The name David Hayter is one that should be well known in geeky circles by now. The iconic actor, director and voice actor lent his talents to one of the most iconic characters to ever grace our TVs and monitors – Metal Gear Solid's Solid Snake (and Big Boss too!).
But did you know this legend of gravely-voiced badasses actually penned scripts for films as well? Three of them you should already be privvy to.
David Hayter – Snake Charmer And Friend to Mutants
47-year-old Hayter first came to screenwriting prominence with a gig rewriting the script for X-Men, a bunch of characters Hayter personally had a lot of time for. And how he came about the job is as lucky and as crazy a story you will hear.
Way back when in '98, Hayter had just wrapped a little indie movie called Burn, in which he starred and produced alongside X-Men & The Usual Suspects director Bryan Singer. Now, the movie unfortunately never saw the light of day due to a licensing deal falling through, even though they had pumped $250k into it.
The aftermath, said Hayter in his own words, had left him "really depressed and broke" until Singer offered him a job answering phones on the X-Men movie. Then, the dream breakthrough erupted:
"...and then Bryan kept complaining about the script. He had never done a comic-book movie before and we had made this other little movie together, and I knew the 'X-Men' very well. I was a big fan of the comic books.
So I suggested a scene to him, and I said why don't you have a scene where Wolverine and Cyclops are arguing? And he says this, and he says that, and it'll set up those things you wanna set up.
And he goes 'good, okay, go write that for me.' And I figured he was kidding, because it was an $80 million movie!"
From there, Hayter was flung into a whirlwind of new experiences. The scene was written and actually included in the movie. Then even more craziness would erupt when Singer would ask him to rewrite the entire script, a process that saw him staying in the office after hours, tinkering away whilst the others slept.
By the time 20th Century FOX caught wind of the change, Hayter was already halfway through the rewrite. And once the movie was released, Hayter got the sole writing credit due to the amount of work he put into the changes, and was thrust into the life of a superstar screenwriter. Not bad for a first job!
'X2: X-Men United'
Loosely based on Chris Claremont's X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills, naturally both Hayter and Singer needed to go above and beyond the greatness of the first movie, especially its heartbreakingly powerful opening scene.
"You say 'okay I wanna do God Loves, Man Kills' and then Bryan Singer comes in and goes 'okay, but this... is a stupid story idea and this has to be different.' Or 'we need to introduce our characters in a better way than in the comic book. We need to pay off things from the first movie', or whatever."
So how did he go about this?
"So for example, the graphic novel opens with Magneto finding the bodies of two mutant children that have been strung up in a playground. But you don't really want to open a movie that way."
Yeah.. that's pretty dark for a super-movie! So instead, along came a Nightcrawler and this epic presidential assassination attempt:
A veritable pet project of Hayter's, it took him a whopping 9 years of toil to complete the script, after originally pitching the idea to HBO as a 6 hour mini-series.
After tracking down the rights to turn Watchmen into a series, Hayter contacted legendary producer Larry Gordon, who held the rights, in order to aid getting the series made. But there was a snag:
"Larry called me up and said 'David, I don't know anything about TV. Can you turn it into a movie?' And I said 'Well, I don't know.' And then sat down to do it."
I don't know how he managed to sound so casual after the production was passed between four different studios and the mixed bag of emotions regarding Alan Moore's -- the creator of Watchmen -- public disdain regarding the cinematic adaptation. You would imagine that Hayter's desire would have diminished somewhat?
Nope, not one bit. Despite the odds, Hayter was adamant that he could create a homage so closely executed it stuck to the graphic novel's narrative like a burr and honor it, and this in turn could even make Moore a believer:
" I worked up the courage to call him when I first set up the deal at Universal [Pictures], and I said 'Look, you don't know me, my name is David Hayter, and I'm attempting to adapt your masterpiece, Watchmen, into a film. I know how you feel about these things, but I want you to know that I'm a huge fan of this material, and of you as a writer..."
And after showering the brilliant Englishman with plaudits and superlatives, and promising to keep the integrity of his work intact, Moore had a surprisingly splendid reaction:
"He was so kind to me and said 'oh no, David. My Watchmen was the book and yours is the movie! And if you ever need any help or have any questions you can call any time. But my time on it was what it was and I'm always happy to help you out.'"
And then Watchmen came to be the divisive cult cinematic treasure it is. So there was a little snippet into how the voice of, arguably, video game's greatest assassin went from Hideo Kojima's watchful gaze to the hallowed halls of pop culture greats, and creator of epic franchises.
Not bad, Snake. Not bad at all. Snake? SNAAAAKE?!