I was lucky enough to stumble upon a great source of information regarding the very first Pitch Black script, written by brothers Jim and Ken Wheat. This page compiles the most relevant parts into a FAQ format.
Where did this section’s information come from?
Ken Wheat has been very active in discussing his part in writing the movie on various places on the internet.
Can you tell me where this is?
Ken’s answers to people’s questions regarding Pitch Black were done in an area with a very specific topic, which does NOT relate to fandom. As a result, it would be my preference that fandom not poke up it’s head in his stomping grounds. I emailed him to ask if he had any interest in answering questions for this site, and his answer seemed to indicate that he did not. Maybe someday!
Can I have his email address?
No. The people that he needs to be contacted by know how to get a hold of him. Requests to this effect will be ignored.
What was the Wheat’s role in writing Pitch Black?
The Wheat brothers, Jim and Ken, sold a script based on a pitch based on a notion Interscope had. I believe they created at least one additional draft. At some point David Twohy took over and did enough re-writing to get partial credit.
What do the final writing credits mean?
The details appear to be excruciatingly technical in nature, but the gist is that the Wheats wrote a script that covered structure, characters, original scenes, and dialogue (enough to get sole story and first position shared screenplay), and Twohy did enough significant rewriting of who-knows-what to also get some credit.
Were there any credit disputes?
Yes, and in fact the determination of writing credit for this movie ended up with a WGA arbitration committee. In order to defend his place in the writing history, Ken Wheat even took two weeks to write an approximately 20 page letter to this committee.
How long did it take to get the movie made?
5 years from when it was pitched to when it was released.
Can I check out any of the Wheat scripts?
As far as I know they are not available, but would be tremendously cool to see. Maybe someday, times two!
What are some of the differences betweent the Wheat script and the movie?
I’ll list this in, um, list format for ease of easiness.
- The predators were alien ghost warriors in the first draft. The second draft changed them to living aliens.
- The Riddick character was female, and named Taras Krieg
- Much of the third act in their second draft ocurred underground and discussed the planet’s underground ecology, drastic temperature changes during nightfall, other species, and the creatures’ life cycles
- One of the versions apparently had detailed descriptions of the transport ship that would make it seem impervious to the damage that made it crash in the movie (“descriptions of double hulls with an internal self-sealing system, and so on”). With this in mind, it’s unknown what originally made the ship crash.
- There was a heat-shield that protected Frye during the crash, instead of the movie’s open window.
- During the crash, before communications go out, the H-G gets some sort of electronic signal indicating the presence of the geological camp.
- The survivors go back to the crashed ship for light and heat fuel, not power cells.
- The Imam character was not on a hajj, but rather was on his way to work for a mining company as a spiritual advisor to discontented workers
Why were the more science-y things removed?
Budget reasons and ‘overkill factors’.
Why was the Riddick character changed to a man?
Twohy didn’t think a woman would be menacing enough.
What are some of the elements added by Twohy?
- Johns’ morphine addiction
- the cannon-fodder kids
- the surprise ending
- the third sun
- the orrery
- the O2 sippers
- the solar sandcat
What other movies influenced the first script?
Five Came Back, Stagecoach, and Sands of the Kalahari
Give me some anecdotes, you.
Pitch Black played during the first Aint It Cool Butt-Numb-A-Thon, and Ken Wheat and Vin Diesel were there. The movie (that ran at 3am) got a standing ovation, and apparently this was very moving to the two.