Films

Here is a list of films I’ve written, directed, and/or produced – with links to buy them on Amazon (when available).
NOTE: Any meager profits derived from sales linked to this site will be donated to the following charities: Union of Concerned Scientists and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Man of Steel

2013

Writer

A child sent to Earth from a dying planet is adopted by a couple in rural Kansas. Posing as a journalist, he uses his extraordinary powers to protect the his new home from an insidious evil.

The Dark Knight Rises

2012

Story

Eight years after Batman took the fall for Two Face’s crimes, a new terrorist leader, Bane, overwhelms Gotham’s finest, and the Dark Knight resurfaces to protect a city that has branded him an enemy.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

2011

Story, Executive Producer

As Johnny Blaze hides out in Eastern Europe, he is called upon to stop the devil, who is trying to take human form.

The genesis of this project was a little strange.  A year or two after Blade came out, Avi Arad approached Stephen Norrington and me to do an R-rated Ghost Rider film.  I was going to write and executive produce, Stephen was going to direct.  We developed a modern-day Western that was hard-R.  We got Nic Cage attached.  Then the studio balked at doing an R-rated film.  The film changed hands to Sony, who wanted to soften it into a PG-13 film.  Stephen and I jumped ship… Sony made the first Ghost Rider film with Mark Steven Johnson, which I had nothing to do with.  My original script was abandoned.

Then, in 2009, Sony and Mike Deluca approached me about doing a second film.  This time, they decided that my long-dead original script should be the basis.  But by this point, I was knee deep in Flashforward and writing the script for Man of Steel.  I ended up supervising Scott Gimple and Seth Hoffman (also Flashforward writers) as they rewrote my original script.  Sony then ran with it and made the movie with Neveldine and Taylor.  But I never spoke to the directing team or ended up having anything to do with the production. 

The Unborn

2009

Writer, Director

A young woman fights the spirit that is slowly taking possession of her.

I wrote this script after having a frustrating experience developing a very expensive Flash script for Warner Brothers.  At the time, Michael Bay’s company Platinum Dunes had a deal with Rogue to make a horror film in the under twenty million dollar vein.  I’d always been interested in the dybbuk legend and thought it would be fun to explore it.  Because of my relationship with Gary Oldman in the Batman films, I was able to convince him to play a small role.  I also reached out to Idris Elba, who I been exposed to via The Wire.  Since then, Idris has obviously blown up in a major way.  Shooting was done in Chicago, in the dead of winter.  We had a great time on the shoot and Michael was an incredibly generous producer.  The movie ended up grossing more than its budget in its opening domestic weekend, so Rogue was happy.

The Dark Knight

2008

Story

When Batman, Gordon and Harvey Dent launch an assault on the mob, they let the clown out of the box, the Joker, bent on turning Gotham on itself and bringing any heroes down to his level.

Not much more to be said about this film.  A few months after Batman Begins opened, I got a call from Chris Nolan asking if I wanted to have lunch.  We discussed the shadow the Joker had cast across pop culture and whether or not we were obligated to tell his “origin”.  Very quickly, we decided that he would have no origin and that the film would actually begin with him — that we would give the audience what they wanted, but not in the way they were expecting.  We also thought it was fun to have the Joker actually on-screen long before the audience realizes he is.

Jumper

2008

Writer

A genetic anomaly allows a young man to teleport himself anywhere. He discovers this gift has existed for centuries and finds himself in a war that has been raging for thousands of years between “Jumpers” and those who have sworn to kill them.

I was a fan of the young adult novel and brought it to New Regency. I liked the idea of doing a superhero movie, set in essentially the real world, without any costumes. My draft was a relatively faithful adaptation of the book, but I did create a second, “lost boy” Jumper named Griffin. I’d intended for David and the head of the NSA to enjoy the kind of relationship shared between the two protagonists in “Catch Me If You Can”. I was going for a more classic film in the vein of “War Games” in which a young adult has to go up against the Government. But New Regency was superhero happy and decided the film needed a more elaborate mythology. So I jumped ship from Jumper. The first act of the end product mirrored my script, as did the inclusion of Griffin. But beyond that, I was somewhat disappointed in the final results. 

