How ''Road to Perdition'' changed for the big screen. Max Allan Collins tells the ways in which his graphic novel was altered to make Tom Hanks' summer blockbuster
Max Allan Collins
Credit: Max Allen Collins: Henry McGee/Globe Photos

Who is Max Allan Collins to complain? Countless writers toil away without seeing so much as a printed page, let alone the $80 million big screen adaptation that Collins’ graphic novel ”The Road to Perdition” recently received. Still, the 54-year-old journeyman writer (he penned ”Dick Tracy” for 15 years) had plenty to tell about how director Sam Mendes and screenwriter David Self changed his story of a hitman father (Tom Hanks) bent on avenging the deaths of his wife and youngest son:

How much does the film stray from your graphic novel?
I find it interesting and a little humorous that if you listen to Sam Mendes and [cinematographer] Conrad Hall, they think they’ve strayed. I’ve even seen a couple places say it’s ”loosely based on the graphic novel.” The fact is that about two-thirds of it is directly from the graphic novel.

Self added a character, played by Jude Law, who’s a hired gun that moonlights as a crime scene photographer.
In the graphic novel, which is more episodic in nature, you have a succession of hitmen who are tracking the father [played by Hanks in the film] and son [Tyler Hoechlin] and a succession of violent scenes. What they’ve done for the film is rolled these hitmen all into one, which is exactly what I would have done.

In the graphic novel, we see much more comic book-like violence. People’s necks get sliced open and their brains get blown out. But in the film there are just a few deaths, most of which we don’t get to see.
I hear some of the filmmakers say they had to tone down the comic book action. It isn’t comic book action. Comic book action is POW, ZAM, POWEE, and nobody gets hurt. What they toned down is the sort of ”samurai” action of my graphic novel, where everybody gets hurt and there are ramifications for all this violence.

Road to Perdition
  • Movie
  • 116 minutes