Q&A: Writer/Actor Kevin Grevioux on “I, FRANKENSTEIN”—The Monster’s Legacy, Lost Creatures and More
The new “monster” in I, FRANKENSTEIN is being billed as a modern spin on the character, but he actually harks back directly to Mary Shelley’s original novel. This return to a more self-aware, articulate creature was conceived by writer Kevin Grevioux, who spoke to Fango about his own creation process, what got changed on the way to the screen and the challenges of Hollywood scriptwriting.
An actor since the early ’90s, with a striking, distinctive deep voice, Grevioux made the leap to writing with UNDERWORLD, the actionful take on vampire/werewolf tropes, and reteamed with producers Lakeshore Entertainment on I, FRANKENSTEIN. In the film, directed by Stuart Beattie (who wrote the final screenplay) and opening this week from Lionsgate, Aaron Eckhart plays the famous scientist’s creation, now calling himself Adam. As he searches for a way to assert his own humanity, he finds himself in the middle of a war between two races of inhuman creatures, and becomes the target of a villain who wants to use Adam for his own nefarious ends. Grevioux, who initially wrote I, FRANKENSTEIN as a Darkstorm Studios graphic novel, also appears in the movie as the demonic Dekar (pictured above).
FANGORIA: In terms of putting a spin on a classic character, vampires are kind of a wide-open subject, where FRANKENSTEIN is a very specific story. Was it more difficult adapting that for I, FRANKENSTEIN than it was taking on vampires in UNDERWORLD?
KEVIN GREVIOUX: Yes, at first, and I think the reason is that we’re talking about a transference of, I guess, intent in terms of story, and of the images we’ve seen in the past. You know, what is Frankenstein? Is he man, is he monster, is he both? And taking him in the realm of an action hero, well, that blows people’s minds. With UNDERWORLD, yes, it was wide open, but still, you were talking about vampires with guns. That had not been done before—well, there was BLADE, but now you had werewolves with guns too, and it was like, “Wait a minute, this is not how this war is supposed to go. What happened to the fangs and claws and all that stuff?” But I wanted to do something different, and I, FRANKENSTEIN, was the same kind of challenge, as far as what kind of story to give him.
So I went back to getting into who he was as a character—like I said before, was he man, monster or both, and use that as a basis for his arc, in terms of who he thinks he is and how he becomes more human? What does he need to do to find acceptance and be a human? I think that’s something we can all sort of identify with, on a certain level.
FANG: Frankenstein’s monster in Mary Shelley’s novel is very articulate, but our image of him from the classic films is a grunting, inarticulate character. Were you kind of trying to get back to that element from the book?
GREVIOUX: Yes, exactly; I read Shelley’s novel and thought, “There’s more character here.” He was a creature who actually argued with his creator: “I read the Bible. I know what God did for man, for Adam. He taught him morality, taught him right from wrong. He never abandoned him, even when he punished him by driving him out of the Garden. But you—you left me to my own devices. You created me, but you’re horrified by me. I didn’t ask to be here, and then you just left me. Now what am I? Be responsible; be a father to me.” I liked that, and that’s something you see played out even in the news today: kids being abandoned, who are pawns of divorce, who their parents never wanted; they were a mistake and they tell them so. That’s crazy, you know?
FANG: Frankenstein, obviously, is the doctor, not the monster, but nowadays, when people say “Frankenstein,” they mean the creature. Was the title I, FRANKENSTEIN meant to reflect that that’s the name we now give the monster, not his creator?
GREVIOUX: Not necessarily. I mean, we’re probably the same age, and the monster has always been called “Frankenstein,” even though you’re right. It’s the name of the scientist, but…FRANKENSTEIN JR., you know [laughs], they weren’t talking about Victor Frankenstein there, and they weren’t talking about Buzz! They were talking about the robot. And I have to say that Universal started that. When you have FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN, who else are they talking about? They’re not talking about Victor.
FANG: And ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN…
GREVIOUX: Exactly, so you see, the fans weren’t the ones who started that, it was the moviemakers. But my thing is, I, FRANKENSTEIN is reflective of who he now understands himself to be. Before, he wanted nothing to do with being Victor’s creation. He wanted to be his own thing, even though he didn’t know what that was. The title I, FRANKENSTEIN refers to him kind of coming full circle, embracing who he actually is: “I’m a man. I’m my father’s son. I, Frankenstein.”
FANG: How much of the final film reflects the original script you wrote? Is a lot of it still there, or did Stuart Beattie take it in his own direction?
