Today Jeff got to sit and chat with the man responsible for one of his favorite movies, Gregory Widen! The man behind Highlander, The Prophecy, and Backdraft!
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Gregory Widen – Interview – COMBINED
[00:00:00] Jeff: spoiler country today on the show, we had the fantastic Gregory widen. How are you doing Mr. Wyden?
Gregory Widen: Well, thank you.
Jeff: How are you doing in our current world right now?
Gregory Widen: Um, I mean, the joke about people who primarily write for a living is that, um, you know, it doesn’t really change their lives. That much, you just stay home kind of doing already.
So, um, but, uh, but you know, it’s, it’s hard like it is for everybody. It’s also weird. Just wondering where the business is going, you know, particularly if you do movies, so.
Jeff: So in your opinion, where is the industry going? Because I know, um, AMC is having some issues. Um, I can’t remember the name of the other one.
Was it Regal? I think, um, just went under a little bit or bankruptcy, um, in your opinion, where are we headed?
Gregory Widen: Yeah, I don’t know if I knew I’d be running a studio. I mean, I think that there’s just a lot of. Reconsideration going on now, I have a pretty big movie at Warner brothers with, uh, Mark Ravi that we’re, um, I [00:01:00] think it’s in the middle of, uh, you know, trying to decide what is Warner brothers right now and what is their priority?
And I see it unfolded in real time with that. Um, but I, um, Um, I don’t, you know, I don’t think anybody knows. It just depends. I guess when things open up, you know, or it will, whether this will just be a kind of accelerated movement into streaming, um, you know, which is, uh, going to be the focus or whether we’ll sort of get back to things sort of the way they were next year.
Sometime I I’ve, you know, I really don’t know.
Jeff: With the, certainly becoming more popular now, honestly, because of COVID. Do you think the loss of the movie theater is going to change how movies are
Gregory Widen: filmed?
No. I don’t know if I have a strong opinion on that, because I’ve always been more about story than anything else. And I think that’s always what’s most important. Um, but I think on some level it’s going to though home theaters get better every day, you know, in the old days, the problem was, if you watch Lawrence of Arabia [00:02:00] on television, they had to pan scan it because they couldn’t get the whole frame.
In the TV format, you know, and that was kind of a disruption of what the original intent of the movie was. But these days everybody’s got nice cinema style screens, you know? So, uh, so I don’t know. That’s a good question. I honestly don’t know the answer
Jeff: to that. I think, um, Christopher Nolan, I know it was pushing the IMS camp, IMAX cameras quite a bit, but once again, if theaters are no longer the primary Avenue.
For viewing, then it does seem like things such as IMS or filming for the, for that size screen is no longer necessary unless I was. But as you said, of course, how payment in Timmins says are becoming better.
Gregory Widen: I don’t know the answer to that question. I really don’t. I mean, um, you know, I’m Axe has always been kind of amended which thing it’s always been an added on to the, you know, regular distribution of a movie.
So, um, whether it will go back to being a niche thing at some point in the future, you know, I mean, hopefully, so, you know, it’s great to see a movie in IMAX, but you know, I honestly don’t know.
Jeff: Yeah. I mean, [00:03:00] it isn’t true. I mean, I do yes. Movie going experience. Um, there’s certain movies that when the audience is truly involved in it and they’re excited and they’re chairing for instance, just to name one, like I remember seeing Avengers end game in theaters and people near the end, you know, you’re carrying all the big moments.
Um, and I think you do lose a little bit when you watch it at home, but at the same time, obviously, financially, it’s probably cheaper.
Gregory Widen: Cheaper about to distribute it. You mean?
Jeff: Um, well, I’m on also as a, as an audience member having to, um, wasn’t, you’re not paying for two tickets to popcorn. Right.
Gregory Widen: I see what you’re saying.
Yeah. I don’t know. I mean, I think there’s always going to be a space for communal viewing of things. I mean, ever since we sat around a campfire and told stories, I mean, I think there’s always a place for people seeing things as a group, you know, I think it’s just as human beings. We, we like that on some level, at least partly in our lives.
So if, um, You know, if the realities of the world allow us to do that, I think it will for sure. Come back. I
Jeff: mean, I, I really do [00:04:00] hope so. Um, so just as, um, a little bit about you, um, I’ve read that you have a master’s degree from UCLA, but what is your degree in a
Gregory Widen: master’s in fine arts? Um, it’s in the film program.
It’s in screenwriting. I went there as an undergraduate and graduated from the film school. And then, um, I just kinda liked college and I liked the structure of it. And I liked the structure, how it kind of made me write originally wrote Highlander when I was an undergraduate there. And, um, I largely got it done, I think because I had to turn it in by a certain date or I would get an app.
And I think that that got it done, you know, and I I’ve always worked well, I think under, um, some kind of structure. Which is really weird in this businesses. There’s generally so little of it, but, um, I think going on to get a master’s degree, uh, in the film program, um, was helpful because again, it was just put me in that situation where I, you know, I had to deliver something and, and it kept me working and I just, I liked the whole vibe of it.
I don’t know my dad’s a college professor, not at UCLA, but, and I think I just. [00:05:00] I enjoy university life or I did, and I enjoyed the film program and I enjoyed, uh, you know, a lot of the people I met there and became friends with, I’m still friends with, um, you know, it was just, I enjoyed the whole feel of it and it felt very creative to me.
And so I stuck around and got a master’s. I didn’t really think getting a master’s degree was going to get me a job or anything. I mean, nobody looks at your resume when they’re hiring you to write a movie, but, but, uh, your educational resume at least. But, um, but I thought that, uh, I was just getting something out of it.
So I stuck around for another. Jared half or whatever it was and got it.
Jeff: So obviously, um, for film, what did you knowledge or experience that you gained from. Getting a degree that you would not have been able to earn if you had attempted to go into maybe directing or writing? Um, without the degree.
Gregory Widen: I mean, I don’t know the answer to that question cause it’s a counterfactual, you know, I don’t know what my life would have been like if I hadn’t gone to film school.
Um, so it’s, it’s hard [00:06:00] to say. I mean, um, I. I definitely got value from hanging out with people in the film program. I’m not sure you could teach someone how to write, but you can teach someone maybe to have the courage to write. And, um, and so, you know, just being encouraged to sit out and do it, and you know, the easiest thing in the world is to talk about writing, not actually write, but if you’re actually in a last where you required to write, then you’re going to do it, you know?
And I think also, maybe. Going to film school, particularly when you’re very young, uh, gives you the, um, The arena to fail. Um, I think people, I know that try to start riding later in life. They tended to put a lot of pressure on themselves, you know, because a lot of effort goes into creating a screenplay that, you know, that if this doesn’t sell, then I’m, you know, it has to sell, you know, this can’t be a failure and they become paralyzed by it.
And they often don’t even finish the script. And there were, we starting nine different scripts and not finish them because they don’t want to, you know, Oh, this one’s not going to be good enough. And, and I think when you’re. Young and [00:07:00] in film school, you’re just constantly churning out stuff and a lot of it might suck, but that’s an important part of the process.
And you’re kind of in a, a safe space to do that. Now you can certainly do that outside of film school. And for whatever reason, I think for me, it just provided a structure, you know, and people I knew and people I could talk to about it and kind of an arena for ideas and how people were doing things. And I don’t know, it just, it really worked for me.
I could tell you that understand how it would work for anyone else completely, you know, um, But for me, it was, uh, um, I really liked it and it was a nice counterpoint too, because I had kind of a, a weird secondary life. Cause when I wasn’t in the film school taking classes, I was in the fire department putting out fires.
So, so it was kind of a nice juxtaposition to that too. So,
Jeff: so w w when you’re in film school, did you find the other students more? Is there a sense of, um, Uh, friendship and, um, Mo helping each other motive, um, motivate one another, or is it more, um, you [00:08:00] know, not, I won’t say conflict, but you’re definitely finding each other at odds with one another, as far as competitors.
Gregory Widen: I don’t think competitors in the sense that, I mean, everyone’s just trying to get a foot in the door, so I sure everybody’s competing for, you know, however many jobs are out there, but I think that. There was a lot of people I knew who helped each other in each other’s projects or other projects. I worked on other people’s films that I held a light on, you know, and, uh, help them out with, and, and that’s a two-way street, you know, because, um, you, you you’re there helping them out, but you’re also learning, watching them do it.
And, um, you know, the, the, the good and the bad of what’s coming out of what they’re doing. And also there’s just something about, at least speaking on the writing side of it, about just sitting around on a couch and. Talking about ideas and talking about things and going to see movies together and talking about them and, you know, it’s, uh, um, It’s it’s, it can be a kind of housy on period.
That way, if you let it be, you know, um, certainly, I mean, we’re all full of insecurities and fears and where am I [00:09:00] going to fit in the world? And, you know, I mean, I had no idea if I had a place in this business. Um, uh, but I liked it and I wanted to do it. And I think maybe if I’ve ever had an advantage in the businesses that I’ve always liked doing it for the sake of doing it.
I mean, I enjoy. Writing for the sake of writing. So I think even if I had never sold anything, I’d still do it. I mean, I’d be earning a living, living some other way, but I’d always be doing it out of just a, a joy of, of the work. And, and, and so that definitely played into that where I just, you know, I liked just talking about and working on it, doing it.
Jeff: It’s also, like I said, when I, when I was reading about you, when I was in trouble, like, as you had mentioned, You were formed, you are formerly a firefighter. And you did that during your years in college. How long did he do it for?
Gregory Widen: I only did about four years. I got on when I was 18, which was a really weird weirdly young time to get on the fire department.
I thought I wanted to be a doctor. And so I was a senior in high school and went and got a paramedic certificate, which was kind of an odd thing to do at that age. [00:10:00] I took a year of doing that at night and, um, And then I needed a job, basically what school to pay for his college. So I applied to the fire department and they picked me up largely, I think because of the medical training I already had, and I don’t know whatever I passed the physical exam.
I don’t have any history of family in the fire department, but I have a history of my, um, father and grandfather starting out in really macho jobs. And then going artsy. You know, my grandfather was a professional boxer who eventually became a very wealthy art dealer. And my father was a Navy fighter pilot who became a, um, Art professor and I’m a painter.
So I guess I was kind of filling those shoes, becoming us, you know, Fireman and stemmed becoming a writer, but that at the time I was really just looking for a job and, uh, I fell in love with it. I really liked the job, but they picked me up and it was weird being 18, you know? I mean, next youngest guy, my battalion was 27, so, Oh, wow.
You know, the guys would be sitting around the table, talking about sports and girls or whatever, and they’d look at me and go, have you done your homework?
But it [00:11:00] was, uh, I did about four years. I was. You know, I so high, 123, my wife kinda changed right then. And, um, and I started to back out of it. At that point, I went from being full-time to reserve to eventually not doing it anymore. Um, you know, it was an interesting backdrop came in, excuse me, Highlander came at precisely the right time because.
Yeah, it was a good time to decide which way I wanted to go in the fire department. I hadn’t been hurt, you know, and, uh, and I didn’t necessarily want to promote it. And I’ve been, um, sniffed around by the CIA and sniffed around me because I’d studied Chinese in college and they were kind of making noises about, maybe you want to take a walk on the wild side.
