Exclusive: Screenwriters Hay and Manfredi Clash with the Titans

By  · Published on March 31st, 2010

This Friday, Titans Will Clash. We have no idea what they’re clashing with, but it promises to be an action-filled joyride-romp of epic proportions.

Sorry, I just read Ben Lyons’s review of it.

Speaking of reading, I was fortunate enough to sit down (on the phone) with the two writers who brought us the story for Clash of the Titans ‐ Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi. The three of us delved deep into what it takes to honor a cult B-movie, what it takes to honor Edith Hamilton and our middle school classics class, and manage to ethically excuse incest.

You’ll have to read to figure that last one out.

As usual, I’m in bold. Without further ado, Release The Interview!

I should start with a hard question. What happened to Bubo?

Phil Hay: We can tell you exactly what happened to Bubo. Or what is happening with Bubo.

Wait, there’s movement on Bubo?

PH: There’s movement on the Bubo issue. Basically, there is a loving cameo of Bubo that was shot and has been in and out of the cut, but we think Bubo has made the final cut. That’s the best we can say.

Matt Manfredi: The idea of putting Bubo in, for us ‐ whether you liked him in the original or didn’t ‐ for us, we had such an affection for the original that having the cameo for him is indicative of the fun adventure tone we wanted to strike with this one.


MM: We wanted to make it an exciting movie, but a movie that was also kind of fun and also had some loving nods to the things we had growing up.

PH: What we all loved.

I’m relieved. From the trailers, it looked like he wasn’t getting any involvement, so it’s good to know he’s in.

MM: Bubo’s agent was very persistent.

Sometimes that’s what it takes.

PH: Diligent and intense.

Did you get strong-armed into it?

MM: No. We were very [laughs] very excited to work with Bubo. We jumped at the chance.

How much do you keep from the original movie and how much do you snag from the story of Perseus as it stands as a myth?

PH: When we first came on the project, our guiding light was everything we remembered loving from the original, we wanted to make sure were included in some version. Some are direct, some are more oblique or have a little bit of a twist on them. But the Medusa, the Kraken, Pegasus, Calabos, all that stuff that we really loved, we wanted to be there in some fashion. And so, in many ways, in the broad strokes it’s very faithful.

MM: Structurally especially.

PH: Structurally, yes. The differences in a lot of cases come in tone. There’s new characters. There’s new story bits. There’s characters that do different things than they did in the original. But I think in terms of the big strokes and in the sense of a mythological tale that takes samples from different myths ‐ the Perseus story was not very directly told in the original. It was a lot of different myths and versions of it, and that’s true with the remake.

Was there anything that you included that had you really excited? Maybe geeking out about seeing it brought to life?

MM: Oh! The idea that we got to see Liam Neeson say “Release the Kraken!” was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done on a movie…


PH: It really was. It’s true. There was a quiet, unspoken argument over who was going to type that line. To officially be the one who typed that into the screenplay…

Oh wow.

PH: …because it’s so classic in every sense of the word. And just to be able to write dialogue for Zeus, for Perseus, for Hades ‐ these mythical figures. It’s kind of a trip. It’s cool.

MM: Yeah. These were the stories that I think both Phil and I would take out of the library. You had those children’s equivalents of Edith Hamilton. You had these one page myths.

Man! Edith Hamilton is all over the place. Everyone I know that knows these stories read them in Hamilton.

PH: It really is the go-to book.

MM: She knocked it out of the park.


PH: Hamilton crushed it.

MM: [Laughs]

So you guys were into that growing up then?

Both: Definitely.

PH: When I learned to read on that stuff Matt’s talking about ‐ those simplified myths that I could take out of the library. For a really long time, the only things that I would read were books about mythology and biographies of baseball players. That was my angle on life. Period.

What about you?

MM: Rather than the baseball biographies, it was Blue Angels books, things about UFOs and the Greek myths.

PH: The Blue Angels flying team?

MM: Yeah.

PH: I’m more of a Thunderbirds guy, but whatever.


MM: [Laughs] Those things stuck with me because in a way they were kind of superheros. It was like ‐ Apollo has this golden bow and he can’t miss, and his sister has this silver bow…and it’s fun. Just the idea that they all have their separate powers

And the myths ‐ there’s so many variations on them. Some of them have very clear morals and some don’t have any morals at all. You know what I mean? They’re always surprising, and I think the fact that there’s magic and fantasy involved for a kid ‐ I remember the stories very well. There was one about some half-son of Apollo climbing Mount Olympus to meet his father, and of course it ends tragically. I read these things over and over. It definitely occupied my thoughts.

PH: Something Matt said that was totally a part of our process on working on Clash of the Titans is one of the things I think is amazing or interesting about Greek mythology in the modern world. The Gods are very ‐ they exist outside of morality. They do not act well. They do not do things the right way. They’re incredibly petty and vengeful, and they don’t have the qualities of benevolent rule.

That’s a very big part of Clash of the Titans in that there’s a struggle of man trying to assert himself against these Gods and not just listen to them and accept a subservient role because the secret is that they’re not that great. They’re not worthy of being worshiped a lot of the time.

MM: Some of the punishments they dole out are for such small offenses of non-offenses. There’s a story of a hunter accidentally stumbling upon Artemis while she’s bathing, and he happens to catch a glimpse and gets turned into something horrific. There’s no malice in the intentions of that hunter.

PH: The punishments are very baroque.

But that’s what interesting about the Gods as symbols of fate. Whether you stumble upon it or seek it out. Once your eyes are opened to sexuality, there’s a positive and negative fate that comes with that.

