Interview (Written:) Walter Hill

Conversation with writer-director of controversial "The Assignment".

A Collider interview with noted screenwriter and director Walter Hill whose movie credits include Hard Times, The Warriors, 48 Hrs., Aliens and Red Heat. In this interview, Hill discusses the movie The Assignment:

IMDb plot summary: After waking up and discovering that he has undergone gender reassignment surgery, an assassin seeks to find the doctor responsible.

Starting off — I know the [original draft of The Assignment] was written in the 1970s. What did that original screenplay [then called Tomboy] look like compared to what's out right now?

Walter Hill: Well — it's gone through a few wars. Denis [Hamill]'s original story was a male plastic surgeon married a young, beautiful woman. A teenage delinquent type then rapes the woman and murders her. He's instantly caught and sent to jail. And when [the teenage delinquent] gets out of jail, serving a rather short sentence because of his youth, the plastic surgeon subjects him to genital alteration. But it mainly was a police story about who's committing crimes out there in the street. The [delinquent] reverts to criminal behavior even though he's now in the body of a female. The police are rather flummoxed. They think it's the old criminal but they can't find him and everybody identifies the culprit as a woman. That was the essence of the story. And it's gone through a lot of bumps since then.

What made you change the main character from a rapist to a hitman?

Hill: You work at an instinctive level on a lot of this stuff; but I wasn't too interested in doing a cop story. I wanted it to be more focused, something very noir, very comic-book'y'… But I think the real answer to your question is that I wanted to end up with a feeling of melancholy — where you felt sympathy to both characters. I thought that was impossible to achieve with the original plotline. It's important that the story is beyond something that straightforward. So you have doctor who's lost her license, who's faced all kinds of problems in her career. She's also an intellectual of a rather twisted bend — narcissistic, a reader of Nietzsche, very much the 'ubermensch'. She's pitted against this guy who's sort of the Darwinian survivor from the lowest ranks of the underclass, no conscience whatsoever, utterly amoral, who then has his agenda of revenge with the genital alteration that he's gone through. So you have the se two figures bumping against each other and I wanted to get them both into a position where they show some character change and growth without making them saints or anything. She's reached a point of understanding about herself and she's going to tend her own garden from now on — no matter how bitter her circumstances. And Frank is now in a different position. He's resolved to use [his] underworld skills to launch a career of trying to do some good and the implication is that he'll become a vigilante of some description. So I wanted to get it into a more positive and ambiguous mode. But at the same time it harkens back — I did a movie a number of years ago called Johnny Handsome with Mickey Rourke… And there's a lot of Johnny Handsome in this thing. Not plot but there's the notion that character in some sense is irreducible and you are who you are.

Here is a trailer for The Assignment:

For the rest of the Collider interview, go here.

Twitter: @Collider.


Interview (Written:) Walter Hill was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Go Into The Story – Medium

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