RT hit the Convention Center floor at Comic-Con to poll fans and costumed Con-goers on the best sights and panel presentations of the week. We found that everyone — teens and adults, boys and girls, cos-players and even the wizards of Hogwarts — had come to Comic-Con 2009 for very different reasons, ranging from video games to Twilight to a Japanese doll collecting phenomenon. Below, meet a sampling of this year’s attendees and learn which fantasy properties were the biggest hits, which panels were worth waiting hours in line for, and what exactly is up with the “Free Hugs” and “Mini Skirt Army” movements.
Why she’s here: To attend the ball-jointed doll panel and meet-up.
Favorite panel: The ball-jointed doll panel, where collectors gather to meet and show off their customizable dolls (a hobby super popular in Asia).
Since you assemble and design your own ball-jointed dolls, how much did this one cost to put together?
Number of costumes they brought for the Con: Four, one set for each day (Including Sith, rebel, and Jedi outfits)
Was it worth the wait to line up for Hall H?
“Yes! We stood for two hours in line in our full Battlestar wools — I was Starbuck and he was Colonel Tigh.”
Personal Cause: Supporting the “Mini-Skirt Army.”
“I just want an army of women in mini-skirts for miles and miles, as far as the eye can see. Across the mountaintops. Across the whole United States — even Mexico, and Canada maybe.”
When did this campaign start?
"What time is it? About two hours, 36 minutes ago."
And how many votes of support (gauged in thumbs up from passers-by) have you gotten so far?
"Two hundred and forty four so far."
You’ve been playing Magic for seven years; what’s the strongest card in your deck?
"I would say… I run a burn deck, so Ball Lightning or Lightning Bolt."
Favorite Panel: Hadn’t gone to any yet; spent all of their time shopping on the floor.
Best Swag: All the 48-hour trials for Xbox Live.
“You’ve got video games, comics, novels, books; it’s all good stuff. We’re here more for games; all the new games coming out for the Xbox.”
"My costume is based on a comic book character that I made last year called The Junkyard Dog, who is an average teenager whose hobby is to collect junk and assemble it into a suit. When he finished and actually put on the suit, it inexplicably gave him super powers and he uses that to fight crime."
What kind of super powers does he have?
"Basically, the ability to fight like a top-skilled warrior. He can’t fly, he can’t do any superhuman stuff but he’s incredibly skilled with his pole-arm and his shield. His pole-arm is suddenly able to be not only a blade weapon, but also a cannon."
When did you make your costume?
"I finished about two weeks ago. It was a year-long project; most of the tme was taken to actually gather all these materials off the street. As I was biking to and from college, I [found the parts]."
Favorite Panel: Iron Man 2
"I thought it was really good. They’re bringing in a lot of new characters — War Machine, Whiplash. They showed pretty good footage; Robert Downey Jr. was there and he put on a good show for the audience, interacting with everyone. Iron Man 2 was probably the most exciting panel. Some other ones were interesting and funny, like the Extract panel which was pretty good. The 2012 panel –I don’t think the acting on that’s going to be very good, but on Iron Man 2 the acting and special effects look good."
How would you compare the fan reaction to the first Iron Man footage to that of this year’s sequel?
"I would say there was a bigger reaction to the first Iron Man than there was to the sequel. I guess you can’t really expect a bigger reaction, though."
"I know Sigourney Weaver’s a class act, Zoe Saldana’s also a class act, and James Cameron’s one of the smartest and most imaginative men in the world, so I knew Avatar was going to be an awesome panel.
For the LOST panel, they did a lot of skits and the night before, when we were camping out, we met Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse because we were first in line [for Hall H]. They came to shake our hands and take pictures. It was really awesome, a great experience.
You were first in line for the LOST panel? What time did you line up?
"Oh yeah. The moment we got out of Hall H Friday afternoon, we went right to the line."
"Alice in Wonderland was really awesome. We only got to see a trailer though, but it still was awesome. The 3D glasses were really cool, they didn’t hurt your eyes and they were like sunglasses. And we got a big surprise when Johnny Depp showed up!"
What did you think of the New Moon footage that was shown?
"I wasn’t a really big fan of the first scene, because they tried a little too hard. Jacob was catching up to Bella when she fell, and why did he have to get on his motorcycle? He could have run over to her. And why did he have to take off his shirt? He made a huge display of it! But I loved the second scene; my favorite part was when Alice and Bella were in Italy getting to Edward. I didn’t think they would show that because it’s so late in the movie. I got a little mad that they cut it off at the end, but it was still really cool to see the Italy scene."
