FX Movie News: 11-14-06
Today’s Headlines: Where is CGI Taking Hollywood?; Disney Sells 5 Million Copies Of Pixar’s Cars In Two Days; Ben Stiller Starting Madagascar 2; Fantastic 4 Sequel Rushes VFX For Trailer; Sculpting a Galaxy Raises The Bar; Happy Feet Alters Best Animated Film Race; Pirates 3: Blow It Up and Start All Over Again ; ILM’s Dennis Muren On Forbidden Planet 50th Aniv. Edition; Snyder Says No Sequels for Watchmen
Where is CGI Taking Hollywood?
(enjoyment.independent.co.uk) Long ago (that is, in about 1975), in a galaxy far, far away (California), a promising but still fairly inexperienced young film-maker called George Lucas was trying to launch a $10m science-fiction movie, working title: “The Star Wars”. There were many obstacles in his way. For one thing – as a friend of George’s, the writer-director Phil Kaufman, had been told after spending the better part of a year trying to adapt Star Trek to the big screen for Paramount – the industry wisdom was that science-fiction yarns simply did not shift tickets.
Creaky sci-fi B-movies such as The Blob, The Thing and The Creature from the Black Lagoon had long since gone the way of the dinosaurs and most of the drive-ins, while Hollywood’s more mainstream ventures into deep space or the future (such as Lucas’s own, rather arty debut work, THX 1138) tended to be glum, dystopian efforts which attracted only a moderate following: The Terminal Man, Damnation Alley, Silent Running, Logan’s Run, A Boy and his Dog… Even a critically lauded “event” movie such as 2001: A Space Odyssey took the better part of a decade to earn back its relatively modest production costs.
Lucas’s financial problem was compounded by a technical one. In the post-Easy Rider era, Hollywood had quickly learnt to make films that were as contemporary and realist as they were delightfully profitable – shot fast, cheaply and mainly on location. Very soon, a generation of special effects technicians found themselves unemployed. Warner Bros, which had once had more than a hundred special-effects artists on the payroll, shed its entire effects department. One measure of this dramatic purging of a specialist art is that in 1973 and 1974, the Academy did not even bother to award Oscars for special effects. The few surviving grand Magi of the art – such as Douglas Trumbull and Jim Danforth – were booked up years in advance, or working on their own projects; besides, a lot of people thought that the effects technology Lucas would need for his intergalactic dog-fights simply did not exist.
Concluding that, if the mountain would not come to Mohammed, Mohammed had better start building his own mountain, Lucas set about re-inventing the nature of movie special effects from scratch. He recruited John Dykstra, a giant hippy with waist-length hair who had been one of Trumbull’s apprentices, and encouraged him in developing the “Dykstraflex” system of controlled-motion photography: crude by today’s standards, but a great leap forward in the technology of animating models. Lucas then took out a lease on a 15,000 square foot building on Valjean Avenue, near San Francisco’s Van Nuys airport, as a Spartan working space for Dykstra and his eight initial helpers. (That force grew to 75 within a year, many of the recruits being chronic sci-fi nuts who had spent countless hours messing around with stop-motion photography in their garages.) Finally, he gave the outfit a production budget of $3m – for an estimated 400 effects – and a name: Industrial Light and Magic (ILM).
The next year or so was blighted with delays, arguments and studio pressures, but Star Wars (the definite article having dropped away en route) eventually had its premiere in San Francisco on 1 May 1977. By its final battle sequence, the audience was on its feet and whooping with glee. Star Wars had triumphed, and, for good and ill, it permanently changed the ecology of world cinema. Fantasy was back with a vengeance.
Slow dissolve to San Francisco, 2006. George Lucas is now so rich he could buy a medium-sized planet as a holiday home, and Industrial Light and Magic is… well, huge. Pretty much every fantastical blockbuster of the last thirty years has been made technically possible by ILM: all of the Star Wars films, the Indiana Jones films, the Harry Potters, the Terminators, E.T., The Abyss, Planet of the Apes, War of the Worlds, as well as war movies such as Pearl Harbor, Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List, and spectacles such as Out of Africa and Gangs of New York, and thrillers such as Mission: Impossible. Each and every one of them has been moulded and polished by the ILM alchemists. Today, ILM is to special effects what Hertz is to car hire.
