Podcast: Real Steel Screenwriter John Gatins

Screenwriter John Gatins also plays a small role in Real Steel, the movie he wrote for Steven Spielberg.

Screenwriter John Gatins also plays a small role in Real Steel, the movie he wrote for Steven Spielberg.

Screenwriter John Gatins calls himself a “failed actor.” He came to Hollywood, like many young actors, hoping to make it big. He starred in several independent horror movies, including Witchboard 2: The Devil’s Doorway and Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings, to name a few. He was doing alright, but not great. That is, until he got a call from Steven Spielberg. The famed writer-director-producer was looking for the perfect guy to write his passion project about robot boxing. Gatins was that guy.

The idea — which would become the movie Real Steel staring Hugh Jackman — was based on the short story, “Steel,” by Richard Matheson. Spielberg buffs will recognize Matheson as the author who wrote the source material for Spielberg’s first film, Duel.

A passion project it was, and Gatins took the reins. The film is set in a futuristic world where human boxing is illegal. Robot boxing, via remote control, has become the new sport of choice. Script sat down with Gatins to hear about this extraordinary journey from B-movie horror star to A-class screenwriter for Steven Spielberg.

Podcast highlights:

  • “Everyone has a good movie in them, you just have to do it …”
  • “Write what you know …”
  • “Go for it! When I started, I didn’t even know how to type …”

Click here to listen:

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8 thoughts on “Podcast: Real Steel Screenwriter John Gatins

  1. John D. Shaw

    Real steel was probably the most misguided off the mark miss the mark hero adventure aver made. The rap-dancing UFC rendition of non-story making was
    so predictable as it became a box office bore. Rocky should have been consulted
    if not for he obvious “yo,Adrian” misted moments in this badly conceived waste of funds. No locker room, no human robot traits, just a bad wrestling spectacle.
    An unrealistic non futuristic setting coupled with the inability to establish a relationship between the boy, his father, or a robot fighting for either.

    If a spoiled rotten kid getting his way over his parents along with fame and
    glory substituting for traumatic loss was the goal – this film failed even on those misguided objectives.

    Nothing was realized: not the revelation of shadow boxing as the answer over remote control as exemplification of the hero, nor was the humanization of the robot achieved. There were four characters left out to dry because of a director out of touch with the reality of family.

  2. Fable Fox

    I saw the movie twice and can’t wait for the DVD. It’s nice to know that he also play quite an interesting character in the movie.

    This film is one of the best film I ever saw. It’s a good thing that John admit that some story are just a rehash, you just need to bring new things to it. But in this movie, everything tie together. The writing is great, and the directing is great. It is interesting to know that only the robot itself is a sign of the future, the rest is still today-ish.

  3. MattWalterMattWalter

    Robert – I’m no industry insider, but I can tell you with great confidence that Spielberg definitely does not spend his waking hours reading spec scripts by new writers. More than likely he has a team of people who read the dozens upon dozens of scripts that are sent to his studio everyday and it’s those people who determine if the script is worth passing along. However, even then it’ll probably be read by a handful of other people before it lands on Spielberg’s desk.
    Also, there’s a good chance that John Gatins probably doesn’t know exactly how the original spec script ended up in Spielberg’s hands. I don’t imagine that’s very high on the list of question you ask a person like Steven Spielberg when he’s offering you a job.
    Just try and understand that these interviews are about the writer’s working experience and Jenna does a great job making sure she asks important questions that are relevant to beginning writers. If you’re more interested in understanding how spec scripts get into the hands of producers and agents then you should probably check out some of the events ScriptMag.com has to offer. I recently attended the webinar with WME Agent Cliff Roberts and he answered, in great detail, the type of questions you’re asking here. I highly recommend it.
    And one last thing, Robert… complaining about something that’s free is impolite, but the way you went about complaining (“Who the hell cares? Blah. blah. blah.”) just kinda makes you look like an asshole.

    Jenna – When I first saw the trailers for Real Steel I thought, “Oh god… Are they really making a battle-bots movie!?” But lately I’ve heard enough positive things about it to give the movie a shot. Plus, my interest always increases after hearing the writer’s perspective. Thanks for another great one!

    On a side note – Gatins must have said “like” and “you know” enough times to power a small village!

  4. Robert Holbrook

    Whenever I hear or read these stories — “Spielberg read my spec script”, they never seem to explain exactly – how the hell that happened…! Does Spielberg spend his waking hours reading spec scirpts by new writers? Why, when there’s so many experienced ones that want him to read theirs. And how did this spec (that wasn’t good enough to get actually made) get into his hands. An agent? Big agent or small? How did this spec get into the agent’s hands? Etc, etc… So everything that follows in this interview is completely useless really, because c’mon. What can a struggling screenwriter (the only people who’d be interested in listening to this type of thing) have to gain from an interview like this, unless that very pertinent question is dealt with? So this guy doesn’t write outlines. Some writers do. Who the hell cares? Blah blah blah.

  5. Mikael Monk

    I am glad to hear that someone does not outline and it works for him/them. I like the idea of flow and allow the story create itself. But for some it can get scary. So now I can explore it with more confidence. Also learn by reading is good to hear as well. I read allot when I was kid and that is how I learned spelling (Icelandic). The feeling, flow or intuition should override the rational, linear, thinking aspect of creating.

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