How the director of ‘Riddick’ created a sociopath with compassion

how riddicks director created a sociopath with compassion riddick writer david twohy interview main
Director David Twohy and some of th emercenaries hunting Vin Diesel's Richard B. Riddick.

Riddick writer/director David Twohy isn’t a guy you want to bump into in a dark alley. He’s got some dark impulses, as his continued work with interstellar bad dude Richard B. Riddick demonstrates. Twohy freely admits that he put some of himself into the character as Riddick came together.

“When I’m sitting down and writing him, I get to unleash my monsters,” he tells Digital Trends. “I get to unleash my antisocial, asocial behavior and just get it out of my system. He represents my dark side as well as [Riddick star Vin Diesel’s]. He’s great for me too.”

Twohy chuckles at the thought, but he’s on to something here. There’s a very primal appeal to Riddick as a character; he feels more like an unstoppable force of nature than a mere tough guy. That’s not quite accurate though. Natural forces ebb and flow according to universal laws. There’s no thought to a raging storm; it simply happens. Riddick, on the other hand, rarely acts without thinking. He’s not quite compassionate, but he’s not overtly sociopathic either.

“[‘Riddick’] was just me with Vin in his kitchen coming up with a verbal gameplan…”

“He is a killer with a code, and that’s more important to us than a killer with any kind of compassion. Sometimes he has no compassion; survival is paramount within him,” Twohy explains. It’s that aspect of the character that led to the recently released Riddick‘s script changing in one particular scene.

The script originally had Riddick sneaking into a bounty hunter camp and killing one of the mercs in kill blood. After a brief dialogue exchange, Riddick was supposed to jam a knife into the merc’s brain. That creative decision didn’t fly with the star, who has been inhabiting this character since 1999’s Pitch Black. He knows Riddick better than anyone, and that particular moment seemed out of character.

“Vin was balking at that [scene], and when we finally talked it out he said it was because this guy didn’t really do anything to [Riddick]. He’s a good soldier among his rank-and-file. If he came after Riddick, sure. But Riddick going to him, into his space, and then just assassinating him in the shadows just doesn’t feel right.”

The level of input that Diesel has now versus back in 1999 when Pitch Black first came together is dramatically different. Riddick is the third movie in Twohy’s series, picking up where the story in 2004’s The Chronicles of Riddick left off. Diesel’s involvement escalated with each successive release in the series (video games and other spin-offs included). He even waived his fee for appearing in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift in exchange for the Riddick rights.

Riddick writer director David Twohy interview 3
Twohy with star/producer/co-conspirator Vin Diesel. The two fought for years, and eventually obtained enough financing to film ‘Riddick,’ which is in theaters now

“The first movie, he was just an actor to me. The best available actor that I cast,” Twohy says. “The second movie he became a producer as well because he had The Fast and the Furious under his belt at the time. He was a different animal, and our relationship had to change by necessity. Then the third movie, because we are both co-owners of the movie and were raising money independently, he becomes my co-conspirator. That’s what I call him now.”

Riddick’s path from concept to finished product is an unusual one.  Twohy and Diesel teamed up early on in the process to seek independent financing for the new movie after Universal made it clear that it was out of the Riddick business. For Twohy, it was sort of like returning to that time in the late ‘90s when he was struggling to get another Riddick movie made. 

Pitch Black was an independent movie too. We were orphaned by our financiers at the time [after they] went bankrupt,” Twohy says. “We barely had enough money to finish. There was a moment in time when it looked like Pitch Black might go straight to video. Which was, at the time, death for a movie.”

“But then somebody at Universal saw it and went, ‘Wait a second. We can make some money on this.’ So they threw it into theaters. That was really a game-changer for us. The second [film] was a big studio movie all the way, developed in-house.”

“There’s probably two movies left in the franchise before we wrap it up…”

Unfortunately, The Chronicles of Riddick failed to find an audience when it released in 2004. It wasn’t a total bust, box office-wise, but it wasn’t the sort of success that Universal needed to see to justify taking the franchise further. So once again, Twohy found himself working to find independent financing for a sci-fi movie about a dangerous fellow named Riddick.

“[Riddick] was just me with Vin in his kitchen coming up with a verbal gameplan,” Twohy says. The two developed the story together, after which Twohy wrote a spec script that he then successfully sold at the Berlin Film Festival. When he came back to the States to find a U.S. distributor, the unlikeliest of candidates stepped up.

“[We were] looking around for a domestic partner knowing that Universal had said no, they’re out of the Riddick business. And then, surprise surprise, Universal [gets in touch] and says, ‘How about us? We’ll distribute the movie.’ We said, ‘Are you crazy?’ And they said, ‘Yeah, but it’s a crazy business. Come on back!’ So, strangely, it was Universal again.”

In many ways, Riddick feels like a bigger movie than Chronicles. The scope of the 2004 effort covered a wider swath of territory, but the stakes in Riddick’s more personal survival story fit the character well. Part of the success comes from Twohy and Diesel’s creative approach, which is a process of paring down rather than building up. 

