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The real reason that Andy change was made in The Old Guard - Exclusive

Contains spoilers for The Old Guard

Netflix's The Old Guard, an action-thriller about a group of near-immortals who work as mercenaries, is a very accurate adaptation of the original comic by Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernandez. That's not much of a surprise. In addition to the comic, Rucka also wrote The Old Guard's screenplay, and as he tells Looper in an exclusive interview, "The luxury of being able to adapt one's own work is that one can be pretty faithful."

The movie isn't exactly the same as its source material, though. For one, the feature-length runtime allowed Rucka more room to explore The Old Guard's side characters, giving them depth only hinted at on the printed page. And that's not all. Halfway through The Old Guard, Rucka deploys a twist that's completely missing from the comics: Charlize Theron's character, Andy, loses her immortality.

That's a major shake-up to The Old Guard's status quo, and while the rest of the plot unfolds more or less like it does in the books, it gives every subsequent action scene much higher stakes. So, why wasn't Andy's transformation in the original comic? According to Rucka, it just didn't occur to him.

"That's one of those things where, if I had thought of it, in all sincerity, I'd have done it in the comic," he explains to Looper. "I think the reason why I didn't think of it at the time was that I was focused on establishing what they had, instead of trying to then say, 'They have it and I'm taking it away from one of them.'"

Dramatically, the change works. "One of the interesting issues in telling a story about these characters is — I say 'issues'; it is a problem, or as a friend of mine would say, a 'problem-tunity' — that there is a jeopardy that is missing," Rucka says. "If they can't die, you can't kill them."

Making Andy, the oldest and toughest of the crew, lose her mortality fixes that. There's now a palpable sense of danger to the closing action scenes; just look at how the other immortals position themselves during The Old Guard's climax, shielding Andy's suddenly vulnerable body. 

There's a thematic payoff, too. As Rucka notes, "In terms of characters, it's the physical manifestation of Andy's struggle. By taking Andy's and mortality, we are able to dramatically say, 'Look, the character conflict now has a physical, there is a physical element to it. It is now made manifest.'"

And, of course, Andy's mortality has big implications for The Old Guard's sequel, should one end up getting the greenlight. "Depending on how you're looking at it, it goes to some of the larger mythology questions, which I'm not going to get into because that's for another story," teases Rucka. "That's another conversation."

How The Old Guard's comic book sequel affected the feature film

Andy's unexpected mortality might be the biggest change the The Old Guard endured in the transition from a comic book to a movie, but it's not the only one. Quynh, the member of the immortal team who was lost under the sea, doesn't enter the comics until The Old Guard's sequel series, Force Multiplied. The movie also makes a few nods towards elements of Andy's backstory that didn't appear until the follow-up.

According to Rucka, that's largely because he was working on The Old Guard's script and Force Multiplied at the same time. "They absolutely informed each other," he says. "There's no way that they couldn't." The exchange went both ways, too. Not only did characters from Force Multiplied pop up early in The Old Guard, but lines that were cut from the movie also ended up making their way into the comic.

In fact, at times it was hard for Rucka to keep the two projects straight. Quynh, for example, goes by Noriko in the comics — her name (and parts of her personality) were changed at the request of actress Veronica Ngo, who's Vietnamese, not Japanese.

"What's happening in the comic with Noriko is not Quynh," Rucka says. "Quynh and Noriko are clearly from the same DNA, but they are different characters, and they need to be — though the conflict for Noriko in the second story, what she was trying to convey to Andy, is very much where Quynh is coming from."

The emphasis on exactly how the immortals' powers work in both Force Multiplied and the movie was also a result of both projects moving simultaneously. "In the first story, Opening Fire, I had absolutely no interest whatsoever in explaining or justifying why they were the way they were. Just none. I felt that it was irrelevant. I felt that it was distracting," Rucka says. 

In the movie, though, that didn't make sense. Rucka tells us, "One of the insistences with the film was that there has to be some interrogation of this state, certainly by Nile. [...] It was one of the things that I really wanted to hit in Force Multiplied... and I did want to go back and show a little bit about where Andy had come from, because I think that the idea for The Old Guard really, really only works if you honestly interrogate what it means to be as old as they are."

Still, there are a lot of mysteries that both The Old Guard film and Force Multiplied leave unanswered. "The answers to those questions need to be obtainable but not necessarily delivered," Rucka says. "If we're fortunate enough to do a second or a third or whatever, then we can talk about it a little more."

The chances of an Old Guard sequel seem pretty good — according to Netflix, the movie is extremely popular — but Rucka admits that he's waiting to hear what's next. "I think the possibility of telling more stories absolutely exists," he says, "but it's going to depend on a number of factors that I have nothing to do with. It's going to be somebody else's decision."

The Old Guard is available to stream on Netflix now.