The Invisible

2007

Director

After an attack leaves him in limbo — invisible to the living and also near death — a teenager discovers that the only person who might be able to help him is his attacker.

I’ve always been a fan of darker, young adult novels like “Jumper,” “The Cheese Stands Alone,” and “Fade”. When I saw the original of this clever film, the tone reminded me of that. Had a great time making the film and a wonderful experience working with Nina Jacobson. But she was “let go” from Disney while we were in post and the film was somewhat neglected by the new regime. Wasn’t a very successful film. But there are still elements in it that I’m quite fond of.

Ghost Rider

2007

Executive Producer

Stunt motorcyclist Johnny Blaze gives up his soul to become a hellblazing vigilante, to fight against power hungry Blackheart, the son of the devil himself.

See my posting on Spirit of Vengeance.  I never did end up seeing the final version of this film, as I had virtually nothing to do with it.

Batman Begins

2005

Co-Writer

Bruce Wayne loses his philanthropic parents to a senseless crime, and years later becomes the Batman to save the crime-ridden Gotham City on the verge of destruction by an ancient order.

Blade: Trinity

2004

Writer, Director, Producer

Blade, now a wanted man by the FBI, must join forces with the Nightstalkers to face his most challenging enemy yet: Dracula

Blade II

2002

Writer, Executive Producer

Blade forms an uneasy alliance with the vampire council in order to combat the Reaper vampires who feed on vampires.

Blade was an unexpected hit.  A week or two after it opened, Mike De Luca from New Line called me and said ,”You better start thinking about a sequel”.  I ruminated for a little while and decided the most logical story should involve Blade having to team up with the thing he hates more than anything in the world: vampires.  I loosely modeled the story after The Dirty Dozen, with the Bloodpack as proxies for the convicted felons in Dozen.  Then I came up with a ‘greater threat’ that would unify Blade and the vampires’ goals, which evolved into the Reapers — super-vampires that also fed on vampires.

When it came time to find a director, I suggested Guillermo del Toro, who was a friend.  Guillermo had made Cronos and the unfairly maligned Mimic.  At the time, his stock in Hollywood was not great.  He’d taken the heat for Mimic and I knew the troubles with Mimic were in no way his fault.  New Line resisted hiring Guillermo, but producer Peter Frankfurt and myself really believed in him and continued arguing the case.  Eventually, New Line agreed to hire Guillermo.

We made the film in Prague, which, at the time, was still a bit of an uncharted territory in terms of movie-making.  No one had ever brought a film of that scale to Prague before and there were definite growing pains.  Guillermo brought on Mike Mignola to do some design work, as well as Tim Bradstreet and Richard Corben.  I think he tried to get Wayne Barlowe as well.  I remember finding a bunch of Mignola’s original drawings in a trashcan in the corner of one of the sound stages in Prague — just completely discarded.  So I rescued them and they now adorn the walls in my offices in Los Angeles.

One of the benefits of shooting in Prague was that we could built enormous sets for a relatively cheap amount of money.  Carol Spier was the production designer, and the sewer sets, in particular, were gorgeous and sprawling.  I remember taking a break with Guillermo at one point, driving through the sewer tunnels in a little golf cart.  Guillermo had this big grin on his face.  “Can you believe they pay us to do this, Little G?  How awesome is this?  I would do this for free!”  (Guillermo has always called me Little G and I, in turn, have always called him El Gordo.)

Wesley was injured during one of the fight scenes and we were required to do a few weeks of re-shoots later on in Los Angeles.  But there were two dramatic scenes left unfilmed that still required Wesley’s services.  For whatever reason, Wesley declined.  I think we shot one of them with Wesley’s stunt double wearing a prosthetic mask that kind of looked like Wesley.  It’s a scene where Blade is being taken via helicopter to meet the bad guys.  Look closely and you’ll see it’s not really Wesley.

The film ended up being even more successful than the first Blade offering and spawned an inevitable, albeit troubled, three-quel.  More on that later.

