Max Landis talks about writing “Chronicle”

Max Landis is the writer of the recent found footage superhero film, “Chronicle”. Max is the son of John Landis (“An American Werewolf in London” & “The Blues Brothers”) and he is taking after his father for being extremely talented. The script for “Chronicle” is so original and fresh, which is really fresh in busy Hollywood of remakes and sequels. Max took some time to chat with Media Mikes to discuss the new film and what else he has planned upcoming.

Mike Gencarelli: Your script for “Chronicle” is so original, tell us about the evolution of the project?
Max Landis: Josh (Tranks) and I knew each other from high school. We didn’t talk for about 10 years and then I ran into him at a party and we started talking. He said he had directed a couple of shorts and I told him I had written some scripts. At this point I had a script on the radar and I was slowly becoming a writer people knew of. He had edited and directed second on a movie called “Big Fan”. I saw his shorts and I love them. He said he read my scripts and said they were amazing. He said “I have this idea for a viral web video about kids doing pranks with superpowers”. I said “What do you mean?”. He said that “They are viral web videos but as they go on they start to get darker as they begin to abuse the powers.” I said like a “POV superhero movie” and he said “Yeah!”. I said “Can it be a POV super villain movie?” and told him to give me two weeks. So I went home and made up Andrew, Matt and Steve and all their troubles and two weeks later I returned to him with a script. I told him that if I took this film to the studios that I wanted him to direct and he screamed “Holy Shit!”.

MG: You have written scripts for TV before, was it difficult to do a feature film?
ML: “Chronicle” was actually my 58th feature script. I started writing when I was 16 and I am up to 68 scripts right now, “Chronicle” was 10 scripts ago. So, lucky number 58. It started the streak that I have been on since then of selling everything. Googling me has been really fun recently [laughs].

MG: Any particular issue during writing this script for “Chronicle”?
ML: No, it was great. “Chronicle” was a really great experience for me. I wish I had more pathos about it. Writing the script was super fun. Figuring out how to write from the POV first perspective was a ball. Fox was really a dream working on the project. The development process did not go the way these things usually go. The movie you see is really Josh’s wonderful version of my original script. There were a few changes here and there but it is really a reflection of my script.

MG: When you wrote the script, tell us about the scale of the film you were planning?
ML: The game of “Chronicle” from day one…from the moment I opened my Final Draft document, I was going to trick people into thinking this movie was going to be small. I wanted it to be exactly what it is. I wanted it to be a character drama about friendship, trust and dealing with tragedy and loss…expect at the end we throw buses and destroy helicopters. So we get to that superhero level but I like to think that we take a more honest and compelling road. You know, I want to earn my flying bus.

MG: After seeing the film, there is definitely room for sequel, any plans?
ML: What do you think? [laughs]. YES! Yes of course! The way that movie ends, do you think there is not a sequel…come on. Hopefully the next one will have to do with aliens.

MG: What can you tell us about working with Shawn Levy’s “Frankenstein” project?
ML: Yeah “Frankenstein”! That was a pitch I sold to Fox that reinvents Frankenstein as a character drama. Again it makes it a story about trust, friendship and the isolating nature of genius.

MG: Tell us about working with Ron Howard on “Amnesty”?
ML: “Amnesty” is something the public hasn’t seen in a mainstream big movie before. It takes place in a modern fantasy world but I don’t want to get too far into what that means. But imagine if the wizards in “Harry Potter” weren’t secret [laughing] and it is set in the present, things would be pretty interesting for spies and secret agents…would they? A dragon fights a tank…it is pretty baller!

MG: Do you plan on following in your father’s path of both writing and directing films?
ML: That’s what people keep telling me…we’ll see!