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Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Writer Peter Briggs Remembers the Arnold Schwarzenegger ‘Judge Dredd’ Horror Movie That Never Was [Phantom Limbs]

phantom limb /ˈfan(t)əm’lim/ n. an often painful sensation of the presence of a limb that has been amputated.

Welcome to Phantom Limbs, a recurring feature which will take a look at intended yet unproduced horror sequels and remakes – extensions to genre films we love, appendages to horror franchises that we adore – that were sadly lopped off before making it beyond the planning stages. Here, we will be chatting with the creators of these unmade extremities to gain their unique insight into these follow-ups that never were, with the discussions standing as hopefully illuminating but undoubtedly painful reminders of what might have been.

For this installment, we’ll be taking a look at an unmade feature film version of Judge Dredd, the iconic British comic book which has been the subject of two wildly different cinematic adaptations (1995’s would-be blockbuster Judge Dredd, starring Sylvester Stallone in the lead, and 2012’s gritty, smaller scale Dredd, featuring Karl Urban as the title character). Though those films leaned heavily into the source material’s sci-fi trappings, the unproduced film we’ll be delving into with this article would have thrown the surly titular lawman headlong into horror territory, with a story boasting a nightmarish villain and some truly harrowing imagery. Joining us for this discussion is the project’s screenwriter Peter Briggs (Hellboy), whose approach to the material was informed by his longtime fandom of 2000 AD, the comic book that gave birth to the Dredd character. During this talk, Mr. Briggs will be taking us through his early days on the project, what its story would have entailed, and why it ultimately never came to pass.

For those unfamiliar with Judge Dredd: In the 22nd century metropolis of Mega-City One, Joseph Dredd rides the mean streets as a “Judge”, a police officer able to act as judge, jury, and executioner, meting out justice to criminals while on the job. In doing so, the character has been the subject of rousing adventures, comic escapades, and clever satires – with many tales often being all of those at once. In the 40+ years since his introduction, Dredd has run afoul of villains ranging from Soviet assassins to fellow Judges, time traveling necromancers to evil child prophets, hillbilly cyborgs to psychopathic mass murderers. As such, it would seem that the character and his exploits would be perfectly suited for the silver screen. And yet, his long trail to reach cinemas is one utterly fraught with drama…

After having landed an agent at ICM a relatively young age, screenwriter Peter Briggs had attempted to develop numerous noteworthy sci-fi and comic book properties with the newly-formed UK arm of Paramount Pictures, to no avail. After attempts at bringing such titles as The Rocketeer, The Tick, and Starship Troopers to Paramount and only receiving frustration in return, Mr. Briggs jumped ship to the William Morris Agency and wound up writing a spec adaptation of the Dark Horse comic book crossover Alien vs. Predator (the first such attempt at bringing those two properties together for the big screen). Though a version of that project wouldn’t see the light of a projector until 2004, his screenplay nevertheless brought Briggs a great deal of attention from Hollywood – attention that would lead to an offer that Briggs simply couldn’t refuse.

Judge Dredd

“It was in the trades, I had a lot of heat, and I wasn’t capitalizing on it by being in London. It was very dumb of me. But that project was bought, and crashed. And then one day I was coming back from the pub late one Friday night, and the phone rang. It was Lloyd Levin, from [film producer] Larry Gordon’s company. Lloyd said to me, ‘Pete! Listen, I’ve got a project here. What do you know about Judge Dredd?’ And I just about fell over. Because I’m British. As a kid, I was a big Doctor Who, Star Trek, ANYTHING fan. I devoured Heinlein and Clarke, and all those things. On the run-up to Star Wars coming out, somebody in Britain had the smart idea to start up a comic book called 2000 AD, because they figured sci-fi was about to become a big thing. I bought 2000 AD from issue 2, and Judge Dredd started in issue 2. So I was there at the very beginning of it. I grew up as a kid with Judge Dredd. So when Lloyd called me up and said ‘Do you know this? Do you want to do it?’, I said ‘Yeah.’ And it was really that simple. That’s how I ended up on Judge Dredd.”

