Joe Kelly is a renowned comic book writer who is a part of the Man of Action team. He has worked with Marvel, DC, and Image Comics. In addition, Kelly is the co-creator of one of Cartoon Network’s top kid superhero, Ben 10. In 2008, he co-created I Kill Giants under the Man of Action imprint at Image Comics, which was a hit title. A decade after the graphic novel, Kelly has written a film adaptation of I Kill Giants, which will be released in theaters, VOD, and Digital HD on February 23 from RLJE Films.

World Film Geek had the opportunity to speak with Kelly about the graphic novel and the film.

Joe, thank you so much for taking the time to talk about I Kill Giants. Now, I haven’t read the graphic novel but after seeing the film, I definitely want to read it. It was such a great film.
Oh great! Thank you so much! I appreciate that!

The cover of the graphic novel I Kill Giants (Man of Action/Image Comics)

Where did the idea of I Kill Giants come from?
So my non-spoilery answer is that when I was young and a newly minted parent, I have a son and a daughter. My daughter was about 5 or 6, I was confronted with some big life issues. It was one of these before and after life issues. My daughter is a precocious, funny, kind of salty kid. I was trying to get her into all the nerdy stuff I liked. She never quite took to the nerdy stuff. She’s a different kind of nerd. She has an appreciation for film.

So I was thinking about what she would have been like if she had gone down this path. You know, played Dungeons and Dragons and loved comics but then was confronted with something big. And that thing took the form of a giant. That would be the story.

The movie poster of I Kill Giants (RLJE Films)

Was this your first screenplay and how were you approached to adapt the graphic novel into film?
Well, it’s the first one to get made. I have co-written some stuff before and I went to NYU and got my Master’s in Dramatic Writing and I wrote some scripts there but this was the first one to get made.

I had written it as a spec script a long time ago because I loved it so much and I wanted to do a strong writing sample. Some Hollywood folks saw it, notably Kyle Franke and 1492 Productions, picked it up and approached me about it. I said yeah, I’d love to see it as a film, but I would have to be the one writing it. You hear all the horror stories about the producers not letting the creator get involved and being a part of the process. I had the opposite experience of that.

Everyone understood it was a real passion project for me and when everyone learned the spoiler of the deeper notion as to why I wrote the story, they all got it. And that I was not going anywhere. They would have to pull the script from my dead hands (laughs). That’s if they wanted someone else to write it. Luckily, everyone was cool with that and we got the script sorted out and had the budget. Then Anders [Walter] came onboard and he is such a wonderful director and a great guy. He also protected the script and that’s how we got the movie made.

That is so awesome! I was talking to someone about how I’m glad for this film, the creator got to write the script because as you mentioned, I’ve heard those horror stories and we discussed a film that we no longer will even mention how it was one of the worst adaptations I have seen but the writer of that film eventually apologized so all is forgiven. However, it does excite me that you were able to write the script yourself on this film.
It was really cool because once I talked to [Home Alone director and producer] Chris Columbus directly and like here I am, a huge fan, but had to also say with all due respect, I am the only one who will be able to write this and I hope you’re cool with that. And that was very scary because I thought that was going to be the end of it right there (laughs). But he got it! And once you have someone like that protecting you along the way, it makes it very easy. Everyone was super cool and I do mean everyone, way down the line, from everyone who worked on the film, the cast, I mean they got what we were trying to do and understood it and really put their hearts into the film, and I think it shows.

I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it because I felt everyone worked hard to bring a vision to the screen.

Madison Wolfe as Barbara Thorson in I Kill Giants (RLJE Films)

Did you have any input in casting for the film because notably, Madison Wolfe gave such a powerful performance in the film as Barbara?
Yeah, I did not sit through 500 audition tapes but they brought me in for I think the last 25. Anders said here’s the 25, take a look and tell me who your favorite was and I chose Madison and Anders said that’s good because Madison was my favorite too (laughs). Everyone agreed. Madison is such a powerhouse. A wonderful actor. She’s going to have a long career ahead of her. She’s super, wonderful, a professional on set, very sweet. When she needed to turn it on, boom! She becomes that character.

I keep telling people how when she would ask questions about Barbara, she would say Barbara is so savage (laughs). It would make me laugh because Madison is not savage. But when she needed to be, she would bring it. I think her performance is really special. We had to find the right person because she is in 95% of the scenes. So it really does rest on her shoulders and she did a wonderful job.

Everyone did, but Madison really had to tow that line down and the adult actors will tell you. I mean Zoe [Saldana] and Imogen [Poots], they really enjoyed working with her because you know, she’s a super pro. She’s amazing!

Joe Kelly, Duncan Rouleau, Steve T. Seagle, and Joe Casey aka The Man of Action Team

What’s next for you in terms of projects?
So, as you know, I’m part of Man of Action, a company that does animation and comics, and we’re working on a new Ben 10 series that is on the air and I’m executive producing that. There’s a Mega Man show that’s coming which is also animated. For myself, I’m working on another project with Anders. It’s another adaptation but it’s one of his things this time. He’s really fun. We’re good friends and he’s a great guy to work with so we’re continuing that.

I’m also doing another graphic novel with Ken Niimura, who co-created I Kill Giants, a story that’s taken me a long time to write. It’s another big personal story with a lot of comedy in it and I’m looking forward to that as well.

I Kill Giants comes to theaters, VOD, and Digital HD today and I will put this on my recommendations of current films to check out. It’s a great story mixed in with some excellent performances. Thank you so much Joe for talking about the film.
Well, thank you so much for promoting it and speaking highly of it because it’s one of those Little Engine That Could kind of deals and I hope that people will get to see it! Thank you so much for spreading the word.

A Special Thank You goes to Katrina Wan PR and Joe Kelly for making this interview possible. For more information, check out Joe’s official Twitter page and the Man of Action Entertainment official website.