Way back in February 2009, we gave you the first, exclusive peek at Rick Remender's "The Last Days of American Crime," a gritty, noir-tinged heist story that hit shelves from Radical Publishing. Little did we know the story would soon end up in the hands of "Avatar" and "Clash of the Titans" star Sam Worthington, only to be optioned by the actor and his producing partner, Michael Schwarz, in November.
The series follows a dangerous sociopath named Kevin Cash (Worthington) as he assembles a team to pull off what could be the last great heist in American history. With the impending launch of a government-sponsored technology that will make it impossible for anyone to commit a crime just days away, Cash and his crew attempt to steal the machines that manage the nation's new form of currency.
The second issue of "American Crime" hits shelves this week, so we caught up with the writer to find out what's in store for the series, how he feels about Worthington coming on board, and the screenplay he's been working on for the film.
MTV NEWS: So, where are we picking things up in the second issue?
RICK REMENDER: We ramp it up. Things start getting crazy. Kevin, the safecracker, left to go to New Orleans to acquire a laser cutter — a hard item to procure in the current climate. As he stated in issue #1, he's going to pick it up from a mob boss he used to work for, and we’ll find out that Kevin had secondary motives going to see this particular mob boss.
So, as Kevin is making his way across the country, we start to see that he's a bit of a sociopath. Along the way, at truck stops and hotels he stays at, we see classic sociopathic behavior. He's also in a situation where, in ten days, he won’t be able to commit crime anymore — so he's getting a lot of it out of his system.
And, as we see that, we also see Graham and Shelby becoming intertwined as they're back in Los Angeles working the job and getting ready for the heist — classic love-triangle heist business.
We've also got one of the nicest car chase sequences I've ever seen illustrated in a comic book before. That sort of scene is so hard to draw and Greg [Tocchini] just nailed it. The first issue was a lot of set-up and I took my time and really allowed my self to write slow beats of dialogue and set a tone. The second issue really just turns up the volume and puts the pedal down and gets the action going.
MTV: so much of this story seems to echo back to classic heist stories, but amped up a bit. Were there some direct inspirations for “Last Days” that made this story come together for you?
REMENDER: There's a million different heist films that are probably speaking to me on this. In terms of film stuff and novels, a lot of it is directly inspired by James Ellroy's "American Tabloid" when it comes to the style. In structure, it's definitely inspired by the back-and-forth in David Mamet's "Heist."
I actually had been working on this while I was reading "True Romance," which isn't necessarily a heist story, but I really like the original structure in the first draft of the screenplay that Quentin Tarantino did. It jumps around in time and tells a very different story and the reveals come at different points.I was considering telling the story that way, where we start in one point in time and then jump to the middle, and then jump to the origin of it. But Jason Aaron was saying that I should rewatch "Heist," and I did, and it's such a smart, well-written, traditional heist story that I thought to myself, “It's probably trickier and it's probably more of a challenge to write a story where I'm not using any tricks or any sort of jumping around at all in order to get the big reveals.”
The way that Mamet structured the film, everything you see happening is a seed, and there's not one wasted scene. There's not one arbitrary scene of s--t just happening, all of that stuff ends up paying dividends in the heist or whatever they're doing. If they're in a bar listening in on a conversation, then it's a pilot they're listening to who has a drinking problem that they're going to blackmail, to get the keys, to get past the first security guard. Everything has a reason.
MTV: Like you mentioned, a big part of these classic heist stories is the creative ways they find to get past security. Take us through the process of setting up the perfect heist…
REMENDER: It was so much fun. I created this bank that they're breaking into, set in the vault that they're trying to get into with these money-charging boxes, and it’s seven floors down. And after I created this bank in my head, I actually wrote it down on legal pad and drew it how I sort of saw this thing and how it would be if they actually had something that was this valuable.
Then I had to come up with how these three people manage to get down there and get into it. I did that before I wrote word one, and so the whole story, everything that happens, has a purpose and it all feeds into that. You’ll see that everything that's been done, every interaction, every character bit, everything that takes place, is all preparation for this big job — and it’s nice to have that much done prior to writing it, because it felt really good and I think that helped the screenplay, too.
