Even though Drew Goddard has an impossibly good attitude about the whole thing, considering his cinematic track record — Cloverfield, The Cabin in the Woods, World War Z, and this weekend’s new release, The Martian — it would be totally understandable if he were just a little more angry about The Sinister Six being scrapped after Sony’s new partnership with Marvel Studios (the same partnership that lost Andrew Garfield his role as Spider-Man). When Goddard talks about his villain team-up script, his face lights up. He’s obviously extremely proud of the work he did on a movie that has a good chance of never existing. But, as Goddard says about the film’s future, “I’m going to keep fighting.” When I ask if there’s any chance it could fit into Marvel’s fairly ambitious lineup that extends out over the next four years, Goddard replies, “I’m too sad to ask.”
The fallout from the Sony hack, which led to changes at Sony — and in Sony’s approach to its films — can be felt with The Martian, a Fox movie. Goddard, who adapted the script from Andy Weir’s book, who was supposed to direct the film. And, yep, he left to write and direct The Sinister Six. Goddard, who was directly involved in the hiring of Ridley Scott, explains just how that all went down and recounts the conversations involved that led to him leaving The Martian and just how he found out that The Sinister Six wouldn’t be happening.
I met Goddard this past Monday morning at the bar area of his New York City hotel. Goddard, a very tall man, is (and should be) proud of what The Martian accomplishes. But with Goddard — who still has only directed one film, The Cabin in the Woods — there’s always just a hint of “I realize two movies got away from me” in almost everything he says. But, like he says, no one is going to feel sorry for him. And no one doubts he’s going to be just fine. (But he really wants to make that Sinister Six movie.)
Is it true there were three versions of The Martian? One with more jokes, one with less jokes and the one we see today, which is somewhere in the middle?
I don’t know if it was exactly three, but we did have a couple of different cuts, and we tested it a couple of different ways and played with it. You know, finding the right balance between tension and comedy is always tricky. Our first test screening tested very well. And that, of course, got us all cocky — then we changed a bunch of stuff and it went way down.
What was the change?
One of the things — and we found this was amazing — after Mark gets left, he operates on himself, and then he says, “fuck.” We took that “fuck” out because we kept playing with it because, with the MPAA, we weren’t sure how much swearing was allowed and we knew it had to be PG-13. And without that, the scores dropped dramatically. That first “fuck” tells the audience it’s okay to laugh.
And that he’s worried.
He’s worried, but you can laugh.
It serves both purposes.
It’s what attracted me to the book. The very first sentence of the book is, “I’m pretty much fucked.” I wanted to capture that feeling where one word can be both despondent and funny at the same time. And when we pulled it, the audience didn’t know for a good 30 minutes how they were supposed to feel. It was weird, watching with an audience, you really see that “fuck” is important.
Halfway through the movie, you get a sense of where the movie is most likely going, but I still felt stakes. That seems like a tough trick to pull off.
I got the question a lot with The Cabin in the Woods about protecting the twists. And I always said, “I don’t care about twists. I like my movies to play better the second time than the first time.” I’m not pro-spoiler. As a fan, I like to go into a movie unspoiled.