Duality of Scott Zakarin:
An Interview With The Writer/Director of Jekyll
logo from a modern take on the classic tale.
We've had an open dialog with Creative
Light Entertainment for a couple of years, ever since
the filming of Comic
Book: The Movie at San Diego ComicCon 2002. Over the course
of those four days, we just kept crossing paths and talking,
hanging out and hitting it off.
company is dedicated to genre films, delivering entertainments
that they consider tailor-made for fans. In addition to working
with Mark Hamill on CB:TM, the company has (or has had) projects
in development with Bruce Campbell, William Shatner, and Xena's
now around the Creative Light offices, however, all that has
taken a backseat to CEO Scott Zakarin's return to directing
a feature. While the marketing department works to promote
CB:TM, most of the office is humming in pre-production for
an update of the Robert Louis Stevenson novella, The Strange
Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
simply "Jekyll," the film will begin shooting in
January with a cast that promises a couple of pleasing choices
for genre fans. Scott wanted to offer Fanboy Planet a behind-the-scenes
look at production, keeping readers informed on a week to
week basis (though we're going to have a little hiccup over
the Christmas holidays) on all the trials, tribulations, and
joys of putting together a low-budget horror film without
losing your mind and -- dare we say it? -- artistic vision.
of this week, I flew down to Burbank to visit the Creative
Light office in Beverly Hills. For one thing, I needed to
see Daniel DeFabio in his native habitat. Hopefully, there
will be more to report on Daniel and his comic book projects
in the coming months.
took some time in the midst of his busy schedule to sit down
and talk a bit about his thoughts and hopes for Jekyll, at
a time when, really, almost all of it is still pretty much
trapped in his own head. Because of time crunches involving
my own day job, I'll be running this interview in two parts
-- with the second part appearing on Monday.
So why Jekyll now? And please. Get your finger out of your
nose before you answer.
Zakarin: (answering thoughtfully, with his finger up
his nose) What inspired me to do Jekyll? I was
an alcoholic through my twenties. Now, depending upon how
you view the situation, you're either always an alcoholic,
so I'm still an alcoholic who just hasn't had a drink in ten
years, or that I'm recovered. In my mind, I don't drink anymore.
I found so interesting about that period is that it is, in
a sense, a Jekyll and Hyde scenario. I was actually a gregarious
drunk. I was a fun, manipulative drunk who sometimes didn't
focus enough on other people's feelings. Sometimes way too
much, as a result.
duality of man has always been very interesting to me - the
duality of humans, I should say, because women are the same
as men. It's always fascinating to me. That particular story,
especially the Fredric March movie version, has always been
of interest to me.
even though I saw where that finger had been.
loved certain adaptations of movies that update classic stories
- it's great source material. I was very inspired by the Steve
Martin update of Roxanne, actually (adapted from
Edmond Rostand's Cyrano De Bergerac). I thought it was
a lovely adaptation. How did he take things like the fact
that this guy was a master swordsman and update that? How
did he take certain speeches and turn them into a new way?
found that most of the movies that were made of Jekyll
took too many liberties with the story. I took less liberties
with the story in some ways; I just modernized it.
thing I'm changing is that he doesn't take a potion to turn
into Hyde. It's much more in today's science fact, to give
it verisimilitude. Clearly, the idea that somebody takes a
drink and all of a sudden his hair grows and his skin changes…by
the way, not the way Stevenson's novella did it, which
didn't have him changing all that much.
Right. Most of it happens "off-screen."
Exactly. Most of it was a case study, more than it was a straight
story. I actually went back to the source and pulled out a
lot of things that I thought that Stevenson was trying to
get at. Not that…well, Stevenson's a genius writer, so I'm
not saying I feel a kinship that way…but I feel a kinship
to what he was trying to explore. I imagine he had somewhat
of a divided personality himself to be able to understand
into my addictive personality, and it plays into classic themes
that will be retold forever. I mean, how many movies, even
in modern times, have been Jekyll and Hyde? You've
got Hulk, The Nutty Professor, Altered States…it's
not an unfamiliar theme. I just went back to the source material
and said, "okay, how does it look today?"
stay a little mysterious on how the transformation happens
for right now - I want to save a little mystique, and because
there are always competing projects.