ZigZag

2002

Writer, Director

An autistic 15-year-old boy steals money from his boss to provide rent for his abusive father, who uses the money to repay a loan shark.

This film was based on the novel by Landon J. Napoleon.  I was looking for something to do as my directorial debut.  I knew it would have to be small in budget and I was hoping to do something that was character-based, as opposed to the action and/or fantasy I’d been known for as a screenwriter.  I found the book during my lunch break while I was on jury-duty in Pasadena.  I flew out to Arizona, where Landon lived, pitched myself as a candidate to adapt and direct the film, then ultimately optioned the book with my own money and wrote a screenplay adaptation.  Because of the subject matter, it was difficult to get financing for.  I was a first-time director and completely unproven, but despite this, John Leguizamo came on-board the film for scale (meaning he took the minimum amount of money a SAG actor can earn on a film).  With John as the lynch-pin, I was able to secure other actors like Oliver Platt and Natasha Lyonne.  Eventually, Wesley Snipes came on board for 6 days of filming as well.

We made the film for about 2.5 million dollars and shot it in East Los Angeles over the course of 25 days.  Sometimes, when everyone is working for peanuts, there are no egos involved.  Everyone is just doing it because they like the project.  This turned out to be the case with ZigZag.  To date, I’m still quite happy with how the film turned out.  I took it to South by Southwest, where it received a good reception.  When it was released, it essentially got buried — only playing in a handful of cities.  But the entire experience, from beginning to end, remains one of my fondest memories.

Mission to Mars

2000

Co-Producer

When the first manned mission to Mars meets with a catastrophic and mysterious disaster, a rescue mission is launched to investigate the tragedy and bring back any survivors.

Blade

1998

Writer

A half-vampire, half-mortal man becomes a protector of the mortal race, while slaying evil vampires.

Around 1994, I heard that New Line was interested in making a “black super-hero” movie.  Mike Deluca, New Line’s President of Production, was a big-time comicbook fan.  He wanted to adapt a Marvel property.  At the time, Marvel was struggling.  They were only interested in pursuing films based on their larger properties like Spider-Man and X-Men.  Of the known black super-heroes in the Marvel roster, you had Luke Cage, Black Panther, a few others.  Then there was Blade.  He was attractive because he didn’t have super-powers, per se.  And he inhabited more of a horror world.  Mike liked Blade and so did I.  Marvel was happy to option the rights.  They never imagined anything would come of a film involving one of their lesser-known, third tier characters.

New Line wanted to make a film in the 8 million range.  I took the central premise of Blade and pitched what essentially became the film.  It was much more ambitious than New Line had been contemplating — but Mike took a risk and hired me to write the script.  I wrote my ass off.  For the first time, I wrote want I wanted to write, and not what some film executive was dictating.  Mike gave me the freedom to just go for it.

When I turned in the script, New Line was happy — but the initial budget came in around $45 million dollars!  The New Line powers that be decided they would make the film if we could land either Denzel Washington or Wesley Snipes.  (Well, actually, they first asked if Blade could be white — but I digress.)  We went to Wesley first and he signed on to do the film.

Then began another 3 years of development.  Different directors came and went.  At some point, I did a draft for David Fincher, just before Seven came out.  Eventually, Stephen Norrington came into the mix.  He was a largely unproven filmmaker with one low-budget film under his belt.  Again, New Line took a gamble.  Those were heady days at New Line — they were taking the kinds of creative risks that other studios shied away from.  We made the film.  I remember sitting in the first rough-cut screening of the movie at New Line.  The film played.  When the lights came up, everyone looked at each other. I was thinking “Holy God — that was bat-shit crazy.”  Prior to the film’s release, I remember people making fun of it — saying it would flop.  But those of us involved knew we were sitting on a new breed of film.  Who would have guessed, way back then, that the film would spawn two sequels, a TV show, videogames, action figures, and various other merchandise.  In a way, Blade blazed the trail for other comicbook movies.  It showed Hollywood that there was, potentially, untapped opportunities in the hundreds of other lesser known comicbook properties.  Turned out to be a blessing and a curse.  Some great comicbook movies got made.  But in the mad rush to adapt any and every comicbook character known to man, some real stinkers were developed and made as well.  Suddenly, everyone at every studio wanted to make a comicbook film. 