“I was going to go see the Mythbusters panel, but I decided just to chill and hang out with my friends."
Have you championed the cause of Free Hugs in the past, or is this your first time? And why do you do it at all?
“This is my first time. I do it because everybody needs hugs. You can get free hugs, and also give out free hugs. Hugs spread love, and love is awesome.”
Having read the books, visited the set, and devoured everything the internet already contained regarding The Twilight Saga: New Moon, you’d think there’d be little left for a Twilight fan to learn. Thankfully, you’d be wrong. As we found while tracking New Moon‘s cast and director through last weekend’s Comic-Con appearances, the New Moon publicity machine is chugging as smoothly as Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner’s bare chests — two things which made our list of the Top Ten New Moon Facts Revealed at Comic-Con. (Catch up on our Comic-Con coverage here.) Read on for this week’s installment of New Moon Monday and check back each week for news, interviews, and more to keep your Twilight obsession blazing.
1. Summit Entertainment knows its audience, evidenced by the two scenes they brought to Comic-Con. Whether you’re Team Edward or Team Jacob, there was a shirtless scene for you. Who wanted to see the birthday party scene or the cliff diving scene, when they could get their first peek at Jacob Black hopping valiantly off a bike to strip naked to tend to an almost-drooling Bella? Or watch as Bella raced across Volterra in vain as Edward opened his shirt, stepping into the sunlight? It was such an amazing sight, Bella started running in slow motion. (Click above for more celeb pics from Comic-Con; full scene descriptions here!)
2. Director Chris Weitz will use a lot of dialogue straight from the book. This was one of the biggest points of contention with the first Twilight, into which screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg had written quotes directly from Meyer’s text — with varying results. (“And so the lion fell in love with the lamb,” to which non-fans groaned inwardly.) In both scenes shown at Comic-Con, the majority of dialogue was taken from the pages of New Moon and filmed quite closely to what we imagined. (Agree/disagree? Tell us below.)
3. Taylor Lautner is the press-friendly celebrity star that New Moon needed. Compared to his co-stars Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, Lautner has just the right youthful vigor and enthusiasm (read: he’s not jaded yet) to turn Twilight press events into, well, downright energetic press events. Deposited between Stewart and Pattinson in Thursday’s early morning press conference, Lautner picked up the slack whenever his co-stars trailed off; the kid’s been well prepared. I mean, have you seen that Sharkboy-era dancing video?
4. Kristen Stewart knows that Bella is a head case in New Moon. Critics who thought Bella was unhealthily dependent on Edward in the first Twilight film, or even that his behavior was borderline stalker-ish, will likely seize on her obvious psychological issues in the sequel. When those criticisms come, Stewart’s fully prepared. “This is a severely emotional movie,” she told journalists. “That’s the one big difference. This movie is not about discovery or falling in love, which is sort of just an intense emotion, but this is low and there high points for her, too. She’s a manic depressive, basically.”
5. A year later, Kristen Stewart’s life is just as crazy and her answers just as wry as they were during Twilight. The build-up to the first Twilight film transformed its stars’ lives into a constant media circus, with fans even stampeding a mall just to see Pattinson. Asked if life was any different with the sequel on the horizon, Lautner said now he was “really, really busy” and Pattinson noted that he walks down the street hoping not to be noticed. Stewart deadpanned that her only life change was the stylistic kind: “I cut my hair off.”
6. The New Moon kids like it when their characters suffer. Asked which scene in New Moon was their favorite, each star picked one in which their characters broke up with each other.
“I walk her up to her door and say goodbye to her and I’m going off to fight in the woods and she’s worried,” Lautner answered. “She’s scared for me. I thought that it was kind of cute, but I also like the breakup scene.”
“That’s my favorite scene in the movie,” Stewart said, her face lighting up. “We call it a breakup scene because he basically tells her that they can’t be friends anymore and he’s transforming. If you ever, ever treated me like that you would kill me.”
And Pattinson’s favorite scene? “I think my breakup scene was my favorite scene,” he said. “I mean, hopefully it’ll come off as having quite a few more levels than the relationship in Twilight. It was interesting. It was like a five page long dialogue scene. That didn’t happen at all in the first one and it’s quite an interesting little moment. It completely bypasses all the supernatural elements of the story as well, which I found quite interesting.”
