Hey my fellow movie lovers. We were lucky enough to shoot some questions to Shazam writer Bill Birch. Even though the man is knee deep in Shazam he gave us some time and answered the below. So get a beer,cocktail or orange juice, chill out enjoy the interview.
Firstly, you started your career with Crew work and acting but with your recent success with writing are you looking at focusing on writing?
I came to L.A. years ago as an actor and had success in mostly television and commercials but found that while the occasional work paid the bills it wasn't enough to completely satisfy my creative side. After spending a few years performing with the Groundlings Comedy Troupe, where you had to write your own material, I found myself gravitating more towards the writing side. Even though I occasionally still do commercials I consider myself a full-time writer now.
You’re currently listed as directing/writing the Weekend Warrior. Can you tell us more about the project? Also is directing another area you want to go into?
Weekend Warrior is a comedy that I sold to Warner Brothers as a pitch about an inept home repair do-it-yourselfer who accidentally opens a portal to Hell in his basement and then has to stop the impending apocalypse. It's an action comedy in the same vein as Men in Black or Ghostbusters. Those are both films I love and the types of movies that I think need to be made more often. Dean Parisot, who directed Galaxy Quest, is actually attached as the director to that and he’s going to knock the hell out of it.
You have also written One Finger Salute. The story sounds brilliant. Can you tell us more about the project?
One Finger Salute was my first writing assignment. It's based on a real group of guys in the Air Force in the 1950's who were researching outer space and the possibility of putting a man up there way before Sputnik, NASA and the term "Space Race" even existed. These guys were freakin' studs. One of them strapped himself in a rocket sled and blasted down a track going 630 miles per hour then came to a compete stop in 1.5 seconds and lived to tell about it. Another guy jumped out of a balloon 20 miles above the earth to test a parachute. He free fell for 4.5 minutes coming close to breaking the speed of sound on the way down. The project was wallowing in "development hell" at Warner Brothers for over ten years until my version brought some life back to it. Interestingly, Pete Segal became attached to that project after reading one of my drafts. We developed another draft together and during that time a great collaborative relationship was born. He asked me to give him and his producing partner, Michael Ewing, a take on Captain Marvel and that eventually led to me getting Shazam. FYI, Pete's a freakin' stud too.
How did Peter Segal come onboard ? Also with him being a long time Sandler collaborator ,could we see Sandler involved?
Pete's been involved with Shazam since 2006 so it's been a long and winding road for him. I don't know the details of how he originally got involved but I can say he's very excited with the way this new version is shaping up. And Sandler as Marvel? It would definitely be a bold casting choice. Maybe Rob Schneider as Black Adam? I can see the poster now! Ok, that was a bad joke. Pete's never mentioned Sandler.
Obviously the one fans are going crazy over is that you are now writing Shazam with Geoff John? How did this come about?
Okay, first of all let me say that Geoff Johns is also a freakin' stud. He's young, smart, creative and has this crazy encyclopedic knowledge of everything DC. He's so cool I almost hate him a little bit. Thankfully I've been able to put that hate aside and I've enjoyed every minute we've spent working together while breaking the new Marvel/Shazam story. Geoff and I are in the thick of it, creating a kickass update that still honors the lore that's been created in over 50 years of Marvel storylines.
Shazam has been in development hell for so long, have you had to look through previous scripts or starting fresh?
I've read some of the previous versions and we're starting fresh.
Are you a fan of the comic book and if so what storylines inspired you?
I have four older brothers so growing up and we always had comics around the house. While Superman was probably the one we read most we did having a few Shazams around. I remember being fascinated with the idea that a kid could just say "Shazam!" and become a superhero. It's the ultimate in wish fulfillment and obviously that will be a theme in the script. I was also a religious watcher of the 70's TV show. You couldn't beat Shazam! followed by Isis could you? They just don't make TV like that anymore. (Actually after watching some Shazam! clips on You Tube I'm glad they don't. It's pretty bad but as a kid I remember it being awesome.)
In a time when comic adaptations are expected to be gritty and dark is Shazam the project that can be made for families or is dark and gritty the expected road for Capt. Marvel?
The way the story is shaking out, Geoff and I see this not as "dark" as Dark Knight but definitely as cool. It'll probably end up with a PG-13 rating.
What is the most important aspect you want to bring to Shazam?
Tonally I think it's important to successfully find the balance of comedy and danger in the story. That’s a major aspect I’m focusing on. Frankly hitting the right tone is what’s going to either get this made or keep it in development hell.
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson was at one point attached to play either Capt. Marvel or Black Adam (I think he decided he’d rather Black Adam) is this still the case? If so does it make it easier to write with him in mind or does it inhibit the writing process knowing who you’re writing for? Who, personally, would you love to see in the Billy Batson role?
My rule of thumb is that no actor is committed to do a movie until the first day of shooting is over with. (And sometimes even then the cast can still change) I know that Pete Segal and Dwayne have a relationship that was solidified when Pete directed Get Smart. As far as him being committed? I'm sure it'll all depend on the script. That being the case I don't write with anyone in mind. If the characters are solid it will attract good talent and then there will always be a rewrite to address the talent's concerns. Usually at that point in the process is when you start writing for that specific actor. More than likely the role of Billy Batson will be an unknown but the role of Cpt Marvel? I always thought Ryan Reynolds would have been interesting but now that he’s Green Lantern that’s not an option. Honestly I don’t think too much about it since I have very little say in the casting decisions.
What other projects are you currently working on?
Right now I'm working on a straight comedy in the vein of 40-Year-Old Virgin along with Shazam. Since Shazam has lots of magic and action and it's nice to balance it out with a story about a character that's just a regular guy.
What do you want to achieve in Hollywood?
I want to continually write and find projects that are interesting, challenging and fun. I also want to continue to mine relationships with good directors and producers that make the collaborative process enjoyable. So far so good.
So thanks to Bill for his time and I am dying to see Shazam . Boo Yeah