twice, and they weren’t very good. I want the gargoyles to really be cool. These stone figures which come to life! And so that shot, when you zoom in on this statue and it opens its eyes and you realize it’s a gargoyle – that is cool.
“I, Frankenstein” opens in theaters everywhere on January 24. Kevin Gerioux’s graphic novel prequel “I, Frankenstein Genesis” is available now.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.