And I was tempted by that. And I think selling harder suddenly brought everything into focus and I was in a remote, a clarity able to go, you know what both of these things I should not do when I’m, so I’ll take the, I’ll take the writing ones.
Jeff: So, so what did you learn about yourself by being a firefighter?
Gregory Widen: You know, I think everybody, [00:12:00] uh, has things they’re scared of and things have turns out they’re not terribly scared of. And it often doesn’t make any sense based on your experience. But I guess the really, the only thing I learned about that was, um, I could be very nervous and uncomfortable. Um, you know, pitching a movie, I hate it.
You know, I’m, I’m a wreck when I pitch a movie, um, you know, I used to be very nervous asking a girl out on a date, but I found it in the fire by the one thing I turned out was I was never had any fear about was physical safety. Like I’d go on buildings and I’d be like, yeah, whatever. But for whatever reason, I was never.
Physically scared of anything. I was terrified of looking like an idiot. Um, you know, my dad, my dad and I used to bond on that. Cause I used to ask him what it scared him most about, you know, going into his hairy situation and his fighter aircraft. And he’d say the only thing on my head, the only thing going through my head was, um, please, God don’t know, let me do something.
And they’ll make me look like an idiot to my friends, you know, and death was like number three, you know, and I was pretty much the same way. And um, [00:13:00] and. And that’s kind of been, you know, I’ve done a lot of really goofy things. I’ve gone to war zones in us helicopters and been shot at, and I’ve climbed mountains in Africa.
And you know, one thing I, one thing is that has never changed. I’m still really nervous when I pitch a movie and I not nervous at all going into a war zone. So I don’t know, I learned that about myself, I guess.
Jeff: So in other words, you’d rather be injured than rejected.
Gregory Widen: Well, not insured now, you know, the joke about me, at least people who know me is I’ve managed to go through a lot of crazy stuff.
Without a Mark on me. I’ve never had a stitch. I’ve never had a broken bone. It’s never, you know, I’ve and I’ve done crazy things. Both. I fell through a burning roof in the fire department. I, you know, I’ve tumbled down long cement staircases. I fallen out of trees. I was mountain climbing once and the rope broke and I fell about 30 feet and I, and I, um, but I’ve never, nothing’s bad is ever happening.
I was [00:14:00] just kind of gotten up and breasted myself off. So I actually don’t know what it would be like to be injured. So
Jeff: Bruce Willis from unbreakable, huh?
Gregory Widen: I don’t know, the joke is made, you know, I don’t really get sick, you know, I don’t know. I don’t know what that is. Maybe just lucky, you know what? I’ll walk out of here tomorrow and get hit by a car.
Jeff: No, let’s not go down that road. Um, so is there a common denominator amongst firefighters, something about the individual that makes them suited for that type of career?
Gregory Widen: No it’s really changed though. When I came in, it was really a transition from when firefighting was, um, kind of a working class job. And the guy that applied for the fire department, might’ve applied for the cops or matter have applied for the, you know, sanitation department or something.
And, uh, but it’s really changed because especially with the Evan and paramedics and the amount of training that’s required. Um, to hang on to the job, the competitiveness for the job you have guys with four year degrees are now firefighters that I knew people who had MBAs, you know, there were [00:15:00] firefighters and did stuff on the side that the schedule’s really generous in terms of time loft.
So you could kind of have another job, another life. And, um, and so the people going into it are really different now than they were say, 20, 25 years ago. Um, it’s a much more competitive, much more highly educated job now. So I don’t know. I mean, it’s. You know, I mean, I guess the stereotypes, right? They didn’t have an interest in serving people and they like probably people that are looking for a change, you know, like every day is different, you know?
Cause no, no two days are the same. Um, that kind of thing. Um, maybe a certain security. It’s got a great retirement plan. I don’t know. You know, it’s a good, it’s a good question. I
Jeff: mean, I wonder if there’s, is there a ability to, um, Compartmentalize danger or something along those lines to
Gregory Widen: firefighters. I don’t know.
I think they, yes, I think, yes. I think most firefighters put away the idea that you could get, I heard doing this. I think it’s like people going to war, you know, you just go on it. Wasn’t going to [00:16:00] be me. You know? Um, the thing that’s harder to compartmentalize is, um, uh, the emotional aspects of it, you know, seeing something that really touches you deeply, emotionally as see something happen to somebody that touches you.
That’s the, that’s the heart. That’s the more dangerous thing on the job. I think. Um, I mean, you can certainly get hurt on that, but, but in sometimes in really stupid ways. But, um, but I think that that was the thing that would, at least for me, I would go home with is like, if you saw something or you had to experience something that was really, um, emotionally difficult that tended to stay with you longer than, you know, getting knocked around a little bit.
Jeff: Is is, I mean, I imagined the ups and downs of being a fighter. Firefight must be pretty extremely, the ups must be amazing. Um, almost, you know, very much a heroic feeling, but I assume the down moments are quite devastating.
Gregory Widen: Yeah. I mean the, my, to the best thing about me on the job and the worst thing ever, having a job, and they were probably within a month of each other was, uh, both involved children.
You know, when I pulled the kid out of a [00:17:00] fire and. Kept them alive and got him to the hospital and the back of the wagon. And, you know, I was a hero and the other one, I had to go a ch a kid was missing and there was a pool that was full of junk and water. And, you know, there was no way to get into it with pipes or anything.
So they sent the probian to look and he was on the bottom of the pool, and that was not a good day, you know? So, um, and, uh, you know, that’s, that’s, you know, and every day is something in between. You know, I mean, it helped, honestly it helping really young because I didn’t have children. I have a child now.
Um, you know, I didn’t have. Elderly parents. I didn’t have, you know, there was a remarkable lack of tragedy in my life. You know, I’ve always been really lucky that way. I mean, nobody close to me had really died and nobody, you know, my great grandmother was still alive. I mean, and so I didn’t have a lot of, um, personal.
Experience, you know, personal empathy with, with what people were experiencing. And so kind of helped to keep it a little bit hard. Cause like I know the guy has a role for me that had kids had experiences often will be [00:18:00] way more effective than I was. And in a way that I would probably be effective now if I was doing it now.
But, um, but that probably helped a little bit.
Jeff: Um, for later in your life as being, once again, I’m a writer, director, whatnot. Does it help you prepare, um, and maybe more measures per perspective on things now that when you moved off to, um, write a directing other things, now that you had that other, the experience of how to handle those, um, ups and downs.
Gregory Widen: Yeah, I wish I wish it did it. They’re completely different. You know, you’d think that one would inform the other like, well, I’m not scared of anything. Now I fell through a burning roof. It’s really not that at all. I don’t, you know, it’s, they’re very different things. I mean, I’m still a person that, um, Doesn’t really get physically scared of things.
Um, but I am absolutely a person that every time I go pitch a movie, I’m really sad if it doesn’t go well, I do it, you know, uh, and, um, I don’t know. I mean, I [00:19:00] guess I hide some of it. I mean, uh, Eric Stoltz, when we did the props, he said I was the most confident, first time director you’d ever worked with.
And I thought I was a wreck. I was literally telling my father in the morning. I have no idea what I’m doing, you know? But, um, so I, you know, I have no idea, I guess it was how you come across and how you are. But, um, I think inside they’re really just different things.
Jeff: Well, if you can have on the prophecy, I will have to say you created by far when my favorite movies of all time and the prophecy.
I love that movie. I used to quote it all the time. I used to try to do a Christopher Walken impersonation as the real. It was so I, that maybe it was extremely important to me. And actually I do, I’m, I’m writing a, I’m a comic book and I’m, uh, several issues in, um, and the kind of, um, that that’s who the angels and whatnot.
And there’s a part of it that is inspired, or at least the idea of wanting to do something at that level from what’s going to be watching the prophecy, which was, again, it was just brilliant. And I want to thank you for making that.
[00:20:00] Gregory Widen: Oh, well, thank you. I’m glad you like it.
Jeff: What, what inspired the making of the prophecy?
Gregory Widen: Oh, um, I mean, I think the, most of the movies I do, I think, um, usually an element of, uh, something familiar, but you try to put a spin on it, you know, kind of make it. Different or the opposite of what you expect and, um, you know, in Highlander you live forever, but it kinda sucks. Um, in, um, in backdraft, uh, the firemen are heroic, but they’re also kind of paramount, uh, power maniacs who have an unhealthy relationship with fire.
Um, and in fact, the fireman in the plot, the main nurse and fires are being lit by a fireman. Um, and in the. You know, in the prophecy, the angels are the bad guys. So, um, that kind of is a typical thing. I think that that’s common. What I, I try to do. I also liked the idea of, um, I like the idea of, [00:21:00] I really like when movies allow things to be alien and different, whether it’s a historical piece, I used to always love James Elwood books because even the heroes in his books, because they’re 1950s, cops are racists and sexist and unpleasant and, you know, but because he allows them to be who they would have been in 1952, you know, they’re not the most, um, eat.
Egalitarian, you know, progressive guy on the LAPD in 1952. Um, and I think that, that I like it when things are allowed to be truly alien. And so you figure an Angel’s alien and I honestly was inspired. There was a, um, Sam shepherd. He did it with another guy. I can’t remember his name. I’m sorry. A 1970s monologue, like a one-act monologue, which is an angel being interviewed.
And I think it’s by a cop, but I’m not sure. And he somehow fallen to earth. He doesn’t know what he’s doing here. And, but he speaks at a manner in which it’s almost impossible to understand what he’s saying. You know, I mean, it’s almost like poetry really than it is, [00:22:00] um, a scene, you know, it’s just him kind of a monologue, but he speaks, you kind of grasp things.
He’s talking about what his world is. So Hailey that you can’t, um, really get inside his head a hundred percent and. That it’s fine with the idea of like, well, wouldn’t it be fun to create age because he had so often age, those movies are just extensions of people, you know, they’re like nicer people, you know?
Um, and, uh, they’re kindly and I thought, well, they would just be weird. I mean, the stuff they’ve gone through, I mean, in the movie that finishes with, would you ever really wanted me to an angel about how. Ridiculously bizarre and violent their lives are
Gregory Widen: I thought, yeah, you know, it’d be nice to create, uh, a creature that, that, you know, is identifiable and, you know, you understand their motives and things, but that much of what, the way they run their life and what concerns them is just outside our frame of reference, you know?
And, um, and I think that that was a large motivator of it, you know, um, to want to do it. Um, I think that [00:23:00] that’s probably how it started.
two lines from the prophesy movie that kind of introduced that concept you were discussing about, um, The, um, existence praising your God, but with always one wing tipped and blood and the Savage, and even now in heaven, there are angels carrying Savage
Gregory Widen: weapons.
Jeff: And I thought when, when I, when I heard those lines, the only what they perfectly quotable, but, um, it did give you a sense of the idea of an angel that is at once. Holy. But also has to have such a Savage murderous aspect to it, to be, um, that level of warrior and almost unquestionably a warrior. And that does, it seems to me.
And I thought to myself, when you were writing, it were, how did you get into that kind of head space to think of what kind of creature could
Gregory Widen: be?
