Zero Dark Thirty Writer On Why He’s Unlikely To Make A Marvel-Style Blockbuster Anytime | Popgen Tech


Mark Boal, the former journalist who wrote the Oscar-winning writer who won two Oscars for the Bin Laden film Zero Dark Thirty, shares his thoughts on big Marvel-style Hollywood blockbusters. Appearing on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast, Boal was asked if a studio had come to him asking him to write a giant blockbuster.

“Nobody ever f**king asked me that, no, they never do,” he said.

The closest Boal has come to something like this is some script-doctoring work he’s done, though he didn’t name any specific projects. That said, Boal says he enjoys these jobs–which may involve cracking dialogue or helping to organize the third act, for example–because they pay “crazy good money.” But Boal was never asked to work on a massive IP like Spider-Man, for example.

“Nobody said, ‘Here’s our important piece of IP, here’s like Spider-Man, we want you to take care of it.’ No,” he said. “They don’t need that, they don’t want that.”

Zero Dark Thirty was made on a production budget of $40 million, Boal said, noting that Megan Ellison wrote the check and paid the bill herself. Because of this, the film was made like an independent film, Boal said, and it helped the crew, including himself and director Kathryn Bigelow, stay true to their vision without much influence from outside the studio. But the bigger a film’s budget, the more money it needs to make to recoup its costs, and this can lead to issues involving creative expression, Boal said.

“If I was running one of those companies, I wouldn’t hire me,” he said.

Big studios like Marvel have a “playbook” for their movies, Boal said, and they want to keep the formula the same to create the highest probability of a positive return on investment. If Boal were to make a film of this scale, he could pitch changes that a studio wouldn’t necessarily agree to.

“We have a playbook. It’s worked every f**king time, and we’re going to do the same playbook again,” Boal said an executive from a major studio might tell him.

“I would, yes, but can’t we change it and what if we make it more realistic. What if we try to make it more authentic. They’re like, ‘Bro, we sell toys for kids. ,'” said Boal.

There are exceptions, of course, as Boal points out that Christopher Nolan–a director he says has “crazy artistic chops”–did a great job on the Batman movie The Dark Knight. This is unusual, however, Boal said.

“Those systems, they are factories. Those are really industrial projects, when you watch a Marvel movie. There is a limit to how much any one filmmaker or writer can really change what [a big studio] is trying to do with their product. So it’s ultimately–the money is great–but ultimately it’s not interesting,” he explained.

Boal broke out in Hollywood with The Hurt Locker in 2008, which was partially based on his own experiences covering the war in Iraq. Boal won two Academy Awards for the film. He went on to write 2012’s Zero Dark Thirty, earning two Oscar nominations for it. Later credits include Detroit and Triple Frontier. His latest work is the thriller series Echo 3 for Apple TV+.

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