Part 2 of Our First Look at 2012's Could-Be Blockbuster with Director Andrew Stanton
In Part One of our sneak peek at "John Carter," director Andrew Stanton's adaptation of Edgar Rice Burrough's pulp adventure "A Princess of Mars" coming to theaters in March 2012, we shared some of Stanton's thoughts before showing footage. With the lights brought down low -- and our expectations raised up high -- we then got to see four sequences. In the first, John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) has clearly just arrived on Mars, first adapting clumsily to Mars' lower gravity, stumbling across a nest of Thark eggs and then being approached by paternal full-grown Tharks -- including Willem Dafoe's Tars Tarkas, with Dafoe's voice issuing from a 10-foot tall, six-limbed green alien.
The second shot, while shortest, was one of the most intriguing, as Martian princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) and Thark Sola (Samantha Morton) confronted each other with guns drawn -- and then conveyed a certain unity of purpose with just facial expressions and gestures. It was a brief moment, but you could still feel Morton's performance behind the CGI creation -- imbuing pixels with personality. Then we saw a clip of Carter and Dejah Thoris talking selflessness and strategy -- with an angry Dominic West as a Martian warlord for some palace intrigue. We next got a gladiatorial combat sequence where Carter and Tarkas have to face down a giant six-limbed Martian White Ape for the amusement of some Thark despot -- and while Carter's low-gravity bounds and jumps were impressive, and the White Ape a fearsome beast, the sense of humor and adventure in the clip -- with a perfect last line that both raised the stakes and got a laugh -- was maybe the best part. Then we saw the trailer -- reportedly attached to this Friday's upcoming "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," and online this Thursday -- and which conceals far more than it reveals, with a moody Peter Gabriel version of The Arcade Fire's "My Body is a Cage" setting a ominous-yet-epic tone.
The third released image of the dwarves from "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"
Two of the youngest Dwarves, Fili and Kili have been born into the royal line of Durin and raised under the stern guardianship of their uncle, Thorin Oakensheild. Neither has ever travelled far, nor ever seen the fabled Dwarf City of Erebor. For both, the journey to the Lonely Mountain represents adventure and excitement. Skilled fighters, both brothers set off on their adventure armed with the invincible courage of youth, neither being able to imagine the fate which lies before them.
Jed Brophy as Nori, Adam Brown as Ori and Mark Hadlow as Dori in "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" (Photo by James Fisher)
These three brothers, all sons of the same mother, could not be more different from each other. Dori, the oldest, spends much of his time watching out for Ori, the youngest; making sure he’s not caught a chill or got himself killed by Wargs or Goblins. Nobody quite knows what Nori gets up to most of the time, except that it’s guaranteed to be dodgy and quite probably, illegal. Dori, Nori and Ori are intensely loyal to each other – and whilst they are perfectly happy fighting amongst themselves, woe-betide anyone who means harm to one of these brothers.
John Callen as Oin and Peter Hambleton as Gloin in "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" (Photo by James Fisher)
Distant cousins of Thorin Oakenshield, these two doughty, Northern Dwarves join the Company out of a sense of loyalty to their kin, and also because they have a substantial sum of money invested in the venture. Along with Bombur, Gloin is the only other married Dwarf in the Company (there being a shortage of female dwarves in general). His wife is an acclaimed beauty with a particularly fine beard. Gloin is the proud father of a young son, Gimli, who will go on to become part of the famous Fellowship of the Ring.
Neville Longbottom ... Saves the Day?
One of the pleasures of the "Harry Potter" films has been the way they function almost as a high school yearbook for a group of people we've never met, both actors and characters. But while we've seen Rupert Grint, Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe go from childhood to youth in the leads, we've also enjoyed watching several other actors grow from film to film -- not merely in size, but, rather, in story as well. Hired on board the "Potter" franchise from the first film, Matthew Lewis was cast as series sad-sack Neville Longbottom -- a character whose early mentions (and very, very British name) gave no clue to the importance of the role he'd wind up playing in the saga. I spoke with Lewis in New York as the acting job that had defined his life -- through both the years and at least one growth spurt -- was coming to a close.
When you're reading the script -- with Neville's big speech to rally the troops against series nemesis Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) -- when did it sink in that you get to bring it in this film?
Lewis: I read the book, so I knew what Neville was bringing to the table. You never know when you're making a film if (the exact story from the book) is going to make the screenplay, and it did. I read it and thought, 'Geez, it's going to be something -- I don't know what -- (shooting) with Ralph Fiennes.' I was terrified of the prospect of that; he's an amazing actor. I (thought) they might not get around to shooting it, and then we did, with the whole process, and I thoroughly enjoyed all of it. That was enough -- I was happy just filming it. Whether it got into the film or not, that we would find out later on. Then it did, and I watched it at first, and blew me away. I think you never really know until you sit in a cinema and actually watch it. I feel very proud and very, very lucky.
It's not just the level of moral heroism Neville gets to bring with that great, rousing speech at the end -- you get to jump around and do a lot of action. When you're getting ready to leap with a weapon in your hands, do you have to psych yourself up?
Lewis: Yeah, definitely. Particularly in that scene you're talking about, at that moment Neville's been fighting not only all night at the final battle; he's been fighting all year. He's physically and mentally exhausted; he's got nothing left in the tank. He's on autopilot; he's on instinct. Me and David(Yates, director) wanted it to be very primal, and to get into that frame of mind is not easy. I had to sit there very quietly for a long time and think to myself and try to get into that feeling. With the scream that comes out as he swings the sword, it was not something I'd ever had to do before, never had to do in real life ever. I certainly had to dig deep for that one.