7. Kristen Stewart can’t wait to have Rob Pattinson’s baby! (Just kidding.) When asked what scene she’s most looking forward to filming over the course of Eclipse and Breaking Dawn, Stewart let out a spoiler of sorts. “I can’t wait to get pregnant!” Stewart joked, referring to her character’s storyline. Pattinson’s response: “I can’t wait to perform the Cesarian.” Taylor’s most anticipated scene? The one where he gets to strip naked and cuddle with Bella in a sleeping bag, naturally.
8. If you post a New Moon reaction video to YouTube, Chris Weitz is probably watching it right now. During the panel discussion, Weitz revealed that he and the editing crew have watched many of your screaming, breathless fan reaction videos. He’s even thinking of making a reaction video to the reaction videos!
9. Twilight fanaticism was as strong as ever this year. While nothing could top the ear-piercing and unexpected sounds of thousands of girls at the Twilight panel last year — where fan boy culture’s hold on the Con was hijacked by a vampire romance, of all things — 2009 sure came close. And Twilighters were better prepared for the challenge of getting a coveted seat in Hall H for Thursday’s panel; a few fans camped out a full two days ahead, and by Wednesday morning, Twihards were Twittering from the line.
10. The anti-Twilight backlash finally has a name! You know your favorite fantasy property has really made it when entire Comic-Con costumes are created just to complain about it (i.e. the mostly-male Con attendees sporting “Twilight Ruined Comic-Con” signs).
That’s it for New Moon Monday! Check back every week for something new from RT’s resident Twilight expert in Jen’s Twilight Corner. (Have a suggested topic? Leave a comment below.)
Native New Zealander Zoe Bell spent years as an accomplished stunt double for Lucy Lawless of Xena: Warrior Princess before doubling for Uma Thurman on Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill films. After establishing a rapport with the auteur, Tarantino opened the doors to her acting career by casting her as one of the leads in Death Proof, his segment of 2007’s joint project with Robert Rodriguez, Grindhouse. With roles in this year’s upcoming films Gamer and Whip It!, Bell was on hand at Comic-Con to promote her actioner Angel of Death, out on DVD this week, and we were able to sit down with her for a lengthy chat. Read on to discover the Kiwi’s Five Favorite Films, what it was like working with Quentin Tarantino, and what it’s like to transition from stunt work to acting.
I’ll give it a shot. “Favorites” questions are my least liked questions because I’ve never been any good at favorites. But I’ll give it a shot. I’ll probably disappoint every fan out there. The ones that stick out as being my favorites, most of them are from when I was young, because movies just meant something different to me when I was a kid than what they mean to me now. They still mean a lot to me, but also it’s, once you start working in the film business, your appreciation shifts.
The Neverending Story, without a doubt. I loved that movie. I thought the girl in that was hot. I thought she was so cute. I was like, “I want to be her when I grow up.” Wear a necklace on my forehead and say, “Call my name, Sebastian. Call my name!” I remember, I was living on an island; we didn’t have a movie theater, we just had a town hall. Every now and then they would drop a big sheet and a projection thing. We’d sit on wooden chairs. So, The Neverending Story.
And Labyrinth. Labyrinth was sort of the same… Loved Labyrinth. I watched it again recently and had a total adult crush on David Bowie. I used to just think he was cool, and now I’m like, “Oh my God, he’s so hot in that movie.” So 80s and glam rock. And I think both of those movies are sort of, really so fancy, but there was something… I don’t know. To me, I didn’t feel like I was suspending reality. It just was like, “That’s the world this movie exists in, and I want to be in it,” you know what I mean? I just love both of those movies.
I know everyone’s expecting me to list off all these action movies, but Stand By Me. There’s something about the relationships and the performances in that movie that I found really inspirational. And this is before I was even considering being an actor. I just found it to be one of the more true, real, honest sort of movies that really had an effect on me. I watched it a week ago and got goose bumps. Especially with the whole River Phoenix thing and how he disappears at the end. How genius is he in the movie? There’s something about a movie like that that can be so effective with no gimmicks.
I’ve got two more to go, and the ones that popped into my head are the Lethal Weapon movies! I love the Lethal Weapon movies. I know I shouldn’t claim them all together but the combination of humor and action and the relationship between Glover and Gibson is just… That’s the kind of stuff that I watched and was like, “I want to do that!” It never occurred to me that that meant acting. Those are the kind of movies that I could watch over and over and over and know every line and it not be a problem that I know every line; I still enjoy the effect it has on me, you know what I mean?
