Monday, June 5, 2017


Box Office Showdown: Tom Cruise's 'The Mummy' to Get Lassoed by 'Wonder Woman'

By Pamela McClintock
 The 'Mummy' reboot is counting on a strong run overseas — where Cruise still has huge sway — to make up for a probable deficit in the U.S.
Last month, early tracking for Universal’s The Mummy suggested the summer event film would debut to $40 million or so when opening in North American theaters this weekend, a tepid start for the first title in the studio's planned stable of films built around its iconic monster characters.
The forecast for the reboot has only gotten scarier from there — at least domestically. One of the industry’s most respected polling services, NRG, downgraded its projection to $38 million last week and to $35 million on Monday. Such surveys can certainly be unreliable, but if NRG is correct, The Mummy will lose this weekend’s domestic box-office race to holdover Wonder Woman.
Universal insiders say The Mummy, starring Tom Cruise, will be fine thanks to the international box office, where the actor remains a huge draw. The movie is rolling out in most major markets this weekend, timed to its U.S. launch.
Directed by Alex Kurtzman, the modern-day take cost $125 million to make after tax rebates, and also stars Sofia Boutella, Russell Crowe, Annabelle Wallis, Jake Johnson and Courtney B. Vance.
"The Mummy arrives with the feel of another reboot — something audiences, especially in North America, have become all-too familiar with," says box-office analyst Jeff Bock. "It had better succeed overseas."
Bock and others predict that Wonder Woman could drop as little as 50 percent from its domestic debut this past weekend, meaning it could take in $50 million-plus for Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment.
The foreign box office is a different story, where The Mummy is expected to place No. 1.
It wouldn't be the first 2017 summer tentpole to see most of its treasure come from outside the U.S.: Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales has crossed the $500 million mark globally in under two weeks, thanks to a foreign haul of $393 million through Sunday.
In recent years, Cruise has enjoyed far more success overseas, outside of the Mission: Impossible series. In June 2014, Edge of Tomorrow debuted to 28.8 million in North America before topping out at $100.2 million domestically. It did nearly triple that overseas, earning a total $270.3 million for a global cume of $370.5 million. Oblivion, released in spring 2013, grossed just under $200 million internationally, compared to $89.1 million in North America.
Reviews of The Mummy won't be published until mid-week.
On May 22, Universal unveiled its new Dark Universe label. The endeavor includes director Bill Condon's Bride of Frankenstein, set to hit theaters on Feb. 14, 2019.