Unfortunately, while Levin and Gordon were initially attached to co-finance the film alongside Edward R. (Conan the Barbarian, Masters of the Universe) Pressman, things eventually went south with this alliance. “It all went belly up. I wasn’t privy to what happened, but what was a very nice ‘all chums in the room together’ situation became really hostile, with Larry Gordon splitting from Ed Pressman. I don’t know what the reason for that split was. But I had, to this day, what was probably the most bizarre weekend of my life – this situation where my agent went into work on Saturday and Sunday in order to be able to field calls from both sides, because it turned into a pissing contest over my services and neither of them were prepared to give up for the other side. So I had Ed Pressman’s side wanting me to do Judge Dredd with Schwarzenegger and Tony Scott. And the other side – I guess Larry and Lloyd didn’t want to let their protégé go off to the enemy camp, so they were escalating the deal. By Sunday evening, I had a deal on the table where I could go off and do an adaptation of one of my favorite comic books from my childhood with Tony Scott and the biggest action star in the world…or I had a three picture deal with Larry Gordon. That’s a three picture deal. A blind three picture deal. And, to my eternal regret, I went with Judge Dredd.

“So, there I was … and my Dad had thrown away my huge stack of 2000 AD comics, because I’d left home. I was like ‘Dad! I need this for reference!’ This was years before the internet, so there was no way of doing it, short of having the comic books. So I ended up going out and tracking down and spending a fortune on Judge Dredd comics and trade paperbacks, of all the material I’d owned anyway! But I sort of knew already what I wanted to do with the story. It’s kind of obvious, if you think about it. If you’re making Batman, you sit down and do the Joker. At least you do if you’re Tim Burton. Because it’s the strongest villain. If you only get the chance to make one movie, you go with the strongest villain. So I wanted to do, from the outset, Judge Death. Because, well, he’s awesome. And the Dark Judges are terrific [like Death, the Dark Judges are undead, interdimensional versions of the Judges from Dredd’s reality]. They are the antithesis of what the Judge system stands for, being from a parallel universe in which all life is outlawed. Life is the ultimate crime, and death is the answer. From the outset, for me there was no other storyline other than that.”

Judge Death and his Dark Judges were first introduced in two separate 2000 AD comic book tales – “Judge Death”, and its sequel “Judge Death Lives!” In that initial tale, Death is introduced as wearing a perversion of the traditional Judge uniform, while boasting a massive, wicked rictus grin beneath the pointed spikes of his helmet’s latticed grill. After a brief introduction which finds Death dispatching a victim in his trademark style (phasing the lengthy talons of his hands into a body and squeezing their heart), Death finds his way into a bustling nightclub. He murders everyone there, as well as the two of the responding Judges who accompany Dredd to the scene. Dredd and Co. are shocked to find that their foe is seemingly invincible: while their bullets tear away chunks of flesh and punch holes through him, he does not die.

Dredd eventually sets Death alight with an incendiary round from his Lawgiver handgun, destroying the monster’s physical body but allowing his soul to fly free. Our hero then consults with the Justice Department’s Psi-Division, where he’s assisted by Judge Cassandra Anderson – one of the division’s psychic Judges. After making connection with Death via his charred remains, Anderson acts as a medium – delivering Death’s message that he has crossed over from another dimension in order to carry out the “Law of Death”, a code that the undead Judges follow on his world. They believe that since all crime is committed by the living, then life itself is illegal. Therefore, the only possible sentence is death.

Death eventually manages to possess Anderson’s body and attempts to restore his remains via healing tech and “dead fluids”, only to be thwarted when Dredd destroys his remains and encases Anderson in “Boing” miracle plastic. With Anderson trapped in what amounts to the 2000 AD equivalent of carbonite, the threat of Judge Death appeared to have been neutralized by the end of his first story.

