But Kinberg considers Fox his home. He made his first film as a writer at Fox, 2005’s Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and his Genre shingle has been based at the studio since 2010. Aditya Sood is president of production and Josh Feldman is director of development. “They’ve always been incredibly generous with me and trusting me with movies,” Kinberg says of Fox. “They treat me like a partner and not an employee.”
“Simon is one of the best out there,” says 20th Century Fox production president Emma Watts. “We feel very lucky that he calls Fox his home and hope to build our slates together for many years to come.”
Kinberg says he doesn’t just want to focus on franchises or established brands. The goal is to make original projects or adaptations of works that he believes deserve a wider audience. “There is a special kind of satisfaction on working on a story that no one has ever heard before,” he says.
This isn’t about X-Men, but it gives you a nice glimpse into Kinberg’s writing style. He can *definitely* keep plots competely secret. Also kinda reminds me of Singer’s penchant for tricking his audiences…
Q: As a fan of Rebels, I was frankly surprised to see the face of the franchise, the Inquisitor, die at the end of season 1. Was that always the plan? And what was it about that idea that made you want to do that?
Kinberg: It was always the plan. And there were a lot of things that were appealing to us about it. One is it’s just, I think, neat for an audience to feel like they think they’re sure of the rules of a show. That episode to episode you know who’s gonna come back, to shock them in that way. We thought that there was something about that that was really powerful and made the stakes feel really real on both sides. And escalated the villainy because now that that’s happened, as you see in the trailer, they’re gonna step up the response.
Kinberg on the “unconventional” and controversial casting choices for the Fantastic Four reboot:
“I think it’s true for a lot of movies that you can take license with adapting the underlying material and you will be forgiven for it if it’s good – and you will not be if it’s bad,” he said.
(Which, by the way, had over-zealous “that’s not canon” fans crying into their Haterades. The new F4 cast is like..whatever, change is needed, get over it. Time for stories to reflect the times. Kinberg seems to agree… 😉 And X-Men is supposedly the landmark film, according to this article and others, that will set this “new universe” in motion. Hmm.)
Simon Kinberg on his spy film Mr. and Mrs. Smith…
“Mr and Mrs Smith” = A Metaphor for Marriage: You know, that was one of the hardest things to pitch to studios is that you could write an action movie that was ultimately a metaphor for marriage and was more about the marriage. One of the ways that you write it is that all of the action sequences in the film have to be, in some form, expressions of where these characters are in their marriage. They have to be expressions of emotion. Instead of two people having a fight over the dinner table about the salt, they’re actually doing it with assault rifles. So all of the action was emotional.”
I’ve posted it before, but I’m doing it again- what does that have to do with X-Men? This:
Q: You’ve stated that your films, most of which are big-budget genre efforts, are deeply personal. When many filmgoers think of “deeply personal” films, they’ve probably got Whit Stillman or Henry Jaglom in mind.
Kinberg: I feel like every film that I write is about something personal in my life. It’s just sort of exploded into an action or superhero movie. I don’t know how to write any other way. But at the core of it, these are very personal stories to me.
Q: Give me an example.
Kinberg: Well, Mr. & Mrs. Smith came from my being in a relationship with someone and her telling me that I was someone who was better in conflict than in stability. I thought that was an interesting idea to explore in a movie. Because I’m not a pure dramatist, I guess you could say, that movie didn’t end up being Ordinary People or Kramer vs. Kramer. It ended up being two spies trying to kill each other and falling in love in the process. When I came onto Sherlock Holmes, the thing that really resonated with me wasn’t the case or the period or the action, it was the notion of having to say goodbye to a friend and let him move on with his life. It was the Sherlock-Watson relationship in that movie that really resonated for me. A movie about two male friends who have to part could easily become a Whit Stillman movie or a Woody Allen movie. Or, you know, a movie with one of the most iconic characters of all time.
Q: What about the X-Men films? How are they personal for you?
Kinberg: Each of the X-Men movies that I’ve worked on has been an exploration of some personal issue, just broadened into these big, superhero sides and action sequences, and I’ve really tried to honor the things I loved most about the X-Men comics as a kid growing up – the complex characters and relationships, the great emotionality. The Last Stand to me is “How do you say goodbye to someone you’ve loved, but they aren’t the person you loved anymore?” First Class was really, for me, Erik’s story, a sad one – “Can you ever get over the wounds of your past?” For me, the answer was no, at least in that story. It is a tragic story about a guy who starts the film losing someone to violence and ends the film as someone who is committing acts of violence himself. Days of Future Past is almost an inverse, about someone who starts to lose hope when he loses the most important people in his life. By the end of the movie, though, he’s found a new community and his hope is restored. All of the ways I’ve described those movies, they could manifest as a Woody Allen movie or a more purely character-driven dramatic piece, but the second I start to think about a relationship movie, it becomes spies very fast.
(Kinberg draws a DEFINITIVE parallel between Mr. and Mrs. Smith, which he calls a metaphor for marriage, and Charles and Erik in the X-Men films. And there IS- both are “spy” films, both have secrecy and conspiracy, and both are actually about the marriage of the two main people involved. Listen to Kinberg, that’s very important.)
