Interview: Writer Craig Titley on Percy Jackson, Mythology, And the Return of Amblin Era Chris Columbus

Our conversation with writer Craig Titley continues below…

Well, and it seems like they are getting kind of a big comeback this year with this and Clash of the Titans. I mean is that exciting to you and your 20 classmates?

Oh yeah, the academic world of mythology is all a buzz with this, you know? The gods are back. Polytheism is back and they’re in the consciousness again and you could never keep them down. And there are many academic essays being written right now probably about that sort of come back of the gods and what it means psychically and all that stuff.


But, yeah, I get all the academic journals and they’re quite well aware of this and it’s fascinating and all their little theories as to “Why now?”

Well, there are a few good stories in there somewhere, you know?

Well, yeah.

Now, is there one particular story in mythology that you’re kind of drawn to? Do you have a favorite somewhere, and is it in this movie?

Oh, my gosh. Well, ooh boy, there are tons. I don’t know if I could pick one. It’s like picking your favorite movie. But I do love Medusa. Ever since I saw this Hammer movie, the 70’s called The Gorgon when I was a little kid- which they didn’t reveal Medusa in all her snake-haired glory until the very end which freaked me out, so I’ve been, like, obsessed with Medusa ever since, so I was very excited about that. And Poseidon has become sort of one of my favorite Gods. He was very much… sort of the God, if you will, of the 20,000 Leagues script as well through lack of comparison between Nemo and Poseidon. So I’ve been in this Poseidon world for a while and I’ve learned to fall in love with him. He’s pretty much my favorite God. Poseidon and Hermes.

So it kind of worked out because both Poseidon and Medusa, from what I understand, are big parts in this movie.

Big parts- yeah.

Now this is a series of books. Do you think it’s something that pending the movie making millions and millions of dollars and the studio saying, “Let’s do another one,” is this something you want to stick with and keep going with?

You know, if the movie does well and they decide to make the other books I would be honored to be invited back. But I don’t think any decisions have been made. I think everybody’s sort of focused on this one right now; making sure it’s the best movie as possible and making sure people go see it instead of The Wolfman.

And I think it’s interesting that you mentioned it’s a self-contained movie, because it feels like the natural inhibition for all these franchises has been to lead into the second movie whether or not the money is there to make that second movie already.

Yeah. I think the lesson is: don’t get cocky. I think we learned that from The Golden Compass.

Fair enough. Now in all the press that you’ve done, is there anything that you haven’t had a chance to say about Percy Jackson that maybe you haven’t been asked yet?

Um, hmm…

Is there anything you want people to know about it, maybe?

Yeah, I think I would want people to know, personally, just having…being a fan boy, you know, I grew up in the hay day of Amblin and I remember that day watching Young Sherlock Holmes realizing the same guy’s name was on my three favorite films. That was Chris Columbus as writer of Gremlins, Goonies, and Young Sherlock Holmes, which I call the holy triumverant of the Amblin films.

And then he sort of went off and started directing comedies, like Mrs. Doubtfire, Home Alone, things like that, up to the Potter movies. And for me this is kind of Chris, in a way, returning to his roots and making one of those big, sort of, fun action-adventure movies with great characters and a sense of humor about it, much like those three films.

And, you know, I don’t think that’s a coincidence either because the DP he chose for this film was the DP of Young Sherlock Holmes. And the movie looks gorgeous. It feels kind of Amblin-esque. And I don’t know if it was conscious on Chris’s part, but it feels to me, as a fan boy, I think the movie that it’s kind of his return to his roots in a way. And I don’t think anybody has noticed that or talked about that. I don’t even know if he’s talked about it or is aware of it. But just me as a fan boy, it’s very exciting to see Chris doing that.

That actually makes me even more excited to see the movie.

Yeah, yeah. It’s… I guess I’m allowed to say I saw it, but it moves, man. It was just like the fastest 2 hours I ever spent in a theater. Usually they seem to go slower when you’re involved in them. But not in this case.

Very cool. Now I wanted to ask you about 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea just briefly because there seems to be a lot going on with the two 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea movies and we just saw what happened a couple weeks ago with Disney pretty much dumping the project for the time being. You know, where does the other one- the one you had set up at New Line- where does that one stand, at least from where you’re sitting?

Well I think right now it stands back at a good position because there had always been sort of a pull position between the two projects, even though theirs was technically a prequel of Verne’s novel and ours was an adaptation of the novel. So they could’ve both existed, but studios aren’t going to, you know, see it that way.

So it was always like we would take the lead because our script was done first, you know, and then New Line sort of got downsize where our project was and then during all of that craziness of working out with the script, you know. Then Disney jumped ahead…they had McG attached to them and then ours was dead. So now that there’s has, you know, died, I assume, we’re very much back alive. And, like you said, this all happened recently so I’m assuming we’re going to be out for directors real quick- trying to take advantage of this while we’re in the lead again.

And yours is a more direct adaptation of Jules Verne’s book, right?

Yeah. It’s an adaptation, but we had to invent the whole story because there’s not a real narrative thrust in the book- It’s very episodic, kind of like a travel log. So it’s an adaptation, but also, we had to invent a lot of the story. But, totally, it’s a lot like Pirates of the Caribbean. It’s just like a lot of fun action, adventure, humor. The best script I’ve ever written.


I sometimes read it and like, “You did that? Wow! Not bad, bud.”

Now, my last question’s kind of a vague question, but it’s always interesting to me. If you were given kind of free reign over what you did next- something that you haven’t already written- is there like an outline somewhere in your office or an idea floating around in your head? Like, what would you do next if given complete freedom?

Well, there are a couple of pet projects that I’m doing on speck. They’re very much unlike me. One is a very small movie- small like Dazed and Confused, American Graffiti –– that I want to direct. It’s [a] period [piece]. And that’s one. I won’t say too much about it. And the other one is actually a historical Victorian era biopic. Believe it or not… about a pretty insecure character. In my spare time I’m sort of specking these both out.

And looking to eventually take the director’s chair…

On this little, small one I’m going to direct it. I want to start so small that if I suck it won’t matter. Because I don’t know A, if I like directing, two, if I’ll be good at it, you know? If I like it, I’m good at it, I’ll keep doing it. If it’s one or the other, I’ll decide. But if I hate it and I suck I’ll just stop.

Do you feel like you’ve learned a lot? I mean, you’ve worked on several different projects with different directors and do you feel like you’ve learned a lot of things that you could take to directing a smaller movie, or any kind of movie?

Yeah, absolutely. I’m a lot more confident having been around all sorts of sets. I’ve started my career as Joe Dante’s assistant… one of his assistants. So I’ve been on sets around really good directors quite a bit. So, yeah, I picked up some things there. My only downfall is I’m a wee bit of a perfectionist, which you have to, like, kick that thing out, so. I could spend a hour writing on an adjective, you know? I think I’d go on the set like, “Eh, let’s try the lights here. Eh, let’s try it here.” So that’s the only thing I got to… the demon I have to overcome.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief is currently in theaters.

Neil Miller is the Founder and Publisher of Film School Rejects. For almost a decade, he has been talking movies on television, the radio, and the Internet.

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