A few months ago, ILM finally shut the doors on its grungy old offices and moved closer to the heart of San Francisco – to the Presidio, to be precise, an agreeable open space mingling public parkland and private enterprise, nestled close to the Bay with a fine view of the Golden Gate Bridge. ILM occupies a floor in each of the two linked buildings which make up the Lucasfilm HQ – a neat but undramatic four-storey structure which stands on the site of an abandoned hospital. There’s nothing to hint to passers-by of the eye-popping image-making that is going on inside, save for the ornamental fountain next to the entrance hall. It is surmounted by a statue of Yoda.
Disney Sells 5 Million Copies Of Pixar’s Cars In Two Days
(appleinsider.com) Walt Disney Co. said Thursday it sold over 5 million DVD copies of Pixar’s “Cars” in the first two days it was available for purchase at stores, putting the film on track to be the industry top seller in the U.S. during the 2006 calendar year.
The spectacular sales rate emphasizes the commanding lead DVD sales maintain over digital movie copies, which are slowly emerging as an alternative to physical discs through services like Apple Computer’s iTunes store.
By comparison, Disney said it sold almost 500,000 digital movie tracks through iTunes since making 75 of its titles available on the service a little less than two months ago. Earlier this week, it added “Cars” to iTunes along with “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” both of which are available as downloads for $12.99.
“We expect to see a holiday boost for Cars merchandise, which has been one of our biggest lines of the year, with retail sales around $1 billion,” Disney chief executive Robert Iger told analysts during the company’s fiscal fourth quarter conference call on Thursday.
Ben Stiller Starting Madagascar 2
(Comingsoon.net) Night at the Museum star Ben Stiller told ComingSoon.net that he is beginning the voice recordings for the highly-anticipated animated sequel Madagascar 2.
“We’re starting to record it very soon,” Stiller said.
Stiller also revealed the plot for the DreamWorks Animation follow-up.
“I think all the animals head back to New York on that plane that you know was up in the trees and then they crash in Africa and Alex gets reacquainted with his real family and it goes from there,” he added.
Fantastic 4 Sequel Rushes VFX For Trailer
(slashfilm.com) “We will finish principal photography well before Christmas, now in our final weeks. Everyone is in good spirits as we begin filming the 3rd act of the movie,” producer Ralph Winter said. “Our editors have cut right up to camera, so we are in excellent shape, just finishing our visual effects shots for an upcoming theatrical trailer.”
I have been unable to confirm this with my Fox sources, but expect the Fantastic Four 2 teaser to run with Eragon on December 15th 2006.
Tim Story’s sequel to 2005’s Fantastic Four will focus on The Silver Surfer. Jessica Alba, Michael Chiklis, Chris Evans, Ioan Gruffudd, Julian McMahon, and Kerry Washington are returning for film, which is said to loosely follow the classic ï¿½The Coming of Galactusï¿½ story arc from the 1966 run of Fantastic Four comics (#48-50).
In the storyline, the Silver Surfer encountered Earth’s Fantastic Four and betrayed Galactus, who doomed him to exile on Earth. The storyline was also featured in the 1960’s and 1990’s Fantastic Four animated series. Surfer also has a short-lived animated series of his own in 1998.
Sculpting a Galaxy Raises The Bar
(starwars.com) Insight Editions / Palace Press continues to
redefine just what a book can be with their limited edition of
Sculpting a Galaxy: Inside the Star Wars Model Shop by Lorne Peterson.