In “Judge Death Lives!”, Death is freed by the Dark Judges – Death’s three undead accomplices: Judge Fear, Judge Fire, and Judge Mortis. With Anderson’s body freed from the Boing and Death given a new corporeal form (stolen from an unfortunate victim manipulated by the Dark Judges), the four undead lawmen use a device to throw up a massive energy shield to begin shutting off large sections of Mega-City One, sending out a wall of death which overtakes the city block by block. The Dark Judges then move freely through the streets of Mega-City One, wreaking havoc and laying waste to civilians left and right.

Dredd and Anderson team up yet again to breach the wall and confront the Dark Judges. After confrontations with Judge Fire and Judge Fear leave the villains dispatched, our heroes manage to destroy the shield device and then follow the remaining Dark Judges through the dimensions to “Deadworld”, their hellish home whose landscape is littered with ruins and the bones of their countless casualties. A final battle between our heroes and the Dark Judges finds the villains destroyed by the souls of their victims, drawn out of their remains and weaponized by Anderson. With the Dark Judges defeated, Dredd and Anderson make their way back to their own dimension and Mega-City One.

Judge Death and Judge Anderson

“Ultimately there were several overall producers on the project. There was Ed Pressman, who ran the film company. Which was interesting, as I gather that Ed originally came from the Pressman Toy Corporation. As with Masters of the Universe … Ed wanted a range of Judge Dredd toys for his family business. There was another producer called Charlie Lippincott (who died recently), whose claim to fame at that point was that he had done the publicity for Star Wars and Alien. Being a huge fan of both, I knew of him. At the time, it was a big thrill to meet Charlie. There was a lady called Susan Nicoletti, who I think may have been romantically involved with Charlie at one point, but was also a producer on it. And there was a chap called Caldecott Chubb, who worked with Ed and went by the name ‘Cotty’ Chubb.”

Coming onto the project at this point, Mr. Briggs discovered that he was following a number of other writers who had already taken a crack at the property, including comic book and television writer Jan Strnad, Tim (River’s Edge) Hunter and his writing partner James Crumley, and Crash (Sniper) Leyland. “So I came on and replaced Crash Leyland. And actually, if I can – the only interview I’ve really given on this was for Alan Jones back in ’95 when [the eventual] Judge Dredd came out, for Cinefantastique magazine. And there were two quotes from Alan that I was misquoted on, and they’ve annoyed me ever since. So I want to put the record straight here. Alan’s an old friend of mine. We’ve known each other since about 1983, but I think he was sort of pushing me at the time for some sensationalist soundbites. I think he queried to me on the phone about the Crash Leyland draft, ‘So he took their money and run, would you say?’ And off the cuff I just went ‘…yeah, I guess?’, not knowing that then he would use that in the article as me saying that I’d said ‘Yeah, it looked like he took the money and run’, which I didn’t say. I’ll be honest, the Crash Leyland draft was not good. It really did look as if he’d taken the dialogue from the [comic book] speech balloons and transposed them, but that Cinefantastique quote was not something that came verbatim from my lips! Crash’s draft was the ‘Judge Death’ story, but it was a version of the Judge Death story that didn’t necessarily work.

“The Hunter/Crumley one, I cannot remember what it was about. The other quote in Cinefantastique was that I said that it was a ‘worthy draft’. Well, it wasn’t. Whereas I’ve just apologized to Crash for saying something I didn’t say, I’ll do the reverse now and say that I didn’t feel the Hunter/Crumley draft was a worthy script. I thought it was terrible. I thought it was slow, and wordy, and it was just a dull read.”

