Antony Johnston Takes Us Inside His ‘Julius’ Movie Deal, Corrects Rumors

Following up on yesterday’s news about Oni’s Press’ “Julius” making the jump to Hollywood via Mandalay Pictures, we checked in with writer/creator Antony Johnston and spoke with him about his thoughts on the deal, and what he hopes to see when his retelling of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” goes from the comic page to the big screen.

“’Closed on Mondays’ — which is Oni’s production arm — have been shopping [Julius] pretty much since it was published, and the first I knew about this sort of deal was actually at the San Diego Comic-Con this year,” recalled Johnston about when he first heard of the deal. “I couldn’t really talk about it, had to kind of keep it under my hat, so I’m pleased that it’s finally been made public.”

And now that the news has been made public, Johnston would like to dispel some rumors that were made after the announcement was made yesterday. “I’m not contracted to write the screenplay or anything like that, contrary to what some of the blogs have been reporting which I find hilarious,” he said with a laugh. “The amount that some people read into the briefest press releases I find highly amusing. But, hopefully, I’ve been told that they’ll be eager for my input.”

With the internet speculation out of the way, Johnston was quick to share his thoughts on the choice of director, F. Gary Gray, who’s helmed such action classics as “The Negotiator” and “The Italian Job.” “[’The Negotiator’] was one of my favorites from the ’90s,” Johnston said. “It was very intelligent, very well-directed, because there was a lot of twists and turns, and it could’ve quite easily been handled very badly and it wasn’t, it was done very, very well. F. Gary Gray is an interesting choice — he’s done some good films, he’s done some interesting films. I’d always much rather have somebody who’s interesting rather than safe.”

And despite having to be the outsider-looking-in in terms of the filming process, Johnston hopes the film will maintain some of the central ideas he applied to the comic. “The strength of the graphic novel comes from the source material — from Shakespeare’s play — [Julius is] a modern reworking, but it’s a fairly faithful adaptation of ’Julius Caesar’ and really I hope that they kind of just stick to that. However, if there’s one little touch that I’m proud of in the graphic novel I hope that they keep in the movie, that’s Brett — who’s the ’Brutus’ in the graphic novel — becomes more and more like Julius — he starts sounding like Julius, the only character in the graphic novel who speaks in Shakespearean dialogue with lines often lifted straight from the play. And as Brett spirals downward, he discovers that he’s actually becoming more like Julius than he wanted to. He starts adopting the same patterns of speech, which was kind of subtle, but I was quite pleased with that, and I’m glad a few people at the time, a few reviewers picked up on it, so that would be a nice touch.”

Looking forward to “Julius” making the jump to the big screen? Let us know in the comments.