San Diego Comic Con has been good to Royden Lepp. In 2011 his 4-part comic series Rust was optioned by 20th Century Fox. And it would seem Fox are eager to get things moving as this year it was announced that Joe Cornish (Attack The Block – pictured above) has been tapped to direct the adaptation.
Rust first came to my attention via Archaia’s free comic day offering, for which Lepp wrote a special short story called ‘Oswald’s Letter’. I bought the lovely cloth-bound hardback soon after and found myself engrossed in a great, fun tale of robots, secrets and war. Rust follows the Taylors, a family trying to survive on their farm after a long war fought by humans and robots. Still awaiting the return of their father after he was forcibly enlisted, life becomes further complicated when their peace is broken by a huge robot clanging its way through the corn fields, followed by a be-goggled boy with a jetpack. Suspicious and welcoming in equal measure, the arrival of this small visitor is about to change things in ways they hadn’t imagined.
While the first Rust book, Visitor in the Field is available in print, digital and as an app, volume 2, Secrets of the Cell is currently being serialised as part of Archaia’s digital-first initiative – you can find a preview here), with hard copies due to hit stores in October. Along with the progression on the movie front, what better time then, to catch up with Royden and get his thoughts on the film, comics and um, the Disney Channel. . .
Zainab (FPI Blog): You have a background in animation and video-games and the art in Rust is very indicative of that. Did you ever consider making/adapting it as an animation film?
Royden Lepp: I definitely considered it and still do. It’s such a long road to get things animated. Animation takes more time and more money then live action film so I always consider it a long shot. However after the recent movie attention Rust has gotten maybe it’s more likely. But it’s still currently out of my hands.
Rust is a four-part book series- obviously you have an idea of the ending (I’ve read that you have most of it mapped out, but not finished). With Fox optioning it so early, did you feel pressure to add things to the story that were perhaps more film-friendly?
I’ve definitely had those thoughts but I’ve always known that the film would have its own life and path. A good graphic novel doesn’t always make a great movie, and vice versa. The graphic novel needs to be “its own thing”. With that said, I do often feel like a film maker trapped in an illustrator’s body. When I envision any story I see it cinematically first.
Will you have any hand in adapting the screenplay? How involved will you be in the film-making process?
I think the most important thing for a creator to remember is to let other professionals do their craft. The screenplay could not possibly be in more capable hands then Aline Brosh McKenna’s. It’s enjoyable for me to just watch the process unfold. If at any point I have the honor of participating, I’ll jump at the opportunity, but my main responsibility is still the books.
Who would be your dream casting of Jet, Oz and Roman?
Wow, it’s embarrassing but I have no idea. Jet and Oz are younger actors, maybe early teens? And I don’t watch a lot of the Disney channel. Roman’s age is actually difficult too being he’s in his early 20′s. It’s way easier to pick older seasoned actors off the top of my head, but unfortunately a lot of the Rust cast would be young and I don’t watch enough TV.
What kind of things influenced the design of the robots?
Good question. Hm. I’m trying to think what actually launched my design of the robots. I’ve always been inspired by Terminator from a storytelling perspective but I’m not sure I went to that film for design cues. I wasn’t very deep in pop culture at the time I started the book so I can’t think of anything that ignited my imagination. I wanted them to look practical and simple, like machines possibly built from old tractor parts. The prairie setting is definitely inspired by my childhood on the farms of Manitoba, Canada.
What are you favourite robot/sci-fi movies?
Most recently the film, Moon really had my attention. I also really liked the approach of Safety Not Guaranteed. I think I’m in a minority, but I really liked Real Steel. I thought that was a great film.
Rust has one of the central themes of the science fiction genre at its heart – ‘what does it mean to be human?’ Is that something you wanted to incorporate and address, or did it seep its way into the story?
It kind of seeped, but I knew it was coming. In a way, every story asks the question ‘what does it mean to be human?’. Robots or not. My goal in Rust is to deal with specific aspects of humanity, such as freedom, regret, and addiction.
Rust is set in an alternate reality of sorts. What was the thinking behind that choice- instead of setting it in the future or present?
Alternate time-lines allow for the most freedom. I can pick and choose things from reality and add fantasy elements. It also allows me to create a completely different world from ours without it being unrelatable. I want the setting to be accessible but different. New rules, new history, new future.
You’ve mentioned you like Kazu Kibuishi’s and Doug Tenapel’s work- both creators who are very successful at writing all-ages comics. Was there a conscious decision to produce something child-friendly and accessible to kids?
Not at all. I was always surprised when people read Rust before it was published and said “wow what a great book for kids!”. I never intended it to be all ages. In fact I had to go back and make some of the violence a bit more subtle when I realized it was going to be an all ages book. Ultimately I don’t care who’s reading it, I just hope they like it. I really would love to create something truly ‘all ages’. Not just for kids.
If the film is a success (and I know we’re talking quite a bit in the future here!), are there more Rust universe stories to tell, or does it have a concrete ending?
There will always be room to tell more stories in the world of Rust.
Many thanks to Royden for his time.