‘I, Frankenstein’ writer discusses lack of black filmmakers in science fiction
It may be hard to believe a career in microbiology could lead to a burgeoning Hollywood film franchise, but I, Frankenstein screenwriter Kevin Grevioux defies career protocol set by the general population.
The writer of the forthcoming fantasy-drama film began as a science student at Howard University, who would briefly pursue a master’s degree in genetic engineering before dropping out to chase his dream.
While still in his mid-20s, Grevioux left behind his educational calling and began making comic books of all things. The decision has proven more than fruitful.
“It was kind of like sublimation,” the writer and actor tells theGrio on the phone from New York Comic Con. “My big thing when I was a kid was science fiction – loved science fiction – but how do you make a living doing science fiction and horror and stuff like that? You don’t, for the most part. Especially growing up where I did, in the family I was in. My parents are academics. They’re both Harvard graduates. So there was no way in the world I was going to be able to do science fiction.”
But indeed, that was exactly what Grevioux did.
Varying shades of dreams
From DC, where he began supplementing his income as a bouncer, Grevioux moved to Los Angeles and found work as an extra.
Over time, he broke into the comic book industry, writing for Marvel and DC Comics, and later creating a company of his own, DarkStorm Studios. He subsequently created the character of the Blue Marvel who will soon be seen as an Avenger.
Among the many producers of comic book lore, Grevioux finds himself one of the few African-Americans, something he believes to be true due to a pragmatism facing the dreams of black youth.
“When you’re white, your dreams go far and a lot of times that is because there are no encumbrances,” he observes. “The world is wide open to them in a way that isn’t open for us. So when their reality is taken care of, it’s like, ‘Okay well we can dream about this. We can do this. We can do that.’ For us, it’s a little different.”
Dreams embody a person’s hopes and goals, and from Grevioux’s perspective, depend on what fits within a frame of reference.
“It’s like how can you think about traveling to another solar system or alien life if you have a problem getting a job or eating on Earth,” he says. “[African-American] dreams are more reality-based, and that’s why I think our films have to do with our daily environment more so than alien or science fiction environments.”
He adds, “A lot of science fiction is based upon your experience in terms of looking at the world differently. Thinking about it in more abstract ways, a lot of times that takes education.”
Interracial dating and God within fantastical tales
Through his vivid imagination, Grevioux conceives of stories to not only amuse and fascinate, but also make a statement on the conscious of humanity.
In his screenplays for the Underworld series, he addressed conflict and fears surrounding interracial dating, and the consequences of dwelling on physical difference.
“It’s the whole lie associated with the races, that we’re different only in terms of our peripheral morphology, our skin colors,” he comments. “Using science fiction usually is a way to convey aspects of the real world in more allegorical fashions. I took interracial dating and the problems with the races, and transferred them to vampires and werewolves. Basically, having this Romeo and Juliet relationship amongst a centuries old race war.”
Grevioux describes his thoughts behind I, Frankenstein as “biblical,” examining the role of God, as well as the source and embodiment of evil.
Based on a graphic novel he created specifically for a studio pitch, the movie hits theaters in January, and stars Aaron Eckhart and Bill Nighy. It is directed by Stuart Beattie.
A clash of familiarity and ingenuity, the film places the classic figure of Frankenstein into a battle against gargoyles and demons, a mission that will reveal the secret to his immortality.
“Here you have a monster created by man, created by God, who basically didn’t ask to be here,” Grevioux remarks. “Yet, basically, Dr. Frankenstein didn’t do for the monster he made like God did for Adam. He did not teach him right from wrong. What you have is basically an abandoned son who is trying to find himself in a world he never made.”
Paving his own path
I, Frankenstein already is generating buzz months before release. The trailer garnered 2.2 million views in its debut week Oct. 4 on YouTube, and has currently surpassed three million.
Capitalizing on his own precedence, Grevioux established a personal niche approved by Hollywood and embraced by other filmmakers. Spinning horror and mythological characters into the world of action combines stories enjoyed by all audiences, but in particular, comic book fans.
He calls his crosspollination of ideas the “order of the day” in the movie business, and appreciates the devotion and admiration of the so-called geeks.
Actually, he is one.
“When you’ve been collecting comic books as a kid, you’ve been investing time and money into these characters, and so you care about them because the characters speak to you in a certain way,” says Grevioux. “You almost take it personally. I understand the fervor and the passion that the fans have. They know more about the minutiae of these characters than the people who actually write them.”
Follow Courtney Garcia on Twitter at @CourtGarcia