Scribe Berkowitz Talks Adapting Superman/Batman: Public Enemies
My first instinct was to have Superman accused of an attempted murder on Metallo, and then have this whole thing where ultimately Metallo plays a key role by donating his skeleton to be the nose cone of the rocket. That didn’t work, and then Alan (Burnett) suggested having Metallo murdered and framing Superman for that. Then Alan asked the next question and answered it himself. “Why would anybody believe that Superman had killed Metallo?” And the answer that Alan gave for why people would believe that Superman would kill was that Superman's mind was already being affected by the kryptonite radiation coming from the approaching meteor. Suddenly, the public is afraid that a crazed Superman could just go off the handle and kill anyone. I felt that that was a very effective way of framing Superman.
What’s the influence of Alan Burnett on the DC Universe films?
Alan Burnett has become an uber editor of all of the DCU DVDs, and hopefully that remains his role from now on. I started working for Alan in 1996 and, in my opinion, you could not ask for a better guy in that position. He’s almost always one of the few adults in the room. Inevitably, he'll come up with something that seems really small, but then changes the whole story and makes it work. The radiation effecting Superman’s mind is a perfect example. I never would have thought of that. But then here’s Alan sitting quietly and then saying something that fixes everything. That's what Alan does. His criticisms are always constructive. And you never, never see much ego involved -- at least I haven’t in the past 12 years.
What it's like for you to hear your words take life in a recording session?
It’s fun, but it makes you appreciate just how good everyone else involved really is. For starters, Andrea (Romano) makes it look very, very simple, but I urge anyone who thinks it's simple to actually try to direct actors. It’s hard. Very hard. They speak a different language. We were working on an episode of JUSTICE LEAGUE, and I happened to get to the recording session early and the only other person there already was the lead villain. We started chatting and, of course, the conversation turned to “How did you see this guy?” So I tell him my concept of the character. I swear to God, it took Andrea an hour of recording time to undo the damage I'd done because I spoke to him from the wrong perspective. An actor wants to know the internal emotional aspect of how the character feels, and I was describing the character from the outside, as how you would see him.
I’ve been blessed in that Andrea is one of the few dialogue directors I’ve worked with since 1996. When you hear an actor – who’s either bad or who’s badly directed – doing your dialogue, you start thinking, “Oh my God, I'm a terrible writer.” And then you hear your words being directed by good director, working with good actors, and you say, “Hey, I'm good. I can write dialogue.” That's the pleasure of being in a recording session for one of your scripts.
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