Universal’s Dark Universe could be in trouble before it even starts because things aren’t looking good for “The Mummy.” The cart before the horse approach to Hollywood is not really a novel concept any longer. Studios routinely reverse engineer their movies, announcing a release date first, often before a screenplay is finished let alone gone into production. This strategy keeps evolving, often for the worse. Now, studios carve out release dates for movies that don’t exist yet — mystery movies or ones they hope/intend to make. Sometimes they’re just claiming important release dates in the hopes they have a movie ready by that time, and everyone chases the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Everyone around town is desperate to duplicate that model, but an early spill can really hurt. Of course, the DCEU was most thirsty to get on that interconnected universe train and they received a nasty black eye for it.  Out of the gate, they face-planted with both “Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice” and “Suicide Squad.” It’s badly bruised their franchise narrative; of course “Wonder Woman” is the beginning of much-needed course correction, but “Justice League” will be the real DCEU test.
Now Universal’s interconnected Dark Universe could face the same problems. This weekend, the first film in the universe,  Alex Kurtzman’s “The Mummy” starring Tom Cruise, is tracking extremely soft and could open to a tepid $40 million — not the kind of numbers you want for the entry film in a major cinematic universe that now includes nine films/characters – Frankenstein (Javier Bardem), Dr. Jekyll (Russell Crowe), and the Invisible Man (Johnny Depp) and the just-announced-this-morning additions of The Hunchback, Dracula and the Phantom (Bride Of Frankenstein and The Wolfman is also in the works).
So, Universal, along with universe architect Alex Kurtzman (writer of the “Star Trek” series), have essentially announced their starting line-up and other first-round picks that will come off the bench eventually. But what happens when “The Mummy” takes it in the teeth and trips right when the game is beginning?
“The Mummy” tracking soft is perhaps not unexpected. While a global superstar, Tom Cruise doesn’t really chart at home in a spectacular way at the box office if you can believe it or not. The biggest opening of his career was “War Of The Worlds” at $64 million domestically. Even “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation,” the biggest opener of the series, only grossed $55 million in its first weekend. Compare that to Marvel’s “Ant-Man” starring Paul Rudd which was released within two weeks of Cruise’s movie. Rudd’s not exactly a superstar and the Ant-Man character is far from a household name. Still, the Marvel movie opened to $57 million — it’s crazy to think that a movie starring Paul Rudd bested a movie lead by Tom Cruise. Brands are everything and star power perhaps not so much. At least not at home.
Overseas numbers are an entirely different story and Cruise has massive success internationally and the slant is often even higher than 70/30. ‘Rogue Nation’ earned $487 million overseas in 2015—71% more than its 28% domestic haul of $195 million. Cruise’s sci-fi actioner, “Oblivion” was essentially a flop; an $125 million budget vs. $286 million global haul. But it’s indicative of Cruise’s success overseas: a 70/30 split in favor of the global audience (“Edge Of Tomorrow” had a massive 73/27% split).
If history is any indication, “The Mummy” opens to $40 million and taps out at a dismal $89 million domestically (that’s close to “Oblivion” which launched with $37 million). So, it’s up to international audiences for “The Mummy” to show up and a 70/30 split puts the movie at a generous $200 million internationally, which means it might not touch $300 million worldwide. This would be debilitating to Universal and nearly franchise killing if they hadn’t already invested so much in announcing the series and all its lead actors.
But if I were Universal, I’d be worried about a total haul under $300 million. The forecast for “The Mummy” could go as low as $35 million this weekend, especially if it takes a critical beating, and “Wonder Woman” will easily best for the top spot at the box office. Let’s also keep in mind that Cruise’s last film, “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” was a series killer and died on the vine with a ruinous $162 million worldwide. Those kinds of numbers would be devastating to Dark Universe, but at this point it would need to trudge forward for at least one film (“The Bride Of Frankenstein” is already slated to open on February 14, 2019). But if this kind of disaster befalls Uni’s new franchise, you’re going to see some studios act a little more cautiously instead of announcing an eight-film series before the first one has even arrived in theaters. An ambitious, longtail game plan may sound impressive, but the tail leading the dog doesn’t seem like the best recipe for success.


The Bride of Frankenstein officially follows The Mummy as the next instalment in Universal’s new Dark Universe franchise – a shared universe of films resurrecting creatures from the old Universal monster movies. We also already know we’ll get an Invisible Man film starring Johnny Depp. You might well have heard talk of other films in the works.
Now the creative mind behind the Dark Universe, and director and producer of The Mummy, Alex Kurtzman, has exclusively revealed to FANDOM that we’ll get Phantom of the Opera and The Hunchback of Notre Dame among other titles added to the roster.
“We know we’re going to do Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, Dracula, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Phantom of the Opera, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Invisible Man,” he says.
He also reveals plans to explore beyond the boundaries of the existing Universal monster properties: “There are characters within those films that can grow and expand and maybe even spin off. I think that digging into deep mythologies about monsters around the world is fair game for us, as well and connecting the monsters that we know to some surprising monsters could also be really interesting.”
The Mummy opens up some intriguing possibilities – embedding Russell Crowe’s Dr. Jekyll into the world and his mysterious organization Prodigium as well as leaving us questioning where Tom Cruise’s character Nick Morton may be heading.
The Dark Universe is an ambitious project in its infancy and casting rumours are already beginning to swirl around the franchise. There has been talk, for instance, that Angelina Jolie may pick up the Bride of Frankenstein role. Kurtzman does nothing to dismiss this when asked who he’d like to bring into the Dark Universe.
“I’d love to bring Michael Fassbender in, I’d love to bring Jennifer Lawrence in, I’d love to see Charlize Theron in there, Angelina Jolie…” he says.

