The best runs on the Teen Titans comic included equal parts action, adventure and teen angst, including romance. Which of these elements are in your script?
VERHEIDEN: All of the above. It’s a story about 18-year-old teenagers trying to figure out what to do with their lives. They’ve been programmed up to this point as adjuncts to adult heroes and now that they’re 18 and becoming adults themselves, what are they going to do next? That includes how they go about doing the noble tasks they feel destined to do like fight crime and fight bad guys and then the other part is, what about the rest of their lives? What about their social lives? What about how they fit into society?
You mentioned the Titans are “adjuncts to adult heroes”—basically, legacy characters. How are you approaching that?
VERHEIDEN: If you’re dealing with “Somebody Lad” or whatever, they are going to refer to their parents. So whatever characters we’re using will definitely be referring to their adult counterpart. I don’t think the adult counterparts will be in the movie, but [the Titans] didn’t spring out of the ether. Who they are, who raised them and how they got to where they’re at are all important parts of the story.
Ensemble casts can be difficult to execute in action movies. How are you handling this in “Teen Titans”?
VERHEIDEN: Well, I’ve chosen the team [but the studio] asked me not to talk about which ones I’ve picked yet. Although, we’ve said that Robin/Nightwing is in it. If “X-Men” did point the way toward something it is that you can do the ensemble version. So this is definitely about a team of teenagers.
Obviously, there are characters you focus on a little more than others but what’s interesting about them is they have the same universal emotional issues and questions, like: Who are we? Where are we going? Classic issues we all had when we were 18.
What is the tone of the “Teen Titans” movie? Are you going to ground it in reality like “Batman Begins” or is it going to be more like a straight-out-of-a-comic-book movie?
VERHEIDEN: Well, I think we want a realistic tone. We don’t want it to feel campy or silly. Given that the characters are so amazing I think it’s important to ground everything else because the characters themselves are so astonishing and flamboyant, so the emotional realities of the story had better be pretty real otherwise you can fly off the handle pretty quick with this. The tone is really trying to find emotional truths for these guys and make those feel as real and as human as possible. You have to ground them so that when the amazing stuff starts happening you understand where they’re coming from.
What’s great about the “X-Men” movies is they found a tone where you can accept the guy with the crazy sideburns and the giant knives in his fingers and go, “Okay, I buy him as a human being as well as this action hero.”
Can you give us a hint as to what kind of a threat the Titans will be facing in the movie?
VERHEIDEN: I think I’ll keep that to myself for now. It is a very powerful threat and it will present situations I don’t think we’ve seen before, which is always fun to try and come up with. And it will be on a fairly massive scale. Comic book fans will not be unfamiliar with it. [Laughs]
What stage is the production in now?
VERHEIDEN: I’m still working on the script, so we’re sort of in the middle of the process. Of course, there are many vagaries of Hollywood out here so who knows what the future may bring—strikes and all kinds of stuff. But my mandate right now is to get the script to a place where [the studio] feels comfortable doing it.
What else are you working on?
VERHEIDEN: I’ve set up a project with Sony called “The Ark” which is based on a comic I did a few years ago. It’s with Dark Horse Productions and Neal [Moritz], who’s making “I Am Legend” right now. It’s a huge science fiction piece about creatures who cause all sorts of havoc.
The other movie coming up, which is done, is “My Name Is Bruce,” starring Bruce Campbell. The last I heard, we were getting it scored and the effects were about done. I’m not quite sure when it’s going to be released. It’s a crazy horror/comedy in which Bruce gets kidnapped by this small town in Oregon. They’re a bunch of nuts who think he’s actually the “Evil Dead” Bruce Campbell who can kill a monster that’s running loose in their town. They discover they didn’t get the real deal pretty quick. Hopefully, that will be coming out soon and we’re talking maybe even doing a sequel.