After having read the previous drafts of the project, Briggs flew to Los Angeles to take a meeting with Pressman to discuss his own approach. “I just said, flat out, ‘Judge Death’. I made the argument that he is what the Joker is to Batman. You really have to start with this story. My idea for it was that I would twist the timeline a little bit. The film would start with Judge Dredd returning to Mega City One after having done the entirety of the ‘Cursed Earth’ storyline, [which is] to my mind the best Judge Dredd arc in all of the comic books. If you were doing a finite series Judge Dredd storyline for Netflix, I would do ‘Cursed Earth’ right now. In that story, there is a ‘2T(FRU)T’ [or ‘Tooty Fruity’] virus which has taken over Mega City Two on the West Coast of America.

“My story had Dredd returning after being away for however many months. He is put together with [Dredd’s sidekick, Judge Barbara Hershey] as partner, and sent back off into the streets. There were a variety of vignettes he initially goes through. There were things like a ‘Boing’ set piece, [featuring] these guys who were basically joyriders who spray themselves with inflatable balls and jump off the top of the Empire State Building and cause havoc when they bounce massively. There were a variety of things in the first act that kind of led up to Judge Death. The reasoning is that somehow Judge Death has ended up back at Mega City because he’s got some connection to Dredd, from Dredd’s time out in the Cursed Earth.

“So Judge Death comes to Mega City One. I’d created a new character called ‘The Umpty Candy Killer’, who is basically a serial killer that was trading in ‘Umpty Candy’. In the future, sugar and fast foods and the like were all outlawed in Mega City, and ‘Umpty Candy’ is the most addictive substance in the universe. It’s basically Judge Dredd’s version of hardcore drugs – once you’ve had a taste, you’ve got to keep doing it. So I had this serial killer that was luring people with Umpty Candy.”

Whereas the original comic book tale found Judge Death inhabiting the body of Judge Anderson, Briggs’ draft found the supernatural lawman possessing the body of an Umpty Candy warehouse raid casualty. “The guy who ends up being killed and taken off the the morgue, his body’s taken over by Judge Death at one of the sector houses, which are local police precincts in Mega City One. So that was … the beginning of Judge Death in Mega City.”

Ultimately, Briggs stayed fairly faithful to the original 2000 AD stories which introduced Judge Death and the Dark Judges. “Like I did with my later Hellboy adaption, it’s essentially the first two Dark Judge stories put together. It’s Death, coming to Mega City One. Death ending up in the Boing Sphere. Death coming out of the Boing Sphere. Death bringing over the Dark Judges. The Dark Judges transmogrifying Mega City while killing the populace…

“While it’s comic book, while it’s science fiction, it was also [meant to be a horror film]. If you’ve read the comic, it was that. Death putting his hands into people, and so on. We would have been firmly venturing off into ‘horror’ territory. Because, the Dark Judges are horrific. I don’t know what rating the movie would have had. Certainly probably more than the film that got made. I honestly do think that Judge Death should have been made as that first Dredd movie. But … I’m sort of glad that it didn’t happen. I think in a way, ironically, Charlie may have been right. Maybe the technology wasn’t there at the time to realize it. Now the Dark Judges, I have no doubt, would be CG creations. Now, they’re doable. Back then, would’ve been tricky.

“Honestly, the stuff I was writing…I would say that I don’t know if it was capable of being realized. Here’s the interesting thing – there’s a guy named John Gaeta, who ended up being the visual effects supervisor on the Matrix movies, and he put a company together prior to The Matrix which did the effects on Judge Dredd. So all of that stuff that you see, like the ruined aboveground Earth that the machines have all destroyed in the Matrix, with those cancerous looking skyscrapers – that stuff he did five years later was kind of the look I wanted for what Judge Death and the Dark Judges would have been turning Mega-City One into block by block by block as they expand out their force bubble and slowly destroy the city.

“My take, when I’m adapting something, is ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ So I try to take as much from the comic books as I can, that works, and use as much of that as possible. I did that on Hellboy. So principally, [his screenplay] was the story of the first two separate Dark Judges [comic book] stories put together, but with lots and lots of filler material and things that I used as connective glue to make the logic work.”