Dark City

1998

Writer

A man struggles with memories of his past, including a wife he cannot remember, in a nightmarish world with no sun and run by beings with telekinetic powers who seek the souls of humans.

Nick Fury: Agent of Shield

1998

Writer

Marvel’s hard-boiled hero is brought to TV. He is brought back to fight the menace of Hydra after exiling himself in the Yukon since the end of the Cold War…

Um.  What can I say?  I originally wrote this for New World.  They were going to make a mid-level feature film.  The project got shelved, then resurrected years later as one of a series of made-for-TV-movies Fox was doing.  My script was rewritten (don’t even know by whom) and the TV movie was made with the Hoff.  I didn’t have anything to do with it.  Do I wish my name wasn’t on it?  Yep.  That’s the problem with being a writer for film or television.  The finished product doesn’t always necessarily represent what you wrote.  Sometimes, multiple uncredited writers have taken a whack at your script.  In fairness, I’ve also worked, uncredited, on a number of other movies as well. 

The Crow: City of Angels

1996

Writer

Many years after the first film, the spirit of the Crow resurrects another man seeking revenge for the murder of his son.

The Puppet Masters

1994

Co-Writer

The Earth is invaded by alien “slugs” that ride on people’s backs and control their minds.

An awful adaptation of the Heinlein classic that still makes me cringe. At the time, Hollywood Pictures brought me on board to “make it our Aliens”. I questioned whether or not they really wanted to go that dark. When I turned in the script, they said it was too scary. Still, I had a lovely time with Donald Sutherland on the set and made the acquaintance of Elliott and Rossio, who were and remain very gracious, class acts. What can I say? Wish I’d taken a pseudonym on this one. I remember getting a note from one of the executives. It said: “There will be no mucus in a Disney movie. Ever.”

Arcade

1993

Writer

Demonic Toys

1992

Writer

These films were relatively early in my career.  Post Empire Pictures days, infamous B-movie producer Charles Band started Full Moon Pictures.  Like many people, I was a fan of Stuart Gordon’s films Re-Animator and From Beyond, so I was intrigued when I got a call from Band to come in for a meeting.  Band was an affable guy — an unashamed schlockmeister in the Roger Corman tradition.  His office was decorated with large-scale painting reproductions of old Ditko and Kirby Marvel Comics covers.  The deal with Band was, he had this low-budget horror movie output deal with Paramount.  He would come up with concepts and posters ahead of time, pre-sell them overseas, then make the movies in bulk.

Band made me an offer.  Write two low-budget films for him and I could direct one of them.  But the deal was, I had to write them each in about a week’s time!  He showed me about a dozen posters with pre-sold titles.  I picked Arcade and Demonic Toys.  With Arcade, I figured I could do some kind of A.I. internet gaining self-consciousness kind of thing.  With Demonic Toys — well, the poster had a killer teddy bear and a jack-in-the-box — so fuck it, sounded good to me.  At the time, I got paid low-budget WGA scale for both films, which made me the highest paid writer Full Moon had ever employed.  (Don’t be too impressed — low-budget scale wasn’t very much.) 

I wrote the two films.  Tried to make them as artful as possible, given the extreme limitations.  Band put Albert Pyun on Arcade to direct.  Pyun had made the low-budget, cult classic The Sword and the Sorcerer, which I still fondly remember from my childhood.  I knew and liked Pyun because he’d also directed Kickboxer 2 (another story)…

…but by the time it was my turn to direct Demonic Toys, I got cold feet.  The problem was, Band had made these, kind of — “term deals” with various crew members.  So I could direct, but I had to use his production designer, DP, costume designer, etc.  Not that they were necessarily bad guys.  Just wanted some choice in the matter.  I backed out.  Someone else made the film.  It had some funny moments — Bentley Mitchum in a chicken car, which was inspired by my time working in both McDonalds and Domino’s Pizza.  Years later, it spawned some quasi-sequels, when Band hybridized it with both his Puppet Master and Doll Man series.

