Geof Darrow on Drawing for Movies

I consider this more proof of burgeoning Chaos Magic skills: the random opportunity that lead to Interviewing the legendary Geof Darrow, creator of The Shaolin Cowboy and concept artist behind such films as The Matrix. After some days of preparation and two pages of neatly typed out questions, we met over zoom an immediately discarded any pretense of a formal interview to enjoy a free-wheeling conversation which covered his comics & movie work, tales of interesting people he’s met and a surprisingly in-depth conversation of the many Kung Fu & Samurai films which we both love and consider influences.

Many of those above mentioned details were covered in the official interview at KungFuMagazine.com

But below… you’ll find some of the enjoyable tangents we took which might be more of interest to aspiring concepts artists, like myself.


As the senior graphic designer for KungFuMagazine.com I occasionally encounter opportunities like the chance to interview the legendary comic artist Geof Darrow. He's the mastermind behind the extraordinary comic book The Shaolin Cowboy. In my first installment of that interview, we discussed THE MATRIX, Jet Li, and pioneering martial arts themed comic books. But in this post we discuss Ridley Scott, ALIEN, CATWOMAN and more!
The Matrix concept art by Geof Darrow from The Art of the Matrix: Newmarket Press (December 4, 2000)

PLUGO: How do you pick your projects?

GD: Well, I always try to get something if I think I can do it, because even when they when they called me for The Matrix, they said, “we want you to work on this thing.” it was Joel Silver’s assistant, somebody at Warner Brothers; he said, “ You know, these are the Wachoskis.” I didn’t know who they were, because they hadn’t done anything in action. They did a movie called Number Four Bound. In fact, the movie wasn’t even out yet, but they said, “oh, they wrote the script for Assassins.” But later I found out that someone rewrote it; they hated it. They hated what the guy did with it.

So yeah. I kind of say this “You will send me the script, I’ll read it.”

And I guess they were like, Who the hell is this guy? Who does he think he is? The reason I ask is I wanted to see if I could do it, because I don’t want to work on something, take somebody’s money and do a lousy job.

But if I think I could can draw what they’re asking me to draw, then I’ll do it. But if I don’t think I’m right, I’ll turn it down. I was asked to work on several films, but one in particular; Catwoman, I said no. Because I don’t think I’m that kind of artist. I gave them the name of this brilliant young French artist, this woman who did work on the film. Her drawings were the best part of the film.

So if it’s something that I can do or I think it’s good director. I don’t just work on anything somebody has because if I’m not very excited, I’ll do a bad job.

PLUGO: So, what other directors have you worked with?

GD: You know, I mean, I know it’s so funny because the guys that are out there that do this full time; they all want to draw comics. The guys who draw comics all say “I want to work in movies.” They ask me, “how can I break into movies?” I said, “I don’t know. I didn’t try. They called me to it.”

One of the first times I worked for a movie was for Ridley Scott. I’ll never forget, he just called me because it seen some of my comics and he wanted me to work on this thing. It was very flattering, and he was wonderful because he explained to me who he was. He said “I worked on this enterprise -“ ALIEN, you know, “and that’s a sort of what has come through in my filmmaking.” And I said, Mr. Scott, I know your work.

But it’s that modesty the man had, that’s part of his film-making kung fu. I mean I’ve worked other people who go “I’m blah, blah, blah and I’ve done blah.” But they don’t have a millionth of the talent with that guy has, and they don’t have the humility.

PLUGO: So – quickly; what was the comic that he mentioned of yours? and what was the movie?

GD: The first one was a comic called Hardboiled. And that that stuck? Because he had worked with Moebius. And so and I had worked with Moebius, if you know Moebius is?

PLUGO: Yes, yes, most definitely.

GD: And so we had similar themes and it was an animated project that he wanted to do. It never got made. I kept on him because he wanted to do this animated weekly TV show and he wanted it to be of the level of Akira (1993) and I say “we’re not going to find people in the US that could do this stuff. All of those guys are taken and they didn’t do this thing really fast.” I said, “they can’t do this on a weekly basis.” And he says “Probably, that’s fine, we’ll figure it out.”

We talked about Blade Runner and he said “If there’s one thing that you would have changed to Blade Runner, what would it be?” And I said, “you know, you asked me.” and I said, “well, if it had a little more action in it.” “exactly it needed more action!” he said to me “I told the studio I wanted more action. They told me no because I was going to do this…” And he describes this whole scene that’s got like zero action, just a beautiful scene. Working for him I realized a lot of times, if he could see an image in his head, no matter what the script is and it’s something he wants to do, he’ll do that movie just so we could film that, that one sequence. And he can draw. he can really draw.

So does Tsui Hark. I got him to draw a variant cover for the Shaolin Cowboy series. It’s in the last the last issue of the series, there’s a cover by Tsui Hark on our front and back covers.

PLUGO: Wait, so for this current series? Tsui Hark drawing a cover?

GD: It’ll be on November, that one.

PLUGO: Oh, that’s awesome.

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