Interview With Greg Cox
(January 2003)

Greg Cox is the author of the Daredevil movie adaptation that is now in stores. With the movie only a few weeks away, I asked Mr. Cox for his comments, opinions, views etc. on writing the novel, the casting, his research and everything else that was involved with adapting the story by Mark Steven Johnson. Here's what he had to say:

It all started with an editor, Ginger Buchanan at Boulevard Books, recommending me for the job. I had previously written several IRON MAN and X-MEN novels for Ginger, so she passed my name onto her colleague, Dan Slater at NAL, who was looking for someone to write the DD novelization.

I was excited by the opportunity, having been a DD fan for years. This was also my first real movie novelization, although I had edited several movie tie-in books over the years. (Among other things, I edited the novelizations of MORTAL KOMBAT, STEEL, and--gulp!-CUTTHROAT ISLAND.)
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As I recall, I got the script around the end of June, along with a packet full of production art and sketches. I immediately went back and reread Frank Miller's whole Elektra-Bullseye-Kingpin arc from the 1980's, which I vividly remembered from my college days. I also tracked down a copy of Madeleine Robins's DD novel, THE CUTTING EDGE, just to see how she translated DD into prose. (By coincidence, Madeleine is an old friend of mine; it's a small world . . . .)

For local color, I spent an afternoon in the real Hell's Kitchen in NY, soaking up the atmosphere while taking plenty of notes and snapshots. I also found a chatty bartender in an Irish pub (not unlike the one Bullseye goes to in the movie) who filled me in on the history of the area.

To my slight disappointment, I discovered that today's Hell's Kitchen, post-Giuliani, is not nearly as grimy and dangerous as the 80's version described in the original comix, so I had to take some artistic license there! Ditto the waterfront where Matt's father briefly works.
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With only the production sketches to work with, I prowled the internet relentlessly, searching for anything I could find on the movie: photos, set reports, fan websites, etc. Occasionally, this proved incredibly helpful. After a fan site mentioned the name of the real hotel where they filmed the ballroom scene, I went strai ght to the hotel's actual website, where I found photos and descriptions of the ballroom, lobby, etcetera, which helped me describe that scene more vividly.

I also monitored the casting of even the smallest part, so I could describe the supporting characters more accurately. Once I found out, for example, that the part of Jose Quesada was being played by the same guy who played the sidekick on "The Invisible Man" tv series, I knew I could safely describe Quesada as "a short, balding, pit bull of man."

When it came to the actual writing of the book, I encountered both opportunities and challenges:
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To start with, I had a good script to work with, one that made sense and built to a dramatic conclusion. After writing umpteen original novels, it was kind of relaxing to sit back and let someone else take care of the plotting for once!

It also helped, of course, that I've known these characters since I was a little kid reading the old Stan Lee/Bill Everett stories. I didn't have to work overtime trying to figure who this "Foggy Nelson" character is and what's he like. Matt and Foggy and the Kingpin and the rest were already burned into my brain.

Writing movie novelizations presents its own unique challenges, too. For one thing, you have to turn a 120 page script into a 300 page manuscript. As a rule, I tried to generate two or three pages of prose for every page of the script, mostly by adding plenty of description (remember those snapshots of Hell's Kitchen?) and by getting into the heads of the characters to describe their thoughts and reactions.

Another challenge is that, by necessity, movie scripts are all about the dialogue and the action; they don't describe the sets or costumes in detail. Which means that they're often frustratingly vague about what things look like. For example, the script will say that Elektra shows up "looking drop-dead gorgeous," but doesn't say what she's wearing, what her hair is like, etc.
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This is where prowling the internet for publicity and production shots came in useful. I got inordinately excited everytime I found a shot of Elektra in her civilian clothes: "Aha, so that's what she's wearing in the playground scene!"

Sometimes, though, you just have to make something up and hope for the best...

DAREDEVIL, of course, presented one unique challenge in that Matt is blind! I went crazy trying to figure out how to describe scenes from Matt's point-of-view; after all, you couldn't just write "Matt looked across the room" or so on. And how do you mention the color of things? At times it felt like I was trying to describe things with one hand tied behind my back! (Sneaky writer trick: when in doubt, just write that Matt "sensed" that a dagger coming at him or whatever.)

I took me about two months to write the book. Fortunately, there's wasn't a lot of rewriting involved. Fox tweaked a couple of the action scenes, so that the fight choreography matched what was actually filmed, but the changes are pretty minimal.

Now I just have to wait for the movie like everyone else. I'm really looking forward to it. The script was astonishingly faithful to the original comics, and the casting seems on-target:
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Affleck: Unlike some action stars, I can actually believe that Ben Affleck went to law school which should make him a believable Matt Murdock.

Garner: I'm a huge ALIAS fan, so I can't wait to see Jennifer Garner as Elektra.

Duncan: To my mind, Duncan is perfect as the Kingpin. Above all else, the character needs to be big and imposing with a deep resonant voice, and Duncan sure fits the bill there. Changing the Kingpin's race doesn't bother me--heck, Daredevil can't even see what color his skin is.

Farrell: I'm less familiar with Farrell, having only seen him in MINORITY REPORT, but I'm curious to see his Bullseye. The scarred forehead is a nifty touch, although the effect is probably lost on Daredevil. (I made sure all the sighted characters mention it, but I don't think DD reacts to it at all in the book.) Interestingly, some of the early sketches Fox sent me had Bullseye in his costume from the comic book, but I had my editor call Fox just to make sure that he wasn't wearing it in the movie. That was one of the few case where I felt I really had to get a definitive ruling from the studio. Otherwise, I tried not to bother them with lots of nitpicky questions!
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With the DAREDEVIL now in the stores, just in time for the movie, I've moved onto other projects. At the moment I'm novelizing a new vampire movie, due out next Fall, and recently had a short story published in a BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER collection, TALES OF THE SLAYER, VOLUME 2. I also owe Pocket Books another STAR TREK novel, which will probably be a prequel to THE WRATH OF KHAN.

Needless to say, though, I'd love to come back and do the novelization of DAREDEVIL II or an ELEKTRA movie. Here's hoping!

Many thanks to Greg Cox!

(c) Kuljit Mithra 2003
Daredevil:The Man Without Fear

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