Deserves props for: Co-writing, along with longtime writing partner Hawk Ostby, Children of Men and First Snow (which Fergus also directed). The pair also worked on the upcoming films John Carter of Mars and Iron Man.
First Snow deals with a character who's told he's going to die, but it's not rooted in anything supernatural. It's played straight.
"We didn't want to do anything supernatural. If you look for omens and signs, they're there if you want to see them. We wanted to let you perceive the world as he's seeing it. That's why we kept it as low-key as possible. Most of these films, you get very aggressive stylistically, or you start to show montages of weird visions. And that's all fine, but we made a choice to be as real as possible."
In what ways did you want the audience to think about fate and destiny?
"I think we just wanted to put the ideas out there about whether choice and destiny were separate from fate--fate being a very nebulous concept to begin with. And not in a Greek sense, where fate is everything and your life is just a meaningless set of choices leading to an inevitable end. If you are who you are by birth or nature, you really can't make a choice that's not in you. You can't step outside your DNA. Is that the same thing as destiny?"
How did you and Ostby break into the business?
"We had a script called Consequence, which ended up getting rewritten for HBO. The movie is [bad], but it got us a credit. And First Snow got us an agent. Then we started doing assignment work just to keep the bills paid. Everything in Hollywood is just a big career accident, so the more stuff you have out there, the better chance you have of being struck by lightning."
You two worked on an early draft of A Scanner Darkly. How did you get the Children of Men job?
"After A Scanner Darkly we'd impressed whoever cared at the time that we could adapt difficult books. And Children of Men had been one of those books that had been floating around. It's a cool book, but it's not a movie."
How was your version different from the final script?
"In our version Julianne Moore's character was the pregnant woman. They just transferred that character's responsibility to another character, which I thought worked. I was a bit stunned at first, but I think the film's beautiful. They used the best of what we did, and everybody's contributions mattered. I'm sure you hear all those horror stories from writers, but I'd like to be the one guy to chime in with a good story."
A Short History of...
Ben Kingsley, You Kill Me
Oliver Dahan, La Vie en Rose
Chris Eigeman, The Treatment
Lance Weiler, Head Trauma
Mira Nair, The Namesake