As collectors and fans of Star Wars books can attest, the publishers
raised the bar with Dressing a Galaxy: The Costumes of Star Wars,
which included in its Limited Edition prop replicas, fabric samples,
and a massive clamshell case that made the book truly stand out as a
bookshelf marvel. Sculpting goes even beyond that impressive
The Limited Edition of 3,000 signed and numbered copies comes in a
massive tri-fold box, with a die-cut window that exposes a modeled
portion of the Millennium Falcon’s rear section. This is historically
noteworthy as the greeblie-covered hindquarters of the Falcon was one
of the models that ILM veteran Lorne Peterson was tasked to create and
detail. Opening the book reveals the Falcon’s silhouette on the inside
cover. A series of magnets keep the tri-fold box sealed.
Opening the next cover exposes a foam tray filled with a treasure
trove of extras. On the inside cover opposite the die-cut Falcon
window is an envelope sleeve that holds an exclusive DVD produced by
Van Ling. The DVD includes modelmaking documentaries as well as many
never-before-seen photos from the Lucasfilm Archives and Lorne
Peterson’s personal collection. Also in the sleeve is a small booklet
that explains the origins of the models contained within the foam
House Built To Capture Enchantment of The Spiderwick Chronicles
(canada.com) If you happened to have taken a stroll recently in the Cap St. Jacques nature park on the West Island, you might have noticed something strange. There’s a big striking looking house nestled in the woods that wasn’t there just a few months back. That’s the Spiderwick mansion, a magical place that will be familiar to the many young readers who’ve devoured the books in the popular kids series The Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black.
The producers of the big-screen version of The Spiderwick Chronicles, which is currently shooting here, decided to build the enchanted mansion from scratch rather than film in an existing building. A major construction crew spent three months this summer putting together the impressive mansion in Cap St. Jacques. Often filmmakers will build a facade of, say, the front of a house on a film set. What’s unusual here is that the producers built a real house – the only things missing for it to be habitable are heating and running water. “If you’re going to call it The Spiderwick Chronicles and it’s set at the Spiderwick mansion, you’ve got to make sure that once you visualize it, that it’s going to have impact,” producer Mark Canton said. “It’s beautiful and it was worth it.”
“They wanted to shoot the rich way,” said Michele St. Arnaud, the film’s location manager. The Spiderwick Chronicles – which is based on parts of several of the books in the five-novel series – is estimated to have a budget of $130 million, making it one of the most expensive movies ever shot in Montreal. One reason they built the house from scratch is that the Spiderwick mansion is the main set in this flick, which Canton and Paramount Pictures are hoping will turn into a Harry Potter-like franchise movie series.
It is the story of the three Grace children – twin brothers Jared and Simon, both played by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory star Freddie Highmore, and sister Mallory, portrayed by Sarah Bolger from In America. They move into the Spiderwick mansion where they discover a book, Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You, and an array of magical creatures, including goblins, boggarts, fairies, and the frightening ogre Mulgarath (to be played by Nick Nolte with considerable help from the computer-generated-effects department).
The cast also includes Joan Plowright as the eccentric Aunt Lucinda, David Strathairn as Arthur Spiderwick, Mary-Louise Parker as the mother of the three kids, and Andrew McCarthy as her ex-husband. Martin Short will provide the voice of Thimbletack, one of the creatures.
St. Arnaud initially found a bed and breakfast in Stanstead in the Eastern Townships that she thought might work as the Victorian mansion, but the filmmakers decided it would be easier to film in a building constructed specifically for the film’s needs.
Happy Feet Alters Best Animated Film Race
(blogs.orlandosentinel.com) Well, Happy Feet is just as gorgeous as Cars. And a bit funnier, and a LOT more ambitious. And it comes out Friday.
This is a movie about BIG themes; the environment, tolerance of the “different,” the perils of believing in superstition over facts (take THAT Pope/Ayatollah/Reverend/Rabbi)…
But coming at the end of the year, it could very well push the heavily favored (yawn) Cars out of the top slot.
It’s not as fun as Monster House, though it uses the same motion catpreu technology (Savion Glover does the happy-footing, tap-dancing).
