Hey folks, Harry here... back from my vacation to Prague and what was the first email to come in once I got back to my trusty Imac? Mr. Beaks - yup, he loves me. He sensed my return and wanted my affection. Just to confirm what everyone knows regarding my vacation. Yes, it was to the set of HELLBOY, yes, it is true that I won't be writing about it, as the scenes they were shooting while I was on set involve the final 10 minutes of the movie, and only a fucking asshole would spoil that for you. I will say this... Everything that you've read about HELLBOY from Nick Nunziata is almost true... it's just much better than that. Also - I have to say, not seeing a computer for 7 days was the most amazing experience. It's like... having a life or something... It's hard to describe, so I'll let Mr. Beaks take over and talk about his amazing time at Comic-con!
“You know what? When I was in London recently, I saw the pilot episode for the SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN. And… wow, it was really crazy. People don’t realize that he didn’t want to be the Six Million Dollar man. He woke up in the hospital with all the fake arms and legs and everything on, and he tried to pull his plugs out. He wanted to die because he didn’t want to be a robot person. It was very endearing. I never knew that he felt that way.”
Thus spake Madsen.
It was a humid Friday afternoon in San Diego, and the ComicCon was finally starting to heat up with the highly anticipated KILL BILL presentation. But there were a couple of problems: Quentin Tarantino had opted out (he would make up for this on Sunday *after* I’d left), while Micheal Jai White and David Carradine were stuck in traffic. Thus, the panel belonged to Michael “Mr. Blonde” Madsen, who promptly began to interview himself, his thoughts turning to Steve Austin and his weight loss program (“Cranberry Juice, man!”). Though undeniably entertaining (I was forced to turn off my tape recorder before the actor unleashed some mild invective on WYATT EARP and its director, Lawrence Kasdan), I lost my patience when some Bob Woodward wannabe decided to ambush Madsen with a CITY ON FIRE question as if he’d just been surreptitiously handed information regarding the similarities between it and RESERVOIR DOGS in the Hyatt Regency parking garage. I knew there had to be something better to do, even if it consisted of standing around in the adjacent showroom watching TV’s Lt. Boomer not sign autographs.
But let’s skip back to Thursday, when nothing was happening; where I was able to wander the comparably (to Saturday, at least) uncluttered convention floor with my pal Andre Dellamorte, picking up a few DVD’s I’d long been meaning to purchase – HERO and KAIRO – along with the latest issue of Paul Pope’s incredible 100% (if you’re not reading this, start immediately). It was the only day that I’d be able to enjoy myself before turning into Press Boy for the dubious benefit of AICN readers. Of course, Quint was around, too, but I never encountered him. (We were, however, spared an epic best-of-seventy-seven “Rock, Paper, Scissors” match when Richard Donner cancelled one-on-one interviews on Saturday due to sickness.) Still, Quint got the goods on the big stuff (by request in the Talk Back, I’ll happily email you a prepared rant about having to leave on Saturday afternoon), so I’ll mop up with what I was able to gather working in an official capacity on Friday and Saturday.
In the interest of not fucking around, let’s start with the 800 lb. gorilla…
LORD OF THE RINGS: RETURN OF THE KING
“The most sacred acting experience I’ve ever had was at the top of Mount Ruapehu with Elijah Woods in my arms,” says Sean Astin with the contented confidence of an actor who knows he nailed the moment. This enticing tidbit certainly lends credence to the Oscar buzz that’s been building up around his performance in RETURN OF THE KING ever since the first film hit theaters in 2001 (I know Moriarty in particular has been championing this notion for some time). But that’s hype best left stowed away until December. Right now, I’m seated at a roundtable with such web celebs as Garth Franklin and Smilin’ Jack Ruby (by the way, guys, the entourages are getting *way* out of control), trying to draw out of Astin and Dominic Monaghan some specifics about those month-long reshoots in New Zealand that just concluded a couple of weeks ago, and expecting little more than well-rehearsed vagaries. That said, these guys are, as ever, a joy to be around. They’re still very much in love with these movies, and grateful for the chance to be a part of them. At the very least, it’ll be a pleasant discussion.