Click on the image below for a five-page preview of "Last Days of American Crime" #2, featuring a story by Rick Remender and art by Greg Tocchini.
MTV: You mentioned the screenplay — how is everything coming along with that? We haven’t spoken since Sam Worthington was attached…
REMENDER: The total treatment was finished, and I think that probably had something to do with Sam signing on. I’ve found that books like "Strange Girl" and "Fear Agent" worked so well for me because they had a real outline, a total treatment — I knew where things were going and it felt like it was a more responsible way of telling the story. There's no “I'll deal with that later” because you basically know where things are going, and that way you can start seeding things.
I think that a reader needs to see that a writer has put in a lot of time into thinking through the beginning, middle, and end, so that when they see things that are happening early in the story that pay off later in the second and third acts, they know that this person is not wasting their time and that there's an intellect behind the story. I think that that's something I've tried to adhere to on everything since, and have for the last few years, for sure.
So "American Crime" had been figured out prior to Sam's involvement and everything getting rolling in the film world, and I'd already finished the first couple of issues of the comic. I've recently finished the third issue and the first draft of the screenplay, which they hired me to do based on the strength of the comic book scripts.
MTV: So you’re finished with the first draft of the screenplay?
REMENDER: I am. I'd finished the first draft three or four weeks ago, and they flew me out to Los Angeles to meet with the producers. We did notes, and it was a really great session — one of those moments when you're not really sure what you're going to walk into.
MTV: So you’re deep into it now — taking “Hollywood meetings” and all…
REMENDER: [Laughs] Yeah. You know, sometimes those end up with you walking out, like “F--- THIS!” But this was a case when all of the notes were well thought-out and they didn’t feel thumb-printy. Often you can get notes that feel like somebody was just trying to put their stamp on your story, so that they feel involved, and this wasn’t that at all. These notes were terrific. The entire production team had nothing but great ideas on how to maybe spice it up for film in ways that work better for film, but still might not have been as good in the comic book, which is a tough sort of thing to get your head around — especially when your head is that deep in the forest on one end of the story.
It’s always tricky. I’ve been writing this for a year now, then they come in and say “What if this beat is moved to the second act,” and it takes me a minute before I’m like, “Oh, wait — I see what that does. Okay.”
So we had a great meeting. All the notes were terrific. I’ve been revising it and I’m doing the second draft of the screenplay now. That night, I met Sam. We talked it up and he seems really excited. With the kind of other actors they’re talking about, and the director, I’m so excited. I just wish that I could talk about it.
MTV: How do you feel about Sam as Kevin Cash? Did you get the vibe that he’s the right guy for that role?
REMENDER: I think this is perfect. There is a brooding intensity there. I think this is also something to get him out of these giant, slick, by-the-numbers Hollywood blockbusters. This is not by the numbers. This is true grit. This is a slightly dystopian world that looks a lot like our own because it’s not that far in the future. The tension is always ratcheted up. You’ve got him playing a character who, as the story unravels, you get to know him a little bit more — and maybe he’s not unlikeable, but he is absolutely textbook sociopath. I did a lot of reading on what makes a sociopath, and I wanted to make sure we see some of that in the first issue. In the second, when he’s alone and on the road, you start really seeing that.
At this point in his career, with the kind of director we are talking about and some of the other actors, if the cast comes together, this could be like a “True Romance.” I think that kind of cast around Sam, seeing Sam play somebody who is out of his head, he’s basically a force of nature.
MTV: So this is certainly not the normal “noble hero” hero role he’s been playing…
REMENDER: It’s not the noble hero at all, but it’s just as much time and he plays a huge role in the story itself. I don’t know I think that if I was Sam, I can understand why he wants to do it. It’s a big departure from what we’ve seen him doing in the blockbusters that he’s been in the last couple years.
"The Last Days of American Crime" #2 hits shelves this week. Make sure to check out our exclusive preview here on MTV Splash Page!
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