This is going to sound ridiculous because it’s going to sound like I’m doing a bunch of ass-licking but Pulp Fiction. And I shouldn’t hesitate, because it’s good cinema, but… I remember watching Pulp Fiction — whatever age I was, teenage years somewhere — and really struck at the cleverness of it and loving that you can have something as violent, but as humorous and as… I could feel — you know, because I didn’t know him as a person at that point; he was just the director — but I could feel his brain working in the conversations in his head, and his opinions about stuff. The conversations that were like, “I’ve had conversations like that about why you call it a quarter pounder or a royale with cheese.” It was so clever and reachable by me. And I wasn’t a film buff, I wasn’t sort of like a fan about any of that stuff. It just really spoke to me, it was so clever. Then I went back and watched Reservoir Dogs. I think I’d seen it before but I went back and watched it again. But yes, Pulp Fiction was definitely… Actually, it’s cool that I get to say that; I’m happy to be able to say that.
Next, Bell talks about getting to know Quentin Tarantino and what being an actor means to her.
RT: What was it like, having had Pulp Fiction make such a big impact, and then meeting Quentin Tarantino?
Zoe Bell: Kind of unreal. And it wasn’t unreal like I felt faint and thought I was going to pass out or start vomiting out a bunch of dumb sh**, but he was sort of open and excited and I just felt the same way. It was like, “Nice to meet you!” and then cut to three days later, they’re like, “Okay, we need you to come to China, and you’ve got the job.” I’m like, “What, what? Wait, what? Really?” And then meeting Quentin and working with him was so… I was definitely in awe of him, certainly, but not in the way that implies “intimidated” or “scared” or “freaked out,” because he was so unfrightening to me. There were no pretenses; I didn’t feel like he was walking around with this, like, “You must bow to me”… Nothing like that.
And I think, also, my history was I worked in New Zealand for four years before Kill Bill, and I was working on Xena for most of it, and the lead, Lucy [Lawless], who’s a Kiwi, and Renee [O’Connor], who’s not a Kiwi, were two of the most grounded, open, relaxed, low-drama, low maintenance actresses ever, and so I was just accustomed to the New Zealand way of it. So it never occurred to me that I needed to feel less worthy than or put myself below in any way, shape, or form. So I think I came at [Tarantino] that way, and he came at me that way, and it wasn’t until I started writing home like, “Oh, bla bla bla Quentin” that people were like, “Ooh, first name basis.” And I’m like, honestly, after three months, what am I going to call him? “Quentin Tarantino?” Like, “Hi Quentin Tarantino, how’s your day?”
But it was pretty phenomenal watching him work and being a part of that. It’s really not until it’s finished and I’m talking to other people about it, like when I’m talking to you about it, that I go, “No, if I was on the other side, I’d be like, ‘Dude! What was that like?'”
RT: Ship’s Mast — that was so awesome.
ZB: Yeah, thank God he’s got the brain as f***ed up as he does, because that was cool! And that was all from his head. When he first came to me with the script, I was in a state of shock, you know, because we hadn’t had any discussions about it that I could recall that meant that he was expecting me to be one of the leads, and had forty pages that had me speaking in it. I was like, “Are you f***ing mental? What if I’m terrible at it? What if I hate it, or what if I’m bad at it?” That was the most important thing. I was like, I don’t want to be the girl who destroys a Tarantino movie, you know? And he was like, “Yeah, but that’s my choice. I’m choosing you, and I make good decisions.” And I can’t argue, you can’t argue with Tarantino, you know, about these things. He could see I was definitely in a bit of shock. I was honored and freaked out and a little bit like, “Did you think about checking in with me before you wrote this whole movie?” So he took me out for beers, because he knows me; clearly he knows me. And then he was like, “Let me tell you about the action sequence, because I think you’re going to be sold.” And he described it to me, and I was like, “Alright, I’m in! I’ll do it!” So much fun, so much fun working with him like that.
I mean, I realize how fortunate I am. I know there are people out there that are like, “Screw you. She didn’t have to work for it. And bla bla bla.” There are people that want to know that I know how hard it is for other people, and that I was very fortunate. And the truth is, I know all that; I’m fully aware of it. And, I’ve worked hard as a stunt person; I just didn’t have the intention of doing what Quentin apparently had the intention of doing with me. And now I’m here, now I do have to work really hard to maintain it and keep going from here, because other people aren’t just going to give me stuff like he did. I mean, there are… Listen, Ed Brubaker wrote Angel of Death for me; what am I going on about? But, you know, it requires hard work, and I’m really willing to do that. I really enjoy where this career is going. To have it start off that way, I’m like, you gotta do something with it, you know what I mean? It’s ridiculous.
