Since 2015, Oscar-winning screenwriter Akiva Goldsman has become a big name in the world of cinematic universe franchises. In collaboration with Paramount Pictures, he not only created a braintrust that would help formulate the future of the Transformers series, but also went on to do the same thing with Hasbro and brands like G.I. Joe and ROM: Space Knight. We haven't seen an actual product from this process just yet, as none of the developing projects have made it to release -- but the methodology is continuing to spread, as the same approach that's going into the construction of the recently-announced Extreme Cinematic Universe.
Late last week, I had the pleasure of hopping on the phone with artist/writer Rob Liefeld -- the creator of the Extreme Studios comics that serves as inspiration for the burgeoning franchise -- and he told me all about the movie deal's origins. It all began in early 2016, when he got a call from Akiva Goldsman, asking if he'd be game to take a meeting. This was a deal from which Liefeld really had no expectations, but it kicked off with an incredibly exclusive peek at everything that is currently in the works for the Transformers movies. He told me,
So I kind of was thinking, 'I'm going to go to this meeting and maybe I'll get a good look at some Dark Tower stuff,' and what ended up happening is he goes, 'I want to hand you this giant black leather-bound equivalent of a phone book,' and it said, "The Transformers Bible." This thing is awesome and Akiva goes, 'I just want you to know, there's only eight of these in existence. Michael Bay has one, I have one, the head of Paramount has one, and the five other people involved have them.' So I flipped through it, and it's every treatment, outlines, screenplay, for the lineup of Transformer films that they have planned, that he was a showrunner for...
So he said to me, he said, 'It's pretty cool, right? I'm like, 'Yeah!' He's like, 'I ran this room; this is what we came up with. This is what I did on behalf of Paramount.' He goes, 'In a couple months, I'm going to go run the Hasbro room, and we're going to do the same thing for ROM, Micronauts, G.I. Joe. We're going to put together this Hasbro Cinematic Universe, and then he said, I would like to do yours next. And I said, 'Uhhhhhh, Okay, WOW!'
For those who are a bit fuzzy on the history here, in the summer of 2015 Paramount Pictures had Akiva Goldsman bring together a group of writers -- including Robert Kirkman, Art Marcum, Matt Holloway, Zak Penn, Jeff Pinkner, and more -- come together to research the history of the Transformers series and construct a plan for how the movies can branch out into a multi-tiered franchise with strict continuity and overlapping narratives. According to Rob Liefeld, this resulted in a massive tome of scripts and artwork -- one that he considered sneaking out of the room and keeping for himself because of its majesty. This book was impressive enough to make him seriously consider such a future for the Extreme Universe he created for Image Comics.
It was at this point that Akiva Goldsman noted that he wasn't alone in his interest in Rob Liefeld's work, and that he both had a producer on board, and financing. Really, it was all coming together as a package. Said Liefeld,
Then [Akiva Goldsman] said, 'I have a partner names Graham King. I want you to meet him.' So, I met Graham, and Graham is another awesome filmmaker force that you go, I've seen every one of your movies, and this is fantastic. And he's like, 'Listen Rob, we want to take your properties. We have the financing with Fundamental Films being our financial component to make these films, finance the development, and finance the film.'
It was after meeting with both Akiva Goldsman and Graham King that Rob Liefeld had a moment of clarity about the opportunity presented to him. He would not only be working with people he respected, but they had prepared absolutely everything in advance that would allow the franchise to start being built in an exciting way. It was an offer he couldn't refuse:
You go, 'Okay, so I've got my two super star producers, both of whom have Academy Awards on their mantles, and they want to back me up into this fantastic film production unit, and it's like one stop shopping.' Look bottom line, Akiva gets it. He's of the genre. He knows his stuff. His team knows his stuff. Graham is ridiculously accomplished and compelling. We talked story, we talked script, he used examples of past projects. So we're going to go about building up a writer's room, which Akiva will run, and create our own bible that someone will want to hit me over the head with, and run out to the car and see how fast they can make it.
Hopefully in the coming weeks we'll be hearing announcements regarding who will be populating the Extreme Cinematic Universe writer's room... and you can always be sure to find the biggest news here on Cinema Blend!