Not as DULL as Ice Age 2, Watching Ice Melt.
Not as amusing as Over the Hedge, or even Open Season.
So what’re we looking at for nominees?
Figure Cars and Happy Feet, probably Flushed Away, maybe Monster House, probably Open Season, maybe Over the Hedge. Though one of those latter two will be left out.
That leaves out Barnyard, Ant Bully, and a lot of other drek (Ice Age)
Amazing review: http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/breaking_news/16004308.htm
Pirates 3: Blow It Up and Start All Over Again
(timesdaily.com) ï¿½Itï¿½s a wonder, isnï¿½t it?ï¿½ the producer Jerry Bruckheimer asked rhetorically, looking up at a three-story reconstruction of the ship the Black Pearl on the set of ï¿½Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worldï¿½s End.ï¿½
He wasnï¿½t talking about the three-masted square rigger, or even the 1,400 ceiling lights, which became so hot one day during filming some burst into flames. Nor was he referring to the 60-foot-high blue screen wrapped around the ship like a shower curtain hung from an oversized rail. What was a wonder, Mr. Bruckheimer mused one recent afternoon, was that the sequels to the first successful ï¿½Piratesï¿½ movie were made at all.
ï¿½They almost got canceled many times; money, budget, you name it,ï¿½ Mr. Bruckheimer said as he walked up a flight of wooden stairs to the deck where director Gore Verbinski was rehearsing a scene with Johnny Depp for the third ï¿½Piratesï¿½ installment, which is due out this May.
Such challenges getting movies made are increasingly common in Hollywood these days. But what gave it a twist here was that Mr. Bruckheimer was referring to the Walt Disney Companyï¿½s biggest franchise in years, ï¿½Pirates,ï¿½ and that cost-cutting was an issue even for him, the most powerful producer in Hollywood.
In an era when producers, directors, and even popular actors are required to toe a stricter line, Mr. Bruckheimer, too, is feeling the squeeze. His contribution to Disney cannot be underestimated; he has produced 17 films for it since 1991 which have brought in $5 billion at box offices around the world. Of those, he is best known for his action-packed adult thrillers like ï¿½Enemy of the State,ï¿½ ï¿½Armageddonï¿½ and ï¿½Gone in 60 Seconds,ï¿½ where car crashes, sexy leading ladies and explosions abound.
But as part of a corporate shift under the new Disney chief executive Robert Iger, the studio pledged this summer to make fewer films and focus on family-friendly movies that are marketable across all the companyï¿½s businesses, including theme parks, plush toys and television. That meant Mr. Bruckheimer was now in the onscreen amusement park business ï¿½ a far cry from the highly stylized, color-saturated movies and television shows that made him famous.
Indeed his formula has been so successful, the producerï¿½s foray into television in 2000 with ï¿½CSIï¿½ (an idea rejected by Disney executives) has become the cornerstone of a series of gritty procedural dramas that now make up about one-third of the CBS networkï¿½s prime-time lineup.
But while Hollywood producers often leave when a studio changes direction, Mr. Bruckheimer still has a few years left on his five-year contract with Disney. And many in Hollywood who know him suggest that it is Disney who will have to accommodate its star, not the other way around.
Terry Rossio, one of the writers of the ï¿½Piratesï¿½ trilogy, explained it this way, recalling a recent conversation with Mr. Bruckheimer about the blockbusters he produced during his 30-year career.
ï¿½I was standing on the deck of the Black Pearl with Jerry and I had to make small talk which is hard to do because he doesnï¿½t talk much,ï¿½ Mr. Rossio recalled. ï¿½Out of nowhere I asked him, ï¿½How do you get to be Jerry Bruckheimer?ï¿½ He replied, ï¿½Most people donï¿½t understand the nature of power.ï¿½ His sentiment was you fight along the lines of what people already want. You put yourself where your agenda and the agenda of the people you are working with are the same. The reason Jerry rarely has to dig in his heels is because he doesnï¿½t set up a situation where he has to.ï¿½
One coming Bruckheimer movie that will not fit the new Disney mold is ï¿½Dï¿½jï¿½ Vu,ï¿½ a science fiction thriller directed by his longtime collaborator Tony Scott, to be released Nov. 22 by Disneyï¿½s Touchstone Pictures. ï¿½That wasnï¿½t a typical Disney movie,ï¿½ Mr. Bruckheimer said. (Among other things, a gas-soaked body is charred by fire.)
