March 28, 2002
Man of Action
If there is a name for comic book action, it must be "David Goyer."
When the 36-year-old screenwriter is not bringing superheroes to life in hyperactive flicks -- such as the just-released "Blade 2," starring Wesley Snipes -- Goyer is doing it in the pages of D.C. Comics. "Justice Society of America" often charts as the fourth best-selling comic book. Goyer's gift for scripting pulse-quickening action has made him a hot name in Hollywood and in comics, industries pioneered by Jews.
"I think it comes from persecution and a certain amount of wish-fulfillment," Goyer said of the reason Jews gravitate toward the mediums.
Goyer knows of what he speaks. Being Jewish is "definitely something I'm proud of," but he's admittedly turned off by organized religion. During his childhood in Michigan, "a lot kids beat me up, saying that I killed Christ. I was very consciously different. I didn't have a ton of Jewish people around me. I grew up with something of a chip on my shoulder."
Goyer and his brother, Jeff, were raised in Ann Arbor by their single mother, of Lithuanian descent, who took her boys to Israel after their father left. Goyer, then age 10, lived in Jerusalem for several months -- an enjoyable experience, he says, which now seems surreal.
"My brother and I collected bullet casings. We had pillow cases full of them," he remembered. "We were sort of unaware. I remember seeing the police shoot a guy dead in front of us on the street. I remember the jets and windows shattering from the sonic booms. But I wasn't afraid."
Six months after graduating from USC Film School, Goyer sold his first script, the Jean Claude Van Damme action flick "Death Warrant." Even in Hollywood, Goyer encountered anti-Semitism when an extra asked him if he was Jewish.
"I said, 'Yes I am. Why do you ask?' He said, 'You smell like one.' And I punched him," Goyer recalled. "People were shocked. It seemed so strange. So out of the blue."
That episode aside, "Death Warrant" turned out to be fortuitous for the young screenwriter.
"Not the world's best movie, but it got me my start," said Goyer, who later penned "Dark City."
With "Blade" in 1996, Goyer not only brought the half-human vampire hunter to the screen, but put Marvel Comics on the Hollywood map. This tertiary character from the sleeper '70s "Tomb of Dracula" series was the first Marvel hero to inspire a hit movie.
Goyer pitched a trilogy to New Line "that was Wagnerian in scope -- the 'Star Wars' of vampire films," he said. Former New Line executive Michael De Luca "went crazy" over it, he added.
Goyer put a '90s gloss on "Blade" with a hybrid urban/Hong Kong flair that was a year ahead of the stylistically similar "Matrix." After "Blade" became a hit, Goyer became Marvel's "it" guy, writing scripts based on "Nick Fury," "Dr. Strange" and "Ghost Rider." He said he may work on Snipes' pet project, "Black Panther," if he can also direct.
Yet it was Marvel's competitor, D.C., that approached Goyer about writing for comics.
"It's important to write in different mediums," Goyer says.
And to direct, since even writers get typecast. But Goyer doesn't take things sitting down. He just premiered his directorial debut, "Zig Zag," at South By Southwest Music Festival. The independent production, that he wrote, stars John Leguizamo ("Moulin Rouge") and Natasha Lyonne ("American Pie").
"It's the polar opposite of movies I'm known for," says the drama's proud papa, now prepping to direct another drama written by Ted Tally ("Silence of the Lambs"). Then he'll write "Blade 3."
Full circle for a tough hombre who is one tough act to follow.