PH: Exactly. And as the mortal in that scenario, you can choose to either abide by these rules or revolt against them. I think that’s really what we were going for with Perseus. You have this man with the opportunity to make his own, to determine what our roles are going to be in this world of Gods and Men.

There’s also a Soap Opera element. Zeus just keeps going down to have sex with animals, and Hera keeps coming back with the rolling pin. Is there a fun element like that here with Clash?

MM: Definitely. There has to be an element of pulp here, and I think as Phil has said a couple of times, this isn’t historical drama. It’s a fun adventure, so while the stakes are very real for the characters, the movie has to have an element of fun and pulp to it.

PH: It’s always a balance of how much ends up in the final movie or how much is needed, but we did do a lot of stuff on Mount Olympus. We did spend a little time with the Gods to see how they operate together ‐ to see those twisted relationships they have with each other. All of that stuff is fascinating to us, stuff we loved working about on this.

All very inbred relationships. A lot of incest.

PH: Well, when there’s only twelve people, you run out of combinations very quickly.

Listen to you rationalizing incest.

MM: That’s why Zeus turned himself into an animal.

PH: It’s not so bad.

You’ve heard it hear first! Incest isn’t ethically wrong if there’s only twelve people. And speaking of incest, do you guys think that with Percy Jackson, Clash and Thor, mythology can become the replacement craze now that vampires are on the down-slope?

PH: First I would have to say that vampires aren’t on the down-slope.

You think they’re still going strong?

MM: I wouldn’t bet against a vampire.

PH: But to answer your question, I hope so. Because those are the types of movies I like to see, and we haven’t had that many of them. If people like Clash, I hope that a side result of it is that we see more movies about Greek mythology, about these great stories which really are the predecessors of all the superhero movies.

The archetype.

PH: The archetype. The stuff you can do now is amazing. The way that Louis [Leterrier] brought these action sequences to life, you can only do now in 2010.

Although there is a lament for Harryhausen’s design. It just doesn’t seem like it would play with a modern audience used to this technology.

MM: It’s interesting because that style is so magical to me. All his movies, I just love. I pretty much own every single one of them. There’s a nostalgia I feel for it. In a sense, magic was once designed that way for me because it hits you on this certain level of your brain. I think the hope is that it’s better to do something different with that because you’re never going to be able to replicate it.

That’s a good point.

PH: But there’s something about Harryhausen that can still connect with any generation. It’s so much fun how he brings these mythological and other-worldly characters to life. There’s something inspiring about how primitive it is because you know how it’s done, and it can be done.

All the sudden, movie-making seems to be an accessible thing. You know what I mean? There’s almost like backyard quality about it sometimes. As a kid, that’s really inspiring. It makes you want to go out and create something yourself. He kind of tapped into that sense of fun and whimsy.

MM: Those monsters have so much character because of the way they’re done. That they’re made with such love and care. And they’re genuinely exciting! I still say the Medusa sequence from the original Clash is an amazing action/suspense sequence. It still holds up really nicely.

PH: Oh, yeah. They’re still scary and exciting and effective, but there’s this thing of “I know how they do that.” It’s really inspiring.

MM: One of the reasons I’m really excited is that because of all this, the Blu-ray of the original Clash is coming out.

I always appreciate that. People seem to hate reboots, and they’re an annoying trend, but we’ll always have the original, and they can propel that original to Blu-ray quality.

I think you’re right about design, because I showed a friend of mine the Golden Voyage of Sinbad, and the Kali idol sequence blew him away.

PH: Exactly. I have to re-watch that.

Yeah, go watch that right now.

PH: Excuse me.

So now we’ll continue on without you.

PH: [Laughs]

I wanted to turn your attention to a couple projects on the horizon if I could. Do you know if they’ve cast anyone for Staycation yet or if Todd Phillips will direct it himself?

MM: The plan right now is for him to solely produce it, but it’s also possible that he will in the future. We’re still working on the script for that, so it’s just a phase we’re in. We haven’t talked about cast or anything, but the script is going to be done soon, and we’re really psyched about that one. Todd is amazing. He’s really great to work with, so it’s been a really good thing all around.

What’s the status on R.I.P.D.? I saw where David Dobkin was interested in directing. When will we see that?

PH: Very, very soon.

MM: It’s the kind of thing like where all movies, you know about 95% of why any movie goes or doesn’t go, and it’s subject to so many different things. Right now, we’ve…

PH: We’ve talked to David, and they are trying to put it together now. Over the past few years there have been two or three times that it almost went, and like Matt said, it’s very common in Hollywood that this happen, but it doesn’t make it any less of a bummer when you think it’s going to go and it doesn’t.

I do feel like pretty soon they are making a push on it to put it together. Fortunately for us and for the project it’s always been a script that everyone’s liked and it’s had a lot of interest in all along. All we can do is hope that all those gears come together at some point.

It couldn’t definitely be a cool-as-hell project.

MM: It’s exactly the kind of thing we love working on. It’s a big, fun adventure with two very specific characters. It’s fun to bounce them off each other.

PH: It’s like a buddy comedy in a world of sci-fi action.

I do have one final question: After working really hard, pouring blood sweat and tears out, seeing this go into production, and now seeing it released, do you think you’ve done Edith Hamilton proud?

Both: [Laugh]

MM: I hope so.

PH: I certainly hope so. I don’t think there’s any way to know that. I will re-read Hamilton in the next week to see if I can get any insight.

MM: If the next cover of her book has Sam Worthington on it…

PH: Then we have done our job. We’ll know.

What do you think? Blue Angels or Thunderbirds?

Movie stuff at VanityFair, Thrillist, IndieWire, Film School Rejects, and The Broken Projector Podcast@brokenprojector | Writing short stories at Adventitious.