Disney would not want to lose Mr. Bruckheimer. The studio has made new deals with other producers, including the New York-based Scott Rudin, who is known for literary fare like ï¿½The Hoursï¿½ and ï¿½Closer.ï¿½ But since Mr. Bruckheimer began making blockbusters in the 1980s with Don Simpson, his late business partner ï¿½ including ï¿½Top Gunï¿½ and ï¿½Beverly Hills Copï¿½ ï¿½ few others have matched his record.
ï¿½Our bread and butter, and where Jerryï¿½s ultimate value is, is he is our Disney home run hitter,ï¿½ said Richard Cook, chairman of Walt Disney Studios. ï¿½And that is what we want him to do.ï¿½
As such, Mr. Bruckheimer has the same status commonly conferred on celebrities like Denzel Washington, the star of ï¿½Dï¿½jï¿½ Vu.ï¿½ So much so, AskMen.com, a menï¿½s lifestyle and fashion Web site, recently ranked him No. 6 on its ï¿½Top 49 Menï¿½ list ahead of Mr. Depp, Bono and Mr. Washington.
And he is afforded a similar lifestyle. Mr. Bruckheimer owns homes in Brentwood and New York City, a 1,500-acre farm in Kentucky and another farm near Ojai, south of Santa Barbara. While he is loath to admit it, he owns a Gulfstream IV jet which he keeps at the Burbank airport near Disneyï¿½s headquarters. And he wonï¿½t reveal his age, though friends say he is 63.
Mr. Bruckheimer often travels with an assistant, Daniel Camins, who works as a personal schedule minder. On an afternoon in August, Mr. Camins drove Mr. Bruckheimer in the producerï¿½s BMW 745il, to the Burbank set of ï¿½Pirates.ï¿½ In October on another ï¿½Piratesï¿½ set in Palmdale, Mr. Camins not only carried a BlackBerry and cellphone for messages from Mr. Bruckheimerï¿½s Santa Monica office, but also a plastic bag filled with almonds and dried fruit, which Mr. Bruckheimerï¿½s nutritionist recommended he eat.
Mr. Bruckheimer, it is clear, likes things just so. At a charity dinner on Oct. 30, where he and the CBS chief executive, Leslie Moonves, were honored, the music from a video segment sounded achingly familiar. It was. Mr. Bruckheimer had commandeered the tape and replaced the planned music with songs from the scores of ï¿½Piratesï¿½ and ï¿½Armageddon.ï¿½
ï¿½It was so bad,ï¿½ Mr. Bruckheimer said of the planned music, exhibiting a rare roll of the eyes. At the dinner, the actor Anthony LaPaglia, who stars in the Bruckheimer-produced ï¿½Without a Trace,ï¿½ called him a ï¿½Hollywood zen masterï¿½ and ï¿½true perfectionist.ï¿½
Tony Scott, who has known Mr. Bruckheimer since the 1980s and has directed six movies for him, including ï¿½Top Gunï¿½ and ï¿½Enemy of the State,ï¿½ had another take. “The calm is on the outside,ï¿½ Mr. Scott said. ï¿½But inside heï¿½s humming.”
ILM’s Dennis Muren On Forbidden Planet 50th Aniv. Edition
(filmthreat.com) Warner Home Video continues its streak of excellent classic DVD releases with this 50th anniversary two-disc edition of ï¿½Forbidden Planet.ï¿½
Hardcore fans of the film will appreciate the 13 minutes of deleted scenes (Disc 2 of the set) from the workprint, along with nine minutes of footage that had been locked up in the vault for 50 years, unseen until now, according to Warner. The deleted scenes include stuff that was cut from the film, as well as scenes that include alternate dialogue and sound. We even get to hear Robby the Robotï¿½s voice from the workprint; itï¿½s obvious why they changed it for the final version of the film.