And listen to this answer he gives during another interview. BOY does this EVER sound like Erik and Charles in X-Men:
Q: You have a knack for writing Action/Romantic Comedy without clichés. Can you give advice on how you incorporate love and adventure into the screenplay? – Young
Kinberg: You are kind. I’ve been very lucky to work with actors who have a strong allergy to clichés. There were plenty of times on the set of Mr. & Mrs. Smith that Brad or Angie killed a line for being cliché. Robert Downey was the same way. But I think the trick (if there is a trick) is just to be honest. Write romance and comedy from personal experience. You’ll find specificity and texture from your own life. And start with the romance before you add action. Action should be an expression of character. Great action sequences should work like musical numbers – they explode when the characters can’t contain their emotion in dialogue alone. I had a chance to work with John Woo early on in my career, and this is one of the things he taught me. He looked at action as music and dance. It’s just another way to articulate emotion. And every action sequence should tell us more about the character – from the way they hold a gun to the way they run or fight in the face of danger.
And yet ANOTHER parallel between X-Men and Mr. and Mrs. Smith:
Q: Do you take a different approach when writing something that already has a history and fan base like Sherlock Holmes or X-Men? How different is it from something you thought up all on your own? – Chad
Kinberg: The only difference in approach is research. When it comes to something like Holmes or X-Men that has generated so much literature, I try to read everything humanly possible to immerse myself in that world, to learn the rules of the universe and the essence of the characters. Then I put the books away, and do what I would do with an original idea: I build the story from the ground up. I start with the characters and try to find the emotional journey of the story. Then I build scenes and sequences to dramatize that journey. For instance, with Holmes, the whole movie was about Watson getting married, moving on, and Holmes needing to come to terms with that fact. Of course, there’s a big murder mystery and supernatural elements, but the core of the movie is about a friendship that will either evolve or end. And that’s the tension of the film. On X3, we started with the idea of Dark Phoenix. The central emotional journey (for all the characters) was how they dealt with the loss of Jean. The movie is really about coming to peace with the death of someone you love. That’s Wolverine’s journey. By the end of the film, he needs to let go of Jean, so he can move on with his life.
On an original script like Mr. & Mrs. Smith, the process is not that different. I start from the emotional journey of the characters, then I build out the action and plot. That film is very simply the story of a broken marriage that heals. It’s all about the things that debilitate a marriage – secrets, lies, separate lives. And when those things are exposed, a couple is forced to deal with each other, and they either break up or come together. The movie could have been Kramer vs Kramer or Ordinary People, but it just so happens I’m an action writer, so I dramatized their marital conflict with fist-fights and guns and explosives.
(God, does that EVER sound like Erik and Charles. No wonder Kinberg calls them a love story… 🙂 )
An rather interesting interview from the most recent SDCC:
LR: So how’s it going with Fox and comic book movies that you are involved in?
Simon Kinberg: “Good, really good actually! It’s a pretty great time to be making comic book movies at Fox I have to say. They are letting us make and actually encouraging us to make cooler more ambitious films. I mean DAYS OF FUTURE PAST was definitely an indicator of that. X-MEN FIRST CLASS and Mangold’s WOLVERINE movie was some indication too. They want us to push the envelope with these things.”
LR: Marvels Phase structure and team-up movies don’t apply to the Fox Marvel properties that revolve around teams, but each Marvel Phase has a piece of world-building to get done. Phase 1 introduced the line between SHILED and STARK science and Asguardian Magic. Phase 2 has been about isolating heroes from their greater power structures. Do you see your current series of history-linked X-Films as having a single narrative thrust or is it enough to show how history deals with those it labels different?
Simon Kinberg: It’s a really interesting question. The answer is we really do think more broadly than one movie at a time. We think about it in sort of two ways – one is the global and one is the personal. We think about these X-MEN movies as spread over – X-MEN FIRST CLASS, DAYS OF FUTURE PAST to APOCALYPSE was imagined as a trilogy for us. It’s the Origin stories in some ways of Charles, Raven, Hank and Eric and we will be settling things up in APOCALYPSE that will be generating new stories. We look at it globally as to where to mutants fit into the world. That’s why we jump from the 60’s to the 70’s and now the 80’s. We really want to be able to track the progression of the world and where do mutants fit in that world. It’s a pretty radical thing to do in any movie but certainly in a superhero franchise where you are jumping a decade each time you make a film. The reason that it is globally is that we wanted to be able to track the impact of mutants and the emergence of mutants into the world. Personally, we are very clear from the beginning as to how Charles, Eric and Raven especially dovetail, duck and weave in and out of each others lives. We were building, in some ways, a trilogy that is a story of three people; a brother, a little sister and another man who comes, in some ways, as a brother and how that sister leaves with the new brother. The war for that sisters’ soul between these two men defines FIRST CLASS, DAYS OF FUTURE PAST and APOCALYPSE. That’s a larger story we are telling even though each of those films is its own coherent and complete film. You can look at the arc of those three characters almost like a television show arcing over three complete episodes.”