But that’s not going to deter us from taking up the dental drill, and going to work on these bastards. What about those reshoots? According to Dominic, these were “less reshoots, and more like finessing things, like some scenes with Gandalf and Pippin where they head off to Minas Tirth. We kinda fleshed out those scenes a little. Merry on the battlefield… we kinda finessed a bit of that. Nothing too huge, just drawing out the scene a little bit.” Sean added, “We reshot a couple of things, and we did additional scenes… new scenes.”
With the idea of new scenes floated, we tried for specifics, only to be met with an exchange of furtive glances between the hobbits, who issued, through Sean, a polite no-comment. “I don’t know how to talk about it without ruining it,” allowed Sean, who stated further, “you know how the story ends, not how the movie ends. And these would be spoilers. I don’t know if I feel good about giving good spoilers. I want to answer your question, but I feel like I shouldn’t.”
This line of questioning did, however, lead to the inevitable discussion over how much this final film differs from the novel in terms of plot points. “I don’t think it differs too much from the book,” said Dominic. “It’s very sad, it’s very poignant; it’s the bringing together of all of our stories, and the eventual destiny of the ring is decided. So, it sticks kind of close to the book.” Sean’s take was a little more personal. “You know what I find? I’ve read the books three times, and I can’t remember the books. And I’ve worked on the films for several years now, and I can’t remember the movies.” Sean laughed, and continued, saying, “I’ve reached the point of critical mass. Maybe it’s a zen exercise; I’ve finally arrived at a place of real wisdom because I live in the moment. There’s just so much information, so, I think my experience is different than… a fan who had come to it like… they’d read the story when they were kids, and they remember certain things. And when they go see the movie they want to see *that* thing that they remember, but I bet, if they read it again, different things would emerge for them. Peter and Fran and Phillippa are really the best to talk about that. And also Mark Ordesky’s pretty sophisticated at talking about, storywise, why certain things were changed structurally, and what the difference in the film is narratively. I’m the wrong guy to ask about that.”
Sean is, however, the perfect guy to ask about his “sacred” moment at the top of Mount Ruapehu, which apparently required a marathon of takes until he arrived at the emotional truth of the scene. But repetition wasn’t the key so much as the script, for which Sean is full of praise. “There was something… about the poetry of the language that wasn’t in the script (originally). It was a last minute script addition, which was sort of characteristic of everything. There were scenes that we filmed a few weeks ago, and we got pages after we filmed them, so we had to go back and film them again. But there’s something about the quality of the language – the poetry of it – plus what (Sam) was saying, *plus* being on the volcano and, then, seeing Peter Jackson who was so stoic and played it close to the vest, seeing the fact that… it affected him so emotionally. Then, we kept doing more takes, and it was like… a pottery wheel. And we just kept shaping it and shaping it. My little brother’s an actor, too, and people asked him when we were on the train yesterday, ‘What do you do?’ And he said, ‘I’m an emotional engineer.’ So, I felt like I got my PhD as an emotional engineer on THE RETURN OF THE KING. Is that quotable?”
Meanwhile, the boys have been busy sandwiching in other films while the finishing touches are put on LORD OF THE RINGS. For Dominic, it’s the disparate gangland duo of SPIVS and THE PURIFIERS, the latter of which he described as a hyper-violent British remake of THE WARRIORS. As Dominic put it, “Ten rival kung-fu gangs get together to try to control crime in one city. My gang, the Purifiers, don’t want to do it, so when they’re heading back to their own territories, the nine conglomerate gangs come together and try to kill them.” Dominic, describing vividly how the fight scenes were shot, really sold me on this one in particular. Having heard from Garth of a ratings squabble in the UK over the violence in the film, I’m more than ready to check it out.
Sean, on the other hand, went for a wallow in the Sandler sty on FIFTY FIRST KISSES, where he’ll be playing a freakishly tan gym rat with a severe lisp. It sounds like fun, and Sean certainly sounds pleased with it. “I think it’s a chance for people to see that I have a little bit of comic timing, and that I enjoy doing characters. We’ll see what happens. I trust (Sandler) and Peter Segal, who directed it. You know, I could look like a real… well, I’m sort of assured to look like an idiot in it, but, hey, I need a bit of a modesty check in a while.”
As for LORD OF THE RINGS, there are signs of weariness beginning to set in (mind you, this malaise is setting in four years *after* cameras first started rolling). “At moments, I am *so* sick of it,” Sean admitted. But, as he goes on to stress, “At moments. And, then, there are moments where I just love it, and don’t want to end. And I recognize that it’s going to be really sad. It’s a pretty complicated emotional reality to experience.”
