Interview: Whiteout Creator Greg Rucka
Thu, 03 Sep 2009 16:00:34
Greg Rucka knows how to make a hero.
In his highly acclaimed graphic novel, Whiteout [Warner Bros.], the writer crafted one of the most dark, intriguing and complicated heroines ever inked to paper. His main gal, Marshall Carrie Stetko, is the lone ranger in the frozen tundra of the South Pole. It's been quiet for her tenure there, until a brutal murder happens and gives her a purpose. Greg masterfully explores her psyche comparing her to the ice in subtle fashion—while everything cracks around her.
Sitting at the bar in Bel-Air's Luxe Hotel, Greg couldn't be more excited right now. Whiteout's big screen adaptation with Kate Beckinsale is about to hit theaters on September 11th, and it preserves the writer's initial vision faithfully. Even though Greg's been living with Carrie for over a decade, his reverence for her idiosyncrasies remains palpable.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor Rick Florino, Greg offered a tour of Carrie's head, his perspective on Whiteout's big screen adaptation and why God is in the details.
Is the barren nature of the landscape reflective of what's going on in Carrie's psyche?
Yes, very much so—more so in the film than in the original material. In the original material, we were playing with the notion that Carrie was very much like the ice; therefore they got along. In the film, they sort of inverted that. The nature of the frozen desert is Carrie's nature and consequently they don't get along. She does not like Antarctica in the film. They clearly do have a connection in both though.
The ice does comfort her in the film. Everything is very black and white in Antarctica.
The rules are very obvious, and that's something she's looking for. That's truer in the film because of the nature of her internal struggle.
There's a detachment from relationships because those make for grey areas.
Ironically…there's that sense of perspective. In a "Whiteout," perspective is lost and there's only confusion.
How do the two art forms differ—films and graphic novels? In the latter, you can really get inside a character's head.
You can play with things like narrative and so on in movies, but I think that each medium has its strengths. If I have a story that's going to work best as a novel, I'm going to write it as a novel. If somebody wants to try to make that into a movie, they're welcome to. One of the beautiful things that comics do so well, Steven Lieber [Whiteout, Illustrator] did beautifully in this. One picture is literally worth a thousand words. Domenic Sena and the rest captured it so well in the movie. A single image of Antarctica tells you everything you need to know [Laughs]. You don't want to be out there alone! Oddly, I think Whiteout adapts pretty effortlessly in terms of that main thrust. The graphic novel story is not a movie story. You could not shoot that story. Both Steve and I were very aware of that when Dark Castle came along and said, "We want to do this movie." I said, "Knock yourselves out, and let's see how you do it!"
There have to be certain changes any time a graphic novel is adapted into a film.
Absolutely! I kind of get annoyed when creators get really precious. If you wanted to make a movie, you should've made a movie.
You should've written it as a script from the beginning if that was the case…
Exactly! Even then, I would argue that you should've been a director. Steve and I did a graphic novel, and the goal was to tell a really good story in that format. Somebody came along and said, "We will pay you to make this movie." We were like, "Thank you! Okay!" [Laughs] I can't really look at that and say anything after the fact. Even if I wasn't happy with it, and I'm very happy, I wouldn't have a leg to stand on because they had my blessing. You can't turn around afterwards and say, "This isn't my story…" Well, duh!
There's a certain claustrophobia that both the film and graphic novel capture so well.
There really is because you can't go outside and get away. You're trapped in bases, even at the Pole, where there's very little privacy. There was a detail that I really wish the filmmakers dropped in, but they didn't get to it. I think it got left on the floor. When Carrie's taking the shower, there's the egg timer that says she has two-minutes for the shower. Everything is so controlled because everything has got to be shared and is such a priority. Getting hot water to bathe is an issue when you're at the South Pole. I eat that stuff up. That, to me, is why it's such a great environment.
That attention to detail in the environment is why the graphic novel is so brilliant. At the same time, you let that environment push the characters to their primal limits.
One, it's very nice of you to say that [Laughs]. Two, I've said this before, but Antarctica is very much a character of the story—more so in Whiteout: Melt than in the initial. In Melt, Antarctica is more active. It's like, "I'm going to kill you now" and then it proceeds to do so [Laughs]. The details of the environment are, to me, what has always made the story sing. God is in those details, as they say. It was weird going on set for the first time and seeing details. These details were on a scale that maybe on the Blu Ray, you'll be able to see everything—like the labeling on the phones. Everything was spot on. It was very cool.
There's a certain classical feel to the story. It's very mythical.
It's funny because I always talk about it as a "closed continent" or "locked continent" mystery but, in fact, it was always a western to me. You had a Marshall. You had a desert. In the comic, it's set in McMurdo not at the Pole, which is very much a frontier town. Then along came Deadwood, and I actually did see a parallel. There's a sense of lawlessness and the breakdown of social contract on that frontier, but at the same time you're relying on everyone else around you for survival. In that sense, there's a certain sense of myth.
What really resonates with you about Carrie?
I love the character! I think the reason I love the character is she's her own master. In the graphic novel, she's been put into a crap situation and she's retreated from herself. I love the fact that she loses two fingers and that doesn't stop her. There's a scene in the graphic novel that I wish made it to the film. I think it'd been in an earlier draft. In the graphic novel, she goes to the Pole and she shuts down all flights in and out. She throws the badge down! That, to me, is the character in a nutshell. All other things being equal she is who she says is. She will do what she says she will do. It's the cowboy. In her back story, she's from Montana! There's a reason that she's a Marshall.