You can listen to the interview in the video below or at fandom.

The Mummy (2017) is directed by Alex Kurtzman. We were interested enough in chatting to the director of The Mummy, but Kurtzman has a fascinating CV, having worked on several high profile films and TV series as a writer and producer with Roberto Orci, including The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Star Trek (2009), Fringe and the first two Michael Bay Transformers movies.
Den of Geek sat down with Kurtzman to chat about his experience making The Mummy and the upcoming Dark Universe, the collection of linked Universal Monster movies that he’ll be working on, and what it was like to work with Michael Bay.

When did you come onto The Mummy?
The studio came to me, it’s got to be four or five years ago now, and asked if I’d be interested in doing The Mummy and I jumped at it because I’m a lifelong fan of the Universal Monsters, and I was very excited about the prospect of taking this film and bringing it into the modern day and trying to do something new and fresh and different with it. It was daunting, to think about how to do it, but I got excited because it felt like a challenge.

And what was the context they approached you under? Was it with a mind to direct?
Actually no, it wasn’t. Originally it was just to produce. Then we went through some drafts from some writers and as we began to evolve the story and the possibility of the story, the question for us all was how can we do something different and fresh and how do we open this world up. As that began to happen the idea that The Mummy exists in a larger world of Gods and Monsters became an interesting idea, and that’s how Dark Universe, which is all these monster films that we’re doing, came to be. But it didn’t start with Dark Universe, it actually just started with The Mummy.

And what state was it in when they approached you? It was just an idea?
It was an idea. No, they had nothing, it was ‘We want to do The Mummy again, what do you think?’

This is a film that, even before you’ve called action on your first shot, has a lot of identities. It’s a remake, it’s a franchise starter, it’s a universe launcher, it’s a Tom Cruise movie. How heavy a burden was that load to carry when trying to establish the films own identity?
I mean it’s definitely a load to carry in that you’re right, everybody has preconceived notions and ideas and associations, but I count myself among one of those people. I loved the Karloff film as a kid. I just remember seeing him come to life for the first time and seeing his eyes open and seeing the beauty of the make-up and being so struck by it. I tend to be drawn to the things that I had an association with when I was a kid. Those are the things that excite me the most. Yes, it’s daunting in that everybody else has a version of that story.
When Tom came to the table, I think less than being daunted by it I thought ‘wow, this is really interesting’ because you wouldn’t expect Tom to be in this movie, and now he is. So now you’ve got two major events happening and that’s going to be something special.

After the screening of the film I went to my editor emailed me and asked if it was a Mission Impossible film or a Mummy film, which I think is a question a lot of people will have. But actually, you’re really quite restrained with your action. Was there ever any temptation to go more action heavy? Or even studio pressure?
Not really, no. I think that we wanted to pay tribute to the Monster films. There was a lot of speculation, based on the first trailer people thought ‘ah, it’s going to be Mission Impossible: Mummy and there’s not gonna be any horror in it or any scares’. Y’know, it’s always interesting to see people’s initial reactions to those things because our goal was to deliver what audiences expect from The Mummy. Certainly if you’re a fan of the Brendon Fraser films you’re going to expect action and adventure and humour, but we wanted to deliver that in the new context. And you have to be scared. You have to be. I could not in good conscience make a monster movie without scaring people. That just would’ve not delivered on the promise of what you expect from a monster movie.

That’s actually one of the things I like most about it, it’s creepy in places. When I went in, and I hope this doesn’t sound rude, but Alex Kurtzman isn’t a name where I’m expecting to go in and find it creepy. Did that come intuitively to you? Were you confident in making it scary?
You know, I am a huge horror fan, and have been since I was 12. I watch everything I can possibly get my hands on. Horror is a very interesting and unique genre in that it seems to be largely defined by the director who is making the film. And I guess you could say that about any genre, but horror is kind of unique in that way because every director approaches scares and suspense differently. Some directors build their horror on showing you a lot of violence. Some directors build there horror on showing you none. The movies that, as a kid, affected me the most found an extraordinary balance between teasing horror, holding you in a state of suspense and then showing you some really, really scary shit. I love that and I love the challenge of that. And if you didn’t expect it from me and then felt I delivered something, that’s nothing but a compliment to me.