Given that comic fans were upset over Stallone’s Dredd taking off his helmet in the eventual ’95 film (as the character does not reveal his face in the source material), and were pleased that Karl Urban kept his face hidden under the helmet in the 2012 film, one has to ask – would Briggs’ draft had allowed Dredd to show his face? “No. No. No. Never took his helmet off. The producers’ argument was, ‘If we’re going to being paying Arnold Schwarzenegger six million dollars to play Judge Dredd, then we’re going to be taking the helmet off.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, but you’re kind of missing the point. You’re kind of missing the point of the material, and of the movie.’”

The Dark Judges

At this early stage in the writing process, Briggs was set up to fly to Los Angeles and meet with both the producers, and with the film’s intended director – Tony (The Hunger, Top Gun) Scott. “The first person I met over there wasn’t anyone from Ed Pressman’s camp, it was actually Lloyd Levin. They were right in the middle of Predator 2 at the time. I had this very nice dinner with Lloyd, there were no hard feelings about the fact that I’d taken Judge Dredd. So that was good. We met with the producers over the next few days, and we were waiting for Tony Scott. I had a return ticket already booked back to London, and it was looking increasingly unlikely because of Tony’s schedule editing True Romance, that I might not get to meet with Tony.” During one meeting, Pressman introduced Briggs to another possible helmer, Peter Hewitt. “I’d just seen [Hewitt’s film] Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, and loved it. He was very lively and energetic in person, and I liked him a lot. I think Ed was kind of couching things in case it didn’t work out with Tony and he wanted to get a backup director or something.” Eventually the talk found Pressman asking Hewitt what his vision for a Judge Dredd film might be. “Pete, like me, had grown up with 2000 AD. He sat there over lunch and said, ‘Well, here’s the great thing. I see it as – it’s not really a story.’ And Ed looked at him and went, ‘Uh huh.’ He goes, ‘Yeah. We don’t really need to have a plot. What we do is show a day in the life of Judge Dredd. It’s like this, and it’s like this, and it’s like this, but there’s no real narrative.’ And so we had lunch, and we walked out to the parking lot, and Ed said to me, ‘So what do you think?’ I said, ‘Oh, I liked him.’ Ed says, ‘Yeah. We’re not using him.’ [Laughs] I guess that was that. And a few days later, I finally got to meet Tony.

“We all met up at the Peninsula Hotel in Los Angeles. There was Susan Nicoletti. I don’t think Cotty was there. Lippincott was there, Ed was there. And there was this other guy present, who sort of slightly blindsided me as I didn’t know who he was. I found out subsequently when we were all being introduced to Tony that his name was Johnathan Gems, and he was also a writer [who would go on to pen Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks!]. Instantly, my hackles kind of went up. ‘Why are they bringing in another writer along to my writing meeting?!’ I don’t think that he was well-versed in Judge Dredd at all, whereas I’d read every comic book from ’77 to ’83, ‘cause I’d bought it every week. I knew my Judge Dredd.