Dominic struck the same gently melancholy tone, saying “They’re great projects. We all really loved being in it, but change is a good thing. Doing new things is always interesting. We’ll miss each other… but that’s part of life, isn’t it?”
28 DAYS LATER
The exceedingly talented Naomie Harris was in attendance to talk about this summer’s surprise hit, and to promote its re-release of sorts this Friday (July 25th) with an alternate ending. I’m happy to report that she is as unlike her character of Selena as you could imagine – very girlish, and extremely pleased with the positive critical reaction the film has received in the states following its relative dismissal by UK reviewers. Though not much of a horror fan – she’s never delved into the flesh-eating glory of Romero’s DEAD trilogy – she’s more than willing to work in them should the scripts continue to be as smart as 28 DAYS LATER. Next up for her is the second film from MY LITTLE EYE director, Marc Evans, titled TRAUMA, co-starring Colin Firth and Mena Suvari. As an unabashed fan of her work in Boyle’s picture, I can’t wait to see her evolve as an actor. Happily, I anticipate she’ll be getting plenty of opportunities to impress.
According to Jamie Pressly, one of the three babes trotted out by WB – along with Monet Mazur and Christiana Milian – to help promote music video veteran Joseph Kahn’s feature film debut, TORQUE, this motorcycle-bound action extravaganza “doesn’t give you a second to think.” They also accidentally blew out a bunch of windows in downtown Los Angeles during principal photography when an explosion detonated more ferociously than intended. WB is no doubt hoping for the film to have a similar impact at the box office, though we’ll have to wait until January 16th, 2004 to find out if it’s the genuine article. If Kahn lands THE TRANSFORMERS gig before then, expect every toy collector in the country to scrutinize TORQUE with a manical, Torquemada-esque intensity.
FREDDY VS. JASON
Having seen the film, I can safely say that fans of either franchise have no business missing what’s ultimately a satisfying throwdown between the legendary slashers. On hand to sell this, essentially, pre-sold picture were the film’s stars – Robert Englund and Ken Kirzinger – director Ronny Yu, and Sean Cunningham; all of whom were justifiably confident that they’d served up a great-looking, widescreen bloodbath that should deliver on the fans’ high expectations. (Quint’s raving over, in his words, the “glorious scene” shown during the New Line presentation will probably be the de rigueur reaction for the most rabid devotees. The rave scene is certainly one of FVJ’s highlights.)
But while I was positive on the film, I was curious as to why, after many years of development, they decided on this particular script, which I felt was too routine for something so special. Sean Cunningham addressed this by saying, “You know, so much of it is just time. I think that inside of the development world, you had so many people that cared passionately about what happened to either Freddy or Jason, and how it should be handled. And there really wasn’t a consensus, so whatever somebody really, really liked, someone else would say, ‘Eh, I don’t know if that’s such a good idea.’ We just went around and around with this thing… and it was a question of saying, ‘Enough. Let’s make the fucking movie.’ I think that’s finally what happened right about the time we finished JASON X. It’s time to make the movie not just go on like this endlessly. That’s what happened. With the commitment from New Line to really make a ‘movie movie’, they were able to hire Ronny and break him in, which I can say – he won’t say himself – he brings a level of visual sensibility and production that would’ve been sorely lacking in his absence. The notion that we were going to make a “movie movie”, and give it everything that it would take to make it into a first-class movie was the thing that finally put it over the top.”
Another concern voiced by fans has been that this film could wind up being the final installment for both series, but while he couldn’t comment for certain on the franchises’ respective futures, Englund did offer up these slightly encouraging words: “I think they may be testing the waters at New Line to put some fresh blood in (both franchises) and see what they can come up with. I have a hunch that New Line has one or two great FRIDAY THE 13TH scripts on the shelf. I *know* there’s one or two great NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET scripts. I know there was one done way back around Part Three, with the sister of Tina from Part One, and it was a great female woman warrior – older, like a thirty year old, coming back to avenge her sister’s death. I know there’s talk of a prequel to ELM STREET with Robert Englund or another actor playing Freddy the serial killer before… the vigilante parents torched him to death. So, that’s interesting. I’ve heard that Wes has said no to that, but somebody else might pick that up.”
