Director Michael Giacchino On The Secrets Of The MCU’s ‘Werewolf By Night’

You probably know Michael Giacchino as the composer of an almost endless amount of movie scores. There’s Ratattouille, 2009’s Star Trek, Jurassic World, Rogue One, and numerous Marvel entries, including all three MCU Spider-Man movies. After directing a Star Trek short film in 2019, Giacchino set his sites on the MCU … throwing a bit of a curve ball at Marvel head Kevin Feige by pitching a monster story. Specifically, Werewolf by Night.

It makes a lot of sense for Marvel to delve into some horror, especially as we approach Halloween. (It will begin streaming on Disney+ on Oct 7th.) Marvel has a whole cavalcade of horror-themed characters just waiting to be used. And Giachino and his team were smart to make this a completely self-contained horror special. Just like the comics from that era, the story is accessible, spooky, and, coming in at under an hour, a tight little story.

Gael García Bernal plays Jack Russell, who is also the title character of the show. A meeting is being held with all the great monster hunters of the world, and Jack is also in attendance, and some of the other attendees might be surprised to learn who he really is. Ahead, Giacchino explains his love of monsters and why, more than any other property, he wanted to tackle Werewolf by Night. Also, he explains how another fairly esoteric Marvel character wound up in his film: yes the one and only Man-Thing.

Werewolf by Night seemed to come out of nowhere. It was announced at D23 and now here it is…

Yeah, we’ve been working on this for about two years maybe, and we first talked about it first almost, I don’t know, three and a half years ago, maybe four? I can’t remember the exact first time we had the first conversation. But when it got going in earnest, it’s been about two years now.

By the way, congratulations on who you got to do the score. I’ve heard he does good work.

[Laughs] Yeah, he’s a pain in the butt to work with, but he does okay work.

How does this happen? How do you wind up direct directing Werewolf by Night?

Well, it all just came out of a conversation I was having with Kevin Feige one day. And he said, “Well, if you wanted to direct something, what would you want to do?” We were talking about under the Disney umbrella and under Marvel specifically. And I said instantly, “Oh, Werewolf by Night. Absolutely.” And he was like, “Really?” And I was like, “Yeah, I loved that comic as a kid. I love monster movies, I love them. I think that’s a part of the Marvel universe that you have yet to explore. So I’d love to be able to dive into that.”

I felt like they had done so well in the other side of things, the superhero side. And I didn’t know if there was anything I could actually add to that, but this was something that had not been touched. So I felt like that would’ve been the thing for me. And especially, again, because of my love of old monster movies: especially the Universal, the Hammer films, Japanese Monster movies, all of those things. My brother and I spent every Saturday morning growing up watching Creature Double Feature. And that was like our church.

When I first started reading comics, the first thing I read was my dad’s ’70s monster comics like Werewolf By Night and Where Monsters Dwell because they were easily accessible. And some of them were actually pretty scary.

They’re very scary and the artwork is incredible on them, too. There’s so many of them that have beautiful artwork. But they had a great run of Werewolf by Night obviously. And then later on, they did Man-Wolf, and then they have The Tomb of Dracula and Frankenstein’s Monster. One of my favorites is the run of Frankenstein. And that’s an incredible story. And the thing about them all at the center of it is pathos for these characters. These characters were always struggling to figure out what was going on. How can they undo this curse that they had? And I just liked that idea that they were such sympathetic characters.

I was very excited when Man-Thing shows up. How did you convince anyone to let you make a Man-Thing show basically? Do people still know Man-Thing?

I think if people know him today, it’s because they’re super fans and they’re niche. But the general public probably has no idea what Man-Thing is. I love Man-Thing. I always loved those comics for the exact reason we were talking earlier about: this was a character who was cursed in a way and dealt this card, which he was going to live out his life like this. And he was a character that has a very fuzzy memory of who he is. And every time you’d read one of those stories, there was such sadness to it. And I was really attracted to that. Now, Kevin Feige also loves Man-Thing, has a huge spot in his heart for Man-Thing…

To be fair, he loves all these characters. There’s not many Marvel characters he doesn’t love.

He does love all of them. But I remember him leaning over one day, “What you think about Man-Thing?” And I was like, “What? Really? We could do that? Fine, that sounds great to me.” So we started working him into the story as well. And it was just in some ways with everything they have, it’s an embarrassment of riches. And the characters, if you really delve deep into them, they’re actually pretty complex characters and a lot of them have a lot to say and a lot to explore, especially on the horror side. So yeah, that’s how it happened. It all comes out of these crazy conversations you’re having. And they are no different than the conversations you would have with your friends when you were 10 or 12 years old. It’s the same sort of conversations.

