Evil found on big screen and backstage: Writer
GREG OLIVER - Producer, SLAM! Wrestling
The irony is unavoidable. Dan Madigan, the man who wrote See No Evil, with WWE wrestler Kane as the lead character, has a son named ... wait for it ... Kane!
Madigan can only shake his head at all the coincidences that pop up when telling his tale.
"Here's the goofy part, this is the God's honest truth. Me and my wife, Karen, had picked the name out years ago. We loved the name, because Kane Madigan sounds good. The first film I saw was through a guy named Kane. The odds of that! We thought that was a good omen, little did we know, but it was such a strange thing," admitted Madigan to SLAM! Wrestling.
A screenwriter for years around Hollywood, Madigan had dabbled in acting, and had worked in Disney animation, when his representative sent out some scripts to various production companies, including the newly-launched WWE Films. A conversation was started between Madigan and WWE when the company realized that he knew his wrestling -- turns out that Madigan had once considered a grappling career.
"I made the choice to either go to Killer Kowalski's Wrestling School or art school. But painting won over -- that's my first love," said Madigan. "So I became a starving artist instead, instead of a starving wrestler. I train, I grapple with Gene LeBell. I knew the guys."
WWE Films called his manager one day, asking if Madigan would pitch an idea for a Kane movie.
Madigan recalled the conversation with his agent.
"My manager calls me and says, 'Go down and pitch an idea for a Kane movie.' I go, 'What should I do?' He said, 'You'll come up with something.' I had this concept floating around in my head for a while, so I went down and pitched it. They loved it, so I wrote a 55-page treatment."
The key to the greenlighting of See No Evil? "Vince [McMahon] just freaked over it."
While it was exciting to see his first screenplay get made, Madigan admitted there were many, many frustrations as well -- hardly a new tale in Hollywood. According to Madigan, Lance Hendrikson called and wanted to be in the movie as the cop. "He'd lend a lot of credence to the title. They never contacted him. Go figure. Toby Hooper, the director of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, he read the script and called me up. 'Dan, I want to direct this. I think it's great.' He thought the character I'd created was the new Leatherface for this generation. They never contacted Toby." The director ended up being Gregory Dark; "Greg's a very sharp guy. He saw what I was trying to go for."
In See No Evil, Kane plays a serial killer named Jacob Goodnight. "Unfortunately for the film, they changed the way the character looked, and the story, they lessened the intensity. They really did. As they told me, the last part of the script was an endurance test. They just sort of pulled back a little bit," said Madigan. "Hollywood, one thing you should know, kill your babies. The old saying is, you write something, you love it, but it doesn't matter because someone else who doesn't know writing is going to give you notes. I was getting notes from people who literally didn't know what they were talking about."
Madigan, who would work in WWE Creative as a writer for a brief while, definitely sees the connection between movies and wrestling: "The problem is there's too many egos involved. I've learned that you need a thick skin and you need to be pliable. You've got to know when to tap."
Dan & Karen Madigan with their son, Kane, and Glen Jacobs, a.k.a. Kane.
In WWE, Madigan used to write and direct Raw and Smackdown.
"The funny story was I was hired to write the movie, and at the same time, they asked me to submit some writing samples to WWE for Raw and Smackdown. I started watching the shows -- I'd always watched, but I started watching more intently. This is the time they were doing the Katie Vick storyline. I was watching and I said, 'What are the limitations that they are putting on?' As I watched the Katie Vick storyline, I said to myself, I guess with the exception of child snuff porn, they'll do anything."
Madigan submitted a 23-page outline of a group of masked wrestlers called The Coven coming in from South America, and that would possess people's souls. The climax of the storyline would have been a pay per view where Stephanie McMahon's soul was possessed and her father, Vince, would be spraying holy water saying, "The power of Vince compels you." The memory makes Madigan laugh. "On that alone, Stephanie said, 'We ought to hire this guy,'" he said, wishing the story had been carried out. "I was just throwing shit against the wall to see what I could do as a lark. But they loved it."
He is somewhat ambivalent about the experience. "In a way, I miss it because I got to make some good friends there. A lot of great people, a lot of behind-the-stage people are great, the boys, the agents. I'm married now. I was living in L.A. So it was kind of a strain," Madigan explained. "But as a writer, it's a real kick to see. Because as a screenwriter, you write a screenplay, it takes months, maybe years, and there's a complete change in the works, the concepts. When you're writing something for Vince, sometimes you write the day of the show and it's done that night -- literally, it's sometimes five minutes before the show goes on. It's nice to see your words come to fruition, to life. Like anything in life, there were some people I liked, and some people I wasn't too fond of."
His imprint is on some old storylines. "I did some good things, and stuff that was kind of suspect," Madigan said with a chuckle. "I did some stuff that the Canadian government wasn't too fond of, the Japanese royal family got some heat on me, the Church of England. If wrestling can't be the thing that you express yourself at, why are you there? You should push way outside the squared circle, there should be no limitations."
Now almost 39, or as he puts it, the "rough side of thirty," Madigan is weighing his options for a next project. He might direct a film in Nashville, or produce and write something. There are pitches going around town now. "First thing they pay me for, to be honest."
He had a healthy diversion over the past year with Mondo Lucha A Go-Go: The Bizarre and Honorable World of Wild Mexican Wrestling (Rayo/HarperCollins). Now on bookshelves, Mondo Lucha A Go-Go is Madigan's second book. His first was a novelization of See No Evil Simon & Schuster. "The critics seemed to appreciate the novelization a lot more than the film," he said.
Madigan hasn't completely ruled out a return to the wrestling world. The experiences there better prepared him for further times in Hollywood. "The Hollywood thing and the wrestling business, they're both, to some extent, cutthroat," he said. "Business is business."
See No Evil in our SLAM! Wrestling Movie Database
Mondo Lucha A Go-Go a hurricarana of a book
Greg Oliver founded SLAM! Wrestling with John Powell way back in 1996, and has been writing about pro wrestling since 1985. Later in 2007, his third book The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Heels (with Steven Johnson) is set to come out from ECW Press, complimenting The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Tag Teams (also with Johnson) and The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Canadians. Order them both from the SLAM! Wrestling Store. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.