Were there horror movies, I mean obviously The Mummy, but particular horror movies you referenced?
My favourite horror film of all time is The Exorcist, which is a cliché because it’s probably everybody’s, or most peoples. Tom (Cruise) and I watched it quite a bit. We watched it actually less for the scenes in the bedroom, which are obviously brilliant, but more for the first 10 minutes of the film, which is a very transportive experience. In the first 10 minutes of the movie, which is essentially a silent film, you are immersed in a world and filled with a deep sense of dread, without any real understanding of why. Friedkin builds this extraordinarily scary tone, and a sense that something really, really bad is coming, and he does it purely visually. He does it with mood and long takes and quiet and sound and light. He went to those real locations, they shot it in Iraq. He just puts you in a world. And when we talked about how we wanted to approach modern day Iraq and ancient Egypt, we kept going back to The Exorcist as a major reference for tone and texture and look and light and colour and the building of suspense in certain scenes.
Tom has worked with Kubrick. So, to be able to work with an actor who has worked with Kubrick is quite something. We watched The Shining. We talked about Eyes Wide Shut a lot. We talked about what Tom calls an atonal rhythm that Kubrick had in all of his films. And it’s a fascinating thing to hear someone who has worked with Kubrick and understands how Kubrick achieves these rhythms with his actors.
You can take the scene in The Shining between Danny and Scatman Crothers’ character. So they’re sitting at the table and they’re having ice cream and they’re talking about what’s in the hotel room. It’s a normal conversation if you were to read it on the page but there are very strange pauses between the questions and the answers that make you so uncomfortable and you can’t tell why. And that’s all designed by Kubrick, long single takes where people are not speaking in a normal rhythm to each other and it makes you deeply unsettled. And so we talked a lot about that.
We watched a lot of Hitchcock. A lot of Hitchcock. As any director who ever wants to make a movie must and does. We watched The Birds and we watched Vertigo and we talked about how Hitchcock would build suspense and about the length of the takes and the utter deliberation of how he would sequence shots together and how he would build tension.
To be able to sit in a dark theatre with Tom who has worked with so many of the directors who I love and talk about what was going on on the set of those films in order to understand how we could apply those lessons to The Mummy was honestly a dream come true for me, and I think any director would have been lucky to have that experience.

It hadn’t occurred to me that you would have someone there to just chat to about Stanley Kubrick who had worked with him. That must’ve been fun.
It’s more than fun. You kind of can’t believe you’re having the conversation. As a lover of those films, you constantly wonder ‘How did he do those things?’ because it’s more than just the beautiful production design in a sense of lenses and framing and all the things that many people have written about far more eloquently than I’ll ever discuss about Stanley Kubrick. To talk to someone who has actually been there with him to see how it works in an entirely different thing. And I think that kind of thing, for me as a young director, is a gift.

You get away with a lot for a PG 13. Did you have to negotiate for it? (this interview took place the morning before The Mummy received a 15 certificate in the UK)
There was some negotiations with the MPAA. But it’s interesting because the films that I grew up with always walked right up to the line of R and never crossed them. I can look at, even Raiders by today’s standards, guys’ faces melting. Those movies scared the shit out of me as a kid and yet they weren’t R rated films. I think that the films that inspire me the most are the ones that don’t cross the line into R.
You know, give me American Werewolf In London as a hard R and I’m the happiest guy in the world, but that’s a very specific kind of movie, you know. And I think that if you’re making a film for a global audience where you want people to come see the adventure and you know kids are gonna be there, then I have to put myself in the position of where I was when I was a kid. And I have to remember what was scary about seeing things like Raiders or Temple Of Doom or Jaws. I think Jaws is R.
But I take inspiration from trying to find a way to manage and control where on the line we fall when it comes to that kind of stuff. Take a look at Jurassic World a couple of years ago. There’s some incredibly scary sequences in it, I was like ‘Oh my god, I can’t believe that this is a PG-13’ and yet it was. I think what that tells me is you can get away with a lot more now in what’s called the family film than you were able to even a couple of years back.