[00:27:00] I guess I just thought of it in terms of just when you explore any character, I mean, you know, you look at what their job is. I mean, um, their job is to do one thing, but there are jobs also do violent things. And, and I think it kind of sums up in that monologue where he says, you know, have you ever read the Bible every time God needed to kill him?
He sent an angel, you know what, uh, what must it be like to be a creature like that? And I think that that’s really it, you know, I just thought, um, There’s a lot of very violent, it’s a more of a medieval view of, of, um, of, of angels, um, where they are much more complicated and much more brutal and they carry swords.
And, you know, I think in the modern context, they tend to be much more kind of sweetened and, uh, new age and, um, you know, uh, touched by an angel kind of thing. One of the jokes was when we were making the movie, um, we hadn’t settled on the title of the movie yet. And, uh, people used to. Make coffee cups that said scared shitless by an angel.
Um, so I think that, that, you know, [00:28:00] I think that was probably the main reason. Yeah.
Jeff: And, and I think the other interesting thing about the idea of the angel is one thing that always is kind of interesting is the idea of. God and what he, and what it’s created. And also, I kind of think about a lot of, uh, what is kind of inherently flawed about us that causes us to do things that we shouldn’t.
And then you look at it like something like the angel that you created, can they be inherently good or evil considering they are designed for that those purposes?
Gregory Widen: I mean, I think the moral of the movie is that there, what they don’t realize is they’ve been given freewill and within freewill is the whole point of freewill is that’s the only way there can be faith because faith is only faith.
If it’s choice, you know, if everything is presented to you as reality, then it, um, then it can’t be, um, Then it can’t be faith. And so, um, so the, the, the, the, the, the twist on the movie, or the, you know, the kind of twist on the movie is that guess what, even angels [00:29:00] have to have faith. I mean, I think there’s actually a line in there about that.
Um, you know, and they were tested that faith was tested and, um, you know, and they didn’t understand. So the idea is that, and I think it’s a, it’s an ongoing. Idea in it, which is that just because you are up there working for the boss, it doesn’t mean you actually are already to everything. You know, that there’s a lot, that’s unknown, a lot of this mysterious.
Do you a lot that also operates on faith and within that things can break down. And so that was kind of the idea behind it.
Jeff: I mean, it was a brilliant addition to add, um, Lucifer to the story and Vigo Morrison did a fantastic job of that performance. And, and like I said, when he’s talking to, um, Thomas, um, about that idea of faith.
Sure. What was Lucifer always part of your storyline or was that something you felt you kind of had to wrap up in the end and bring in this other, obviously first angel.
Gregory Widen: No, as far as I remember, he was always there. Um, he probably talked longer, uh, poor Vigo, you know, he, he was a last minute addition. Um, Sean Penn was supposed to [00:30:00] do it and Oh, wow.
And he, uh, was directing his own movie at the time and it ran late and he could make it, um, and really, and Vigo was a friend. We all knew him and he’d been aware of the project. And, uh, and he was a hero. He came in, we were shooting out in Arizona and he flew in. I think the night before, or the afternoon before the day we were going to have to shoot and, uh, and learned, you know, what was at that point, probably nine pages.
And, uh, when he talks to, um, you know, he talks to Virginia Madsen and, um, and did the movie, you know, just out of nowhere and it was re he did a really great job and he was really a Corona. It was, we were lucky to have him.
Jeff: Is there a version or footage of the longer script for Vigo? I
Gregory Widen: think so there is, yeah, certainly it was shot.
Um, yeah, it’s a weird movie because there’s a couple of different versions of it floating around. There’s a version of the movie called God’s army, which was its original name when the film was, uh, [00:31:00] financed. Um, some of the money came from foreign sources and, you know, from foreign distributors and one of the distributors was in Japan and they had a drop dead date that the film had to be.
Given to them, uh, for just fusion in Japan, I think maybe Brazil too, or something crazy like that. And when near max bought the film, they bought the film out of, or dementia dimension, air max. So they bought it out of ’em when it was in post. Um, and then they wanted to put more money and do, um, beefing up some parts of it and, uh, doing a different edit of it.
And they, um, but, but we still had this deadline with Japan. And so we had to deliver a version of, we had a mix and deliver a version of Japan, I think a good six months before the movie came out in the United States. So I think if you watch that version, there’s, there’s entire scenes in it that aren’t in the American version.
Jeff: I actually never knew that I only ever knew of, um, the version I had remember watching. So
Gregory Widen: yeah.
Jeff: God’s army. Huh? I got it. I got you. Now give me some homework. I go search for this.
Gregory Widen: Yeah, it’s out there. [00:32:00] Yeah. I mean, I love the task subtitle in English. Yeah. I think it’s a couple of strange markets. Like there’s maybe one market in Europe and yeah.
I think Priscilla was one in somewhere else where it was that earlier version of it was released as, um, as a God’s army. Cause I don’t think Miramax owned abroad. They bought the domestic rights because it was a British company that financed it a first look, films, Ravi little, um, and, uh, they, um, I think they own the foreign territory.
So I don’t think Miramax had much to do with that. I think Miramax really had the English speaking territories, you know, like Australia and England and stash.
Jeff: Well, I’m, I’m definitely gonna be finding it. And I think it’s also cool that probably it was your first attempt at your first direct time directing you.
So you wrote the script, you directed the movie. What, why did you choose this movie to, to jump in with both feet directing and screenwriting?
Gregory Widen: Because it was a, it was small on F basically I purposely wrote it was the only, it was the first time I’d ever written. My re [00:33:00] wrote it specifically. It’s something I could possibly direct you.
And the film was shot for. $3 million, I think to eight. So, um, it was, it was, it was a film that even though it’s a road picture, you know, and that’s always more expensive. Um, but it didn’t have a lot of huge effects in it. It didn’t, you know, it was a, it was a kind of movie that. I thought I could actually do on the scale that, that, that I, that I wrote it, and I specifically did it.
So it wasn’t like backdraft say, or wasn’t like Highlander or, you know, those kinds of things or some of the other stuff I’m doing since. And I think that it’s, it, it, it was manageable enough. I thought it helped that it’s a genre. I think a lot of genre directors get a first shot faster than in some other, um, some other kinds of movies.
So that helps, you know, It has casting it. I mean, even though we end up with a fantastic cast, um, it’s often easier to get a genre movie off the ground with not star cast because they’re considered to have a value just because of what they are, you know, as opposed to say [00:34:00] a, you know, a independent love story or something where the, you almost have to have recognizable stars to get it financed.
Jeff: I mean, th the cast that you assembled for this movie is phenomenal. Um, Eric Stoltz, Virginia Madsen, Ellie
and obviously my favorite actors of all time, Christopher Walken. And I must admit, um, once again, a huge fan of, and I’ve always liked walking. I wouldn’t have looked at other movie prior movies of walk and think to myself that guy’s an angel. Well, w what did you, what did you see in Chris Walken? You think yourself, he is Gabriel at, before you saw the performance.
Gregory Widen: There’s an alien, alien esque quality to him. You know, I think that was basically it. I mean, he’s, he’s, he’s very much, um, a down to earth person, but not down to earth at all, you know, um, as a human being and as an actor. And, uh, um, and I just thought that that was really. Great. He was the [00:35:00] first one to come on the movie, he got the movie made, um, you know, uh, he was the one that got it over the line.
And, um, so that was really, we were very grateful that they want to do it based on that. And he was a fascinating guy because, you know, there’s, I had, uh, some of the movies I was writing that, um, they’re often the most interesting character is not the lead. It’s the second banana, you know, it’s the one you remember for the movie.
I tended to write reactive first. Characters. And sometimes it was hard too, because I think he always Katia struggled with it. Who the hell is this guy? What does he know? How does he get up in the morning knowing there’s angels and he’s a cop and you know, and I, and I sometimes only gave him incomplete answers, but.
Partly because of the way it was written, but also just because, um, Christopher Walken is so good at this. He, he got the part of me that goes, Oh, I don’t get invited to the parties anymore. Right. That’s the tie performance is based on that.
I mean, it’s just a jealousy thing between him and humans and God it’s like, Oh yeah. And don’t get rid of the [00:36:00] parties anymore. It was own life. And any, anybody able to shoot that thing right down the middle, you know, So,
Jeff: I mean, his performance was superb. I mean, there’s a lot of little flourishes. He asks little movements, little ticks that he kind of brings to.
It was that walking. I was at you’re directing for him too, the way he kind of, he moved, like, there’s a scene where he is. Um, on top of you, um, he had just discovered, um, Hawthorne and I’m in the cemetery and he’s the top of the cast. And you see him the way he moves. It looks around like jerky way. I mean, without him was that
Gregory Widen: directing.
And that’s him. Um, and I mean, the dialogue, he says like, Ooh, look at him. So beautiful. You know, like he’s being really weird when he sees the body that’s in the script, but he just put a spin on it. I mean, he just, you know, took it to another, another, I mean, him and, um, uh, and, uh, I’m kind of forgot his name.
He played Jerry. Um, he, they, uh, they really played off each other. Well, You know, the kind of sardonic, you know, [00:37:00] sidekick and, uh, um, and, uh, and, and Christopher Walken. So he’s really great at that, but he has, he added a few things in the movie. I mean, one of my favorite bits in the movie he actually created, it was a moment in a church where, um, he appears, uh, Thomas is, you know, always contagious and sitting in the church and he’s staring at an altar and just kind of thinking about everything that’s going on and walking up here was behind him and they stand up and face each other and walk and says, you know, you know that, you know that dent on your lip, you know, how you got that, you know, it’s, uh, uh, way back before you were born, I told you a secret that I put my finger there and said he made that up on the spot.
Oh, wow. So, yeah, it was really great. That’s like one of my favorite moments too. I’m like, man, he totally a hundred percent made up that, that line.
Jeff: I think one of my favorite moments in the movie is when Gabriel finally confronts Simon, that’s a beautifully written scene. Um, there’s a few questions I have.
Um, I’ll, I’m going to hit on, on, on that scene, but the interact between Stoltz and Gabe [00:38:00] and walking, it’s just phenomenal. Yeah.
Gregory Widen: Yeah. It’s really fun. They’re really good. They’re really good together. And um, Uh, you know, Stoltz talking about a trooper, um, he, for some reason, you know, it’s a small movie, uh, the word never quite got to him that we were going to light his legs, fire that day
came into the room and he’s like, uh, there’s fighter
Jeff: in the seat.
Gregory Widen: And, uh, and we were, and I felt really bad and some people had come and talked to him and then, and then, um, and then he was like, yeah. Okay. I’ll do it. Like he did not know when he got up in the morning doing this, even of all having his legs on fire.
Um, and he was okay with it. He did it. So I thought that was really, um, you know, he, he would always have my love and affection
Jeff: and, and his, I mean, his line, we tend to Gabriel and he, and he, and he goes, that’s who we are about. Um, we do what we’re told that’s who we are. Right. That is a, that is a perfect description of the role of an angel.
[00:39:00] Gregory Widen: Yes. I mean, I think the idea is that, you know, and I don’t know how, wow. Do people really want to go into thinking about what these things are?