RT: At what moment did you consider yourself an actor?”
ZB: That was a really slow process. I think probably because there was part of me that struggled with whether I deserved to be able to call myself that, a little bit like on a subconscious level. Not like a “poor me” thing. And maybe no one thinks that, and maybe it’s just all in my head and I’m just projecting. But it was really, for me… You know, I worked on a couple of movies, Gamer and Whip It!, and then we did Angel of Death, and it was probably, to be honest, leading up to the audition for Angel of Death, it was like, when these guys said to me, “We want you — and we need you — to carry this whole f***ing movie.” And I was like, “Oh my God, if I say yes to this, I really have to pull finger. This is not me being myself; this is a character that’s not me, I am carrying the whole movie, and I need to be committed for real. And I need to put my ego and my shame and all of that sh** out the window.” And at that point it was like, I need to earn it. And once I felt like I’d earned it, then it was like, well, along with it comes the right to call myself an actor, you know? I didn’t call myself a stuntwoman until I was trained and working as one, and there was a point where I went, “Okay, I can earn this now.” It took me a little while with stunts, too. And, you know, I’ve been going to acting class, and I’ll be going to acting class until I’m not acting any more, and I think that’s all part of it. But it took me a little while to wrap my head around it. Probably shouldn’t be telling you that, but it really did.
RT: No, I appreciate the honesty.
ZB: My publicist is like, “Stop being honest with f***ing journalists!” and I’m like, “Sorry!”
RT: Angel of Death looks like a female Bourne Identity kind of action movie.
ZB: Yeah, it’s pretty much female Bourne with about an eightieth of the budget. [laughs] It’s really low budget, but for the budget we had, the outcome is amazing. We had such fantastic people working on it. And yeah, female Bourne is cool. I’ll take that. Look out, Matt Damon!
RT: Was it coincidence that you and Lucy Lawless were in the movie together?
ZB: No, that was definitely her doing a favor for me and Paul [Etheridge]. If I’m getting it correct, Paul wanted her to be in there, and the role was written for her, with her in mind. She came in, she was just in there for a day, kicked a**, rocked that character so hard, and left. Everyone was like,””F***, she’s the coolest thing ever.” She just came in with like this cool breath of fresh air, Kiwi whirlwind, knocked sh** about and gave it an awesome performance, then left, and everyone was like, “We love her.” And I said, “I know, I know.”
RT: Looking towards the future, are you considering roles that are outside of the action genre?
ZB: At this point, I just got hooked up with a new management company and we’re really excited. We’re sort of getting together a game plan. So, hopefully Angel of Death 2 goes, because I’m just like, this sounds cool, and we’re talking about what would happen in it, and Ed’s really excited to write it, and he’s told me what he wants, and I’m all excited about it. Basically, action is obviously something that I am really passionate about. I have talent lying in that arena… “I have talent lying in that arena.” What kind of English is that? [laughs] Me trying to be modest and just screwing up my English.
Anyway, that’s also where people are comfortable, because I really haven’t done a lot of acting, so if people are going to put money behind me, they want to feel confident and do something that they can be confident in me doing. And I love it, so we’re definitely looking at those kind of roles. And we’re looking at a TV series that we want to put together. So there’s a bunch of things in the developmental stages, but I’m really excited at the concept of… I love the idea of doing comedy. Even if it’s action comedy, but comedy really appeals to me. And I would love to do things that put me outside of my comfort zone, because basically — I know this sounds weird because I jump off buildings for a living, or I used to jump off buildings for a living — I got comfortable with that kind of discomfort. The acting is putting myself outside my comfort zone in a whole different way, and that’s part of what I find really intriguing and inspiring about it. So yeah, I definitely am open to the roles outside of the typical action role that you would assume I’d do. But, you know, if I have to build respect and a reputation before people are comfortable or willing to do that, then I’m willing to do that, but I’m definitely open to any.
Get our latest Comic-Con 2009 updates here:
The truth about Sunday at this year’s Comic-Con is that it was the day most people skipped – even the Hollywood studios. With only two film panels slated for the day (Overture’s docu-romance Paper Heart, which stars a geeky girl who probably reads comics, and the festival hit Mystery Team, which will delight Encyclopedia Brown enthusiasts) it’s no wonder that the whole place felt a little empty. So instead of recapping Sunday panels, I’m taking a look back at the entire four days of Comic-Con 2009 to point out what was good, great, and sort of weird about this year’s fest – in terms a geek might understand.