The lost footage includes unused shots of planets and starfields, a different view of the spaceshipï¿½s approach to Altair IV, the fight with the Id Monster before the special effects were added, and so forth. Warner included title cards before each deleted scene or piece of lost footage, so youï¿½ll understand the context of everything. It always bugs me when DVD producers simply throw such video onto a release without explaining how it was originally supposed to fit into the movie.
Disc two contains ï¿½Amazing: Exploring the Far Reaches of Forbidden Planet,ï¿½ a 26-minute piece that also includes Anne Francis, ILM effects guru Dennis Muren, science-fiction author Alan Dean Foster, John Carpenter, John Dykstra (who originally ran ILM before his falling out with George Lucas), and others. It covers the movieï¿½s genesis in the context of 1950s Hollywood, the influence of Shakespeareï¿½s play ï¿½The Tempestï¿½ on the story, and so forth.
Disney To Investigate Pixar
(sfgate.com) Walt Disney Co. disclosed this week that it may have inherited some stock-options woes when it bought Emeryville animation juggernaut Pixar Animation Studios.
In a conference call with analysts, Disney Chief Executive Officer Robert Iger said the board is conducting an independent investigation of Pixar’s options grants after being contacted by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice.
“It has been widely reported in the press that many companies have received inquiries from the SEC and the Justice Department related to stock-option grant practices. We, too, have received such inquiries related to stock- option grants at Pixar prior to the acquisition. Our board is conducting an independent review of them,” Iger said, responding to a question from an analyst. “However, as we previously said, we are not aware of any basis under which stock options that were issued by Pixar would have a material impact on our financial statements.”
Disney bought Pixar in May. Between 1997 and 2004, five out of seven Pixar grants were recorded at the lowest possible price within the months they were granted, one analyst found. Moreover, four of the seven grants were recorded at the lowest price within the fiscal years they were granted.
Pixar is just one of more than 150 companies under investigation for manipulating the date on which options were awarded to increase the likelihood of big payouts to key employees and executives. Founder Steve Jobs did not receive any suspicious options grants.
Federal authorities are scrutinizing Pixar and Apple Computer Inc., both founded by the technology impresario. Jobs has created enormous wealth for shareholders.
Last month, Apple disclosed the conclusions of its internal probe which found that Jobs knew that the Cupertino company had manipulated some of its stock-options grants, but that he was unaware of the accounting implications. The probe concluded that none of the current management, including Jobs, was involved in any misconduct.
Apple did admit “irregularities,” which could foretell more troubling disclosures.
Federal authorities are relying on companies to investigate themselves and then are using the findings to decide which cases to pursue. Companies are cooperating in a bid for leniency. Internal probes have led to the resignations of dozens of executives. Many companies also have said they will restate profits.
Snyder Says No Sequels for Watchmen
(movies.ign.com) Director Zack Snyder has made a feature-film name for himself with genre projects, debuting on the big screen with 2004’s Dawn of the Dead remake and currently putting the finishing touches on his sophomore effort, an adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel 300. In New York this week to discuss that film, Snyder also sat down with IGN to talk about his next movie ï¿½ another comic book adaptation ï¿½ this time of DC Comics’ Watchmen. He says that he expects that film to get underway very soon.
“It’s the only thing I’m really working on right now, so if I don’t do that I’ve got to find something else!” he laughs, adding that once he completes 300 he will go directly into full gear on Watchmen. “There’s no break, hopefully none, between 300 and Watchmen. They’ll just roll us right over. We’ll probably start Watchmen and then come back and do publicity for 300. Right now we’re still finishing 300, so I’d say I’ve got another three weeks of shots waiting to come in. And then in the meantime I’m trying to maybe make a commercial, maybe make some money, which is cool!”
