A WGA.org interview with screenwriter Simon Kinberg whose movie X-Men: Days of Future Past is now in theaters:
Strip away the heavy artillery, pyrotechnic eye candy, gifts of levitation, immortality, time travel, and invisibility, the capes, tights, cloaks, and daggers, and the films of Simon Kinberg are actually relationship dramas. The wildly successful 40-year old screenwriter is a maestro of the superhero and comic book sandbox these days, having penned Jumper, Sherlock Holmes, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, the upcoming Fantastic Four reboot, the Star Wars Rebel TV series, and the three latest X-Men films, including this month’s Days of Future Past.
You’ve stated that your films, most of which are big-budget genre efforts, are deeply personal. When many filmgoers think of “deeply personal” films, they’ve probably got Whit Stillman or Henry Jaglom in mind.
I feel like every film that I write is about something personal in my life. It’s just sort of exploded into an action or superhero movie. I don’t know how to write any other way. But at the core of it, these are very personal stories to me.
You’ve said that director John Woo taught you that action sequences should work in a film like musical numbers, that they explode when a character’s emotions can no longer be expressed in words alone.
At one point, John was going to direct Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and he taught me that and it’s exactly what I try to do with my screenplays. A lot of action sequences in movies tend to be an interruption of character. There are talking scenes and then there are fighting scenes, and the movie just swings back and forth between the two. It’s fine, and audiences are sort of okay with it, but they’re not the most memorable action sequences, no matter how visually stunning they are. If the audience isn’t going through an emotional journey during the action sequences, I don’t think they’re ever fully engaged with the film. James Cameron is arguably the greatest action director of all time, and he’s an absolute master of the action sequence not as interruption, but as exploration of character.
For me, I approach action sequences by naming them in a character-centric way – for example, “This Is The Sequence Where They Discover The Truth About Each Other” or “This Is The Sequence Where He Realizes He’s Not As Strong As He Thought He Was.” That means more to me – and to audiences – than saying, “This Is The Scene Where the Bridge Blows Up.”
Here is a trailer for X-Men: Days of Future Past:
For the rest of the interview, go here.