You know, but they’re in my head, at least when I did it, is that, you know, they’re in a world where there are mysteries for them too. There are things they don’t know and have it, you know, there’s things they have to operate essentially on faith. And Simon’s way of dealing with in our faith is you do what you’re told.
You know, it’s like the special forces operator or something, you know, you, you shoot who you’re told to shoot, you. Don’t ask, why am I shooting them? You know? Cause otherwise that’s a, how do you ever get out of that rabbit hole? You know? And, um, and walk his thing is he’s allowed himself to start wondering, well, why do we do this?
Why do we have to live in a world where monkeys get to have us say, why do we like, you know, he started to. Faith is no longer good enough anymore. He needs, um, personal attention and reassurance and he’s not getting it. And that’s just the two ways they approach it. And, um, and Simon his whole purpose assignment.
And as soon as he’s articulating that point of view, which is supposed to be the company point of view, which is, you know, I mean, it doesn’t matter. You just trust that what you’re being [00:40:00] asked to do is I think you’re supposed to do and you just do it. So, I mean, it, it kind of
Jeff: pardon me. I always wondered on some level, especially looking at it from maybe.
The idea, like you said, um, maybe, um, in an employee kind of viewpoint of. Th the idea of the one person saying you just do what you’re told this, you know, that’s just how it goes. And the other person asking, you know, as you mentioned, um, why am I listening to my boss? And he tells me to do this thing on some level, there’s something to be said by Gabriel being right about, well, you shouldn’t just do what you’re told all the time and it should be, you know, why are you making me do this?
That doesn’t make sense to me. I mean, is there, there’s a certain aspect of Gabriel that is. Right. It seems like.
Gregory Widen: Yeah, except that the thing that Gabriel, which makes him fun is a character. I think that he was just a character who, and we’ve seen characters like this had movies who just wakes up one day and goes, I don’t know about the moral ramifications, what I’m being asked to do.
And I’ve now become a brooding. Rebel against what’s being asked to me, you know, that’s one kind of character, but I think what makes his character really fun is his entire approach is from a narcissistic, be, you know, the boss and to [00:41:00] be like, like feeling jealousy and always incredibly negative emotions is how he’s approaching a, uh, an honest question about faith and obedience, but it’s all from a really bad place, you know?
Jeff: yeah. I always wondered because. Gabriel is an Archangel and he’s suppose to be closer to God, is that why he’d be more likely to figure out there’s something not right in that interaction scenario? Or is it just being aged itself in your opinion?
Gregory Widen: I think it’s. You know, it’s funny. I didn’t really think about that.
I mean, when I lose, I made him an art digital, obviously because he’s Gabriel, but also because, um, when he’s talking to Simon, you know, he, he speaks to him as his former boss, basically, you know, remember how we through their rebel Thrones from the wall, you know, he’s like he led an army AI and he’s, and it’s supposed to play in the idea of his enormous sense of self regard and self-importance, which, you know, feels threatened by these, you know, talking monkeys.
Jeff: Well, yeah, I mean, like I said, I think it was for not the builder. I think I always wondered about the movie and this is, um, has always been important. [00:42:00] Um, the question for me in my head, it seems, and I may be wrong. It felt like twice in the movie, you insinuated that the character of Thomas was also more than human because you have Simon state has reverends for her when he says you have no idea what this is like for me.
And then later Gabriel States, you’re not from here. Is there something Thomas more than just being a human on some level?
Gregory Widen: Um, now it’s, uh, you know, he’s supposed to be just human. Um, he, uh, uh, Uh, that you’re not from, that was kind of just an interesting twist that walking through to the pronunciation of that line, you know, or the hour, I should say the emphasis on that line.
It’s supposed to be, you know, it’s, it’s just when you’re not from here, like neither one of them are from there. They’re, they’re both, they’re both in them. In Arizona. Yeah. Both not from Arizona, but he did it in one, one of these I really liked about walk-ins performance and I was always so happy when I saw it.
It’s going back to that idea of, you know, these being alien creatures to speak in patterns and weirdness. That’s not our own, um, you know, [00:43:00] it’s really a kind of enigmatic line he says, you know, and, uh, it’s an asthmatic because it’s an angel talking to. You know, you don’t know what the hell is going through their head.
And that’s what, I’ve. One of the things that walking is really good about. He famously used to tell me that, you know, he always takes every. Comma and period out of dialogue when he reads it. So he really, he could give it his, um, uh, his own, uh, his own take and his bone emphasis on each side, you know, you can put the accent on the sentence wherever he wants to.
He doesn’t want the period or the, the common dictate. Where the sentence ends or you know, where the pauses or whatever, and you can see that in the way he talks and you can see it in that line, by the way he hits it. You know, he’s just kind of doing it his own way.
Jeff: And, and again, like I said, installed as well when he says, like I said, you have no idea what this was like for me, just how he performed that line made me wonder.
How what’s like seeing being around a human admitting that he needs the help or the idea that Thomas who’s, someone who has been given visions of angels.
Gregory Widen: I, you know, it there’s a lot that’s intended in that scene. It’s funny [00:44:00] because that is my least favorite scene in the movie and it, well it’s, it was shot.
I shot it badly. Uh, the angles are terrible. Um, the, uh, It was really hard for alias to get his head around it because it’s the first time, you know, he’s a guy coming home from a weird day at the office as a cop. And then there’s this guy standing on the back of a chair talking to him and he he’s, he’s an actor trying to get past.
What, what way? What point do I to put down my gun? There’s a guy in my house, you know, talking shit to me, you know? And, um, And I, I wanted so badly to redo that scene. Um, I think the intent, because there, and the dialogue is basically there and, and he is trying to say things, but it, it, it, sometimes I’m a little at a loss to explain that to you just because it just, it came out somewhere.
Um, and I begged Miramax to reshoot it. Cause at one point they decided to throw another hundred thousand dollars in the movie cause they wanted some cool trailer shots and a lot of stuff like that. Um, a virtual, the angel that comes down that gets [00:45:00] killed, you know, that, uh, Drops down from heaven. Um, that whole sequence was shot.
Um, a month before the film was released. Um, it was mainly meant for commercial television commercials, so they could kind of have imagery, transitioned imagery. And, um, so we show that, which is great. I really. Right. It’s in the movie, but at the same time, it was just let me reshoot the scene. I wouldn’t wanna do it.
So it stays there and it’s a little like the third scene in the movie or something. It feels like it sticks out. But anyway, the idea is supposed to be when he says you have no idea what this is like for me, what he, what he means is, you know, this is an angel that has come down on a mission and it’s a weird mission.
And. Everything is really bad and having, and, you know, he has that opening monologue where he’s sitting by the angel skeleton explaining, you know, what the set up of what things are. And I think that’s supposed to be like, like he’s not supposed to be there. He’s not supposed to be on or the what, what the hell am I doing here?
You know? Um, th th I think that’s kinda where that’s supposed to be coming from that notion.
[00:46:00] Jeff: Well, I must admit, I really did for, to me, the scene was awesome. Like I said, I really thank you. I probably,
Gregory Widen: I probably heard it. You know, when you direct a movie, you rarely see a movie, you just see all the things you did.
You think you did wrong or could have done better, you know? So that was one of them,
Jeff: um, as, as an audience member seeing the movie, um, and I’ve seen this movie. Easily 50 times, if not, slightly more. Um, the scene where you’re talking about with the gun, I had the only, I didn’t even think about that. I just was engrossed in the moment between Thomas and Simon and I must have had everything else was kind of like went away.
Like you don’t think about any other reason, but third interaction.
Gregory Widen: Oh, well, thank you. That’s that’s good. I’m glad you felt that way. Thank you.
Jeff: And, and I think, and another thing that, um, I really loved about the movie, um, I’m not, um, per se, I’m not a vet, I’m not a religious person. I’m kind of more of an agnostic.
Um, and what I really appreciate about this movie is that not only are you, you touch on Judeo-Christian beliefs, obviously because it’s the Bible and angels and obsolete, um, the monotheistic God, but you also, [00:47:00] the way you incorporate the name of American’s bear truism, I thought it was such an important part of that movie.
And I mean, I don’t know if you intended to be as important to me as I think it is the idea that. Even though native American spiritual ism does not connect to Judeo Christian thought it still connects. They still are able to ex exercise the soil and, and things of that nature. Um, w what was it like, did you intentionally put it in there to make a connection among all faiths that they’re all somehow connected and significant.
Gregory Widen: I mean, I really wanted to tell, and I think it probably helps to have been raised a Catholic for this to work. But, um, you know, I think that you, if you’re raised Catholic, you tend to be very much, um, Uh, brought up in the idea of a structure of a religion. You know, it’s a very top-down structure sure.
With, you know, lieutenants and captains, genitals, and, um, and, uh, and it’s easy to see. And I think the prophecy kind of lifts off that idea of heaven as an [00:48:00] institution, you know, with, with, uh, rules and behaviors. And it’s not so much I haven’t of theology. Um, I mean, there’s a little bit of that in it, but, um, and so that made it easier to kind of make it less.
Christian centric in the meaning of Jesus Christ, doesn’t really make an appearance in the movie at all. I mean, I think Vigo makes it kind of big. I actually made up a, a line that has Jesus in it. That’s really good. But, but other than that, Jesus has never mentioned in the movie, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s more, it’s, it’s more a kind of.
I mean the Christian angels cause they have Christian angel names. So I guess Islam has the same angel, um, cause they’ll come from the, from the old Testament, but Judaism obviously. But, um, but the, um, uh, but I think it was more just this kind of general monotheism. It wasn’t really, it wasn’t trying to be very specific Christian.
So therefore I think it was easy to. Build in other organ groups and, you know, and, and part of that is I want him to go to an Indian reservation and guys like that it was just another alien environment for the oil and then end up in and, [00:49:00] and a different spiritual and, and, um, uh, universal outlook on things.
And I thought that that would be. Interesting to, to throw into the mix. You know, that this little girl is, uh, is a, is an Indian girl. And, um, and that there really isn’t a, um, Christian structure to the whole story. It’s like almost Christianity as a part of what is, uh, a monotheistic institution. You know, that I remember, I was once told once by, um, uh, somebody that, um, Jews and Catholics make the best cops and spies because they’re used to spending their lives devoted to an institution.
And in the end may me maybe just doesn’t like them very much.
Jeff: Well to me.
Gregory Widen: And I think that’s an element of that in the prophecy, you know, or it’s this kind of unrelenting institution look comfortable.
Jeff: I thought they made it more accessible. I mean, as, as, as most again, as a fan who isn’t, um, Uh, I mean, I’m, I was raised, um, I’m raised Jewish and recognize myself as Jewish, [00:50:00] but practicing as an agnostic.
Gregory Widen: Yeah.
Jeff: I thought that it was more accessible because you did open it up to being more than just Christianity is the, is the religion, you know, that kind of thing. It was more like, this is a Virgin of God. This is all the stuff that you know of American petrol all back. Does. Incorporate into it. And I thought that was a very, it felt like a very ingenious addition.