And there was never any discussion about doing an R rated version?
No, not really. Not at this scale and scope. Horror movies, of which I consider myself a diehard fan, are more limited in terms of audience. It’s a very specific genre audience and it doesn’t always reach a global audience. Sometimes it does, but rarely, and we endeavoured to make a much larger movie than that.

In fact, you’re making a whole universe of movies like that. Bride Of Frankenstein is next. I think because of the Brendan Fraser ones, The Mummy feels like the easiest sell of those old Monster movies to bring…
Because people are familiar with it, sure.

Bride Of Frankenstein is a little lower down the list, I think.
In terms of easy sells?

Not even as an easy sell, but as a family, tentpole film, I would assume is what you’re going for. Are you having a tough time with it?
David Koepp wrote a brilliant script. A brilliant script with a very unique structure and a central relationship that I think is gonna be relatable to a lot of people while also being very true to what I believe people love about Bride. Here’s the weird thing about Bride Of Frankenstein. It is one of the weirdest movies you’ll ever see in your life. It is such a strange film. What amazes me is that the bride doesn’t show up until, what, the last ten minutes of the film? Doesn’t say anything, rejects Frankenstein, he pulls a lever and the building explodes and that’s the end of it. It’s not like she has long monologues, it’s not like you get to know her character, it’s not like she goes out into the world. There’s almost no screen time with her.
And yet everybody remembers the iconic look, the hair, who she was. Articles have been written, there’s Halloween costumes. It’s an enduring character because there’s something mysterious about her and that look, and the idea that she was created to serve another man. Which is gonna be an interesting thing to tackle in this day and age. It might be something we subvert in our film. It will be really interesting to see where we go because I actually think that Bride is maybe a lot more accessible as a character than you may think. Mostly because she’s not really a character yet based on the original Bride Of Frankenstein.

That’s interesting. I watched it again at the weekend, actually, and I’d forgotten that she was in it so little.
In the same way that with Karloff and the bandages, all you remember is Karloff in the bandages; he’s out of those bandages in one scene, at the beginning of the film. He spends the rest of the movie not in the bandages, but you don’t remember that. You remember him in the bandages. That speaks to the unbelievable design work of those characters and the enduring legacy of the looks of those monsters. And I think that’s something we can’t mess around with. That’s sacred ground.

So with the Dark Universe, and I appreciate you’re probably not going to be able to tell me much, but Creature From The Black Lagoon, which I think is probably my favourite monster film…
It’s a great one, yeah.

That’s been in development for a while. Is that still something you guys…?
A million percent.

And is it the same script?
No. There were scripts before the Dark Universe initiative came up, before I was involved. We started over. I honestly have not read those scripts because I wanna keep a fresh brain for whatever we’re doing next. We have an amazing writer on it now and I think we have an awesome take and I can’t wait. For me, Creature is one of the first action horror films. If you look at the origins of that movie, it really is. The Mummy in many ways, the original Mummy is kind of a parlour film whereas Creature was a more expansive monster movie, and certainly we want to honour the heritage of that.

The Mummy is in UK cinemas from June 9th.

From last year

David Koepp Says His ‘Bride of Frankenstein’ Script Is a Tale of Female Liberation

Steve Weintraub recently spoke to Koepp for the screenwriter’s latest film, Inferno starring Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones. During their conversation, they talked about Bride of Frankenstein. Keopp confirmed that he did a draft of the script, but he doesn’t know when the film is getting in front of cameras:
DAVID KOEPP: Yes, I wrote a draft of that that seems to have gone over very well, and I think they’re figuring out their whole universe and when it will go. They got a few they’ve got to work on.
Steve pointed out that there’s been a surge lately of successful franchise films with female protagonists, and wanted to get Koepp’s thoughts on contributing another blockbuster to the ranks of Star Wars, Frozen, and Hunger Games:
KOEPP: I loved it. It’s one of my favorite scripts I’ve written in years because if you reimagine the Frankenstein story, it gets into so many issues of men trying to feel dominant over women. To create someone who then says, “You don’t own me,” it becomes a tale of liberation. It was great. It was really fun, and I hope it gets going soon because I think it’d make for a great movie.
I think that’s an interesting spin on the character, and one that gives her more of the limelight. It’s important to remember that as good as Bride of Frankenstein is, the titular Bride doesn’t appear until the third act of the movie. A lot of cool stuff happens before then, but the movie largely belongs to Frankenstein, The Monster, and Dr. Pretorius.
Koepp couldn’t give many details about the plot, but he did set up an interesting depiction of the Bride:

What can you tease people about it for fans of the original or for fans of the monster movies at Universal?
KOEPP: How fun it is and how liberating it is. Narratively and stylistically to write a character who’s dead. She’s not a zombie. She’s a super-intelligent creature, but she’s dead, and that changes a person’s perspective.
When asked if this movie is meant to be more in line with other Universal Monster movies or if it has the freedom to be its own thing, Koepp replied:
KOEPP: You get some of both, and I think they’re figuring that out as they go. I was in touch with the other people who were making Mummy and in touch with Universal and getting a sense of what they’re doing, because they can’t be wholly different movies, but each one is characterized by the personality of its creature. So the stories are dictated by the creature. In ours, the Bride is essentially a sympathetic figure. This tragic, hunted figure. And obviously the Mummy is a very bad entity that must be stopped. That’s not us. The troublemakers are the ones who would try to control her. To answer your question, we’re all from the same tree, but different kinds of fruit.


13 Essential Facts about Dark Universe (Universal's Shared Monster Universe)

Dark Universe is almost here. If you didn't know, that's the snazzy new name for Universal’s new cinematic universe drawing together its classic monsters.
The Mummy is first up, written and directed by Alex Kurtzman, who also serves as one of the key architects of this new universe of gods and monsters.
We spoke to him at length about the overarching project and the rules governing its creation.

1. Its Own Genre

It's clear from our conversations that Kurtzman is a lifelong and passionate fan of Universal’s classic monsters, and while these new movies will be indebted to a wider horror tradition, he sees those original movies almost as a genre in their own right.

Kurtzman: "I think for me the thing that defines the Universal Monsters as it's own genre – separate from even really The Hammer monsters and horror films and slasher films – is that you fear the monster and you fear for the monster. Those original monster films were – they were character films. They were played by movie stars who imbued those monsters with a heartbreak and an agony, a pathos and a emotion that I think is so specific to the Universal Monsters.
"You know I think there was a particular scene for me as a kid that struck me from Frankenstein. It's the scene with Frankenstein at the water with the little girl. What struck me about that scene is that.... he's so desperately wanted to connect to a human being and be appreciated and be loved. And in his desire to connect didn't realise he was destroying the very thing that he wanted to connect with. To me that symbolises what the monsters are about.
"If you ask a four-year-old kid to draw Frankenstein, they're going to draw green skin, flat-top head, and bolts in the neck – and that's the Universal Monsters' Frankenstein. For almost 100 years, these monsters have endured, I think, because they represent something so human."

2. Keeping Classic Designs

And they won’t be messing with those classic designs, so expect to see Javier Bardem in a Jack Pierce’s iconic makeup when he plays the Monster.

Kurtzman: "When we started this we had some amazing artists working on monster designs, and we started putting together look boards for the monsters, which as an adult being able to do that for your job is pretty much the best thing in the world.
"We started taking different designs and playing around with them, saying what if we remove this, what if we add that, and it became incredibly clear – almost instantaneously – that we must not touch these monsters.
"If you start messing those things up you are fundamentally betraying what everybody loves about them. Yes, we can make little adjustments that – if we make adjustments, they have to be story based adjustments. There has to be something about the story that mandates that we make the adjustment.
"To do the Bride of Frankenstein, and not have the streaks in the hair from the electricity. Or to do Frankenstein without the bolts in the neck would be a fundamental betrayal. I think the key is figuring out how to really protect and preserve and not change what is not broken."

3. The Original Shared Universe

While the idea of a shared universe brings to mind comic book movies, Kurtzman was keen to point out that it wasn’t the first...

Kurtzman: "You know I tend to feel like the best way to build a universe is to deliver individual satisfying films. If the audiences like those films, the universe will begin to build itself.
"Obviously Marvel did an amazing job starting with Iron Man. I have so much respect for the work they've done. But people forget the monsters were the first shared universe starting with Frankenstein Meets Wolf Man.
"The reason that worked was because they'd already done three Frankenstein films and they'd already done Wolf Man films and the audiences loved both characters and they kind of ran out of gas with those stories. They said what are we going to do. What if we put them together. And suddenly a new story was born, and it was actually really exciting to see and that birthed a million monster crossovers.
"The monsters were the first shared universe. I think that I want to follow that… Hopefully the Mummy is a satisfying contained story that also leaves a lot of unanswered questions at the end and opens lots of doors and hopefully that doesn't – that's not mutually exclusive with you having a satisfying standalone story there."

4. Henry Jekyll’s Role

Russell Crowe plays Dr. Henry Jekyll in the movie, functioning a little bit like the universe’s Nick Fury. Overseeing the secret organisation Prodigium, but the character was never a core character in the original monster movies. Kurtzman eventually included for very specific reasons...

Kurtzman: "I tend not to respond to worlds where a lot of characters are thrown at me before I have individual relationships with them. So the idea of bringing Dr Jekyll into the Mummy was a real debate because you don't intuitively think that Henry Jekyll is going to be in The Mummy. So... in our conception of the film the idea that Tom's character Nick inadvertently opens Pandora’s Box and comes to understand that The Mummy exists in a continuum of gods and monsters.
"The Mummy may be the oldest but there are many more. There's an organisation that's been tracking them, protecting them, and hunting them. And doing different things, depending on the monster. It became clear that somebody would have to introduce Tom's character to that world. And then you start to say it's got to be someone who has his own relationship to evil.
"Okay, well, if I'm describing Tom's character – this is a man who has good and evil in him, he has to decide which side of the line he's going to be on; he has a monster potentially lurking inside of him waiting to explode outward. I could also be describing Henry Jekyll. And so... the idea that Henry is in the movie because Henry has been where Nick is going and acts as a mirror to Nick's character.
"Suddenly, it allowed us a real story reason to put him in the film. And... the key I think was not have the Henry story consume the film; he comes into the movie quite late. It can't feel like you're shifting gears into a whole other thing but in fact the movie has been leading you up to that reveal."

5. The Good Guys?

While they might be keeping tabs on these monsters, it’s not exactly clear whether Prodigium are the good guys and that’s sort of the point.

Kurtzman: "I think that's what's interesting about the organisation is that you have an organisation that is, as I said, either protecting, researching, or hunting monsters run by a man who can be good or evil. It's a somewhat unpredictable thing. Even though Prodigium's agenda is ultimately to protect the world from this whole existent of monsters. There's a kind of grey area that I think is interesting and stays true to what I think the monster movies are about.
"I just don't think anything's ever black and white in a Universal Monsters universe. While their intentions are good, sometimes you have to do really bad and scary things to serve a greater good. And maybe Prodigium will be in that position."

6. The Bad Guys?

The overarching threat is also less than clear right now. It’s definitely not as simple as the fighting the monsters. We asked Kurtzman if there was a big bad?

Kurtzman: "Mmm... that's a very spoiler-rich question you're asking me. Tricky. Sneaky.
"Well, I can say this: the threat could come from within Prodigium. There might be other forces out there; other organisations that want to do the opposite of what Prodigium want to do. Maybe those organisations were built by other monsters. Maybe the monsters don't all have the same agendas. Maybe they want very different things. Maybe some want to bring evil into the world, while others want to protect the world from it.
"If you look back at the original monster films, all the monsters did want different things. That's the juice. That's where you get your conflict."

7. Going Global

Despite a lot of the original films taking place predominantly in London and a mythic version of Eastern Europe, Dark Universe will be a globe-trotting franchise.