Iron Man 2 – The popular favorite among movie panels this year seemed to be Iron Man 2, which packed Hall H to the brim on Saturday (even some journalists with VIP passes couldn’t get in). Director Jon Favreau and star Robert Downey Jr. cut to the chase (always a good thing) by showing footage first – and what
thrilling footage it was. First looks at Whiplash (Mickey Rourke), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), War Machine, Don Cheadle (replacing Terrence Howard), and the further existential dilemmas of Tony Stark (Downey), not to mention the cameo by Sam Jackson as Nick Fury, brought the house to its feet.
Twilight: New Moon – Giving Iron Man 2 a run for its money was The Twilight Saga: New Moon, which also had fans sleeping overnight just to be the first into Hall H. We all know what happened last year when the Twilight panel took Comic-Con by storm (and fanboys at large by surprise). This time around things were a little more subdued – only director Chris Weitz and geek boy fave Ashley Greene joined primary stars Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner, and Robert Pattinson this time. Summit Entertainment not only planned extensive fan appreciation screenings of the first film around town, they also picked two of the best possible scenes to show the thousands of screaming females in Hall H:
Jacob Black and Bella’s motorcycle scene, in which Lautner jauntily strips off his shirt, and Bella’s race to save Edward in Italy, in which – shocker! – he reveals his bare chest. No Twilighter in the house left disappointed.
(Read extremely detailed descriptions of the two New Moon scenes here. I swear I’m not obsessed.)
Avatar – Sure, none of us had any idea what James Cameron’s Avatar was actually about, but hell, he was coming to Comic-Con! Luckily for those who made it into Hall H for the Disney 3D panel, Cameron not only spoke at length about his pet project, he also showed a helluva lot of footage. And while we found it’s near-impossible to describe the Avatar footage to anyone who didn’t see it (“This guy, he’s paraplegic and he goes into a genetically-engineered alien body to interact with this tribal race that is all blue and, like, one with nature, AND IT LOOKS AMAZING”) suffice to say, Avatar in 3D will transport you to an incredibly detailed world like nothing you’ve seen before.
Kick-Ass – While the above FTW films came into Comic-Con with a lot of buzz and delivered appropriately, Kick-Ass came out of nowhere to wow everyone who stayed for its late-afternoon panel, earning a standing ovation in the process. Directed by Matthew Vaughn, Kick-Ass follows disparate wannabe superheroes including young actress Chloe Moretz (as Hit Girl), whose bad assness in the flick started the most word-of-mouth buzz of the entire Con. Because there’s nothing better than watching a 12-year-old girl call a couple of thugs a bad word, then cut them to pieces with a giant pointy stick. With any luck, Kick-Ass will ride its buzz into a distribution deal, as it currently has none.
Screenings: District 9, Inglourious Basterds – Both “secret” screenings of District 9 (directed by Neill Blomkamp, produced by Peter Jackson) and Inglourious Basterds (directed by Quentin Tarantino) earned enthusiastic buzz from genre journalists; could QT’s Basterds even win an Oscar? We won’t hold our breath, but we would root for District 9 to nab an effects Oscar, since the majority of aliens were created with CG – and on a $30 million budget total, to boot.
Viral marketing of the year: TRON 2 and Flynn’s Arcade – After showing Hall H a clip from the 2010 pic Tron: Legacy, what better way to harness the word-of-mouth in San Diego than by re-creating Flynn’s Arcade in the middle of
downtown? Fans entering the Arcade could play retro games for free, then enter a secret passageway for more looks at concept art and even a real live light cycle. Even better: Flynn’s shirts given out prior contained hidden blacklight messages directing people to the Arcade. Brilliant!
Best party: The Wrath of Con. Sure, the EW party is always one of Comic-Con’s biggest, and the G4 party had Olivia Munn. But did either of them begin with a concert by American Idol band Daughtry, and end with the guy from Chuck in a wrestling ring introducing a live TNA wrestling match?
2012 – Roland Emmerich’s footage was so over the top (and the acting so bad) that it was almost so bad it’s good. So maybe it should go in the Win section.
The Box – Richard Kelly’s new film could have been a decent panel (the new trailer was an improvement over the first) if star Cameron Diaz hadn’t blurted out a huge spoiler.