Director Andrew Stanton takes us to Mars with a Sneak Peek at a 2012 Would-Be Blockbuster
In late June, a group of film bloggers were brought to the Bay Area for an early look at Andrew Stanton's "John Carter," the Oscar-winning animator's first live-action film after Pixar hits "Wall-E" and "Finding Nemo," the relaxed and enthused Stanton met the press with a barrage of production art, clips and behind-the-scenes footage explaining his plans to bring the pulp saga "John Carter of Mars" to the big screen. Created by "Tarzan" creator Edgar Rice Burroughs -- and published in 1912 -- "John Carter of Mars" tells the story of the title character, a Civil War veteran (played by "Friday Night Lights" star Taylor Kitsch) brought to the Red Planet by fate, caught between both two warring human groups and the natives, six-limbed 10-foot tall 'Tharks' who call Mars home.
It's a bold, ambitious project - so bold, as Stanton explained, that Hollywood's been trying and failing to film it for literally decades, a process "John Carter of Mars" fan Stanton has been watching his whole life. "I've been following the Hollywood trail of this movie almost being made since I was a kid. It's weird still to be on the other side of this thing, because all I've ever wanted is to see it on the screen: 'Somebody please do it; somebody please make it.' I remember reading about ('John Carter of Mars') possibly being animated in the '30s, and then Ray Harryhausen tried to do it in the '50s, then John McTiernan almost did it in the '80s ... and they just didn't have the technology or the means to figure how to translate it visually."
But by the time Stanton was a film maker -- and a film maker looking for a next film -- the rights had reverted back to the Burroughs heirs, technology had caught up with his childhood visions and Disney was more than willing to back the director on a risky, expensive and technically complex could-be franchise. "I couldn't believe it when (the creative rights for 'John Carter of Mars' finally found itself back to the estate, and here I was already starting to think about what I wanted to do next even though I was in the middle of 'Wall-E' -- that's when I start thinking about that -- and made a call. Again, I don't take it lightly that for the fans, this is on my shoulders. I'm staying true to what I wanted to see all my life, and frankly that's the most insurance I've ever had on anything I've worked on -- you have to stop me from getting out of bed to work on it; that's my best insurance policy."
On Comedy, Camerawork, Nudity, Sequel Madness ... and Money
After the breakout documentary "King of Kong" -- about the surprisingly vicious rivalry between the world's top Donkey Kong players -- Seth Gordon made the jump to fiction filmmaking with the misfired "Four Christmases." After a brief pause, he's back with "Horrible Bosses," starring Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis as three working guys who just might be plotting to kill their upper management in the name of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Coming from the world of documentary filmmaking, the affable Gordon is very aware there's a different level of craft and cash in play. "Yeah, any day on any of these sets would have paid for the entirety of 'Kong,' so that puts everything in perspective for sure. The budgets for the films are so much higher and it's so stratospherical that it's hard even to have much perspective on it. $50 million is a lot of money. It's hard to put your arms around that figure. I'm grateful to have gotten the chance to have a studio believe in me in that way, and I hope we get that money back for them. ..."
Based on early reviews, the odds are pretty good that Gordon will. Gordon didn't take any easy outs, however -- including not only finding room for his actors to improvise but having them do so during stunt sequences. What percentage of the film was what was on the page and what percentage was made up on the day? "I'd say 85-15. Sounds about right. It's almost always an ornament or an aside that is improv, or the button of the scene will be improv -- it'll be some funny thing they came up with. The script was really well-crafted: It's full of surprises, and we kept all those surprises but found a few more along the way."
Talking Killing and Comedy with Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis
Interviewing Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis and Jason Bateman is like watching a spirited round of ping-pong -- with the added complication that, after a few minutes, you start to feel like the ball. Playing three employees who need to remove their upper management -- and contemplate committing murder to make that happen -- the three have a finely honed sense of comedic timing that's less about one-upping each other and more about firmly spiking the lobs each sets up for the others. Directed by Seth Gordon, "Horrible Bosses" is full of big laughs, but also a fair share of sly, did-I-just-hear-that? asides. Charlie Day explained how he felt audiences would sympathize with the characters, as they're not horrible people, just committed to murder, just ... looking into it. "I think the way the characters justify it is that they simply set the plan in motion. They don't go straight to, 'We're going to murder these people,' even though they might voice that. They say, 'Alright, let's at least talk to someone who might know about that and have them answer a few questions'" Even going that far down the road, they're like, 'Here's the next step. We don't have to follow through, but we can check it out.' Sudeikis shrugged: "Before you know it, you're already in." Day followed up: "It's the snowball effect. The minute you actually talk to a real person involved murder about, say, killing your wife, your boss, or anything else, you've gone too far."
Watch the live London premiere
Watch the live premiere here at the L.A. Times
The poster you won't see in the States
You may or may not have heard of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" controversy (if it is one, necessarily). Here's the lowdown from EW including a NSFW image that I won't post here. Expect it when you click on the link. Good morning!
"A new poster for the film features a nude Rooney Mara as hacker/goth demi-goddess Lisbeth Salander, R-rated piercings and all. (Co-star Daniel Craig is wrapping his arm around and frowning. Can anything cheer this guy up?)
"The poster is apparently an international one-sheet; in another version floating around the internet, the release date sort of covers up the R-rated parts, although not so much that your sainted grandmother wouldn’t still be scandalized.