Do you remember the Swamp Thing movie, the Wes Craven movie?

Oh yeah.

That was on cable nonstop. And I asked my dad to get me Swamp Thing comics, obviously DC, and I think he made the mistake and came home with Man-Thing comics instead. So I started reading Man-Thing. Which I liked a lot.

Or maybe he knew what was better for you?

Maybe that’s true. How do you want viewers to approach your Werewolf by Night? It’s really its own thing. And like we mentioned with the comics, it’s very accessible. You don’t need to know anything.

That was the key from the very beginning to say that, look, we’re just going to do something that begins here and ends here. I’m not worried about what happens before or after. I’m just worried about this. It’s one night in the life of Elsa and Jack, and let’s do that. It’s like a Twilight Zone episode. So that means we need to tell the whole story here. And anything that is not relevant, we don’t worry about. And that way people can jump in, enjoy it for what it is, and then we’ll see where it goes. We’ll see what happens. Maybe they’ll be more, maybe there won’t. I don’t know! We’re going to figure that out as we go. But, right now, it was just about telling this one simple story.

You watch The Twilight Zone and every single one, you didn’t need to see any other Twilight Zone as long as you just get there at the beginning and watch it and see what happens. And I felt like there’s so much connectivity going on in the MCU at the moment that I just felt like introducing new characters – introducing a whole new world of characters and all the horror universe – it was just too much to ask. To then also want to connect it to Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Captain America, whatever. And Kevin agreed always. And that’s why the show starts with that image, that silhouette of The Avengers, and says, look, this is the known universe, but what about the darkness? Here, let’s go explore something we don’t know. And so that’s why we did that. And it seems to work. People seem to have fun. And we also had mythology on our side in terms of you say, “Werewolf,” people inherently understand what that is.

Okay, that’s true. People know what night is, too. “Oh, it’s a werewolf, and he’s out at night.”

Yes, exactly. So you have that on your side, all of those things that have been around forever. So that really helps as well. Even if they don’t know the character, they certainly know what werewolves are, and they know the inherent dangers in one as well. So we just kept pushing forward and hope for the best.

So I know we both just made a big deal about how this doesn’t really connect to anything else. But I can’t help but remember that Moon Night debuted in an issue of Werewolf by Night. So those two could meet I guess, right?

They could. Yeah, certainly. There are no rules at this point, and now you can just do whatever you want…

It was kind of a different Moon Knight back then though.

Yes, he was a very different Moon Knight. Yes, yes, he was. In that issue, he was paid, he was hunting the werewolf. He needed to kill the werewolf for $10,000 or something like that. It’s a very interesting story because through the issue, he ends up understanding the werewolf and in the end just lets him go and kills all the people that had hired him to be killed. So it’s a really fun story actually.

Well, Moon Night would need that $10,000 to buy that issue now because that issue is extremely expensive.

It is.

For people wanting to go back and read a bunch of Werewolves by Nights from the ’70s, that one is going to cost you.

And as these shows come out now, I’m sure all the Werewolf by Night issues will go up.

I have noticed that every time something comes out, they all skyrocket. So speaking of that, let’s get some insider trading here. What would you want to do? The next horror character after Werewolf by Night?

Oh man. I have a lot of ideas. I have a lot of ideas, but we have yet to have that conversation. I mean, we loosely talk about things, but we have yet to have the official sit down. It was really just up to this point, just getting this thing done was an enormous amount of work.

Also, this clocks in at under an hour. I don’t know how long you wanted it to be, but it just seems like the perfect amount of physical time too for this story.

That’s what we always shot for. We always said, look, let’s just keep it under an hour, and we’ll see where it goes. And there was never any sort of mandate as “It must be exactly this,” but we did shoot to keep it under an hour. And the story just naturally fell into that perfectly. We didn’t have too much twisting for that.

Would it be hard to do one of these every Halloween? I’m guessing you’d have to start by now…

Yeah, it would probably be very hard. We probably have had to start that up half a year ago, or a year ago, something like that, in order to really get going. And this one, being the first of its kind, was sort of just an experiment in itself. Let’s see what happens when we do this.

Are you given any barometers? How do you know how it does?

No one does. I have no idea either. It’s a mystery to us all. There’s one guy in a room somewhere at Disney, and he knows all the answers, and I don’t know who that guy is.

I think his name’s Kevin Feige.

Yeah, he probably knows.

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