BATMAN: THE LONG HALLOWEEN Interview: Producer Butch Lukic On Adapting The Classic Comic, DARK VICTORY, & More
Batman: The Long Halloween Supervising Producer Butch Lukic talks about Part 2, saving the movies from being cancelled, the challenges of adapting the story, the chances of a Dark Victory movie, and more.
Batman: The Long Halloween, Part Two chronicles the second half of the yearlong crime saga that began in Part One. As the mysterious Holiday Killer continues their deadly crime spree, District Attorney Harvey Dent is pushed to the brink in his quest to bring justice to Gotham City.
Making matters worse, Bruce Wayne has been captured by Poison Ivy, leaving Gotham undefended during its darkest hour. Even mob boss Carmine Falcone is becoming increasingly desperate, striking a Faustian bargain with Gotham's new generation of super-criminals. You'll get to see how it all ends when the movie is released on Digital on July 27 and Blu-ray on August 10.
Yesterday, we sat down for a conversation with Supervising Producer, Butch Lukic. Having worked on these movies, Superman: Man of Tomorrow, and Justice Society: World War II, he's very much the man in charge of the DC Animated Universe right now, and someone we're sure you'll be familiar with seeing as he's a longtime collaborator of Bruce Timm and directed episodes of Batman Beyond.
Among the topics covered here are how Warner Bros.' plans for The Batman almost derailed the project, the challenges of adapting such a beloved comic book storyline, the Dark Knight's relationship with Catwoman, and even whether Butch plans to return to the director's chair. The veteran filmmaker even weighs in on the chances of us getting a sequel that adapts Dark Victory!
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk about Batman: The Long Halloween, Part 2. I watched it this week and it’s a really, really special movie.
Thanks! I’m glad it’s out finally so everyone can watch it and see the results of the whole movie and story, how we connected things up, and then finished it pretty much close to the book.
I know both parts of the movie were initially delayed because of Warner Bros. early plans for The Batman, but what sort of impact did that have on production for you as a producer?
I had to put it aside and just continue working on the next movie we were going to do. We had to trudge along and eventually what happened was they cleared it a year later, I think. They said we could release it, but at that point, we hadn’t finished Part 2 at all. We had to go back into designs and finish up. The storyboards were done and the directing was done, but we hadn’t shipped anything overseas yet. We had to finish up a good portion of the designs and then get it finalised and coloured with painted background before shipping it. This time around, we only had one studio doing the animation, so that was a little easier. On the other movie, we had three studios doing the animation, but it went to one, and when we got it back, I did all the editing. But now, we were between two other movies I was working on at the time, so that was where it was hectic. It just got piled in.
Were you facing a scenario where, had they adapted The Long Halloween, the plug might have been pulled on the project? I imagine that was a terrible feeling when you know how much work goes into these.
Yeah, it disappointed pretty much everyone in the crew. Fortunately, we had other things to continue working on when we heard this wasn’t going to happen, so we pushed on and kept going. If it had never come out, it would have been miserable.
Well, I’m so pleased it has come out so people can see the finished product, and I know in this second part there are so many villains fans will love seeing. However, what would you say was the biggest challenge of making sure they all had the right amount of screentime across the course of this movie?
Mainly, it’s the other villains that show up earlier because they’ve got their parts in the story. Near the end of our third act, we have to get a lot of the rogues gallery in. In some ways, it’s good, but in other ways, I thought, ‘This is also the weak part of the actual book.’ Everything just got piled in at the end, but I guess it works [in the movie].
I’m not going to spoil anything, but there are some very clever ways that this Part 2 movie changes what we saw in the comics. Is it important to you that an adaptation of a story as well-known as this one does deliver some surprises?
It wasn’t really to surprise people. It was more a matter of with the comic book, in the context of reading it panel to panel, things work that way for comics [but not for a movie]. It’s more forgivable, but when you put it on film and you’ve got to do that timescale as it goes from sequence to sequence, it’s different. Certain things just don’t work, so we had to re-adapt them to make it more plausible for cinematic reasons. Also, in between, we found the connection between certain things that weren’t exactly fully connected in the graphic novel so we connected stuff up where we thought, ‘You know, this should actually work.’ It wasn’t in the original story, but it connects as if it should be.
As a producer thinking about time and budget constraints, do you find yourself having to make a lot of tough decisions in terms of what makes it into the final cut, especially adapting a story with so many iconic moments fans expect to see?
That was a big thing. We have so much time to tell this story and tell these events, but there’s a certain part of The Long Halloween I think people know that we didn’t add in and a certain villain because it deviated away from where we had to get the story to. Originally, we were planning to do a set of shorts that would have then ended up on the Blu-rays as the missing pieces, but we weren’t able to do them because of time constraints. We didn’t have the money available to do those shorts to add to the Blu-rays. They never were done and never will be, but without them in there, it doesn’t mess with the story at all. Both parts definitely deliver the full flavour of what The Long Halloween is.
I thought using Tim Sale’s comic book art was a great touch in those opening credits; do you recall where the idea for that came from and is it something we could see more of down the line?
That was my idea. Originally, I wanted to get Tim Sale involved. Way before when I was still the only person on the project developing it and trying to make his style work for animation, but I never got to do that with him, so as a nod to Tim, I wanted to do both main titles with his images.
Batman and Catwoman’s dynamic is such a fun thing to watch play out, but creatively speaking, what about that do you most enjoy delving into with movies like this one?
I guess it’s the Yin and Yang where one’s a criminal and one isn’t, but obviously, there’s a lot of things about them and what they do that means they connect up. The sexual charge between them, ever since we did Batman: The Animated Series, it was always not said that they were together. This time, with The Long Halloween, it was an absolute. The comics today in the last few years reflect that too.
As a fan, I loved how things got a little darker and bloodier in this sequel, but do you think that R-Rating works better for these movies as a whole or does it all depend on the story and tone you’re going for?
For me, us adapting where we wanted to go with The Long Halloween, it was never a question of, ‘Oh, we’ve got to trim this down to get a PG-13.’ It was always about taking the story where it needs to go and if it’s going to be an R, it’s going to be an R. If it isn’t, it isn’t.
You’ve directed a lot of DC TV shows, movies, and shorts, but do you have any plans to return to that role in the DC Animated Universe over the next few years?
Not yet. Right now, I still have to produce these films to their end, but after that, I’ve wondered about possibly going back and directing. Just on the producing end for these projects, working with Chris [Palmer], me and him both talked through it and there’s a certain ideology of cutting that I want so we get a cinematic look and he went with it. We’re both in the animatics working out stuff together and in the editing stage. So, as a producer because of my years of directing, it’s still there, and the movies are how I would have done them anyway! Thank God I’ve got good directors that I don’t need to work so hard for that.
After the positive response to the first movie and with this one about to be released, have you given any thoughts to possible following this movie with Dark Victory?
Again, it’s something I wouldn’t mind doing down the line, but if it’s more determined within the next couple of years we could probably get that going. It could happen. It could either happen with me or someone else could take it and finish the story. Obviously, if these movies do well, I don’t see why not and why we couldn’t do that.