Gregory Widen: That’s about it too, is that, um, we didn’t get any complaints from, um, religious groups, you know, cause they’re, they can be triggered. Certain groups can be triggered by, you know, almost anything and, and they weren’t triggered by this at all. I’m in fact, there was a lot of reviews that were done in, um, religious based, um, journals and online magazines and things, uh, that, um, kind of took off.
Yeah, they kind of appreciated the questions are being be, I mean, there’ll be sort of like an undertone of, of course all the Bible stuff is bullshit, you know, but, um, but the, uh, but you know, these are interesting questions and it’s interesting this and the exploration of blah, blah, blah. Like there seemed to be nobody who seemed to really have a problem with it.
And [00:51:00] then we got a letter for, I got a letter from, uh, Uh, the Bureau of Indian affairs, um, cause we shot on a reservation and used real Navajo and Apache Indians and um, uh, and they, um, I got a letter saying how much they appreciate it. And they were big fans of it, you know, enjoyed it. And, and that made me feel good, you know, so, so I, we managed, so whenever we did that, you’re identifying, managed to produce a movie where, um, people didn’t seem to really have a problem with it, even though it’s fairly extreme in parts.
Jeff: And like I said, I think because once again, the movie was just so well handled. And, um, if you don’t mind, I’m just going to talk about another exchange in the movie that I thought was phenomenal, phenomenal. Um, like I said, this is, this was a huge movie for me. Um, well, one of my two favorites exchange of the movie is between Simon and Gabriel.
And then later Thomas and Gabriel kind of touches on the same thing. Um, and Gabriel says, um, that no angel hears the word any, uh, no more, not one. And later he says, God, doesn’t talk to me anymore. I think that, and I thought that was such a powerful [00:52:00] two speeches in the movie that it kind of also kind of places the blame a little bit on God for not.
Almost being like neglectful on some level, maybe, but I do understand what you’re saying as well earlier when you said it was, he kind of left it to the angels to try to find what their faith would mean without him
Gregory Widen: or it. Well, I think the idea was supposed to be that, um, Gabriel has lost the plot on what the employment agreement is, which is that, um, you know, if somebody says it, you know, um, angels have to have faith too.
You know that nothing spelled out for them, it’s it’s there it’s required that they have faith too. And that’s maybe, I don’t know if it’s an original thought. It was original to me at least, um, that, you know, taking that notion that, you know, th th the tribulations that human beings go through about trying to find meaning in the universe and, and, um, identifying what is faith and what isn’t and what.
Face responsibility is to a person when a person’s responsibility is to face. Um, the idea that [00:53:00] the people in haven’t don’t have it any easier, but that, I mean, they might know certain things, but, um, but there’s still injustice many, um, Dark corners too, about having to figure out their own, you know, justification and, and, and sense of, uh, how the world organ or the universe is organized.
And, um, and so that was kind of the notion of it. And that’s articulated a couple of times and places like that, where, um, where people say, you know, um, I think, I think there’s a line, Oh, that’s the devil says, well, you know, what, if a God tested an angel and, you know, tasteful angels, faith, and that angel didn’t understand and you know, and that’s supposed to be Gabriel basically.
Jeff: And I, and I said, I was burnt. There was some, a couple of shots you teased of what heaven looks like during this war.
Gregory Widen: W w
Jeff: like, was there a, like if you had, was there a wish at any point, if you had the budget to explore it further later on.
Gregory Widen: I mean, you can say that about everything in the movie,
Quintin, Tarantino, you know, um, you know, who [00:54:00] was a fan of the movie, um, and thought Miramax should have done a very big budget SQL to it. Um, he used to say like, you know, where’s the army, you know, it’s got, it was called drugs army at that point. Where’s the army. Um, and, uh, uh, and I think that, that, yeah, sure.
I mean, I’m, you know, I watched the film and, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s done an error. Uh, effects are a little daddy to begin with and, and it’s obviously done very much on the cheap and there’s some of it where you go like, eh, yeah. Okay. That’s all right. Um, but you know, I’m, I’m often surprised given how, um, low budget movie was how much scale it got.
I mean, we had some really great cinematography and it honestly, I mean, I, I think the film has really shot well, you know, and I’m not talking about me, I’m just talking about the gentlemen behind the camera. And, um, it was really, uh, uh, Done well that way. And it’s really well lit, I think. And for film of that, You know that, um, budget, I mean, very often small horror movies like that, these a lot of colored lights and, you [00:55:00] know, they have this kind of Canon and, uh, and they didn’t, we didn’t, we went straight, like it was a real movie like you’re watching, um, you know, in our fantasy you’re watching the godfather, you know, it’s shot.
Well, you know, and, uh, there were shadows and there was, you know, people reflect properly and, um, and, uh, And I think that, but, um, but, but, but you always, of course coming up against, um, you know, realities, which, you know, you have a limited number of people. And so the effects have to be fairly cheap. I mean, the, the agents do a lot of perching in places.
They can’t really purse. So we had to build a structure for them to do that, you know, and it’s kind of a funny story with that. So the three angels who, who, who, you know, have to perch weird Vigo, um, Eric Stoltz and, uh, and, um, uh, Christopher Walken, uh, they needed to pick the position they wanted to approach in like what angle of knees they want to do.
Um, so they could build this aperture that they would kind of, that would kind of go up under their clothes. So they could lean into it at this impossible angle on that [00:56:00] chair, on the edge of a school building or whatever. And, um, and so, uh, Vigo and, um, uh, Erica. Okay. Um, you know, how about this? They go, right.
And they measured it and Chris goes, um, I want to work on the perch. Uh, and they go, Oh, okay. All right. So the quiz always stays at the Chateau Marmont when he’s, when he’s working. I live in the Hills right above the Chateau Marmont. So I’m way close to it. And I’m set off a good cause. You know, Chris gets bored.
He used to tell me, you know, I have no hobbies, you know, hang out and keep him company. But I remember one night I was, I think I was asleep. It was like 1230 or one in the morning and the phone rings and I go home and he goes, uh, Greg hugger? Yes. It’s Chris. I go, yes, I’m perching.
I have a lot of things like that were very bargain basement effect. You know, one of the, um, uh, I forgot his first name, his last name is Bradley. Um, he was our effects guy and I think he was relatively new in the business because he was $3 million film for, [00:57:00] uh, for Miramax, but he went on to be one of the biggest, um, uh, second unit directors in Hollywood.
He did all, he does all the, uh, like the Bourne movies, like basically, you know, Paul Greengrass, I think just kind of. Goes on vacation for a week when the shuttles car chases and things smashing. And he does all that now. And he directed one feature that was, uh, an action film camera in the name of, but, but he, um, uh, but that was his, you know, he, he was really, you could tell this guy was obviously going to be big later on, but it’s amazing the stuff that he created on this micro budget, like, um, Like these things allowed these people to person, you know, Christopher Walken is really perching with his center of gravity over the edge, on the top of school, building five stories up, you know, at one point.
And that’s really him, you know, uh, and, uh, um, just this aperture keeping them up. And so we were lucky that way. I think that we got that, but I go back to your question. I’m sorry. This is probably been a long ramble, but. But, um, but yeah, I mean, every time he did a scene, he kind of wished you [00:58:00] had more of something, but it was also built that way, you know?
And the one thing, one way we tried to get around that was, um, I’m a huge fan of, um, long shots and depth of field shots. Um, I don’t think there’s enough of them in movies anymore. Um, you know, you watch something like Lawrence Arabia where, um, the Omar Sharif character makes his appearance and does a guy shot dead at a waterhole and.
It takes a full minute for them to write up. And the guy’s head is slowly bleeding out on the sand. Is he right? I mean, just, you know, it’s one, it just, you rarely see shots like that anymore. And, um, it’s all we try to do that in the, in the prophecy to kind of play against the fact that was a little low budget.
No horror movie. So you have these scenes where people stand in the desert and there’s these vast vistas behind them. You know, we were really lucky in the locations we shot at, but, um, but you know, you have these mountains and these kind of falling in different colors of the day. And like when Elliot gives a speech about angels, you know, he’s standing in [00:59:00] this place where you can see 15 miles behind him, you know, this kind of primordial landscape and stuff.
And we tried to do a lot of that, where we put people. Um, either with enormous, um, backdrops behind them that went on to kind of held your attention or where we put them small in that landscape, you know, and, and let them move across it. Um, we did a lot of that too. And, um, that helped a lot, you know, I think some kind of make it seem less like a little movie.
Jeff: Well, do you ever make a paradise lost movement? You have to be the one
Gregory Widen: who does. Yes, of course. It’s a funny and the poem. Um, it’s such an interesting thing because a lot of people would. But the average person sounds considers, um, a dogma about what heaven is and what angels are and what the names of angels are and their behaviors.
And the ranks comes from a fictional. Poem, not from the Bible.
Jeff: A lot
Gregory Widen: of that, it’s funny. It’s become, it was such, I mean, I guess that’s a testimony to a writer, but, um, that work of, uh, of art is become an [01:00:00] obviously combined with Blake’s drawings. You know, they came out with it at the same time. Um, it has become, um, such a part of people’s consciousness that they confuse that as being the Bible.
You know, like the, the dialogue spoken about, you know, better to rain and held and serve in heaven and that sort of thing, you know, people think that’s in the Bible.
Jeff: Well, I mean, I’ll say it, the same thing can be said about the divine comedy that, um, the idea of the circles of hell and. Um, all that, um, all that connection there is also, um, directly connected to how people view religion as well.
That is of heaven. Hell and purgatory from divine, from Dante.
Gregory Widen: I will also, what is I find fascinating, obviously Dante was reflecting his time too, but he, um, where he puts people in the circles is fascinating too. Like, and I think this has become part of Western civilization to the idea that the betrayer is at the bottom, even lower than ever.
Jeff: Is that the treaded devil.
Gregory Widen: Yeah. You know, and then he’s at the very bottom, you know, he’s, he’s in the worst circle and, uh, you know, [01:01:00] that’s not written anywhere in the religious texts, but that’s in daunting. I think that’s kind of become inculcated and derived our ideas of, um, you know, the hierarchy of bad things you do.
Jeff: Well, the other thing I love about Dante it’s totally off subject, but is that in the first circle he did explain what happens to those who were born before Jesus, that he had that. You know, it’s like, it’s almost, it’s not a bad circle necessarily. If you’re out of that, you kind of use it in your, um, to me when, um, Lucifer says it’s about being away from God’s light and that’s pretty much what the first circle is in Dante Dante’s Inferno.
Gregory Widen: Yeah. I, one of the things I like about Dante and one of the things I like about medieval, um, religion is I liked the uncompromising quality of it. Like there are things in it that are just plain unfair, I think in modern religion and modern religious interpretations that we tend to make it, you know, everybody gets to play and like everybody gets, uh, you know, uh, everybody gets a certificate for participation and, um, but back [01:02:00] then it was like, well, it’s not your fault, but.
Sorry. I like that. Maybe it goes back to the unfeeling institution, but, but I, um, I liked that as a, as an element in storytelling. I mean, you know, in, in whenever I see it, I’m always so happy when I see it. Like, I remember when I saw master and commander, there’s a bit where the ship’s in real trouble and everything’s going wrong and they seem to be having the worst luck in the world.
