Writer Judd Winick Talks Batman: Under The Red Hood
QUESTION: What was the greatest challenge in taking your graphic novel to script format?
JUDD WINICK: I had to take two years of story and boil it down to 75 minutes of film, and that’s a challenge and liberating at the same time. It forces one to cut out all the fat and get to the heart of it. It’s about making a movie. And for those who know anything about movies, it’s about putting one foot in front of the other, building from one scene to the next to the next and so on. There are no cul-de-sacs or crossovers – it’s all about getting the story to its essence.
QUESTION: Were you disappointed with what you needed to cut out?
JUDD WINICK: Actually, I was thrilled about what went in. I’m really, really happy that the emotional core of the story is still there. We don’t really get to tell stories like this in animation. The opera of it all is usually reserved for live action. This story is about characters actually emoting and dealing with horrible situations. Animation usually gets just the action and the visualization, and not the characters actually feeling anything. So it was nice we got to do that.
QUESTION: Can you describe the gratification of watching your words come to animated life?
JUDD WINICK: It’s great. And I don’t mean to take anything away from writing for comics, as this is just a different form of story telling. One of the fun parts of writing for film is that it allows you the freedom for your characters to just shut up and fight. We can’t do that in comics – there always has to be some banter or internal monologue. More importantly, it’s gratifying to see the words and action come to life in all the ways film affords – through incredibly talented actors giving the words all that emotional impact; and to see the characters actually fight and run and yell and shout and cry. They become living, breathing beings. That’s a very exhilarating experience for a writer.
QUESTION: Do the voices of Bruce Greenwood, Jensen Ackles, Neil Patrick Harris and John DiMaggio match what you had in your head while writing the dialogue?
JUDD WINICK: I’ve been writing these characters for years, and it’s remarkable the job those actors did. Greenwood is about as Batman as you can get – which is exactly what you want. You don’t want to be surprised – as soon as he speaks, you want to say to yourself, “That’s Batman.” Nightwing is exactly as I’ve had him in my head – Neil Patrick Harris couldn’t possibly do it better. I’d like to do an entire feature with Bruce Greenwood as Batman and Neil Patrick Harris as Nightwing.
Red Hood is funny for me because I thought I’d written this character in this incarnation more than anyone else, but I had no clue what he’d really sound like. And yet, when Jensen speaks, that’s the right tone and timbre. As far as Joker, that is one of the truly great characters that I think needs to be left up to interpretation. There’s only been a handful of people who have created Joker – Mark Hamill set the standard for animation, then you’ve got Jack (Nicholson) and Heath Ledger. But John (DiMaggio) has such versatility, he could go anywhere with it, and he made it totally his own. He really gives a very big and gruff and masculine performance, so deep and throaty and bass. He’s wonderfully scary and really gets the job done.
Wade Williams as Black Mask absolutely cracks me up. He’s like a lion. Honestly, what came out in the animation came directly out of his performance. Wade made him into a caged animal who might go off at any second. He’s constantly roaring, which is an entirely different take than I anticipated and that’s awesome. That’s an actor making decisions and making it his own and really hitting the mark.