Even more years later, there was an odd post-script to the Full Moon episode.  There was a story (maybe in Time) questioning the wisdom of certain prisons that would show violent movies on closed-circuit television.  Apparently, in one southern prison, a riot broke out after a screening of Demonic Toys! 

Hmmm.  I don’t think I’ve ever received any residuals from either film.  So much for them being WGA minimum…

Kickboxer 2: The Road Back

1991

Writer, Associate Producer

In Kickboxer, we saw how Kurt Sloan (Jean Claude Van Damme) was victorious in his fight against the brutal Tong Po (Michel Qissi). But Tong Po is not so easily defeated and in a burst of rage guns down the champion as he prepares to leave Thailand. For Tong Po’s manager Sangha this is a disgrace that he cannot bear, for the kickboxing championship can’t be regained unless he can goad Kurt’s younger brother David (Sasha Mitchell) into the ring to fight Tong Po for the title. Under the watchful eye of his brother’s trainer Xian (Dennis Chan), he must enter the ring and face the lethal kickboxing skills of Tong Po, risking everything – including his life – to avenge the insane violence of the deadly Thai fighter.

After doing Death Warrant, Van Damme was becoming a rising action star.  The makers behind his earlier films Bloodsport and Kickboxer were both hoping to do sequels with him.  Van Damme had taken a liking to me and decided I was going to be his “guy” — so he said he would do whichever film I wrote!  Reasoning that they were more or less the same films, I decided to do whichever one would pay me the most money.  Sensible, right?  This was the first time I was paid up front to write a film. 

Kings Road ponied up the most money.  I set to work, trying to write a masterpiece.  Albert Pyun came on board to direct.  Albert is an incredibly likeable guy, with an infectious enthusiasm.  He kept telling me that he was going to make Kickboxer 2 his “Raging Bull”.  Um, well — bonus points for ambition.  Even now, I’m grinning as I remember Albert’s insane gusto.

For some reason, Van Damme ultimately backed out of the film.  But I’d already been paid, so I had the distinction of being the highest paid person on the production (since I’d originally been roped in to be Van Damme bait).  Everyone involved managed to convince themselves that the film could still be successful without Van Damme.  Hollywood is rife with delusion.  Sasha Mitchell was cast to play the role Van Damme had originated.  (Bizarre fact: Michel Qissi, the guy who plays the hulking Tong Po, was actually Van Damme’s real-life paid-friend/right-hand man/whatever.  I could never quite figure out their relationship, but he was around during the Death Warrant days.)

The film took a nose-dive.  But happily, it also managed to be the subject of one of David Letterman’s Top 10 lists.  Something like: “Top 10 Things Overheard While In Line For Kickboxer 2.”  The only “thing” I remember is:  “I hear this movie is just like Star Wars, only with more kicking.”

Incredibly, Mitchell revisited the role in two more Kickboxer follow-ups.  So I guess it managed to scrape up some dough in home video.

Death Warrant

1990

Writer

Canadian policeman Louis Burke is assigned to a jail to investigate the murders of some prisoners and jailers. While in jail, Lois is able to save his own life and make himself respected in that violent world, using his outstanding martial arts skills. At last, helped by two another prisoners, he succeeds in finding the truth about the dreadful crimes.

This was a spec script I wrote and sold right out of college. Originally, it was called “Dusted”. 6 months after I graduated, I got word that Van Damme wanted to buy it and make it. 6 months later, I was on the set of my first movie, at the tender age of 22. As soon as Van Damme was cast, I had to take much of the dialogue and reapportion it to other characters because Van Damme’s accent was still quite think. I remember meeting Van Damme for the first time. He had one of those early, military-style cell phones. I’d never even seen one before. He gave me a hug and said, “Hollywood will try to destroy you. But I will protect you like an eagle.” So while the film wasn’t high art, it started my career, so I’ll always be indebted to Van Damme for that.