The Losers Director Sylvain White on Race, Remakes and Video Games
The success of Stomp the Yard in 2007 might have heralded several things, but few would have predicted that its director, Sylvain White, would suddenly become a familiar name to the fanboy community. Then again, White is a major fanboy himself, and he's used his heat to attach himself to a number of cult properties, including an adaptation of the Frank Miller graphic novel Ronin and a film version of the classic video game franchise Castlevania (which he's since departed). The release today of White's The Losers (adapted from a DC Comics comic book series) may be the first example of his fannish tendencies made manifest, but if he has his way, it'll hardly be the last.
I talked to White today about how he weathers the scrutiny of superfans, and what he's got in mind for Ronin, his remake of the French film Le Magnifique, and several other properties.
How do you feel today, as opposed to the day Stomp the Yard came out?
It kind of feels the same. It's a similar unpredictable situation this weekend. I guess I feel a little bit less pressure, because Stomp the Yard was my first time out and the anxiety of the experience was novel. But I'm very excited, I want to check it out at a couple of theaters and see how people react and just try to take it easy. [Laughs]
Fans always want a filmed adaptation of a graphic novel to be as faithful as possible. This costume, this hair color...how do you find the right amount of latitude to take? Do you pay attention to what they say?
There's no general rule, period -- it really just depends on the source material. I think people with comics, people tend to focus on the whole series for adaptation, but with The Losers, we really focused on the first two volumes. I'm kind of a fanboy myself, from graphic novels to video games. I tried to draw elements that I liked from the comic book, and first and foremost in the graphic novel was this comedic tone that was paired interestingly with this very hardcore action, and I wanted to stay true that. Second, the authenticity of the characters and how they looked, the costumes, that kind of thing. Also, the really brilliant use of primary and secondary colors in the graphic novel which are really produced and outline each environment. I tried to really reflect that in the movie to give it this sort of comic book flair without hitting you over the head with it.
If the design of the characters is good, you stick with it. If you remake, for example, a superhero comic book from the fifties, you probably don't want to stick to the costume references. For this particular graphic novel, it was reinvented and reissued in 2003, so it's very modern and well-designed.
One of the ways The Losers stands out from those other comic book movies is that it's actually diverse. You look at some of the other properties around right now -- Thor, Captain America, Batman, Superman -- it seems like there are rarely any major parts in there for non-white actors unless there's a certain re-imagining of the character. Have you noticed that happening?
Absolutely. Even with The Losers, which was very modern and diverse, I still reimagined the characters a little bit to accentuate the multiculturalism and make that even more of an appeal. I think these other comic-book adaptations are based on iconic comic superheroes that were developed a long time ago. Those were different days, and that's the result of that process. I think some of the new graphic novels coming out all over the world, particularly in Europe and Japan, there's a diversity of subjects and stories. It's a great place to look for source material because of its diversity -- it's not just superheroes and Marvel-type heroes that we're used to.
You've mentioned Europe as a place for source material, and I've read you want to remake Le Magnifique. That's a film that's very French, of its era, very Jean-Paul Belmondo. What would you do to it?
That's a movie where, growing up in France, I loved it so much that I must have watched it forty times. The original had very French, 80's slapstick humor to it, so I would modernize that. He's a great personality and a great character study, but there's also a love story that's very genuine, and those are the elements I would keep. You know, the original has been ripped off a lot since then, like in Austin Powers and Get Smart, so I think I would make it so that the novel he's writing when you're in his world is more real, more Bourne, and less of a caricature. I would modernize it in that way, but I'd rally stay true to the character arc of the story.
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