David Ayer's story is that oft-adduced, rarely seen example of a unique voice -- a genuine outsider -- finding success in the Hollywood trade. The Training Day screenwriter takes his first turn helming with the new film, Harsh Times, which stars Christian Bale as a Persian Gulf War vet, returning home to South-Central L.A. and its seductive thug life. For Ayer, it is a case study in writing what you know. Instead of going from parents with money and influence to some tony film school, he's a high school dropout, who at 14 was kicked out of home for bad behavior and moved in with a cousin in South-Central. After surviving those mean streets for several years, Ayer eventually wised up enough to escape death or imprisonment via a three-year stint in the U.S. Navy.Freddy Rodriguez and Christian Bale in Harsh Times, written and directed by David Ayer.
"I think we've ridden the whole Joseph Campbell monomyth to death. The moral universe all Hollywood movies have to take place in is familiar ground to moviegoers. So writers have to do things like chopping up the narrative or telling stories backwards to get ahead of the audience.
There's a moral map that everyone has to use -- the studios push the moral universe in a certain direction that's very action-consequence, you know? You do something bad; something bad's going to happen to you in the next scene. I think real life is definitely more complex than that. In real life, good people get punished and bad guys don't. That's common. In my scripts I like to have a little moral complexity there."