(In some ways? Love how he skims over defining that relationship between Charles and Erik. But, of course, he did later in Empire…it’s a love story. And does that above not sound like they’re getting ready to “introduce” something new into our world? “Witness the moment that will change our world.” I’m tellin’ y’all… And notice how she’s the “sister” to both. No mention of a romantic attachment between her and Erik.)
Not that it has anything directly to do with X-Men, but you know, he’d write fanfiction if he didn’t have his current job…
“If I wasn’t lucky enough to be doing this for my job, if I didn’t get to be a writer for a living, I would be at home writing Star Wars fan fiction every day,” Kinberg confessed. “I love this world.”
(I mean, James and Michael definitely know about their fandom. Hugh knows about it, too. Can’t imagine Singer doesn’t know… and Kinberg for sure knows if he’s involved in fanfic. GOOD. Maybe they’ll start hiring the writers because some of the best Erik and Charles stories I’ve read have been fanfiction.)
Kinberg had this to say in an interview from last year…
Q: You’ve recently said that X-Men: Apocalypse will “complete the trilogy” that you began with X-Men: First Class. Has there been any talk of doing an X-Men film with the original cast set in the new continuity we see at the end of Days of Future Past?
Kinberg: You mean with Ian (McKellan), Patrick (Stewart), Halle (Berry) and the original cast? Potentially. We have really been in truth so focused on what the next movie is, which is its own vast undertaking. All of our energy is really focused on X-Men: Apocalypse right now, which is the continuation and in some ways completion of that First Class trilogy. That’s not to say we are not also going to follow those (First Class) actors and characters past Apocalypse, but it emotionally completes the relationship arcs from First Class. But, listen, I love that (original) cast. That is the cast I first worked with 10 years ago. We worked on X-Men: The Last Stand, then I came to really care about many of them. I am a fan of theirs too.
(Completes the emotional arcs. We’ll get closure with Charles and Erik. And Kinberg did tell Empire they’re the focus of the film, just as they are in AoA. And they KNEW from the beginning it would be a triology if the first films were successful. James has hinted in interviews that he knew where his character was going from day one. I imagine Michael knew as well.)
And here, Kinberg CONFIRMS they know the story they want, and all the twist endings, way before they start filming…
Q: When this many name actors into a movie, it’s usually a question of how and when, not if, half of them will die. Not only does everyone in Days of Future Past survive, but previously deceased characters come back to life. Was the resolution of Days of Future Past an absolute from the beginning?
Kinberg: I went back recently — like two days ago, because I’ve been in Baton Rouge and my brain’s been in Fantastic Four — I put my brain back into Days of Future Past, and I looked at my original outline for the movie, which was dated exactly two years before we’re premiering the movie: May 10th, 2012. The original outline, the first thing anyone read — the studio, the producers, anyone — it was something me and Matthew Vaughan worked on together. In that original outline, the characters that come back at the end of this movie came back. For me, the fun of this movie from when I said, ‘We should do Days of Future Past,’ was literally the scene of changing the future and Jean is going to come back and Jean and Wolverine are going to have a reunion. Mainly because I carry such guilt over X-Men: [The Last Stand]. The way we killed Jean in X3 haunts me because I love the Dark Phoenix saga so much.
a HA- Kinberg confirms that weird X-Mansion location switch! So it WAS symbolic!
Q: Was there something specific that plagued you?
Kinberg: There was so much because we wanted to honor X1 through 3 even though we were changing the timeline of those movies. I think the big thing for me is how Charles’s mansion is different when Logan wakes up in the changed future, but still the same as it sort of was. When Logan wakes up, it’s not the school from X1 [meaning the new X1- First Class.] It’s the mansion/school from the X1 period because of what’s changed. If you look, take a look at the [lighting and design]. It’s different.
And to end on this…
Q: One of the best lines in the movie is older Magneto telling older Charles we wasted all those years fighting, only to get a few of them back.
Kinberg: I really wanted to have a feeling of resolution at the end for the old Charles and Eric. Thematically our movie is — if we knew when we were younger what we know now, maybe we wouldn’t have made the same mistakes. Ian [McKellen] and Patrick in real life are best, best friends. They don’t have a lot of screen time together in Days of Future Past, but I think there is some of their real affection that you feel in their scenes together. That line wrote itself.
Yeah… best, best friends who are clearly in love with each other, and everyone in the films hovers at that threshold without really saying it. Except when Kinberg called in a love story. Or Stentz and Miller calling it a tragic romance. Otherwise… they never really cross that line in truly identifying what Charles and Erik really are to one another. Of course not, why on earth would they give away the BIG reveal? The big ending? It would totally ruin the transformative effect it will have. It needs to build up in order to…culminate in a release.
I swear to GOD that’s what Apocalypse is for.
That whole freaking comic is Erik and Charles. And since James has hinted at his character having a significant role in the film, I don’t think we’ll see him die. I do, however, think we may see him get sick with the “virus.” Charles coming near death would definitely motivate Erik. But, I’ll go into that with my predictions for Apocalypse post.
Just you all wait. I wish I could be in the theater with every one of you when this moment happens between Erik and Charles. We’ve waited for FAR too long for this.
KEEP THE FAITH.
(More to come.)