Four months after the release of “The LEGO Batman Movie”, director Chris McKay is set to direct DC’s live action “Nightwing” film and produce all the upcoming sequels and spin-offs of “The LEGO Movie”. I got the chance to interview him and ask him a few questions about his upcoming projects, inspiration for “The LEGO Batman Movie” and more.
Chris got his start directing various episodes on Adult Swim’s stop-motion comedy show “Robot Chicken”. He then got the opportunity to direct “LEGO Batman”, and he’s not shying away from LEGO-izing other DC Comics characters.
“I’d love to do a Rogue’s Gallery or Suicide Squad movie. Also I’d love to do a Superfriends movie. Maybe even have them teamup with the Legion of Doom.”
When asked about the actors riffing on their own, McKay said, “There was a ton. You don’t hire those actors without engaging what they are incredibly good at. Everyone in the editorial, writing and storyboard crew got in on the act too. We didn’t have a normal development period for this movie so the story crew were constantly developing and retweaking the movie as we went along. A lot of what became the movie – just like in the first ‘LEGO’ movie – was a result of those riffs in the VO booth or the story/editorial suites.”
There’s obvious inspiration from various comics and graphic novels in “LEGO Batman”, but I couldn’t help but ask which specifically.
“Most obviously Alan Moore’s ‘THE KILLING JOKE’. The love/’hate’ relationship between Batman and Joker is inspired by the relationship between Batman and Joker in ‘TKJ’. Besides the dialogue, look at the design of the set in the scene between Batman and Joker in the Jokered-out Wayne Manor and you’ll see the ‘TKJ’ influence. The idea of destroying Gotham City with an earthquake was lifted from the ‘Cataclysm’ storyline from the late 90s, although in our movie it was Joker blowing up a power plant in order to trigger an earthquake, but the earthquake as a threat to the power imbalance was the same.
Chris is set to direct the upcoming “Nightwing” film for Warner Bros. and DC, but since information regarding it is being kept under wraps I’d rather ask him what it’s like have to transition from animation to live action.
“Animation is a great training ground for any filmmaker because you are so focused on story in an extremely laser like way. You are literally analyzing every single frame you create and trying to get the most out of it and pack as much into it in a short amount of time. I think every filmmaker should have to make an animated movie. It changed my life. But it involves a lot of sitting around inside buildings for long periods of time. Working in live action, being on location, building sets…those are my dreams come true. I’m a huge fan of photography and cinematography. I like playing around with lenses and working with a DP and production designer to find the right look of the movie. I really like working with actors and stunt teams and getting everyone physically involved in the movie we are making by taking the crew out of the studio and into some remote part of the world. That’s exciting to me.”
DC Comics has two cinematic universes, really: The DC Extended Universe and the DC Animated Universe. Though Chris is getting ready to transfer over to big budget live action, he would love to direct a smaller direct-to-DVD DC animated film.
“There’s a lot of stuff in the DC/Vertigo Comics I like. I’m a big ‘Doom Patrol’ fan and I would love to take a crack at that, maybe even combining the old and the new stories. ‘100 Bullets’ would be another. I love what the direct-to-DVD people did with the Darwyn Cooke stuff.”
Every director has that dream project they’ve always wanted to make or franchise they’ve always wanted to be apart of, and Chris has many.
“Ha, where do I start? James Bond. ‘Appleseed’. ‘Elric of Melnibone’. ‘The Thin Man’. Stephen King was a big influence on me as a kid. I’d love to do something with EA’s ‘BATTLEFIELD’. I think ‘GI: JOE’ was a missed opportunity and I think that would be fun to play in that world. I have very wide and varied tastes.”
Chris is incredibly passionate about this little LEGO universe he’s helped craft, and he’s no doubt excited about what’s to come in the future.
“I’m a producer on all the ‘LEGO’ movies and creative involved and just deeply care about making these truly great movies that are different from other animated films. So I’ll go wherever Dan (Lin) Chris (Miller) and Phil (Lorde) tell me to go.”
Huge thanks to Chris McKay for making this interview happen. “The LEGO Batman Movie” is one of my favorite films of the year so far, and I highly recommend everyone check it out. I can’t wait to see what Chris does with Nightwing, and I’m stoked to see what other projects he has coming up in the future.