‘The Boys’ Screenwriters Talk Comics, Key Scenes, And Adults-Only Superhero Stories

Screenwriters Matt Manfredi and Phil Hay re-imagined the tale of a noble warrior challenging the gods for “Clash of the Titans,” but the duo is taking on a decidedly different type of story with the adaptation of Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson’s no-holds-barred comic book series “The Boys.”

Now an ongoing series published by Dynamite Entertainment, “The Boys” caused no small amount of controversy when it first launched in 2006 due to its graphic content — eventually prompting a change in publishers. However, the move didn’t cause Robertson and Ennis to back down in the slightest with their over-the-top tale about a black ops unit tasked with policing superheroes by any means necessary. The series was optioned in February 2008 for adaptation as a live-action movie, and the “Titans” pair were attached to the project later that same year.

MTV News caught up with Manfredi and Hay to chat about their script for “The Boys” and the pair shared their thoughts on the process of adapting the adult-oriented comic and some of the key scenes in the latest draft of the screenplay.

MTV NEWS: “The Boys” is known for its over-the-top approach to violence, sex, etc. Was there any pressure on you guys to tone it down for a more general audience or were you given free reign to take on that full breadth of content?

PHIL HAY: I think a great thing about working on this has been that the studio and Neil Moritz, the producer, really understand what is great about the book and what makes it special. We’ve never been asked to do anything that goes against that. Amazingly, everybody has all kind of agreed on what you have to do to make this a great movie and to be sure to preserve all that — the character, the nature, and a lot of the specifics of the actual book.

MATT MANFREDI: There are certain choice images and such that, no matter what kind of cut you’re working with…

HAY: …you’d probably end up with an “X” rating. With several of the images, yeah. It doesn’t mean you can’t talk about them or have characters talk about them, though.

MANFREDI: What we’ve come up with is something that is really, really faithful to the tone and the story of “The Boys,” and… we’re excited about it. This kind of take on superheroes is actually — despite the rough edges — much more accessible to people these days. It’s much more understood by even the non-fans [of comic books], because you’ve got movies like “Iron Man” and “The Dark Knight” where you have characters who are so flawed and yet they’re heroes. So now you understand the concept of questioning who these heroes are.

Then you’ve got movies like “Hancock” and such that go into that, too. So we’re slowly moving toward all these different possible takes on superheroes that I don’t think were as possible when the general audience didn’t have such a broad knowledge of superheroes as they do now.

MTV: You mentioned some of those scenes the fans would want to see or have strong feelings about. For example, there’s that opening scene with Wee Hughie and his girlfriend — so are there any scenes like that in your screenplay or that fans can be hopeful about seeing in the movie?

HAY: Actually, that one specifically is in there, yes. And I can also say with a lot of confidence at the moment that pretty much every signature scene that popped out at us — at least, as huge fans of the book — is represented in some fashion. And in many cases, they’re represented in a very, very direct fashion.

MTV: Since there are so many thinly veiled references to existing superheroes — many of them very familiar, like Superman or Batman — did you ever find yourself writing to those characters when you were scripting the book, or did you have to push the references from your mind? Were the inspirations for the characters a problem, or actually something that helped with the adaptation process?

HAY: I think it’s funny, because even though they have those kind of references — obviously The Homelander brings Superman to mind, and there are analogs to pretty much all of them — they seem like such characters in their own right to me that it actually didn’t ever cause a problem. They always just seemed like themselves, and I think one of the things that we all agreed on early on was that “The Boys” is a story in its own right. It’s not a satire.

You’re not doing direct takeoffs or pulling the comedy and the action and the character stuff as a reference to anything. It’s just organic to what it is.

MANFREDI: In adapting it, we tried to bring the characters from “The Boys” to life and didn’t push anything closer toward the superhero analogs. But I think when you see it, like Phil said, you may very well recognize what Garth was [referencing].

HAY: When we spoke to Garth on the phone prior to starting writing, he said that basically some of the characters are obvious takes on superheroes that he finds ridiculous. There are some heroes that make perfect sense in the comic world, and there are some where you’re like, “Is that really a useful superpower that this guy has, or is that just the best available at the time?”

MTV: Do you guys have any idea of a timeline of when this might all come together?

HAY: You never know. I know that everybody involved is really excited about it and wants it to happen, and then it just becomes about finding that one person that is going to be able to pull it off. So at this point, you’re just waiting, hoping that you get that good news.

Keep it locked to Splash Page for news about “The Boys” movie.

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