Max Landis explains his Igor-centric FRANKENSTEIN and upsets Mary Shelley fans

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Chronicle scribe Max Landis is currently engaged in a number of different projects, but the one with the most intriguing premise has to be Frankenstein. With Mary Shelley’s original promethean tale already having been adapted in several different variations already, how is this any different?

Well for starters, contrary to the actual title, Landis’ story will feature hunchbacked lab assistant Igor (to be played by Daniel Radcliffe) in the lead role instead of either the famed doctor or monster, which is certainly unique. And now the writer has revealed exactly how/why he took this different approach.

AICN reached out to the young writer, who responded with their request for elaboration with this monster of a reply:

“This is one I’m excited about and hopeful about and who knows if it all comes together but I’m hoping it does. It’s always risky to do interviews before the movie’s actually out, you know?

About two years I had an interview where I said it was my favorite thing I’d ever written, and it’s still up there for me. When I say that I hope I don’t sound like an asshole, I just think it’s important to enjoy your own work. I’m not going to say anything here that will “spoil” it, but I can hopefully more eloquently express “how,” if not “what” the movie is.

A little bit back I went on the Nerdist podcast, and I had a great time. During that I pitched an idea for an adventure movie trilogy I’d had recently that sort of started as one story and then revealed itself to be a ‘reimagining.’ Someone posted it on youtube, me pitching it to Chris and Jonah and Matt, this random adventure idea. If someone wanted to, they could watch that, and get a feeling for my tone, and what I like to do. Frankenstein is sort of like that, in spirit.

Most of my projects that are set-up right now are my original ideas. In my career, I’ve only written a couple “reinvention/reimagining” type stories. I’m not a guy who guns too hard on the “HOLLYWOOD IS CREATIVELY BANKRUPT” issue, because one, I don’t believe it, and two, I’m in the business, and from the business side of it, reinventions and namebrands do seem to be making an awful lot of money, don’t they? And that’s no one’s “fault,” and that’s not “the downfall of filmmaking,” that’s just the stage we’re at in the industry.

I am, at the end of the day, a guy who loves story. So I came up with this idea for a story that I thought was touching, and exciting, and then as I was coming up with it I realized “Oh, shit, this is Frankenstein.”

And it’s not some “dark and gritty retelling/bad ass action reimagining,” that’s not what I do, that’s not what I’m interested in writing. Sure, a lot of my stuff is dark, and this does have dark bits and bad ass action, but it’s ultimately about characters.

And that’s what’s funny about it being a retelling of Frankenstein. I’m going to pose you a funny question here: When did the character Igor the Hunchbacked Assistant first appear in the Frankenstein Mythos?

He certainly wasn’t in Mary Shelley’s revolutionary, but extremely dry novel. That novel was about a college dropout on a boat in the arctic being hunted by a monster that he’d made in some unspecified way. And the monster was SMARTER than him, get that.

Nor was Igor in the iconic Universal Karloff movies. Those were at first about an insane Doctor obsessed with defying God and creating life for himself, and then, after the doctor died, became about the wanderings of his creation, a barely-intelligent simpleton neanderthal.

And in that one, Frankenstein had a hunchbacked assistant, a real creepy bastard…named Fritz. And then in the sequels, Bela Lugosi showed up as “Ygor, a broke-necked asshole blacksmith who’d manipulate the Monster into doing shit.

I realized we were missing Igor, the Igor everyone seemed to know, and I was like, “Wait, what?” So I started watching ALL of the Frankenstein movies, from Mel Brooks to Peter Cushing to Robert Deniro, and realized that the only time Igor’s actually been (Doctor?) Victor (Henry?) Frankenstein’s assistant was in the fucking Monster Mash.

I was like, “Wait, what?”

That’s when the idea came to me: instead of trying to do some high minded “revisionist” Frankenstein, why not try to stay true to a version that only lives in the zeitgeist, and has NEVER REALLY EXISTED.

And why not do it in an intelligent, hopefully, thoughtful way, about friendship and science, genius and madness, love and ambition, life and death?

Why not use that imaginary, fairy dust framework of “guy with hunchbacked assistant makes monster” and make it fun, sad, scary and hopefully, I really hope this, moving.

Let’s  just hope it comes together, you know? I think it’s really cool.

Also, Doctor Frankenstein, I hate to break it to you, but if man wants to create life, there’s already a process he can undertake to get that done. It’s called “having sex,” and believe it or not, if you’re doing it right it’s way more exciting than a lightning storm.

But often twice as dangerous.”

Firstly, it’s amazing how even in print, the always manic Landis still comes across like a squirrel on a hot roof high on PCP.

Secondly, he’s just plain wrong with everything he said about Mary Shelley’s original novel, which is not only one of the finest tales ever penned (by a 19 year old girl, no less!) but is arguably the progenitor of the modern science-fiction story. I’m a gigantic fan and he’s stupid, is what I’m saying.

That being said though, his observations on the existence of the Igor character is an incredibly interesting one, and once I actually sat down and thought about, I realized that he is completely correct. It’s amazing how this character just sprung into being, and we all just accepted his existence and nobody’s really thought of  where he came from. This could certainly give a refreshing vision of a story that’s already been done to death, had electrodes screwed into it’s neck, brought back to life by 40, 000 volts and then done to death again.

 

Last Updated: March 6, 2013

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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