And the crews decided that it’s because of one character that is bringing them bad luck and they basically harass him into suicide. And you have, you know, you have Russell Crowe, who’s the captain. And he’s, you know, he’s the thoughtful lead of the thing, but it kind of goes. Yeah, they’re probably right.
You know, and we really did kind of have to get rid of him, you know, and everything got better after that. And it’s just like, you know, it contains two things I love, you know, in fiction, which is a character true to his time. You know, he’s not suddenly this progressive 21st century character. He’s a 19th century character or 18th century [01:03:00] character.
But, um, but also that, and also just the unforgiving. Nature of belief. Yeah. Yeah. Well, that’s the way it goes, you know? And, um, cause I think it just things, it makes things much more interesting and much more, um, complicated if there’s jagged edges to things, you know, even the good people are not great. You know, I had a, um, I mean, I always go back to, um, in my wife, I had a great uncle who was probably the nicest human being I’d ever met.
Um, birds would land on his shoulder, you know, and he just was like St. Francis, you know, he’d just, everyone adored him, children whenever, but, you know, he would, I would catch on sometimes saying nigger, you know,
you know, but he was, you know, he was born a long time ago and, uh, but yeah, and you had to reconcile those two things, you know, he’s still. The person he is, but he’s got this really horrible side to him, you know, or, or ignorant let’s call. And, um, and you know, in that I felt was, I, you know, I liked that when I see that in character [01:04:00] and I liked it when I see that in institutions that, you know, they can be a force for good, but there’s aspects of them that just suck, you know?
And that’s just the way they are. They don’t, you know, they don’t get to get it. They don’t get an explanation that, you know, while their mom beat them when they were a kid or whatever, that’s just there. They sometimes just suck. But
Jeff: what kind of comes the idea of, uh, with once again with when you have Thomas that, I mean, obviously he’s a, he was a priest.
I became a cop. And tell us what he did as a cop. And I don’t know, that’s, what’s better that we don’t know.
Gregory Widen: Well, he’s a homicide cop, right. So he’s obviously been at it a while. Um, yeah. Um, yeah, well, that’s always that line, you know, um, some people lose their faith cause to have, and doesn’t show them enough, but what happens when it shows you too much?
That was great. That’s, you know, the scene where the ordination, where he has his breakdown, um, there’s a, uh, Um, there’s um, um, that, that moment is the last, it’s the last scene that we shot and we were literally out [01:05:00] of money and I was told that when the cameras ran out of film, we were done. So, um, so I dragged in everybody.
I knew, um, Friends from UCLA and stuff that would come in and they were, they were the extras in that sequence. They played the priests in there. And, um, my dad is the Archbishop that speaks
Jeff: that’s cool.
Gregory Widen: And that was kind of a fun sequence, but that was, uh, that was one that was hard to get to like, you know, Les’s can break down and having that have any meaning, you know, and have that resonate with people at all.
And I honestly don’t know in the end, how many people really. Connected with it, you know, cause there’s a lot of other things to connect into in it. I’ve always been lucky in, in the movies I’ve done. Um, like backdraft, I think is another example where, um, I will everyday meet people who really love backtrack, but quite don’t quite get that.
Um, you know, that the farming was the guy with the fires was kind of a little too opaque to them, you know, like my [01:06:00] fault, not their fault, you know? Um, and. I, uh, you know, and, and I think, but they still really love the movie because of all the other things that were in it. Um, and I think sometimes in the prophecy, people might just kind of skip over what Elliot whole thing was about his faith and ordination and all that, and just get to, wow, there’s Christopher Walken chasing this girl across, across the country, and this is really cool and I get why he’s doing it, you know, and I’ll just, you know, uh, thomas’ struggle.
Um, you know, I’m just, I’ll, I’ll put that aside for a minute and then there’s people get it, you know, so I’m glad there was enough. Alison the movie that people weren’t completely turned off by that
Jeff: I definitely would say I at least I, I believe, um, see you haven’t seen the movie that I did get, um, what Tom was going through me apartment was one of like, God’s kind of a Dick.
Don’t do that to him at that moment. Yeah, yeah,
Gregory Widen: yeah, yeah, totally. I think it’s just, it is unknowingness to them. It’s the idea of, you know, even in heaven he’s unknowable.
Jeff: Right, right. Um, so when you completed the prophecy, [01:07:00] was there plans at the time for potential sequels or was that something that came out of the success of the first one?
Gregory Widen: I didn’t have it in minus SQL. Um, I don’t think I’ve ever written a movie. I thought she’d have a SQL. Um, they all had endings, um, and, uh, they’ve all had SQL, so, um, excuse me. Um, Absolutely. When the film, the film did really well for Miramax, they’re very happy with it. And so immediately they wanted to do a SQL.
Sure. Um, and that’s where that came out of. They, they, they basically insisted there be one
Jeff: and three
Gregory Widen: and four and five, or how many of they finally did?
Jeff: I think there are, I think there’s five. Yeah. There’s three are in when I call it the walking trilogy of it. And then there’s two that followed that I think were the same year.
Gregory Widen: Yeah. I think, uh, there were two that made it at once. Yeah. They shot at the same time.
Jeff: Now, now you didn’t write or direct any of the others, correct?
Gregory Widen: The second one, I wrote a scene just for fun, but [01:08:00] I, um, uh, I did not after that. I didn’t, I don’t think I’ve even seen the ones after that, honestly, but, um, but I would have seen where the, um, uh, The coroner has a speech to, um, to somebody.
Um, and I wrote that speech, I think just cause it was fun on the corner. You know, the, the, the, um, Steve Hytner was the guy who played the part, but he was the soup Nazi on, um, on Seinfeld. Alrighty, Jerry kind of watch it. Um, but, uh, he, um, He was an audience favorite. You’ve got the audit of the cards back and everyone loved him.
You know, he’s in two scenes, you know, it was a fun scene to write for me, you know, because I, I love it when, um, When people try to, if you have some understanding of the way things actually work in a given thing that you try to actually, you know, try to reflect that in the, in, in, in a movie where, you know, I love it when pilots actually make a movie and they, they show that the cockpit’s a lot more of a mess and there’s a stains on it and somebody spills a drink or whatever, you know, things that really [01:09:00] happened.
And I was in the fire department and unfortunately I dealt with morgues and, um, And there were always like, you know, stickers on things and, you know, people writing smiley face on things and, you know, having black humor and stuff like that. And so be able to bring that to that seamless was, was fun. Okay.
Jeff: So why did you choose not to direct or be a part of the writing process of the SQLs?
Gregory Widen: I’m a producer on it. So I had a say in it. Um, I think, you know, and I would have to question this decision now, there were a couple of decisions I made, then I would question, um, I got a lot of offers to do things after the prophecy, but none of them were guaranteed to be theatrical releases.
They might’ve been, they might not have been, I was asked to do the dusk to Dawn sequel. I was asked to do a bunch of stuff. And I said no to them all, because I really wanted to do it theatrical movie. And I probably said no too long people kind of forgot in the browsing, but, um, uh, And I think at that point, that was the [01:10:00] answer there.
They didn’t really know, you know, the prophecy was made at a time when there was a really vibrant DVD market and studios and could make a lot of money off, straight to DVD if it hadn’t, you know, if it had an IP that it was working off of that was popular and had stars and had Vulcan in it, um, they could really do well.
That could be a business model for them. And, um, and so they. Didn’t have a problem doing that. But problem was at that point, I didn’t know if I wanted the next movie idea to be a direct to DVD, which is what we called it that, you know, and, um, and so I said, no, basically I think that’s really what it boiled down to.
I mean, they would have been happy for me to do it. And if, if I had wanted to do it,
Jeff: did they, did they unfold? Did they end up unfolding the way you wanted, at least the initial trilogy to unfold, or
Gregory Widen: I always saw the first sequels. Um, number two, I didn’t see the other ones. Um, I actually didn’t hate the second one.
I thought it was in some ways the story was clearer than the first one. Um, but, um, uh, but I think, [01:11:00] you know, the problem was it was interesting situation because, um, The first one was made without Miramax, essentially, even though they, you know, they came in and did the post-production on it, but it was really an independent producer, Robert Little, um, and his film for his company.
First look, the, provide the funding and I had a remarkable amount of freedom to tell my story. And I think maybe just also in fairness to Robbie, he supported, um, you know, my vision of it. And so I’m able to do a lot of weird offbeat things in the property. There’s a lot of weird offbeat things in the prophecy.
I mean, you know, um, Eric Stoltz and was his idea. It gives a real hard kiss on that little girl, you know, when he puts a soul in her. And, uh, and there’s just a lot of odd stuff. There’s a lot of odd speeches, you know, there’s a lot of, um, things that could really have gone one way or the other. And, um, and they.
And he was totally supportive and we shot that. And that’s the movie that Miramax was essentially presented with. The problem was, is that all the sequels then were made by men. Um, you know, um, Bob Weinstein, the dimension and, you know, and they had just different sensibilities. I mean, um, if you couldn’t really [01:12:00] have a discussion of faith and religion with Baba, Feinstein.
He never heard of who Judas was, for instance, it’s like, I thought he was kidding. Really? You mean never June. It’s like, you never know, never seen the last supper, the Vinci. And, um, and so those films reflect. You know, uh, all right. We got our, you know, we got walk-in and we got this and we got to go do, and also, I think there’s an, I have a philosophy about films.
Um, very often when you have the character, that’s not the POV. So walking is not the POV in the movie, you know, it’s, it’s Thomas. W and maybe become a very popular character. Often, the reason they’re popular is because you don’t see that much of them, and there are elements of their personality and their motivations that remain a mystery.
And, um, you know, I think Hannibal Lecter is at his best and the lamps because he’s basically Dracula. He sits in the dark, you off the lights, you know, he’s still standing there until you come back and he has no real life or persona outside the persona that you [01:13:00] experienced with them in this weird way, you know?
And then as soon as you start having a lector become, you know, a guy on an airplane or going online or all the things that happen in the later movies, I dunno, he’s just, wasn’t the same guy anymore, you know? And, um, yeah. And I th I can understand why they did it because everyone loves lecture. So let’s do a movie about laughter.
Um, I think the same thing happen with the prophecy a little bit where, um, walking, I think really works in the first prophecy because he’s not the center of the movie. He is what you love about it. But one of the reasons you love him is because he’s not on the screen. 24 seven. And I think having him, yeah.
And of course we need to sequence. It’s like, well, now we’re walking, we’re walking us and everybody loves. And you know, maybe, sometimes you, people don’t understand why they loved it. You know, you can, you know, how many times can a character say, you must look marvelous. You know, I cannot out a one liner from SNL, you know, it’s, it’s, there’s a reason it works.
And it often works because it’s, it’s. The lack of time they spent on screen, you know, and I can name a hundred movies like that, you know, I think aliens one of those too. So, um, but, [01:14:00] uh, um, so I, that was another reason why those movies are different, I think. And because it’s like, they became walk-in movies where they weren’t really, before, even though he dominated the movie, it wasn’t really structured to be about him really, per se, you
Um, do you think you’ll ever do any more prophecy movies? Um, at least, and be directly involved in anymore?