Most tired costume: Every year there’s a cos-play trend, like the brilliant, ballsy Joker Nurse. (Joker anything, by the way, is soooo last year now.) While there wasn’t really an “It” costume of 2009, we did see one recurring outfit everywhere. And we have a message to share: Enough with the Green Lantern t-shirts, geeks! We get it! Get a new “I’ve been a fan forever but am only now
demonstrating my love” hero for 2010!
Get our full Comic-Con 2009 coverage here!
Metalhead-turned-director Rob Zombie has been on the fringes of American pop culture since his days with White Zombie, the rock band he made famous in the mid-1990s. After achieving commercial and critical success as a solo artist, he turned his talents toward the world of cinema, making his directorial debut with 2003’s House of 1000 Corpses. In 2007, he was offered the opportunity to helm the remake of the horror classic Halloween, bringing him further into the public eye. RT caught up with Rob at this year’s Comic-Con, where he was promoting his upcoming sequel , H2: Halloween 2, and he spoke to us about his Five Favorite Films, sharing some personal stories about his childhood and some insights into the filmmaking process along the way.
In terms of mind-blowing experiences, I would say the first film was Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, just because I think — I’m pretty sure — that’s the first time I ever saw a live action movie in a movie theater as a kid. My dad took me and my brother to see it. I think up till then I’d only seen one animated movie in a movie theater. I think it was Robin Hood, which, for some reason, was really boring to me. But we went to see Willy Wonka, and I was so blown away, and it so freaked me out, that I couldn’t stop thinking about it for years. I had watched movies on TV and stuff, but that was the first time I think I was old enough to go to the movies, and be able to sit through a movie without wanting to get up and run around the theater. Just seeing it that big and getting sucked into it. I don’t even think I realized those were actors and that anything was fake. I think I just thought it was all real, that Charlie was a real kid, and Willy Wonka was a real person. I really think I thought it was real. I really thought the whole family lived in that one room. I was probably in second grade or something… So I probably didn’t actually think it was real, but I responded to it like it was real.
The next movie would probably be Young Frankenstein. I remember going to see that as a kid. Because I loved all the Universal horror films, but I had only seem them on TV, like on Creature Double Feature on Friday afternoons. By that point I loved Gene Wilder, because I made the connection like, “Oh, that guy was in Willy Wonka. Now he’s in Young Frankenstein.” So that movie blew me away. And even to this day, I watch it all the time. It’s such an incredible movie because it’s really, really funny, with such incredible performances, but it’s so beautifully made. Nobody would spend the time now to make a comedy that well. Visually and technically, it’s so incredible. It doesn’t date; it holds up. Peter Boyle’s perfect, and Madeline Kahn and Gene Wilder, and everybody. It’s just an incredible movie. It really captured the feel of those Universal films, like Bride of Frankenstein, yet it is really funny. It’s something that almost never works. You know, kind of look at the Munsters on TV, and the Addams family, where you could get into it and they have the art direction there and everyone’s funny, but it almost never works. It’s almost always a disaster, and that film is just so perfect. I think the fact that people were brave enough back then to release black-and-white movies.
RT: You think horror-comedies are hard to do in general?
RZ: Yeah, I think they never work. They’re either campy or stupid, and that one is neither. It’s just funny, the right, perfect tone. I don’t know, I think it’s a testament to how great Gene Wilder is. He’s just incredible, just unbelievable.
Then I would say the next time I remember going and seeing a movie and having my mind f—ing blown was A Clockwork Orange. I was probably about 15 or so when I saw that. At that point in time there were no DVDs, there was no VHS. As a movie fanatic, I could only look at pictures and go, “Oh my god, A Clockwork Orange! I have to see this movie!” But how do you see it? It’s not playing anywhere. Eventually it was playing at a college, and I went to go see it at this college. I was only fifteen years old and it was all college people and they seemed real cool. And it just f—ing blew my mind. And ever since then I’ve been fanatic for Kubrick and Malcolm McDowell.
That’s why I love working with Malcolm, because he loves talking about that stuff. You can ask him anything, and he’ll give you all the dirt on how… What is amazing for me too, hearing the stories about the movie, is just how much time they had. Now you have, “Oh, you have an hour to shoot that thing.” And he’ll go, “Oh, we shot that in five days.” That Singing in the Rain scene. They didn’t even figure out the song until eventually he said that Kubrick was like, “Do you know any songs?” And when Stanley would be at a loss for what to do, he would go up to Malcolm and go, “You’re probably going to be sick tomorrow. You won’t be able to make it to work for probably about a week.” And they would shut down and Malcolm would pretend to be sick so Stanley could figure out what he was going to shoot next.