GREVIOUX: Stuart took it in his own direction. It was one of those things where—you know how it goes: I wrote the first screenplay, the second screenplay, the third screenplay; Stuart wrote the last one, so the story is still there. We have Frankenstein in the modern world, Frankenstein as an action hero, Frankenstein caught in a war between monsters, with a villain trying to exploit him and use what created him to create other beings like him, and use them to take over the world. That was in my original screenplay. I did have more monsters, and Stuart took those out.
FANG: What kind of monsters did you have?
GREVIOUX: I had Icthyans, I had Pantherons, I had vampires— essentially, Naberius [played by Bill Nighy] was Dracula in mine. The demons were originally vampires, but what Stuart did was give the demons vampiric weaknesses, like holy weapons and things like that. Then he took out most of my monsters but left my gargoyles in, so now the war is between gargoyles and demons, which is OK—that war is still there, with Frankenstein caught in the middle.
FANG: If there’s a sequel, do you want to bring some of those monsters back?
GREVIOUX: I want to. Whether the producers want to or not, that’s another story [laughs].
FANG: Have there been discussions about a follow-up film?
GREVIOUX: Oh, yeah. I mean, when I created this, I told them, “This can be another franchise for you. You guys have to handle it right, you know, and here’s what I wanna do, and here’s where it can go.” That’s what prompted them to bite in the first place. So if this one does well, Lord willing, we’ll have another one on our hands.
FANG: As far as your own role in the film goes, had you written yourself a bigger or a smaller part originally?
GREVIOUX: Oh, I wrote myself a bigger part [laughs]. In everything I write, I create a role for myself, and this was no different. But after Stuart did his version, my part was no longer there, so I slipped into another one. Which is fine.
FANG: Who were you in your original script?
GREVIOUX: Oh, I don’t know if I should tell you [laughs], but I was more of an ally to Adam. I had my own set of powers. I was my own monster.
FANG: You could bring your character back in the sequel.
GREVIOUX: Exactly [laughs].
FANG: How was it working under all the makeup as Dekar?
GREVIOUX: You know, it wasn’t that bad. It was not as extensive as other makeups I’ve had to wear in the past. Usually I’m in the chair for three, three and a half hours, but this was more of a whole-head mask, and they just did some painting, applied some more pieces, and that was it.
FANG: As an actor working on a movie you wrote, how is the experience of being on set and seeing your world brought to life? Do you ever think, “Well, I would’ve done it this way or that way?” or do you have to let that go?
GREVIOUX: I think you have to let it go, for sure, because you have to realize that as a writer, once you hand in that script, it’s sayonara. That’s the way it is, and you understand that film is a collaborative process. And really, what I wrote is not even what I was originally thinking when I first came up with the concept. It evolved over time. There’s the movie you conceive, the movie you write, the movie you sell, the movie you develop after you sell it, and then the movie that is shot. And then there’s the movie that’s edited. So by the time it gets there, you’re like, “This is just the way it is. Yeah, I would have done it differently here, but you know what? This movie got made,” and I have to tell you, it is very hard to get a movie made. It’s not even funny.
I know guys who went to USC’s film school and haven’t had a professional job yet. Some guys just can’t get a break, and that’s bad; they give up and they get bitter. I’ve met so many writers who haven’t been produced yet. Now, some have been able to get assignment work; never been produced, though. So they get assurance, but man, that must be difficult. I was watching this documentary called TALES FROM THE SCRIPT that gives you the background of what we as writers have to go through, and it is nuts. You know, you’ve written something and you go in for meetings, and the producer says, “Well, what if we do this?” and you’re like, “That doesn’t work. That character’s this way, and you just contradicted it.” “No, no, it’ll work, it’ll work!” and you have to write it [laughs]. That’s the way it is.
FANG: Do you have a dream project you would like to see made, and do you have anything concrete coming up after I, FRANKENSTEIN?
GREVIOUX: Yeah, I have a lot of things I’m working on. Some of them are in the development stages, some will be announced soon, but understand: It’s never concrete until you’re on set shooting. I know cats who have gotten deals, sold scripts, “We’re shooting tomorrow,” and then you get that phone call: “It’s over. It’s not happening.” So I don’t believe in anything until I’m on set shooting.
There are a couple of monsters I’m going to tackle, and you’ll hear about that soon. As far as a dream project… I will say this: The best dinosaur movie has not been made yet, and wow, I would love to do that!