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“Helen Mirren with a sniper rifle” – Warren Ellis talks Red

Posted by LiveFor on December 9, 2009

Warren Ellis is the writer behind many great comic books (Transmetropolitan, Black Summer, Freak Angels, NextWave, The Authority, Global Frequency, Gravel, and many more) including the mini-series Red with Cully Hamner.

It is a great little read and the plot goes like this:

Paul Moses is a retired Agent of the CIA, formerly working in “foreign acquisitions”. Living in a secluded area, his human contacts are limited to pleasant phone calls to his handler (who desires what she believes to have been Moses’ type of work) and letters to his niece that lives in England.

Michael Beesley, the newly politically appointed Director of the CIA, is taken to Room R as part of his initiation, where he learns of Moses’ existence and the full extent of his activities. Disgusted by what he has seen, and fearing public reaction should any of those secrets leak out, he orders the assassination of Moses.

A three man hit-team is sent to Moses’ residence, and he kills them, recognizing the pattern of the attack and realizing his death has been sanctioned. He calls his handler only to learn that she has been transferred. He informs the Agency that his status has changed from Green to Red before leaving his house and going on the hunt.

As previously reported it is being turned into a film and so far all we know is that Bruce Willis will play the lead and many other big names are involved.

Not surprisingly it will be a bit different to the source material. Now Warren Ellis has had a look at the script and posted his thoughts on the changes that have had to be made. Basically, I don’t think we need to be worried too much. Here’s what he had to say about it:

RED, the book, is 66 pages long. If you were to film 66 pages of comics, you might, might just about get 40 minutes of film out of it. If you added a musical number. The comics-page to film-minute ratio is pretty bad. A straight adaptation of a 150-page graphic novel might, if you squint at it, get you a 100-minute film. But it’s unlikely, because comics and films use time so differently.

It is in fact best to consider RED as a short story being adapted into film.

The mini-series reads very much like a prologue to a much bigger story so this should work out quite well. This also means that there will have to be a lot more characters than a handful in the comic book.

The new characters are all in theme, all in the same line of work as (Paul in the book, Frank in the film) Moses. The theme being, in part (and also poked at in my other books GLOBAL FREQUENCY and RELOAD) the unexploded bombs of the 20th Century.

I don’t think any of them are bad. Also, did you see the goddamn cast list that’s signed on for those characters? Bruce Willis as Moses, yes. But also: Morgan Freeman, Mary-Louise Parker, John C Reilly, Helen Mirren, Julian McMahon, Brian Cox, Ernest Borgnine and Richard Dreyfus. It reminds me a bit of those 70s films like THE TOWERING INFERNO, that had in them everyone you wanted to see in a film, all at once. RED is a bit like that, only with more automatic weapons.

What does Ellis think about the actual film itself?

The film isn’t as grim as the book. The book is pretty grim. But it’s also pretty small. When I sell the rights to a book, they buy the right to adapt it in whatever way they see fit. I can accept that they wanted a lighter film, and, as I’ve said before, the script is very enjoyable and tight as a drum. They haven’t adapted it badly, by any means. People who’ve enjoyed the graphic novel will have to accept that it’s an adaptation and that by definition means that it’s going to be a different beast from the book. The film has the same DNA. It retains bits that are very clearly from the book, as well as, of course, the overall plotline. But it is, yes, lighter, and funnier. And if anyone has a real problem with that, I say to you once again:

Helen Mirren with a sniper rifle.

I mean, if you don’t want to see a film with Helen Mirren with a sniper rifle, I’m not sure I want to know you.

Works for me. Are you looking forward to the adaption?

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