“Tony arrived, and he turned up exactly how you would imagine Tony Scott would. He’s got the pink baseball cap on, and his pink shorts, and he roared up to the front door … on his Harley Davidson. This beaming, cherubic short English guy. He came in, introduced himself around. Once the pleasantries were over, Ed looked at Jonathan Gems and said ‘Well, John. What’s your feelings about Dredd?’ And I felt the ground shift beneath me. I’d just signed a contract and made a deal in order to write this script, and had thrown away a three-picture deal with Larry Gordon. I was thinking to myself, ‘What the hell is all this?!’ And Johnathan Gems launched into the worst pitch I think I’ve ever heard. He started describing it like it was Mad Max, that there are all these mutants all over the city. He just rambled on with this Road Warrior pitch that bore no relation to the Judge Dredd I knew. I could see Tony Scott wilting as he went through this pitch for fifteen minutes. And I sat there dying, as I hadn’t prepped a pitch, because nobody told me we were going to be pitching! I thought it was a meet and greet. At the end of it, I think everyone knew it was a disastrous pitch by anybody’s standards. Ed looked at me, with a look on his face like ‘Please save this meeting…’ and said ‘So, what’s yours?’ I said ‘Well, it’ll be the comic books. It’ll be fast, it’ll be rock and roll, and it’ll be fun.’ And Tony Scott grinned at me and put his thumbs up, like ‘Oh yes, maybe I’ll do this movie.’ We talked a little bit more, then the meeting sort of broke up and I hung around with Tony. I said to him, ‘Why have you never done science fiction before?’ He said ‘Well, you know, I’ve always wanted to, but nobody’s ever asked me. They only ever ask my brother!’ Anyway, I guess he liked what we would be doing with Judge Death.”

Briggs returned to England and began writing, using the 2000 AD comic books as a resource. “And that’s when I was hit with another unpleasant surprise, which was that they then brought onboard [Terminator 2: Judgment Day screenwriter] William Wisher. I was completely blindsided by this. Terminator 2 had just come out. I actually had the poster on the wall behind me as I was writing, because I was a really big fan of the first Terminator. So William Wisher’s name, my rival on the project, is hanging there above me as I’m writing this script. It was explained to me by the producers: ‘Oh, no, no, we just thought we’d do something like competing drafts at this point’. The idea was that there would be two drafts written on this. And Arnie would choose between them.”

Briggs recalls at this point that Lippincott had tested the waters to him in having the Judge Dredd film revolve around the “Return of Rico” storyline, which found Dredd facing off against a corrupt ex-Judge named Rico, who has just escaped a prison planet and is seeking revenge against the man responsible for his imprisonment – his brother Dredd. “[Lippincott] had floated at that very early juncture the idea of a Rico story. I wasn’t really too enthusiastic, and told him I thought it was boring. I wanted to do Judge Death. Lippincott himself, I think, had engineered doing the [Rico] storyline at this juncture. There must have been ten, eleven drafts of the story before me. Suddenly, I found I was having progressively more difficult conversations with them.” This included requests to remove numerous elements of Briggs’ draft, including some of the iconography found in the original Judge Dredd comic books.

“It was like the death of a thousand cuts. I was thinking to myself ‘What’s going on here? It’s like they’re looking for excuses not to do this.’” Several arguments followed amongst Briggs and the producers. “I came off this one conference call, and Charlie called me back about ninety seconds after I’d come off the call from somewhere else in the building. I guess he’d gone to another office or something. And I said ‘Charlie, what’s all that about?’ And he said ‘Look, this isn’t personal. There’s a lot of disagreement here, but…I’ve never wanted to make Judge Death.’ I went ‘What?!’ I thought to myself ‘Well, hold on. When we had these first phone conversations, could you not tell me that you didn’t wanna make Judge Death?! So that I didn’t come and pitch a Judge Death movie? Which is exactly what I did?’ He goes ‘Yeah. Look, it’s nothing personal, but I just wanna say that I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that this script with you doesn’t happen.’ That was a direct quote from Charlie Lippincott. Direct quote.”

So to recap: after turning down a blind three picture deal with the producers he’d previously worked with, getting blindsided at a writer’s meeting with the revelation that another writer was pitching on the film he’d already signed on for, being pitted against the screenwriter of a recent blockbuster who was revealed to be writing a “competing draft”, and suffering the indignities of numerous forced cuts and changes to his work, Briggs was informed that his producer was actively trying to kill his version of the project.