On a final note, Cunningham confirmed that there is a Special Edition box set for the FRIDAY THE 13TH movies over at Paramount. As for what will be included on these DVD’s, details are currently scarce.
Finally, it’s the underdog movie of the Fall. UNDERWORLD is the tightly-budgeted directorial debut from Len Wiseman (who cut his teeth working for creature designer Patrick Tatopoulos) about a centuries-old war between vampires and werewolves that heats up when a “Death Dealer” (Kate Beckinsale) aligned with the bloodsuckers has to protect a mysterious doctor (Scott Speedman) from the lycanthropes. Sony brought along Wiseman, Beckinsale and Speedman to talk up their little $30 million genre flick, and they did a decent job getting this skeptic at least a little more interested in this action/horror hybrid.
According to Wiseman, the script evolved over eight months, morphing from a straightforward werewolf story to the monster mash that it is now. Going on what I’ve seen in the trailer and what little I’ve read and heard about the script (one positive: everyone I know who’s read the script really seems to like it), I asked Wiseman if they’ve tweaked the traditional werewolf and vampire lore, to which he responded, “We have. We talked about it quite a bit because I’m a bit of a freak about staying (faithful) to certain rules, but, then, I think it’s important to stick to the big ones, and play with the smaller ones. In my opinion. Vampires can’t go out in daylight. I think that’s a big one. Werewolves transform… we dealt with the moon issue and all that. Silver kills werewolves and daylight kill vampires. We kept with the big ones. What I got rid of for this was the fantasy element. I do like things to stay as grounded as they possibly can with a concept like this. I can get my head around something that is based off of a rare blood disease, and that Michael (played by Scott Speedman) is this anomaly (of werewolf). All of that kind of stuff I can get into more. When it starts to get into doing this (makes a cross with his fingers) and crosses… and he can’t see his own reflection in the mirror… that I’m just not into too much. So, those kind of things we kept out of it. There are no religious overtones in it.”
Technically, they also made advances in the design of the werewolves, allowing greater movement from the actors. As Wiseman puts it, “We developed – well, (Patrick Tatopoulis) did – these extension legs that, I guess, are used in the Special Olympics for amputees that have these spring-loaded feet. And so that’s incorporated in the suits, which makes them seven and-a-half feet tall. It’s supposed to make them more mobile, but it’s still a pain in the ass. You’ve got a really heavy head with all of these animatronics and everything inside. The guy can’t see unless the mouth is open, and you want the teeth gritting, but, you know, “Well, he can’t grind his teeth *and* walk forward.” You’re very limited because you’re trying to pack all of this stuff into… you just want to make it as tight as possible. And they did a fantastic job.”
We also gabbed with Beckinsale, who, it turns out, is a massive action film fanatic. While initially worried that the film would be more in line with the Universal Horror tradition of lumbering monsters like Frankenstein and The Mummy, Beckinsale was turned on once she realized it was the kind of script she’d been looking for all along. “I would’ve done an action movie many years ago,” she said, ignoring PEARL HARBOR as the rest of us have learned to do. “It’s my favorite kind of movie. I don’t really get out much, so I tend to get my thrills from DIE HARD and all that stuff. It’s very unusual to read an action movie with a female lead where you could just flip it and it was a male lead. Usually, there’s four or five extra shower scenes, or she has to get rescued, or it’s not really serious, but this really is. That’s what’s cool about it.” She even went onto gush that, “UNDERWORLD has been my most favorite experience I’ve ever had on a movie, and I think it’s partly because… that feeling of just not being sure that you’ll be able to do something.”
As for any romantic subplot, expect a love story chaster than SPEED. “We don’t go that far,” laughed Kate.
And that, my friends, is all I’ve got. I did spend some brief time with the folks from JEEPERS CREEPERS 2 and even chatted a bit with Harvey Pekar, the creator of AMERICAN SPLENDOR, but I’m going to put them off for now with an eye toward snagging something more in-depth on these films in the future. In the meantime, I’ve got to scour the web and pester publicists for a copy of that new KILL BILL trailer. Or maybe I’ll just curl up with a copy of the pilot for THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN, and dream of a world where Steve Austin never became “better, stronger, faster.”
Fuck that! I’m getting some sleep.