Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with a bit of a chat I had with Wolfgang Petersen, a sort of follow-up to Moriarty's great POSEIDON set report/Petersen interview he posted a while back (Click It Here For That!!)
It needs to be said that I'm a goonie freak for Petersen's early work. THE NEVERENDING STORY traumatized me as a kid ("Arttttaaaaxxxx!!!"), DAS BOOT was one of the first subtitled films I saw that I forgot I was reading the subtitles, I was so engrossed by what was happening in the film. ENEMY MINE made me cry as a kid, but I haven't revisited it in a long while. And what can I say? I'm one of the 4 people in this world that really dug TROY. Matter of fact, I've liked all his recent work.
So, that's me. I have the NEVERENDING STORY British Quad up in my room. I'm a geek. I am also looking forward to POSEIDON, but strangely enough it's not the Petersen direction that attracts me to the film, but the cast he's put together. We go into that as well some other goodies about the remake. We begin with some technical fun where we spend 3 minutes trying to make each other heard. I edited the boring part out, but we pick up when we establish a decent line. Enjoy!!!
WOLFGANG PETERSEN: Hello?
QUINT: Hello. Does this work any better for you?
WOLFGANG PETERSEN: A little bit, yeah. It's still far, but if you speak a little louder it's better.
QUINT: Sure. I'll use my big voice. (laughs)
WOLFGANG PETERSEN: Yeah, use the big voice! Why don't you yell at me? (laughs)
QUINT: I met you briefly at ShoWest and for the 30 seconds or whatever we had to chat I brought up the cast of POSEIDON and I was hoping to spend a little more time on them here.
WOLFGANG PETERSEN: Yeeesss...
QUINT: So, I'm going to run through a couple of the actors and you can tell me what you feel the actors brought to their characters. Let's start off with Kurt Russell, who is the one I'm most looking forward to see in the film.
WOLFGANG PETERSEN: Yes. He's wonderful! I think there's a great, wonderful... let's call it gravitas about him. He feels like he's a man you can trust. He's very likable. He's sort of a real good American guy. He is now 54 or 55 years old, so that really... A mature Kurt Russell is somebody you like to have around. He is a strong man also with some kind of a nice vulnerability in his part because his problem is his daughter. I think he's still in love with his daughter and he has to watch, now, that the young Mike Vogel is about to take his baby away. That is a problem for him because he is divorced and she is basically his everything.
To see that very strong man, Kurt Russell, who has to deal with these sort of personal problems... he is very, very likable in this. You'll very much root for him. He's excellent.
QUINT: Great. What about Richard Dreyfuss?
WOLFGANG PETERSEN: Well, Dreyfuss plays... (laughs) Dreyfuss, I mean... We all know Dreyfuss for a long time what a talented man he is. There's no doubt about it. He plays a gay architect. The good thing about it is we don't make a big fuss out of it. We don't point the finger from whatever direction. He's just one of the people and happens to be gay and happens to be in an emotional... um... problem because his friend left him. He's about to commit suicide. He's very moving in this part.
Especially, there's a moment when he wants to commit suicide and sees the big wave coming and he runs back from the railing, not jumping anymore. For the rest of the film he's trying to desperately hold on to life. I thought that was really interesting and a very interesting twist to his character. Then you really see how he engages himself and how he tries to help and how he has a bond with one of the women and young girls in the film. More like a fatherly relationship. It's quite moving.
Richard is a great guy who is not only, as you all know, can be very, very funny and he is partly here... we know there's not too much to laugh about later on in the film anyway, but also he is very moving. He's always holding back a little bit so it's not over the top, doesn't get schmaltzy. He's a great personality and he's one of the real anchors of this film.
QUINT: How about Josh Lucas?
WOLFGANG PETERSEN: Josh Lucas has a chance to break through with this film as a new and exciting movie star. He has the looks of a Kevin Costner, when he was young, or a young Paul Newman. He has these amazing blue eyes and great look. What I like about josh is that he is... you feel so "what you see is what you get" kind of thing. He is honored in the way he acts. He doesn't use any bad tricks or anything like that. He's such a good actor.
His thing from the beginning is he's a bit more of a loner, by himself, plays poker and maybe lives a little bit of a shallow life. When he gets into the story, they basically pick him as the leader because he is a leader to get out of the ship, up and out, because he seems to know something about ships... He's very reluctant to take people with him because they might slow him down. He's more a little bit of a self-centered man. Throughout the movie he becomes more and more the leader and also cares for the other people. It's a nice thing to see.
He's a good actor. He's very physical. He is amazingly intense. I think a lot of people will say that a guy like that would be good to have if you get into trouble.
QUINT: We should also talk a bit about Emmy Rossum.
WOLFGANG PETERSEN: Oh yeah. Emmy will be a star. That's for sure.
QUINT: Well, she's one of the prettiest young women working in film right now already...
WOLFGANG PETERSEN: Yeah, she's still so young! When we shot the film she was 18. Now she's 19. She is so intense. What I really like is she's so young, but such a professional. I know that about her. When she comes to the set she's so prepared. She is going through a whole ordeal, all by herself, at home without any instruction to do so about research and like... I think she even listened to a lot of tapes from the 9/11 disaster phone calls that are available just to get the feel of how people react to a situation like that, when something really disastrous happens.
