When Rob Venditti was still in the process of writing the comic book script that would become "The Surrogates", he and his wife daydreamed one night about who might star in a hypothetic film adaptation. Although it was the first comic he’d ever written -– and didn’t even have a publisher attached -– comic book movies were scoring big at the box office, and they couldn’t help but daydream. Bruce Willis, they both decided, would be the perfect choice: tough enough for the action scenes, but still vulnerable enough for the more human moments.
Now, more than five years later, the story he wrote while working in the warehouse at Top Shelf Productions is not only a graphic novel from the renowned indie publisher with a second volume, "Flesh and Bone", on the way, but a feature film in post-production, starring none other than -– you guessed it –- Bruce Willis.
(After the jump, check out an exclusive preview of some of the earliest pages from "Flesh and Bone", a prequel story set 15 years before the first graphic novel, as well as our conversation with Venditti about the origin, development and evolving world of "The Surrogates.")
Like the comic book, which was drawn by Brett Weldele, the film is set in a world where over 92 percent of the population lives vicariously through personal android avatars, called surrogates, and the line between the virtual and the real has been functionally erased. When a rash of surrogate “murders” breaks out, a police detective named Harvey Greer, played by Willis in the film, is assigned to investigate the crimes.
The movie is currently scheduled for a November 2009 release through Disney’s Touchstone Pictures, which has already pre-optioned any future film installments of "The Surrogates." Luckily for them, this is only the first graphic novel of a trilogy planned by Venditti, with the next book, "Flesh and Bone," due out from Top Shelf next summer.
“It just makes more sense to me now to do the prequel before I do the sequel, especially now with the film coming out,” says Venditti. “It shows you how all the characters are linked together before we see the version of them that’s in the current book and the movie, and gives you a better sense of the change that happens to the world when the surrogates become a part of it.”
A potential third and final volume would take place after the original graphic novel, and Venditti is open to additional miniseries as well.
“It’s an idea that lends itself to a lot of different plotlines,” he says, adding that the property’s franchising potential may be part of what made it attractive to Hollywood, especially in the wake of blockbuster sequels for franchises like Spider-Man and Batman.
After several visits to the set of "The Surrogates" during filming, he says he is “really happy with the way things look and what they’re done with it,” and that despite a few changes to the comic plot, such as moving the setting from Atlanta to Boston, readers can expect a faithful adaptation from the film.
“There are always going to be changes when you're going from any type of medium to another medium. To me, the most important part of the graphic novel is the relationship between Greer and his wife, because it humanizes the whole idea of surrogates, and that’s going to be in the film... It's very much a story about the characters more than about the explosions.”
Fortunately, just as he and his wife had once daydreamed, the film’s lead actor seems well-equipped to handle both.
Have you read "The Surrogates"? Are you looking forward to the film? Let us know your thoughts about this project -- as well as our exclusive preview of "Flesh and Bone" -- in the comment section!