James Gunn uses his clout in Hollywood to produce more original horror films. He produced the Belko Experiments from his own script, and now he produces Brightburn written by his brothers Brian and Mark Gunn and directed by Dave Yarovesky.
Brightburn is the story of a childless couple (Elizabeth Banks and David Denman) who found a baby in a meteor on his farm (stop us if you've heard this before). While Brandon Bryer (Jackson A. Dunn) may share an origin with Superman, he turns out to be a monster using his super powers to attack the classmate who rejects him, and to kill the adults who try to discipline him.
Brian and Mark Gunn have talked to / Film about their screenplay for Brightburn this week. They uncovered a series of scenes that did not survive their early designs, and discussed the issues in which boys used their power for evil. Brightburn is in theaters today.
Did you really study the Superman myth, the way it crashes out of space and lives on a farm?
Brian Gunn: Yes, there is a long tradition in comics of superheroes found in the forest and taken in by some parents and raised as if it were their own. Mark and I really started wondering, what kind of person would do that? First of all, literally, how would you do that? Moreover, that was what made them so confident in these people that it would be so airy. In the comics you will find this baby in the woods and it will be noble and heroic. We started wondering what would happen if that baby got a lot darker.
Mark Gunn: Brian and I are both parents. Having a child is like inviting a stranger to your home. They hope they turn out to be well-adjusted or even amazing people, but when they're young, you just can not know. They are foreign to you and in a sense they will always be foreign to you. We wanted to start with this basic experience, bring a child to your home and find the horror of it. Finding a strange child in a meteor seemed to be a funny starting point to dramatize some of the possible horrors of being a parent.
Was it also a helpful way to keep the budget moderate?
They talked about how real people would jump off adopting a strange baby. Have you ever thought about what the paperwork would look like if a baby appeared and no adoption agency was involved?
Mark: We actually wrote a scene where they had to find out after bringing this baby. When they returned home from the meteor, they had to find out how they would provide medical care. The baby was ill when they first brought it home. This has since been cut out of the movie for a reason. That's not very interesting. Bureaucracy is generally not interesting to the public, but if you bring a child to an emergency room in a hospital, they will ask you specific questions that you will not be able to find if you have found a child in the forest. We found that interesting. But we were wrong. It was not very interesting, but it is interesting to talk about it now.
What was your solution to explain the baby?
Brian: If you've just got pregnant in the middle of nowhere and there's no paper trail in terms of pregnancy or childbirth or anything you need for someone to testify on your behalf. In our version, it was Brandon's aunt who did this unknowingly. She did not know that this was a child who had crashed in a spaceship, but it was part of the thread the sheriff began pulling and revealing the identity of that child. Again, it did not really seem to deliver the goods.
And that would have changed something later in the movie when the city seemed to know that Brandon was adopted.
Mark: Yes, very much. This has changed several times during the writing of the script. What did people know or suspect about their origins? We somehow discovered that there is a cover story he adopted. He was an adopted child in the city and everyone who knows the Bryer family knows that he adopted this baby 12 years ago. We thought that was basically the easiest way to explain the city to its origins, where, of course, the parents kept that secret to themselves, where they really found it.
Did you go as far as possible with Brandon, who terrorized Caitlyn (Emmie Hunter)? before it would no longer be scary, but only unpleasant?
Brian: Yes, that was a big problem. It was difficult to find this sweet spot for many of the characters in the movie. Of course, you want the death scenes to be entertaining, at least on some level, but we never wanted the audience to make Brandon committing these murders. We never wanted to glorify his actions. Hopefully, people will find his actions quite disgusting. Obviously, they are all done in a funny, somewhat fantastic way, but we really wanted to protect each one of our characters, probably most of all, because Caitlyn is young. It is not pleasant to see a child being terrorized.
Mark: We actually wrote a sequence in which Brandon took revenge on some of his thugs in his class, who were having a hard time. We cut it out because, as Brian suggested, we decided that you would fire Brandon there because those kids bullied him. We did not want the audience to make Brandon really hurt people. So we cut it out before we went into production.
James presented the show as a rare mid-budget original, but is it a high-concept movie? That's how you used to get involved in the movies, with an idea that you could hardly wait for.
Brian: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. We like to think that it is quite rare. Most movies on a medium to small budget are not really suitable as a logline. We like to think that this model is pretty easy to grasp right from the start.
Examined Brightburn How venomous manhood arises when the boy in question has unchecked power?
Brian: We were … I'm not really aware of that as a topic. This has reminded us in the past that this is a possible aspect of our story. We do not believe that this is necessarily a sociological reading. For starters, he is not even a boy. He is not human, but if people want to read it, that is a plausible reading. Again, we just did not realize that.
Usually, in superhero stories, we identify with the being who comes to earth and becomes a hero. Is it another way of identifying when this character is the monster?
Mark: We hope to play with this idea you are putting your finger on. Traditionally, these stories are rooted in the alien that comes to earth and has those powers, especially when marginalized and taken up. We wanted to start the character there and then turn it in a different direction to challenge the bottom line of the audience, and hopefully until the second half of the movie, and especially until the end of the movie, you're not there for him at all. You are against him.
Brian: We had parents who saw the movie and told us that they were openly fighting with the idea of whether you should root for Brandon or not, I suppose, because I'm used to so many movies to look in which boys are heroic in cloaks. We really wanted to turn this upside down. We did not want to go so far as to say that boys in capes are evil, but we wanted to play with the idea of what would be if they were evil.
Did you introduce Brightburn as? a story of origin for a character who could terrorize others in other places?
Brian: Yes, absolutely. We would like to be able to expand his story and a wider superhero horror universe.
Mark: And find a worthy opponent for him out there in the world.
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