Jekyll is much further along in production, Dreamworks announced
last week that they picked up the rights to an as-yet-unpublished
comic book version by Steve Niles.)
always going there. Mary Reilly was a Jekyll/Hyde project,
for that matter. Though it stunk. And you can quote me on
So is this a script that you've had for a while?
art -- still not really showing it...
I wrote it three years ago, thinking that it was an interesting
monster that has not been…you know. In all the versions of
Jekyll and Hyde, they imply. They imply that he's this lustful
creature. They imply that he's trying to do something scientifically
that will change the world. They imply that he's a killer.
They show it somewhat, but they don't really show it.
I felt like this was an opportunity in today's world, to take
a look at it. What does that mean? What does it look like?
What does it taste like and sound like?
So how does this become the next project for Creative Light?
You've got Comic Book: The Movie in the hopper, you've got
Creature Unknown waiting for release…How does this become
the hot project to which you're devoting all your time and
Well, it fits the fanboy. It fits with the fans. It's horror.
It fits what Creative Light has always been interested in,
which is interpersonal relationships. Since our experience
with The Spot to Comic Book: The Movie to Stan Lee's
Mutants, Monsters, and Marvels. We've been into the comic
book world, and very very interested in relationships.
very interested in character. To me, the very best genre films
are the ones that have strong personality. That's why Die
Hard, the original, is the best of that particular genre.
It had a lot of character. It had a lot of stakes that were
emotional. It wasn't straightforward. It wasn't XXX,
which is something I'm so not interested in.
I'm very interested in is the personal relationships and dynamics.
Also, this will be the first time…I've directed throughout
the years, commercials, product spots, interactive stuff,
short films for Playboy. But I haven't directed a feature
since I was 25 years old. I felt that if I was going to do
a feature, I had to do the right one for the business, but
at the same time, I wanted to do something I was really passionate
What format are you using? Previous releases like The Adventures
of Cinderella's Daughter and Comic Book: The Movie were on
Cinderella's Daughter was meant to be a TV show; that's
why it's also so episodic. And Comic Book: The Movie
was on digital video specifically because it was documentary
style. It was "Grab it and capture lightning." Which I think
we did. But Creature Unknown was in high def. We've
done two other movies that were in high def before this. And
Jekyll will be in high def.
of the high def format, which is becoming more and more popular
with Hollywood filmmakers, Robert Rodriguez shot his last
three movies that way, George Lucas is shooting the Star
Wars movies in high def. Tom Cruise, I believe, is shooting
his new movie in high def. You're already in a digital format,
so if you're planning on doing interesting digital effects,
you're not actually taking it down and going into something
that doesn't fit as well.
of what Jekyll is about is the reasoning of the computer
and the brain being a computer. And a lot of how you'll see
the transformation, we're going to take advantage of digital
reason that we're shooting high def is that the film costs
are dramatically lower, especially if you're planning on shooting
a lot. And we plan on shooting and experimenting and giving
the actors a chance. I mean, this is one of the greatest acting
performing pieces, character, well, it's like Fredric
March…Please don't misrepresent this. I'm saying that the
Robert Louis Stevenson character of Jekyll and Hyde is one
of the most historically challenging parts…it's up there with
is that you get the duality of man. My version has Jekyll
streaked with traits that could be Hyde, and Hyde streaked
with traits that could be Jekyll. We're not angels and devils;
we're complex human beings. What makes us into a monster could
just be crossing a certain line.
part two, Scott discusses the possibilities of launching
a franchise (or not), and we'll have a little pre-production
art from artist Mark Teague!
discussions with Scott on the Making of Jekyll: