Friday, March 31, 2006

Scribe Avary game for "Hill" adaptation

Roger Avary, best known as the Oscar-winning co-writer of "Pulp Fiction," has been an avid video gamer all of his life. So he was more than ready when he received a call from "Brotherhood of the Wolf" director Christophe Gans asking if he'd help translate Konami's "Silent Hill" from game to film.

"Christophe and I knew how passionate the video game fans are for 'Silent Hill,"' Avary says. "At the minimum, we didn't want to piss them off. We wanted to make this movie for them. They're the canaries in the coal mine."

The project also is evidence of a demographic shift that means game creators are having a more direct impact on Hollywood scribes, he says.

"Hollywood writers are getting younger," Avary says. "The old-timers who don't play games are writing less and less of movies of this sort. There are more younger people who grew up with gaming getting opportunities in Hollywood today."

"Silent Hill" marks the first time that Avary has been able to immerse himself in a video game franchise that he fell in love with years ago. He remembers that when he and Gans first discussed "Silent Hill," they knew that they wanted to approach it as gamers who wanted to be as true to the spirit and detail in the adaptation as possible.

The two creators spent several months in France playing through all four games of the franchise. "I hadn't played 'Silent Hill' for years," Avary says. "Your first reaction is the graphics have really gotten better since then. But then once you give yourself to the game, you fall into it just as well. In some ways, less detail gives you greater empathy for the character that becomes your avatar while playing."

Avary says that all too often, Hollywood producers get the rights to a video game and then look to reach a larger audience by going beyond its universe.

"Hollywood executives are very quick to want to throw out the source material of a game," he says.

"'Doom' kills me. That was one of the movies I wanted to do so badly. I met with them early, on and I looked at the original script and asked, where's the 'Doom' in this?"

Avary recently was asked to work on the "Darkwatch" movie script, based on the Capcom vampire Western game of which he is a fan, but his schedule interfered.

His early interest in video games originally took him down a different path. Avary began playing games in the late 1970s and built his first computer from a kit -- a Rockwell KIM-1 -- and started his professional life as a programmer for the Atari 800.

Even though he left the programming path for Hollywood, he never gave up his roots. Avary collects and restores such Atari Vector coin-operated machines as "Asteroids," "Space Duel," "Tempest" and "Battle Zone." He also spends hours playing PlayStation 2 games like "Driver: Parallel Lines" from beginning to end.

"In many ways, gaming has not changed much since the Atari 2600," he says. "It's still just polygons and fields and things bouncing into each other."

In other ways, of course, the changes have been dramatic. The impressive experiences made possible by next-generation graphics and sound have increased the costs of making games with the larger teams and more expensive technology they require.

"The thing to watch out for, when costs get high, suddenly you see less and less innovation occurring and more repetition of tried and true ideas," Avary says. This is evident in movies, he says, with big-budget Hollywood films lowering the odds of original stories making it to the big screen. There already are those in the game-development industry who have complained about the lack of interest game publishers show to original game ideas for next-generation consoles.

1 comment:

Octopunk said...

"Hollywood executives are very quick to want to throw out the source material of a game,"

Or a book, or a comic book, or the same movie from another country, etc.

Assuming as I do that the video game/cinema relationship is going to keep growing and evolving, I find this recent emergence of hardcore gamers among movie industry folks very interesting.

If Silent Hill is as good as I'm hoping, that'll be even more interesting.