Then she is on the set and she knows her scenes inside and out and you feel that she has really trained. That's also the reason that I have to be careful sometimes when I cut things or do something different because she's so in to it, she has so rehearsed it for herself. So, it was hardest with her to change things 'cause she was so already prepared. But that's a good sign because that means she really works hard. I think she is a hard working young lady and I think she will get far.
QUINT: The word we've gotten from people who have seen the movie says that there's very little exposition in the finished film. That pretty much everything is just intense, leading towards them escaping.
WOLFGANG PETERSEN: Yes.
QUINT: Was that a choice that was made while you were editing or was that how Mark Protosevich wrote the script?
WOLFGANG PETERSEN: No. I mean, we had a few more expositional scenes there in the beginning, before the ship then turns over, but I had the feeling that it was slowing it down a bit too much. It didn't really add more information about the characters. We just had another scene and another scene. Nothing that we really needed to establish their characters. I had the feeling that people are just waiting for the wave to come. You just, basically, give every actor the one or two scenes that are really crucial or to at least get an idea about who they are, but not completely explore them because you have some ways to go with them.
Also, I like the idea that these characters... like it wouldn't normally in a situation like that, they don't know much at all about each other when they all of a sudden form a group in order to get out. They're basically strangers to each other. I think if you have too much development of the characters in the beginning, then I think we get the audience too much in a situation that they know everything about these characters already and the audience is a little bit cut out of the process of slowly, throughout their actions within the film, to explore them, who they really are. I thought that was a good idea to do that.
It's always the thing... do you want to spend quite a bit of time in the beginning to set them all up and just watch what they now do? Or you see them. You learn a little about them. You get an idea of what they sort of are, but by far you save a lot more for how they explain themselves and how they come across during the action. I decided to go for the second concept.
QUINT: What do you think was the enjoyable scene for you to shoot? Would it be something the people would expect, like a big day where you got to play with big toys, or a more quiet sequence?
WOLFGANG PETERSEN: I think the most enjoyable scene for me to shoot was the ballast tank. They have this scene where they have to drown themselves in an absolute absurd situation where they have to drown themselves in order to fill up a ballast tank because if it's full the pressure of the water might then open a valve and maybe they are sucked with the water through that valve into some kind of space and freedom on the other side, without knowing if there is really space or freedom and not more water on the other side.
It's an unbelievable, ridiculous and scary scene that a group of them have to drown themselves in order to maybe survive. And they do that. I mean, this was really... I mean, not fun-fun, but it was exciting to shoot that when they finally drowned themselves and are underwater, staring at the valve. Hopefully it opens... or not! That was great, a great scene to do.
QUINT: Was there a scene that was just a bear to shoot? That just wasn't working and you had to really work at it to pull it off?
WOLFGANG PETERSEN: Well, I think... not so much to shoot, but the crossing of the lobby scene. They have this gigantic upside down lobby and these people have to cross on a beam of an elevator shaft that was crashed from one side to the other and build some kind of a bridge.
It was a little bit troublesome for me after I shot this food elevator sequence before that where they also have to create some kind of a bridge to cross that. That was a little tricky for me that we didn't repeat ourselves too much. I struggled with that for quite a while.
Finally, back in the editing process and the visual effects... I don't tell you what it was, but I found a way to give that lobby-crossing sequence a very special kind of thrill and fear factor, but it took awhile. It was a little headache. Now, I think it works just fine!
QUINT: Talking about editing, how has the post-production on POSEIDON been on the whole?
WOLFGANG PETERSEN: I like post-production, but always my favorite is shooting the movie. I mean, the shoot is so... high adrenaline! I love that! I love that very much. In post-production... this time was especially interesting and enjoyable for me because, with my editor, we figured out a new system how to cut the film by pure luck. One of our rooms in our old editing facilities was an old editing room that was not used anymore. They used it just for storage. The editor came up with the idea to clean the whole room up and turn it back into a screening room with a 2k digital projector connected to Avid, which he put in the screening room, to be projected.
So, whatever he cut was, right away, up on the big screen. He could see it on his small monitor and I could see it on the big screen. Whatever he did. So, I could cut the film on the big screen.
QUINT: Huh. So, that means you have no surprises when you see it projected for the first time.
WOLFGANG PETERSEN: The whole rhythm of it, everything... it was just created for the big screen. It's amazing. Why have we not done that earlier? Probably because there are not so many spare screening rooms around! It makes so much sense that you cut it for the big screen right away, instead off a small monitor and later on you say, "Oh, my God! I see so many different things now!"
So, that was a beautiful thing to do, to cut it for the big screen. On the big screen, for the big screen!
At this point I was cut off, about 5 minutes early, and didn't get to broach BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN or ENDER'S GAME with the man. Next time. Hope you enjoyed the little early peek at POSEIDON. I'm seeing it the day before I shoot off to London (ie next week... and thanks to the ton of people who wrote with advice on my trip to Ol' Blighty. I'm going through as much as I can now and I hope to reply to you all soon) and I'm really looking forward to it. I hope it's as fun as Petersen makes it sound!