Exclusive Interview: David Twohy on Riddick
When Vin Diesel became a huge star with The Fast and the Furious, one of his top priorities was to make more movies about Riddick, the character he played in his sleeper hit Pitch Black. The Chronicles of Riddick was a big summer movie sequel, and it didn’t quite meet box office expectations. Now we have just plain Riddick, taking space convict (and king of the Necromongers as of the end of Chronicles) Richard B. Riddick back to his grittier roots. Stranded on a deserted planet by Vaako (Karl Urban), Riddick fights for survival against the planet’s nature, and two teams of bounty hunters that come looking for him.
We got to speak one on one with David Twohy, writer/director of all three Riddick movies about how far the franchise has come and where it’s going.
CraveOnline: Has Vin been a force of nature that gives you one of these Riddick movies every few years?
David Twohy: No doubt he is elemental. No doubt he is a force to be reckoned with but we’ve gotten to the point where I can’t make a Riddick movie without him and he can’t make a Riddick movie without me, so we better figure it out together.
But the idea that it hasn’t been a traditional franchise where there’s one every couple years.
Or every year, like Fast.
Has he sort of willed these into existence?
He has a knack of doing that, a lifelong knack of willing things into existence but it really takes the combined resource and creative ability of both of us to get it off the ground. There’s no denying that if Vin didn’t want to do another one, there’s not going to be another one.
But if someone else doesn’t want to do another one, Vin will make sure there is still another one. That’s what I’m getting at.
Yeah, if the studio says no more, that doesn’t mean no to Vin Diesel. It just means we’ve got to find a different way and he’s very good like that.
In his press conference Vin mentioned going to a European film market to get foreign investors. What market was that?
That was Berlin. We sold the movie at the Berlin Film Festival I think in 2010, maybe 2011 and had good sales. It’s kind of what people say they’re looking for. When we sold it at Berlin, based on Vin, based on the title, based on my spec script, I think we did better than any other movie at that market.
Did you ever think about going to Cannes market?
We would’ve. It just all depends on when we were ready to go out and it just timed up to Berlin.
Has each Riddick movie been a paradigm shift in the narrative? Pitch Black was a monster movie where Riddick was a supporting character. The Chronicles of Riddick was an epic science fiction adventure and Riddick actually makes Riddick the stalker for part of the movie.
It does, it does. If it is a paradigm shift, it’s just all in service of trying to keep things fresh and looking to give the audience something new in that approach. It’s not really a tectonic shift each time, it doesn’t feel like to me. That said, I’ll grant that there was a big shift in tone from number one to number two. Some would argue a change in genre, because it really was science fiction horror and now we’re science fiction epic adventure with Shakespearean tones to it.
Our thinking at the time was it‘s a Riddick movie wherever Riddick goes and whoever he encounters, whatever he encounters, it’s a Riddick movie, even to the point where we may change genres. And we were so audacious enough as to try that. Now, we got some pushback on that because some people said, “Wait a second, wait a second. We thought it was just going to be him and monsters and now we’ve got Lady Macbeth.” Some people went along for the ride, some people didn’t go along for the ride but at least we weren’t being formulaic.
If you had continued on the studio route, would the sequel to The Chronicles of Riddick have been the King of the Necromongers story?
Well, there was Pitch Black, there was COR1 which we filmed. The next movie in that succession if we were making studio movies would have been I think straight into the Underverse, do kind of an Orpheus Descending myth in the Necromonger Underverse. It would’ve been a big movie too, but also PG-13 so maybe it’s for the best.
Is the Underverse story off the table now?
No, it’s not off the table. We’re still conspiring, as we do, to figure out how to do that as an independent, as an R-rated movie. We’re still conspiring on that one. We just don’t see the absolute clear path ahead.
The bridge between Chronicles of this movie is a flashback about how Riddick is dumped on this planet where we find him. Would that have been more of a story for the sequel had it been the PG-13 studio movie?
I mean, have you skipped over some story to get to the R-rated version?
Well, we had to do a sidestep on the Underverse but we still have desires to do that story. Again, if it’s within our resources to do that. I know where this ends up. It ends up as number five on Furya and rediscovering your homeland, finding the world in chaos and setting that right. But, it’s a question of where we go in movie four and how we get there, what the road to Furya is like.
You’re talking about five films now. I remember Vin describing this series as a trilogy plus Pitch Black, as if Pitch Black was The Hobbit and The Chronicles of Riddick was Lord of the Rings. When did that become four Riddick movies in addition to Pitch Black?
When we inserted this third Riddick movie into that chain and just wanted to do a movie that would be fun for the fans. It would pay off their allegiance, their long-held allegiance and kind of be a litmus test to see if, in fact, more Riddicks are possible.
So that could happen again. There could be another standalone Riddick in between four and five.
Yeah, yeah, I suppose.
In your press conference, you mentioned an epilogue for the DVD cut of the film where Riddick goes back to confront Vaako. Why did you decide not to put that in the theatrical cut?
I kind of regret that I didn’t. The studio didn’t have too much input but they do get to see the movie at a certain point and make comments. The comments were that your real story is on that planet and, by the way, you’re over your running time, Mr. Twohy, of 1:55 or whatever that was. And if you had to lose time, which you do, Mr. Twohy, look at the epilogue. Can’t it end right there on the planet? So we kind of went for that brisk ending but now as I reassemble the footage and look at Vin and Karl Urban together, it’s really good stuff. But I always know that I have the DVD to back me up too.
It will be one of the most significant additions to any DVD extended cut I imagine. The studio didn’t think anyone who had seen Chronicles would wonder what happens to Vaako, or just want Vaako to be more of a presence in the film?
There’s no fully understanding the studio thinking at times but look, I did have to get under. It was very real in terms of the bond company and the studio to get under a running time cap. I assumed that 1:55 was plenty of time when I said yes to it. In fact, I’m always struggling with a time cap in my movies. I’m always coming back with too much footage. Most filmmakers do but I’m always surprised that it keeps happening to me. So because they weren’t cheap scenes, they had visual effects implications, so to keep the budget down, to get it in under the running time, that’s the Draconian cut I had to make.