“I came off this [call], and … my girlfriend and my brother were there, and they sort of looked at me and they went ‘You okay?’ I went, ‘Yeah.’ They looked at me and said ‘Are you sure you’re okay?’ I went, ‘Well, not really, no.’ They went ‘You’re white.’ And I looked in the mirror. I literally had gone pale. And I started getting chest pains right that second. I said ‘I’m really not feeling too good.’ They got me in the car and raced me to the hospital. I thought I was having a heart attack. The doctor explained to me, ‘Well what’s happened is, your system’s gone into massive shock, and the intercostal muscles between your ribcage have contracted. Your ribcage is physically contracting, and it feels like you’re having a heart attack. But don’t worry, you’re not. You’re not having a heart attack, you won’t die. It’s just like an extreme stress thing.’ It was nature’s way of saying ‘Get off this fucking movie.’ And I did.

“I left. Schwarzenegger left. Then Tony Scott left. I think this all happened very, very rapidly. I don’t know what their reasoning was. I think after Tony left, Stallone came on. And then [eventual Judge Dredd director] Danny Cannon. This was Charlie Lippincott’s signing off comment to me. He said, ‘Yeah, I never wanted to make Judge Death. I always wanted to keep him for the sequel, because I figured we wouldn’t be able to do him properly.’ I said, ‘Charlie. If this film tanks, there won’t be a sequel.’”

Karl Urban as Judge Dredd in ‘Dredd’ (2012)

Ultimately, the resulting 1995 film would indeed fall short of expectations, both commercially and critically. As such, there was not a sequel. Judge Dredd would eventually return to cinemas in the form of the gritty, Karl Urban-led 2012 reboot Dredd, which also neglected to feature Judge Death or any other supernatural elements. It too was a box office disappointment, though it was much more warmly received by fans than its predecessor. To date, no further reboots or sequels have materialized, leaving a fascinating cinematic property sitting dormant yet again.

“Susan Nicoletti, one of the four producers, called me up in London the week that Judge Dredd opened. At the time of the release, everyone said ‘Oh, it underperformed’, being a polite euphemism for ‘flopped’. But the truth is that many years later eventually it made its money back for Disney [the film was released by Touchtone Pictures, a subsidiary of Disney]. Honestly, good luck in general to proving that your film has made money or not via the studio system, because it is byzantine. You have no idea of the accountancy loopholes. And let’s not forget that it was a Disney movie, ultimately. Walt Disney Presents Judge Dredd. Touchstone Pictures doing Judge Death. And maybe that factored in somewhere. But the producers knew all along that I wanted to do Judge Death. I was kind of adamant before I’d even signed the paperwork. So they could have just spared me the indignity of me wasting my time on that project, and I could have instead done three movies for Larry Gordon.”

And what a loss for genre cinema. Imagine – a big, scary, R-Rated sci-fi horror film featuring a comic book icon and a terrifying set of villains at its heart. But to dream.

In closing out our conversation, Mr. Briggs recalls a conversation he had with a major figure in Judge Dredd history after flying back to England from his initial meetings in Los Angeles. “When I arrived back in England, [there was] a friend of mine named Sarah Colley involved in the print production of 2000 AD. I don’t know what the occasion was, but there was a party going on at Egmont, one of the several Dredd publishers … They had all these comic book authors and artists there. And she invited me along. They had John Wagner there, one of the co-creators of Judge Dredd. I don’t remember very much about the party. I remember talking to John, but I know that he’s since quoted me as telling him what I’d made, money-wise, writing the script. And he was horrified, because it was apparently considerably more than mere mortal comic book writers dream of having. He was like, ‘Why the hell am I not writing screenplays?!’ I remember at the end of it, I told him about the plot I was planning and I assured him ‘I want to try and be as faithful as I can to the comic book.’ He looked at me, this meaty, bluff Scots guy, put a big hand on my shoulder and looked at me, firmly fixed in the eyes, and said: ‘Son…just don’t fuck it up.’ So, you know, I claim no responsibility for what did happen to that movie. I wasn’t the one who fucked it up!

Very special thanks to Peter Briggs for his time and insights.

Peter Briggs


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