Did you know All-Star Superman scribe Grant Morrison has written a psychedelic Western inspired in part by Red Dead Redemption? Well, now you do! io9 spoke to Morrison and director Adam Egypt Mortimer about their upcoming film, entitled Sinatoro.
At Comic-Con, I spoke with Morrison and Sinatoro director Adam Egypt Mortimer of Zdonk Productions about this project. Here's what they had to say.
Tell us about the plot of Sinatoro.
Grant Morrison: I kind of wanted to do something based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead and modernize it. The one experience that we all go through (but no one wants to think much about) is death. We're going to study all the latest information on what happens to consciousness during the process of death. We wanted to look at what's supposed to happen afterward based on all the confessions we can study and understand. But as a story, it's boy meets girl and all that sort of thing. It uses the building blocks of Hollywood.
Adam Egypt Mortimer: The story and its surreal landscape draw from American pop culture. The main character is a bright-eyed, beautiful, 20-year-old kid with no memory. He walks away from a car crash in the desert where everybody died. Sinatoro is a shamanistic code word for "Frank Sinatra." There's no actual analogue to Sinatra, but the movie draws from the Sinatra ideal — the blue-eyed American pop icon with these strange aspirations to be connected to gangsters. It's a mnemonic code, it's an archetype.
What other American archetypes will appear in Sinatoro?
AEM: There's the biker gang, the lonesome, drunken cowboy, the astronaut who lives in the middle of desert, the wandering hobos from the 30s and 40s. There's going to be visual cues to the American pop universe. [For example,] there's a scene when someone gets shot and it mimics a Jackson Pollock painting.
GM: Because we have the freedom, we wanted to do a movie that does Hollywood better than Hollywood. It's my version of what the the 21st century American movie looks like. It's all about the Western, the badlands. It's the idea of the endless road, which is usually represented by the old Route 66. We're taking ideas of the Western, the road movie, the crime film Natural Born Killers.
Grant, as a Scottish author, what's the significance of setting Sinatoro in the American West?
GM: There's a darkness to a lot of Americans. They have a sense of shame and downplay how cool America is because of – to a large extent – a lot of foreign policy decisions in the States. But that's not what this is about. As an outsider looking at all the stuff we love about America, I wanted to take that stuff and make a myth for the 21st century.
How are you storyboarding the film? Are any of your artistic collaborators helping out?
GM: I'm working on my own – I tend to do my own illustrations anyway. Since nobody sees storyboards, it's okay if they're shit. It's not like I'm going to call Frank Quitely to do this – I've got the visuals in my head. I've already storyboarded some of the script.
We3 is in development and it looks like Joe the Barbarian will be coming down the pike. How is working on Sinatoro different from your other dealings with the film industry?
GM: It's the absolute freedom. If you're working in Hollywood, there's rules, that whole Robert McKee "Story" stuff. Think of video games. I was just playing Red Dead Redemption. It's a subjective experience. There's a story behind it even though it's not a movie. You can ignore the cut scenes but still play it and feel like you've had an experience.
We began to think, "Why are we as an audience watching Tom Cruise pretend to be someone else when we can log on and become someone else?" We can be Batman in the Arkham Asylum game. We don't need Christian Bale! He's a great actor, but people can log on and become Batman for hours [within the game]. Hollywood has a tight structure and I think a lot of that storytelling has become outmoded. We want to add the new influences we're getting from games and other media and add it to this film narrative.
AEM: I've known Grant for years [...] I think about a year or two ago, I became aware that Grant does whatever he wants in comics. I said to him, "If we do something super low-budget, I promise you I can find producers who will let you do the movie and not give you notes." I brought his ideas to producers, and they were excited about making a pure Grant Morrison film.