North America's biggest video game industry trade show is happening right now in Los Angeles, and this year's E3 might be the biggest for Square Enix. For the first time, the game publisher held their own keynote presentation to kickoff the event alongside industry giants to unveil a large slate of high profile games and today they're following it up with a film-focused livestream to promote Hitman: Agent 47.
Agent 47 represents the start of something big for video games in Hollywood where several high profile intellectual properties are finally getting their proper due from film studios (see: Assassin's Creed and Warcraft). And this new take on Hitman is just one step on what will be several high profile video game adaptations based on Square Enix properties coming our way thanks to producer Adrian Askarieh.
We had the opportunity to chat with Adrian earlier this year when his web series based on the Enormous comics launched online, and recently caught up with him to talk about the upcoming Hitman: Agent 47, the long-awaited Jonny Quest film - which finally got a greenlight and found an A-list director in Robert Rodriguez - and of course, we touch on those other Square Enix film adaptations we've been hearing about as well: Deus Ex and Just Cause - both of which have new games on the way.
Congratulations on Jonny Quest. This is something we’ve been hearing about for many, many years. That’s pretty awesome.
Adrian Askarieh: As they say, better late than never!.
Any sort of timeframe on when that might hit theaters?
Adrian Askarieh: We are waiting for Terry Rossio and Robert Rodriguez to turn in the script, which we are looking extremely forward to. The speed at which the project will move towards production is mainly contingent on the script. Having said that, Dan Lin and are very optimistic.
How did you get involved with Jonny Quest? Are you a fan of the old-school series yourself?
Adrian Askarieh: I am. I grew up with it. It was actually years ago I called Dan Lin when he was an executive at Warners and I said, “Let’s do Jonny Quest.” What mostly precipitated that was my being a big fan of the original show. At any rate, Dan said, “Give me a few days to see what’s going on with it here.” Few days layer, he called me back and he said, “Let’s do it.” And that’s when he was an executive. That’s how long ago it was. Since then, he has come aboard to produce it with me, which has been a blessing, because, you know, you are working with Dan Lin and he’s got a lot of experience and he knows how to navigate the minefields. And now he’s also one of the hottest producers in town with films like LEGO and SHERLOCK HOLMES.
Why do you think the timing is right now for Warner Brothers to finally greenlight this thing?
Adrian Askarieh: Well, I think, first of all, budget is important. I think once we make it a certain budget it obviously becomes far more of a realistic proposition. I think the climate itself is also very condusive. Movies that appeal to multiple quadrants, PG or PG-13 action-adventures, are right now incredibly popular not only in The U.S., but as important, if not more importantly, internationally. Warner sees this as one of those pictures which has that potential. It is also based on a beloved brand which is known and loved globally. That’s naturally a huge component of its appeal to the studio.
I have a fan question for you about this project. Obviously I didn’t see the ‘60s show when it aired, but I did watch all the repeats and stuff on Cartoon Network as a kid. I think it was a lead-up to when they launched… you probably know this, but they launched the second series, like a new version of it. What are you drawing from if fans were to compare?
Adrian Askarieh: We’re drawing from the original series. Dan Lin, Robert, Terry Rossio, and myself are all big fans of the original series, which was groundbreaking and revolutionary for its time. It was one of the first two primetime animated shows on a major network. So it wasn’t just for kids. It was for everyone. It inspired Indiana Jones. It inspired a lot of the later James Bond movies in some respect, even though it itself was partially inspired by James Bond. To us the original show is THE template for a Jonny Quest movie. Much in the same way someone like Joss Whedon or Kevin Feige looks at the silver age Avengers for the Ultron movie, we’re looking at the original for constructing the Jonny Quest film.
Wonderful. I imagine right away you guys see this as a potential franchise.
Adrian Askarieh: Of course, how could you not? But first and foremost you have to get the first movie right. And that’s our number one goal. But it is very much designed to be the launching point of a franchise. And, knock on wood, it will be a franchise. The story is very much designed to bring everyone together. So you’ll see the origin of these characters coming together. Hopefully they’ll continue in subsequent movies.
Given that this is sort of like an international fairing adventure movie, is this something that lends itself well to 3D?
Adrian Askarieh: I think so. But that’s a studio level decision. As it’s not cheap to covert to 3D and 3D is not as popular domestically as it is internationally.
If you don’t mind switching gears, I wanted to talk to you a little bit about Hitman: Agent 47.
Adrian Askarieh: Sure.
So this thing is coming up pretty soon at end of summer. Where are we in production and how is post-production going?
Adrian Askarieh: We’re in post production now. We’re going to be scoring the movie in a couple of weeks. Special effects shots are coming in on a weekly basis. And seeing the movie take form is very exciting. We did some additional photography in February in Berlin which really enhanced the film. Everyone is excited about it at the studio. We hope that it will launch a franchise. I think it’s a really good movie. I think if someone askes me: Are you pleased with the film and did it fulfill what you set out to do individually? Mind you, I’m not speaking for the rest of the team but just for myself, I would say yes, it did.
Speaking of your own goals with this particular project, what were your own personal takeaways from the previous Hitman film? What did you learn from that or, maybe, what did you want to do differently with this one?
Adrian Askarieh: I learned a tremendous deal from the last Hitman movie. That was a property which we got the rights and we sold it to Fox. We developed the script with the writer Skip Woods, and we all worked really hard on it. And then the decision was made to make it a different kind of movie. I think when you sell something to a studio as a producer, you should do it with the understanding that it becomes theirs at that point. So you’ve got to be able to work with that and be able to maneuver within that paradigm, otherwise you have no business making movies at studios.
Anyways, with the last Hitman, the studio loved our script. It was a fantastic script. I think it’s still one of the best action scripts I’ve ever read. But they decided to make it for far less money than what the script was intended for. They brought in Luc Besson's company to make it because they could make it for a price. So we were not really involved in the production of the first Hitman.
What was different about this one is that there was no third party brought in. it was us and the studio. We were involved in every aspect of it from the beginning to the end, even though we haven’t hit the end yet. I think the film will hopefully reflects that in a positive way. It’s a much different movie than the first one. It’s tonally different and also has a much larger scope and story. I think it’s a movie that will please the Hitman fans. I think it’s also a film that will bring the general audiences to the Hitman franchise… knock on wood.
The first teaser, the trailer, and the marketing materials so far have been sort of focusing on our new main character, the new Agent 47, and lots of action. How does this version of the film balance these cool action, stylistic set pieces with the stealth elements of the games?
Adrian Askarieh: There is a lot of stealth in the movie. I have heard some of the fan reactions to the trailer. As much as they like it, they are worried that Hitman: Agent 47 is going to go all bombastic and forego his stealth origin. That’s simply not the case. The trailers are meant to illicit responses from general audiences worldwide. You have to see the actual movie to be able to make a judgment like that. I think fans are going to be happy with the stealth in the movie. The next trailer is going to show people more of the story, and more of the characters, and more of the relationships as we get closer to the release of the movie. You don’t want to give the audience everything seven months in advance.