J. Michael Straczynski Discusses Outlining the THOR Film and His Cameo in the Movie

JMS tells CBR that he was not concerned with credit for the story in the THOR film.

With all the articles I have posted and read on this site over the last two years, I was still surprised when viewing THOR to see "Story By J. Michael Straczynski " in bold letters across the screen. While I knew the people at Marvel were involved with the direction of the film and that his run was to be a big influence, I was not aware he was involved to that extent. Well, this morning I found an excellent interview that CBR recently conducted with the man himself discussing all things THOR. What follows is the portion that covers his involvement with the film.

Fans no doubt noted your "Story By" credit when they saw the movie this weekend. What was your involvement like on the film?

I was involved at a very early stage, breaking the story in meetings with Kevin Feige and Craig Kyle and others. I’d meet, we’d talk, I’d break out the beats of the story, come back, we’d go over them some more, I’d work up a more detailed outline...by the time I was done the bones of the structure were there, all the major beats were worked out.

Now, here’s the part that nobody knows: when the time came for the on-screen credits to be arbitrated by the Writers Guild, I didn’t put in for credit on the outline. I had decided to let it go, because the writers who came after me were the ones who would have done all the heavy lifting. I felt that they were the ones who should get the credit. This attitude was a hold-over from my work in TV. On shows like "Babylon 5," "Crusade" or "Jeremiah," I would routinely assign stories to other writers, but I would never arbitrate for story credit, I didn’t think it was fair to cut into the residuals of other writers. Still don’t.

Then I got an unexpected email from Don Payne, one of the aforementioned writers, who was practically apoplectic that I hadn’t put in for credit, a sentiment shared by the other writers as well. When I explained my reasoning, he intimated that I was out of my freaking mind. “The outline is the movie,” Don said. “We were given your outline and it’s all there, it’s the story you created, and it’s the comic you wrote, which is also the basis for the film. You have to apply for shared story credit.” Neither he nor the rest cared that it would cut into their residuals: they were adamant about doing the right thing.

Finally, I agreed, and sent the outline in with the other story materials to the WGA for purposes of arbitration. (The WGA did not include or factor in the comic as it’s outside their purview.) During the process, Zack and Ashley, the other writers, also insisted that it be given proper credit since it had been the backbone of the movie from day one. And when the arbitration came through, the credit was there.

I convey the foregoing because there’s this notion fed by the popular press that in the movie business, writers will routinely try to screw other writers out of their proper credit for a few bucks. But these three writers willingly sacrificed a huge chunk of their residuals to ensure that proper credit went where they felt it was deserved, and they should receive massive props for that. They are emblematic of the best of us.

You also had a cameo! I heard the experience was a little different on the filming end than you anticipated. Were you pleased with what finally made it to the screen? Have you interacted at all with your fellow guest stars like Walt Simonson or Stan Lee?

First, I was just going to be one of a bunch of guys sitting at a table in a banquet scene. But Ken decided that the cameo should be more than that. So then I was to be one of the guys trying to pick up the hammer. Then he expanded it, deciding that I should be the guy who drives up, walks to the crater, finds the hammer, can’t pick it up, and goes to get his friends for a tractor-pull.

So suddenly I was in several scenes and had dialogue. (I’m also in the big car-pull scene later, to the left of the crater, near the car where Stan tries to yank it free; there was additional dialogue here but it was cut for time.) He was very gracious and welcoming on the set, and we spent a good amount of time between shots talking and hanging. When I mentioned that I’m putting together a film of my own to direct, he said that Natalie would be perfect for it, and that I should fly out to New Mexico, and as a thank-you he’d arrange for us to spend some time. Being under deadline on another film for Bruckheimer, I wasn’t able to take him up on the offer, but it shows the measure of the man.

So I’m very happy with how the cameo went, despite the fact that no matter how you adjust the film projector, you can still see me in the shot. And when the hell did my head become pear-shaped? When did THAT happen?

By: TwitterButtons.com

By TwitterButtons.com

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