Gregory Widen: Well, you know what, it’s funny. You should mention that. Um, I have a phone call Thursday near max. It has gone through about a hundred owners since I did the prophecy and it was bought by Disney and then it was, um, and then they created the Weinstein company and then Miramax Disney eventually sold Miramax to, uh, one group of people.
And then they sold it to another hedge fund. And I’m not even sure I can give you the name of who owns it now, but they own the rights to the movie and they’re actually talking about it, you know, um, and seeing if there’s another. The other thing to do, and I’ve got other stories to tell in that universe.
Um, and so, you know, we’ll see if there’s, uh, there’s room to do something. So I would, I that’s a long answer to, to what should have been a short answer, which is yeah, no, I, I would do it for sure.
Jeff: Well, no, [01:15:00] the truffle you gave me the answer I wanted to hear because I really do. Um, it’s such a great, um, first movie.
Um, the franchise, um, the first, um, well, I would say the walking trilogy was, um, well handled after that. I, I thought for the most part I will admit I never saw the last two,
Gregory Widen: right? Yeah. Yeah. I was trying to wear mania just for a courteous.
Jeff: Um, so, and I think the other one, another question I had, and I don’t, I don’t want you to tell me how about a few questions on that moves over to my mind.
Gregory Widen: Yeah.
Jeff: Um, one, I noticed that there’s a couple of themes that you do, um, having both Highlander and prophecy, one that you mentioned the idea of the immortals and the other, there was also a scene that I felt. Um, similar, and I wonder if there was a particular purpose for it. Um, once again, you mentioned the, the walking scene with Thomas and the church, correct?
Yes. And then you have in Highlander CA uh, Connor MacLeod with, um, the village. The name just escapes me for, just for the moment. [01:16:00] The curtain, um, in the church as well. And he kind of a similar conversation, even the seated somewhat similarly.
Gregory Widen: Yes, I actually more so in the script. Um, no script, the version I did, um, you know, highly went through a few changes after, um, I was a kid in college and, um, uh, and when they got to London, they, they.
They made some changes to that. And the Kurgan is a much more, and maybe for the better of the movie, I’m not really in a position to say, but, but he’s a much more extreme character punk, Rocky character than he was. As I thought of him, I thought of him more as a. Probably, you know, in some ways Christopher Walken was what I thought.
The Kurgan what I originally intended the Kurgan to be, which is a little bit more thoughtful, a little bit more. Um, self-absorbed a little bit more, uh, uh, you know, uh, can put two sentences together and. And the curtain that, uh, emerges in the Highlander is, is just kind of, you know, a drunken, whoring, screaming guy, you know?
And, and, and [01:17:00] he’s great. I mean, I’m not, I’m not really knocking the character, honestly. I think he works in the movie. Yeah. But, but, but you’re right. That, that, that those two scenes exist in both movies. But, um, but I think he would have found that my original conception of it in the Highlander version of it would have been.
Calmer and more like the prophecy scene, a little bit more intense between two people, as opposed to a lot of stomping and you know, and motorcycle boots kind of thing. But, um, but that’s it, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the Highlander version, but it is different.
Jeff: So in the original version did so the, um, so he had more of a, um, a motivation cause like once again, other than being.
The bad guy in the movie. I didn’t feel like they delve too much, too much deeper into why.
Gregory Widen: Yeah. It’s very different that way. Yeah. Um, one of the big changes in the movie is, um, the Caribbean becomes much more kind of Freddie cruder ask character. And he wasn’t really originally he had a point of view. Um, one of the migrate influences for Highlander was a really Scott’s for his [01:18:00] movie, the Duellists.
And, um, I don’t know if you’re familiar with that movie people, more people should be it’s a great movie, but the basic one-liner on it is, um, two officers in the French military inner Napoleon, um, have a dual over. Just some meaningless, little slight when perceives from the other, but the dual can’t finish for whatever reason you want them to get wounded.
Or if they get called a war or something happens and they keep trying to finish the duel, but they never can. They do it about five times, never finished it. And it goes on for like 20 years. Um, um, and very reasons they can’t do it. And then there’s a fantastic ending to it. Um, What I really liked about that was this idea that these two guys are in this trying to finish this competition with each other, this dual, with each other.
And by the end of the movie, they don’t even remember why they’re doing it. And you get the sense that the one guy who’s our hero, um, is he doesn’t even know why he’s doing anymore. Other than a sense of honor, he doesn’t really want to do it anymore, but the guy that’s been pursuing him all the time, it’s played by Harvey cartel.
He’s gotten to [01:19:00] the point where he also can’t really remember what the original insult was, but it’s all you got to live for. His life has just gone to shit and all it’s left to hang on to is finishing this tool that he’s going to finish it to the end because it’s all he’s got. And I think I, I, I pretty openly borrowed that I think in, in, in an early version of Highlander, because the idea that.
The Kurgan essentially has nothing else to live for. If you’re going to live forever, you have to have something to live for because you bury everybody. Now, you know, you have nothing left and, um, you have to figure out some reason to get up in the morning. And the Kurgans decided that reason is winning this contest and getting rid of Connor.
And that’s, that is a more sense of, uh, of, uh, um, a motivation that was, um, in a, in a much earlier version of it.
Jeff: Well, there’s that, there’s a great line in the first movie where, um, it stated to, uh, Connor, um, that he’s afraid to live, which was, again, that seemed to be one of the major themes of the entire movie.
And is that really is because his entire life is just basically leading to this one fight that [01:20:00] kind of determines everything that is almost, there’s a, maybe not a pointlessness to everyday life at that moment, but it’s not. It builds to, it needs to build to this thing and everything in between. It doesn’t have the value
Gregory Widen: that, but also I think the idea that, um, you know, one of the most significant emotional things for him is he buries his wife, you know, and, and the implication being he bears, everybody ever knew.
So that’s part of it too. You fight to live because living will entail loss. You know, and it does for everybody, but guaranteed does for him, you know, everybody, you know, you know, you’re going to be the last one standing. And I think that that’s where a lot of that comes from. And a lot of the ideas of, of his character, you know, that, that, uh, you know, it’s, it’s, this is, this is no fun.
And, um, it’s hard to invest in a life in which is built around loss. Unless you become a person who just lives utterly in the moment, you know, like sort of like the, I guess,
Jeff: and, and I think it’s interesting with him as [01:21:00] well. The, the idea of, uh, once again, because his life was going to has been so long, what is left for him, I guess, to do on some level, um, when you’ve been around for, I guess it was 500 years.
Gregory Widen: Yeah, no, absolutely. Um, it’s um, uh, I think there’s a bit of that. I think it’s for the Kurgan is a bit like that, that, that fear factor that the, it doesn’t so much into, um, into Connor. I think Connor it’s the idea is supposed to be that he’s, he’s just a wounded guy who just wants to be left alone quietly.
I don’t want to play this game anymore. You know, I just want to have a quiet life and live in my antique shop, you know, which is probably a bit like the dualist. So, but.
Jeff: And the, and with Sean Connery, he stated that he’s Egypt would, was that always the storyline for him? Cause once again, I mean, once again, Sean Connery.
Gregory Widen: Yeah, no, no, it wasn’t. I wonder I’m just such a weird movie. It it’s hard sometimes to go back and experience things as they [01:22:00] were at the time they were done, you know, because we will only know what we feel about things today. So if you go back, um, There was zero interest in making Highlander in the studios, in the United States.
When I was trying to get an agent, whether you knew it was the first script I ever wrote, um, there was like, Oh, this stuff doesn’t sell. You know, we don’t want to represent you. Um, and there was not much interest in doing it. It was a. Foreign company that finally made it. So a lot of the, the themes and ideas in it, um, didn’t really resonate.
And what I’m getting to is they didn’t make the move for a lot of money. I think it was like 10 million. They, um, and they had to kind of cast who they could and, and, um, Sean was available. And so they kind of put him in it and ironically, because they couldn’t. Forward for him to play the Conor role because he was getting a lot of money.
We got a million dollars a week or something. Um, they, uh, he comes in as the mentor and in many ways, Highlander launched his career as the mentor that shows up, teach us something to the main guy and then dies, you know, cause he did that. [01:23:00] You know, he did that and uh, the untouchables and, you know, and that kind of launched that part of his career.
But, um, I think that. Definitely because he was, he had to be in there in that part. He is a Spaniard and you know, and then the French guy is the Scotsman.
So that was just a, I think a reality of the filmmaking. I don’t think anybody felt what a brilliant, um, you know, casting idea that we cast people against their actual national accents. Connery’s amazing in that movie. He’s terrific. You know, but, uh, but it does, it does ask some certain questions.
Jeff: So, so later on there, the sequels cause Highlander osteo was a big hit.
So they made a bunch of sequels and a TV show, obviously. And later on in the sequels, it States that the Highlanders are aliens from the planet. Zeiss. How you feel about that addition is, was that always a Canon aspect to it?
Gregory Widen: I’ll tell you one story when, um, I didn’t want to have anything to do with Highlander in the beginning because I didn’t, you know, I didn’t really have faith in the producers.
And also, um, [01:24:00] they, I got a tremendous amount of money for them simply to have the right, to do another Highlander. Um, my contract was structured. I structured it. I got a lot of money just for doing nothing. If they did Islander and they offered me to write the second one. But if I did, I would have to. Take that money against the money at all, otherwise get, so I basically right here for free.
Uh, and so I, uh, I, you know, and I, I didn’t love them now. I kind of regret that. I thought, well, maybe I should have, you know, kept, you know, now I wonder, but, you know, as a young kid and that was, had other things, I’d sold something else to Warner brothers. And I think I kind of felt like, yeah, I’m done with that.
And, um, uh, But I didn’t want to know what they’re doing. Cause I know they probably irritate me whatever it is they did, you know? And, um, and so, uh, I had some friends who were getting together in another friend’s apartment and they were all writers and we were going to go out and do something that night.
And one of them had it, there was a stack of scripts and they were hanging out. One of them was reading. The script was Highlander too. Uh, this one never got ahold of it and was reading it. Um, it’s kinda in Greg Preston here and he’s reading it and um, [01:25:00] and he goes, he starts to ask what you are. And I go, I don’t want to know.
I don’t know anything about it. He goes, but what about, I don’t want to know anything, honestly. I don’t know anything. He finally pauses and he puts a script on closing. He looks at me, he goes,
I never, uh, I never saw the movie, um, that I’ve gotten checks for it. Of course. What’s that, what’s that line from that? Um, Uh, uh, Michael Cain said, when you start in that terrible movie, the swarm, um, somebody asked him once, um, have you actually seen this more? And he goes, I have not seen the swarm, but I have seen the house that have built and I can reliable.
I can reliably inform you that it’s quite beautiful. Um, and I kind of thought that way about Islander, you know, too, I got paid for it nicely. And, you know, I can tell you the house that built, but, um, but I can’t, um, But I never saw it, but there was a lot, there was a period of time there when I’d walk around and I’d introduce myself, I [01:26:00] wasn’t Gregory widen.