The original comic book, written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons, told an epic superhero story that many in the industry have long thought to be un-filmable (the movie project has undergone several permutations in its years in development). Snyder believes that the key to the movie is to stay true to Moore’s original vision, even if by necessity certain aspects of the story must be cut due to running time constraints. His Watchmen will not be stretched over a series of films with sequels and the like, despite the trend of other comic-to-film adaptations like Spider-Man and X-Men.
“It’s a labor of love, and I’ve wanted to try to get back to the source material as much as I could without it being, of course, a six-hour long movie. And I would say the fans are probably going, ‘What do you mean? You say that like it’s a bad thing!'” he smiles. “I will tell you that the draft of the script is long. It’s so long in fact that when we turned it in, we turned ‘The Black Freighter’ stuff in as a separate script so as not to scare them too much. We were like, ‘Here’s your script. Oh, here’s your other script!’ They were like, ‘Oh, great!'”
“The Black Freighter” elements of Watchmen are one aspect that could be cut from the film if need be, though Snyder is already investigating avenues of release for an extended cut of the film.
“I want ‘The Black Freighter’ stuff in it,” he says. “It will all depend on how [the studio] likes it. I feel like they don’t really question it, like, ‘Why, what is this?’ But we’ve designed the movie so that it works without it. We have the places designed where that story would go and then if they want it, [they have it] for like extended theatrical or limited theatrical, or definitely for DVD. That’s the one cool thing we have is DVD, and in my opinion it’s not exploited nearly enough. [We could use that] to create the three-hour version of Watchmen. And [as a director] I’m totally fine with that, but I feel like that’s a battle I haven’t lost yet, so I’m not going to concede to it yet.”
Like 300 and Sin City before it, Watchmen will likely utilize green screen backgrounds at times, with the final scenes being rendered in CGI. But unlike those earlier films, it will also feature standard scenes with real backgrounds and sets.
“We’re doing some conceptual discussions about production methodology, things of that nature, things like, ‘Will it be a green screen movie or will it be a real movie?’ And I think that we have kind of found the reality of the movie,” the director explains. “There are moments that are green screen, moments that are real. Basically I think with Watchmen it’ll take every trick, every tool to get this world, this Watchmen world. I feel like probably the green screen stuff is going to be [the] Mars and Antarctica [scenes], and ï¿½ of course ï¿½ Vietnam. All that stuff is in the movie right now, absolutely.”
Snyder and his production team are also discussing what technology they should use when depicting Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, who in the world of Watchmen are still running the country in the mid-’80s, when the comic takes place.
“The whole trick to me is how do you do Nixon and Kissinger,” he says. “It’s like that fine line. I do like the idea of using some newsreel footage, but I also like the idea of making history into cinema, and trying to get someone and make him look as much like Nixon as I can, get someone and make him look as much like Kissinger as I can, so you sort of feel this cinematic version of reality, if that makes sense. One of the early battles I had [with the studio] was getting it set in 1985, getting them to stay with the Cold War, getting them to feel like Nixon is an asset to the movie, to feel like those elements match, and I’m a huge advocate of that approach. I think I have [won that battle] right now. They told me when we first talked about it, ‘It’s going to be the war on terror, it’s going to be 2007, blah, blah, blah.’ And I agreed, and I went off to do it, and of course I came back and it was 1985. I didn’t try to be subversive, but that’s what wound up being right.”
So while Snyder and his writer Alex Tse have made strides on the project, they continue to tinker with the script and dance the dance with the studio until production starts.
“You know how it works,” laughs Snyder. “The studio says, ‘Make us a movie,’ we give them a script, and they go, ‘Hmmm, really?’ And we have to go, ‘Really!’ So that’s the part that we’re at right now. And I think, honestly, I’m really happy with the version of the script we have right now. Alex has killed it and done an amazing job writing this script.”