Kurtzman: "These are global films. So it's going be dependent on the nature of each monster. Some of the... Creature from the Black Lagoon is the Amazon. Spoiler, by the way. So it's all about figuring out what the nature and the mythology of each monster and figuring out a setting. Our whole design is to make these global films."

8. No End Credits Scene

Even though there more movies and characters to set up, there isn’t a teaser at the end of The Mummy. And don’t expect them in future either.
Kurtzman: "No, no, that's Marvel's domain. So render unto Caesar what is Caesar's. Maybe it'll feel more appropriate down the line, as the universe builds itself. I don't think any of wanted to be accused of ripping off what they did so well."

9. Actors Want To Play Monsters

Kurtzman wants to attract the best actors to play the monsters, and he thinks it’s a more attractive gig than any superhero role.

Kurtzman: "If you ask any of the actors that we've got in the universe. Johnny Depp, Javier, Russell, Tom – they will all tell you a similar story about watching the Universal Monsters as kids and being terrified and how much they loved them.
"Look at it from their point of view. You're going to make a big studio movie. You can play a superhero. Pretty square-jawed superhero. Flaws that are interesting but often not wildly deep. Or you can play a character in which assumption is that the character will be broken, damaged, violent, upset, scary, and there is no expectation that character will be fixed by the end because if they were fixed they wouldn't be monsters anymore. So it's a very enticing idea for an actor.
"And it's enticing for all of us because if you're making movies at the studio level at the scope and scale how often do you get a chance to make a movie about complicated grey areas."

10. The Invisible Man

Depp has been announced as the Invisible Man, but there’s no standalone film for him yet on the cards. So we asked if he’ll debut in Bride of Frankenstein...

"You'll have to see."

That’s probably a ‘yes’ then.

11. Finding the Right Directors

Bill Condon will direct Bride of Frankenstein. He was, of course, the man behind Gods and Monsters, the1998 biopic of James Whale, the director of Universal’s original Frankenstein. And as Kurtzman is currently scouting potential directors for these projects, we asked what he was looking for...

Kurtzman: "Obviously fandom is a huge part of it. Let's take Bill Condon, who's directing Bride of Frankenstein. I mean Gods and Monsters is one of the greatest movies ever. You're talking about a director who understands the nature of what it means to make a monster movie at the DNA level but also what those monsters represented to that director. To James Whale. His connection and affinity for Bride and how he represented Frankenstein in Gods and Monsters told us it wasn't even a debate who should be directing this movie. You're talking about someone who in their DNA understands it.<
"I think that it's all about figuring out who speaks to the spirit of these films. Who understands them the most. Which writers come up with takes and we work with the writers to do that that are honouring the tradition and the heritage while bringing something new to the table. We don't want make these movies until they're worth making and they're right. I think the worst mistake we could make would be to just start pumping them out without any real thought about those things. We don't want to do that."

12. Of Gods and Monsters...

While we’re on the subject of 'gods and monsters' – it’s a line uttered by Dr. Pretorius in Whale's Bride of Frankenstein. It crops up again in The Mummy, and a couple of times in my time with Kurtzman. There’s something about the phrase that seems to carry more significance for this fledgling universe...

Kurtzman: "It depends how you interpret a god. The Egyptians interpreted it as a god. But as Henry says evil has many names. Take Sett known to Egyptians as a god of chaos whereas other cultures call it this and that. What we're really talking about is the devil. I think the idea is that ... we all, every culture has a way of translating a mythology and sometimes we call them gods and sometimes we call them monsters. As the universe expands we'll begin to really understand what that means."

13. How Scary?

Even though The Mummy isn’t a full-blown horror movie, Kurtzman wants the Dark Universe to push the scares as much as possible...

Kurtzman: "The movies that I loved growing up were the movies that walked right up to the line of R. Where you feel like you're they hold you in that state of suspense and terror but they don't always cross it. Obviously, the most notable example was seeing Raiders as a kid, and it's - that's a really scary movie. The guy's face melts at the end. At 8 years old, that's shocking."


  1. Sunday World has an article (originally via Den of Geek) with Kurtzman where he say David Koepp wrote a brilliant script. A brilliant script with a very unique structure. And a central relationship that is going to be relatable to many.


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