It was hi, I’m Gregory wine. I didn’t ride Highlander too, because I would meet people over and over and over again, that really liked Highlander. But then they would kind, you know, hint because they didn’t want to be insulting, but they were kind of like, so, you know, did you have anything to do with
Jeff: now? And if you had continued making Ray in the movies, what do you have delve deeper into the reasons of the mortals? Um, you, you, at the end of the first movie, you basically, it’s a new eight that he’s going to be the on site. I didn’t have to make a complete analogy of Superman when the idea that he’s gonna bring humanity to the next level of our, you know, of our society or our humanity.
Um, and you kind of have that introduction. Yeah. Uh, that Connor is going to be the one who helps, um, connect humanity to the next level of like our very existence or a better existence. If you had written the secret, would you have delved deeper into the why behind all that?
Gregory Widen: No, I’m that [01:27:00] little bit at the end.
Wasn’t really my idea. That was something that’s added. So I, I, to me, the gift was, um, this is finally over. It’s like the end of the you, they duals over it. You can go back and live your life. You’ve got all this stuff in you and you can do things and maybe create good in the world, but the messages, um, you can just be a person now.
That was, that was really my version of maybe not as interesting, but that was, but I always thought, you know, Highlander was a one movie idea. I, you know, I didn’t ever thought there would be a cul. Um, and cause you know, it brings up certain logical questions while you just killed them all. You are the last one.
So where do we go from here? You know, it’s interesting. You bring that up because I can’t remember what Highland it was. It was either three or four. At that point, Miramax under the rights to it. And, um, they asked me if I wanted to direct one, right. And direct one. And I thought, yeah, you know what? And they want it to be the last while they wanted to be the one Kilz Connor.
And I thought, you know what? I’ll put Connor to bed. That could be fun. I said to them, you know, are you sure that you own the rights it’s entirely to this? Cause the producers think there. The [01:28:00] experts on Highlander now, not me, you know, because they’ve been with it longer now and they may not want me to do this, you know?
And are you sure that that’s okay? And they said, yeah, yeah, yeah, no, no, yeah, yeah. This is typical Miramax, you know, look leaping before they look, but I said, well, why don’t you make me pay a plate? It was an enormous amount of money to write direct to this. And they, and they said, yeah, yeah, of course, we’re, we’ll make you powerful.
I said, okay. So I wrote my version of how the movie should end. Or the series should end. And then the printer said, yeah, no, we don’t want to do that. And then Miramax had appended a bunch of movie money, but not doing anything. So I didn’t take a shot at it. Um, uh, you know, a kind of convoluted reason why there’s still some of the, um, Yeah.
Some of the force still out there that, you know, didn’t get taken and, you know, it’s locked up in a person in chains, you know, the bottom of the ocean kind of thing. Um, but, um, but that was, I did take a shot at an extension of the idea, um, later on.
Jeff: It does seem like there is a bit of a glottic oops. Like, cause at the [01:29:00] end I was like, he gets to get everything, you know, he obviously wins.
Then when you had the sequels, it’s like, how did this universal thing that created the, the, the mortals, like, forget about,
Gregory Widen: yeah, I know, I know. It, it, they, they had to struggle with it a bit. Yeah. Um, and you know, cause it was never designed to be a SQL, so.
Jeff: So, um, I heard that there’s an announcement that there’s making a remake to Highlander.
Um, are you involved in this, uh, remake?
Gregory Widen: I’m not, no, not at all. Um, they were just kind of doing it on their own, which is fine. Again, there’s a, you know, I will have a very nice house I can point at when, but, um, uh, no, I’m not, they, they’re kind of doing their own thing. Um, I have an idea for a series I’d like to do, and I’ve talked to Lionsgate about it, um, a reboot series and, but they are kind of waiting for the movie to get done, but I don’t have to leave.
I don’t know what the movie is. I mean, it’s apparently extremely expensive and Lionsgate is doesn’t want to spend that much money. And, uh, so, you know, it’s just kind of sitting there at the moment, but, um, I don’t know what their, you know, But their plan is keep making John wicks forever. [01:30:00] I guess,
Jeff: the crater.
Do you feel that they should be coming to you and saying kind of looking for your blessing on, um, whether this remake is going to be,
Gregory Widen: uh, yeah, I guess it’d be nice to be asked. I don’t know. I guess it’s not a natural thing now. I mean, they did with backtrack, but, um, uh, I don’t know. And they do with prophecy, but, um, I don’t know if it’s a natural thing really?
That it happens a lot. I think, you know, it’s, I don’t have an answer to that question, honestly. I mean, sure. It would have been nice. I mean, I think I could contribute something to, to whatever dead ends they’re in right now, but, um, but you know, you never know.
Jeff: Yeah. Um, I also noticed in, in, in your, um, um, do some research on you that you’re listed as the writer for movie, I’m going to get the name wrong, a hundred percent you Suki.
Yes. Oh, I got it right. Hey, this is a very low percentage for me, by the way, this is a very low, um, what stage of production is it in? Cause obviously it was involved with, um, [01:31:00] Chadwick.
Gregory Widen: That was the problem. I mean, yeah, it’s a, um, uh, it’s, it’s a movie that I pitched to lion’s gate and they sold it. Uh, Y excuse me, I sold it to them and wrote it.
And then, uh, Chadwick bondsman, uh, came on and, uh, it’s a story of the first African, uh, to travel to Japan. Uh, in the 14 hundreds and he, um, not only became a samurai, but he became a confidant and bodyguard to the first man to unified Japan, uh, or to Nova Naga. And that’s an amazing story. Amazing, true story.
It’s very sad. It’s a very famous story in Japan, but people don’t really know in the United States. It’s I read that. And then, uh, chatter Bozeman came on and he was telling me about it was his next movie and there were. You know, clips on videos of him training with a sword and stuff. You know, it’s a lot of samurai stuff.
And then, um, uh, it bounced around studios landscape. Wasn’t really sure they want to do it cause it was a high budget. And I think Lionsgate is trying to sign up. They’re going to sell themselves or not to somebody. And so they moved somewhere else. And then it’s kind of [01:32:00] an independent group. Now the guy used to run blind skate has hundreds of millions of dollars now to fulfill fund and he might do it.
Um, it didn’t shatter died, you know, and then there was COVID. So I don’t know what anybody knows. I mean, I have a film brothers, I might’ve mentioned this conversation that, you know, Margot, Robbie, and I pitched an idea to them and, um, and they bought it, you know, it was my idea and she would star in it and we went in there together, did a song and dance.
And, um, and I turned in the script. One of us was really happy that we’re on saying like, wow, this is one of our favorite scripts. We can’t wait, we can’t wait. Can’t wait now. It’s COVID you know, and so I don’t know what that means. When does the movie get made? Um, Jeff Goldbloom lives a couple doors down.
Straight from me. And he, you know, he’s been doing Jurassic world in London. They’re trying to do a movie, but it keeps shutting down, you know, because somebody gets sick.
Gregory Widen: Totally human being. Yeah. And, uh, another friend of mine, um, Jared Harris is, um, doing, uh, um, Uh, the Apple plus series, uh, foundation. [01:33:00] And, um, he’s in Europe for that. And, you know, and he had to have five miss the nice part. They had to fly him over in a private jet because he couldn’t be on a public plane, you know, and they’d lock him and his wife up in a country house for two weeks.
And now they’re gonna try, like, it just, the nightmare of shooting a feature film right now is just crazy. And, and there’s no theaters to put them in. So, um, so things like, I mean, obviously your Suki had Chadwick dying, which was a tragedy. And, um, Pope Joe, we have everybody, you know, but, um, but it’s a question of when, when, how, you know, nobody’s really making any decisions, I think until the new year.
Jeff: Well, as, as that movie, um, gets made an also highlight, I do hope you come back and talk and talk to me about it. Um, what can you say the name of the movie you’re working on with Margot Robbie,
Gregory Widen: it’s called Pope Joan Pope. Joan. Yeah.
Jeff: What was it about?
Gregory Widen: It’s based on a puff of possibly apocryphal, true story of a woman, a pagan, uh, in ninth century, Europe who, [01:34:00] um, uh, pretended to be a man and ended up becoming Pope.
Um, and, uh, this is after the fall of Roman empire and there’s a lot of chaos and, uh, she’s quite possibly responsible for saving Western civilization.
Jeff: Oh, that’s a nice ski day.
Gregory Widen: All of a sudden her sister. Sorry.
Jeff: So I assume a Margot Robbie is going to be that character.
Gregory Widen: Yes. Yeah.
Jeff: Um, and so it is that one you said is coming, is in the process after a jet in the new year.
Gregory Widen: Well, you know, I turned in the last draft of it. I’m literally in February, so my timing was perfect. Um, you know, everything’s shut down in March. And so, um, you know, when I say it’s a movie, that’s got to go. I mean, you know, we don’t, I can’t predict the future. There’s no director on yet that we’re talking to directors.
Um, but you know, we, the producers and Margot and I sit around and talk and we go like, well, if a director says, yes, what does that mean? You know, even so it’s really kind of like conversations at this point. Um, I think it’s going to be the new year before we really try to, [01:35:00] you know, push it and get it made for real.
Jeff: So, what, what stops you from being the director is since you have had the experience before
Gregory Widen: it’s a giant movie, um, I’m I have projects that I want to direct for sure that I’m, I’m, I’m shopping around. Um, I’ve been heartbreakingly close, you know, which is everybody’s story, I guess, on a couple of ones.
Um, um, and, um, and I’m still working to do that and it’s, um, It’s probably partly my fault, you know, I should be, yeah. They’re writing $200,000 movies and just doing them, you know, but I guess I don’t think that way, or, and I’m kind of a slow writer and I tend to think of fairly complicated ideas and I spend time doing them and then it’s, you know, then I need a certain amount of money to do them and blah, blah, blah.
Right. I get distracted. And so, uh, you know, cause it, it sort of makes sense to me sitting here that like, Oh yeah, I’m directing a movie since I’ve directed some television stuff since then, but I haven’t directed. Um, anything since the prophecy feature-wise and I kinda, it sorta makes sense sitting here.
And then I look over how [01:36:00] many years it’s actually been. I go, fuck, what did I, I can give you reasons, but they’re to be not real reasons. You know, when I looked at the people I know that are just making one after another, they just go out and do it. It doesn’t matter how much money they have and, you know, they just, they read a script quick and they shoot it and that’s really what I should be doing.
But, um, I have a small child and I don’t know, you know, hopefully I’ll do that.
Jeff: Well lately, like I said, I mean, when the prophecy and you’re in, um, just Suki and I’m the one that you just mentioned, uh, Pope, he says Pope Joan.
Gregory Widen: Yes.
Jeff: Pope Joan with Mario with Mughrabi please come back and talk to me about all those projects as they get moving towards completion.
Gregory Widen: absolutely. Absolutely. Um,
Jeff: like I said, and I want to thank you so much for giving me so much of your time. You were fantastic. And like I said, I really appreciate you talking to me about the prophecy is maybe that’s, you know, that’s been one of my personal fades for, I guess now it’s been what? 15 years.
Gregory Widen: Yeah. Yeah. [01:37:00] Well, thank you very much for feeling that way.
Jeff: Well, like I said, it’s definitely my pleasure.