“We always overreach initially,” Twohy says. “We always think grand thoughts. But those are tamped down by the reality of how much money we’re going to be raising to make the movie. So there’s a very practical discussion to be had alongside our grandiose story discussions. Early on, anything is possible. We were going to multiple worlds and fighting legions of the undead and things like that. Then after awhile, reality has to set in by the time I sit down to write.”

Riddick writer director David Twohy interview 7
‘Riddick’ continues the collaboration of Twohy and Diesel, which began 13 years ago with ‘Pitch Black.’

“We both liked this very isolated, insular survival story along the lines of Castaway or Jeremiah Johnson. We like the starkness of it. So we both gravitated to that. Then I said, ‘Let’s not forget about Pitch Black either. Let’s tie it in with one guy searching for answers about his son. That’ll be a very personal quest. I think that’ll give a nice heartbeat to the story.’ And then you just build it from there and integrate the existing mythology.”

The existing mythology that Twohy refers to is the thread tying together not just these three movies, but the multimedia universe that includes two video games, an animated feature, and a motion comic. He and Diesel have an elaborate big picture plan for Riddick, one that leads into some sort of intergalactic underworld and then, eventually, to the planet of Furya.

“There’s probably two movies left in the franchise before we wrap it up,” Twohy says of what’s ahead for Riddick. “I don’t think it should be an open-ended franchise like some are. One may well lead us into the Underverse. The supposition is that you have to go through the Underverse to get to [Riddick’s] homeland, Furya, and then set that world right. That’s kind of what’s in our heads right now. I’m building those out as we speak.”

(Images © Universal Studios. All rights reserved.)

Movies & TV

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker trailer gets 111 million views in just 24 hours

Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker's first teaser trailer and plot details have arrived. Here's everything we know about the movie before it premieres in December 2019.
Movies & TV

These are the best movies on Hulu right now (April 2019)

From dramas to blockbusters, Hulu offers some great films to its subscribers. Check out the best movies on Hulu, whether you're into charming adventure tales or gruesome horror stories.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Netflix in March, from Buster Scruggs to Roma

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Movies & TV

Clip from John Wick: Chapter 3 confirms the dog is totally fine

John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum, the third installment of the wildly successful action series that stars Keanu Reeves as a deadly assassin forced out of retirement, hits theaters in May 2019. Here's everything we know about it so far.
Gaming

15 Nintendo Switch games you should play in handheld mode

The Nintendo Switch's handheld mode is more than a convenient way to play games -- it's also the preferable way for some titles. Here are 15 Nintendo Switch games you should play in handheld mode.
Gaming

These are all the games we want to see from Square Enix at E3 2019

Square Enix will once again hold its own press conference for E3 2019. These are the games we want the company to show during the event, including the long-awaited Final Fantasy VII Remake.
Product Review

Something's rotten in Days Gone, and it's not the zombies

Days Gone’s predictable story is littered with repetitive missions, shoddy stealth and gunplay, and needless survival mechanics. It’s riddled with performance issues, like janky animations and consistent framerate drops.
Gaming

Days Gone will receive free post-launch DLC starting in June

Days Gone launches this week and the developers are already setting the stage for post-launch content. Starting in June with the Survivor mode, Bend Studio will begin releasing weekly free updates that include various challenges.
Computing

These gaming monitors will transport you to another dimension

What are the best gaming monitors you can buy right now? We select five that are all priced under $900 packing premium technologies like G-SYNC and FreeSync, high resolutions, and fast refresh rates.
Gaming

Jump on your hog and use our guide to fast traveling in Days Gone

Days Gone has a large open world set in the Pacific Northwest, with the main means of travel being Deacon's motorcycle. Fast travel exists, but it's not as simple as it is in some other open world games. Here's what you need to know.
Gaming

Tips and tricks for beginners entering the postapocalypse in Days Gone

Days Gone has finally arrived on PS4 after multiple days. After more than 35 hours spent in the post-apocalyptic vision of the Pacific Northwest, we've learned a lot. Here are ten tips and tricks to help you get started.
Gaming

How to raise your trust and earn a good reputation with camps in Days Gone

Days Gone stars a drifter named Deacon St. John in the post-apocalypse. Since he's somewhat of a lone wolf, the people he comes across are leery of him. That's where the Trust system comes into play. Here's what you need to know about it.
Computing

Corsair’s Ironclaw, Glaive gaming mice are tuned for performance and comfort

Corsair is adding wireless capabilities to its Ironclaw gaming mouse this year, while the Glaive RGB Pro has been updated for maximum comfort with thoughtful ergonomics. Both mice feature accurate tracking and durable buttons.
Gaming

These awesome free-to-play games might be even better than the ones you paid for

Believe it or not, free-to-play games have evolved into engaging, enjoyable experiences. Here are a few of our favorites that you can play right now, including Warframe and the perennially popular League of Legends.