Jason Fuchs—The man behind Wonder Woman’s blockbuster success
I want to be friends with Jason Fuchs. When he geeks out about Jurassic Park or Indiana Jones, his enthusiasm is palpable, his laughter infectious. When he recalls growing up on DC comics and poring over every issue of Wonder Woman: Paradise Lost, he’s giddy. How the actor-writer-producer manages to maintain such unadulterated joy amidst an often vitriolic industry is beyond me, but I imagine it’s a large part of why he’s become one of Hollywood’s most sought after young writers today.
With an impressive acting career spanning over two decades already under his belt, Fuchs pivoted into screenwriting in 2012 with Fox Animation and Blue Sky Studios’ Ice Age: Continental Drift, followed by the Joe Wright-helmed live-action feature Pan. Yet his most recent co-writing endeavor—Warner Bros. and DC’s Wonder Woman—is looking to become the 31-year-old’s most successful project to date, opening to both critical and commercial acclaim earlier this month. Amid the film’s buzz and enormous success, The Laterals spoke with Jason about growing up in New York, the pressures of bringing a beloved superhero to life, and how he ended up playing a screenwriter in La La Land.
I know you grew up and attended school in New York. What do you miss most about living there?
Walking. You can walk in LA and I do, but people look at you like a mental patient.
You’ve been acting professionally since you were seven. How did you transition into writing? Does your background in front of the camera inform your work as a writer?
I was still acting and did an internship between 11th and 12th grade at an independent government-level intelligence service in Virginia. I went down there for the summer, starting writing intelligence analysis for them, and then ended up being hired as their United Nations Correspondent back in New York during my senior year of high school. That was, oddly, my first writing gig. I thought that was kind of a weird experience—a teenager whose only foreign policy experience was a few years of Hebrew school getting hired by a bunch of spies—and that ended up being my first screenplay.
I think that, being an actor, I’m definitely always thinking about how I’d approach something performance-wise. I know what it’s like to get a scene with lines that are just un-actable, so I’m hypersensitive to saddling actors with dialogue that will make them want to kill the writer.
Prior to Wonder Woman, you hadn’t written anything in the superhero genre. How did you land that gig?
I was working on another film at Warner Bros. I am the world’s biggest DC comics fan, so I politely inquired whether or not Wonder Woman might be something I could write for them, and they were kind enough, after hearing my pitch, to welcome me into the DC extended universe.
How did it feel to be a part of the DC Comics cinematic universe? Did you feel the pressure of bringing such an iconic, beloved superhero to life?
This entire experience, to be a part of something so large, has been a dream come true. As a lifelong Wonder Woman fan, I felt like I was wearing two hats. I was one of the writers on the film, but I was also the hardcore fan who didn’t want to see a Wonder Woman film done unless it was done right. I remember what it meant to me to read George Perez’s Wonder Woman run for the first time as a kid. I still have and treasure all the issues of Phil Jimenez’s “Paradise Lost” run. So, it’s a character that means so much to me, and I definitely felt the weight of that, but it was outweighed by the tremendous joy of collaborating with people who felt the same way about what it means to bring this character to life.
How do you deal with writer’s block?
I don’t really get writer’s block. I get perfection block. I find that way deadlier. You want something to be perfect, and sometimes the fear of that can immobilize you. For me, it’s constantly reminding myself that the path to something great occasionally runs through something good.
“You want something to be perfect, and sometimes the fear of that can immobilize you. For me, it’s constantly reminding myself that the path to something great occasionally runs through something good.”
What are you reading these days?
Why We Lost by Daniel Bolger. A great perspective on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
You’ve collaborated with multiple writers for various projects, including Wonder Woman. What is your process like when co-writing a story?
The process is honestly always very different. Sometimes you are actually physically in the same room collaborating. Other times you’re working in parallel. It really varies.
Where is your favorite place to write? What do you listen to?
I usually work out of coffee shops. I used to do most of my work from the Barnes & Noble Starbucks at the Grove, but I’ve mixed it up a little bit since then. I’m almost always listening to original movie scores. Alot of Hans Zimmer. Alot of Michael Giacchino.
What kinds of stories resonate with you? What are the stories you’d like to share?
I really love to tell the kind of stories that made me want to be in film in the first place. I grew up loving Spielberg, George Lucas, Zemeckis—those are seminal filmmakers for me. I love the way they told stories on a grand scale, but that were always grounded in character. That’s definitely my aspiration.
What’s next? Do you want to act more? Have you considered directing?
I miss the acting; I’d love to find more time for that in my life, but it’s definitely been an exciting stretch on the writing side. I’d love to produce more, to be able to have a greater role in the process. My next film, Break My Heart 1,000 Times, is a cool supernatural thriller that I also executive produced for Gold Circle. That was a really great experience. We’re in post right now, and I think we’ve made something pretty cool.
As far as directing goes, you know, you write something, you have a vision of the movie in your head, I think it would be really fulfilling to try to bring that to life one day. I feel like I’ve been so lucky to work with amazing directors. I’ve been able to learn from, and, when the timing is right, I would love to direct.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to an aspiring television or feature film writer?
Write. Write constantly. Writers write.
I have to ask you about your role in La La Land—you play a screenwriter. Was that purely a coincidence?
Not a coincidence! Damien Chazelle and I share an agency, WME. His agent, Roger Green, knows me and knows my acting background. Damien couldn’t find someone to play a typical, douchebag Hollywood screenwriter and Roger—in what in retrospect was a veiled insult—suggested me. It was a nice excuse to not be at my laptop for one day and mind blowing to watch Damien work. He’s truly a genius.