RT: You think that was the standard back then, or do you think that was a luxury Kubrick was…
RZ: I mean, I’ve read so many books on Kubrick; I think he just worked outside the system. They just let him get away with f—ing murder.
RT: Would you prefer to have that much time, or do you think there’s something to be captured when you’re shooting quick?
RZ: I think it’s both. I just want to have enough time for what we need to do. You can have too much time, and too much money’s wasted. You see that in so many blockbuster movies, where they had everything at their disposal and they came up with nothing. You know, you’d like to go, “Okay, we’ve got two hours to shoot this; we really need four hours or five.” But you’re not always sacrificing, because you know on set, you know when you walk away from a scene and you go, “We have that scene nailed.” And then you get to editing, whatever, seven months later, comes together perfectly. And with other scenes you shoot, you go, “I know we don’t have that scene. I just know it’s not there.” And then you get to editing, and you spend forever trying to make something work, but you just know, because it never really got on film in the first place. And I would just like to have the luxury to be able to go, “Okay, I know we have it. Now let’s move on.” I don’t know that I ever completely feel that way, but I would like to feel that way a little more often.
I would say Taxi Driver. First time I saw Taxi Driver as a kid, it f—in’ blew my mind. I’ve always been a huge fan of movies about solitary, sort of loner people. I think that’s what I liked about horror movies as a kid, because the monsters were always portrayed that way. And Taxi Driver‘s obviously the ultimate movie about that. I don’t know. I’m picking very obvious movies that are genius, but they were new to me as a kid when I saw them, and they just made me go, “Oh my god, the genius of movies.” I love Taxi Driver so much; I’ve seen it so many times. It’s probably one of those movies where I could recite the whole movie straight, or I could at one point; I probably can’t any more. But when I moved to New York — I lived in New York in the early 1980s — and I literally went to every location that was in Taxi Driver, and it was all still there: the porno theater, Variety photo place where Jodie Foster runs in front of Travis’ cab, the furnished rooms building where Harvey Keitel’s standing. I actually had a friend who lived in that building, so that was even more exciting. I used to be a maniac; I went everywhere. It was like my walking tour of Taxi Driver, New York. And again, I was like, “It’s Peter Boyle as the Wizard! This is the greatest movie ever made!” I remember seeing Peter Boyle at the Beverly Center once, and I freaked out. It’s like, “Who do you get excited to meet?” “Peter Boyle!”
And then I’d probably say, to round it out, probably The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. First time going to see that — I remember going to see that. Or Rocky Horror Picture Show, we can make those tied. Finally when I got some wheels and could drive out of town, I would drive for hours and days to go see a movie. I would go to great lengths to see movies. One time I rode my bicycle for seven hours just to see Night of the Living Dead. I did it in the rain, like, “I’m going to see this f—ing movie if it’s the last thing I do!”
RT: How would you hear about how they’re playing?
RZ: Sometimes I’d see an ad in the paper. I remember one time, me and my friend were driving and we heard, “One night only! Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein, 3D!” [mimics sound of car peeling out] We spun the car around, drove back the other direction like four hours. We were just fanatics. We’d go to any lengths to see anything. I saw Chainsaw in a double feature with this Jimi Hendrix movie, Jimi Plays Berkeley. It was when I first moved to New York. Everything was a double feature, and it was always weird movies together. I remember again going, “This is the greatest movie ever made.” Everybody was f—ed up, deranged. I don’t know, those are movies that shake my worldview. I would just get so sucked into the movie, I’d never want it to end, and I think Chainsaw Massacre, first time I saw it, I don’t think I’d ever seen a movie like that before. The way it was just so gritty and gnarly. Now you see it all the time – it was so influential — but when I saw it then, that was like 25 years ago or something.
Get our latest Comic-Con 2009 updates here:
Director Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands, Sweeney Todd) came to Comic-Con International, years after attending when he was a student. With him, he brought a new trailer for his next film, a wondrous reimagining of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. But Burton was also at the Con to support the “stitchpunk” adventure film 9, for which he and Wanted director Timur Bekmambetov served as producers. We spoke to Burton two days after Alice‘s enthusiastic reception to learn how watching young director Shane Acker’s short film inspired him to sign on as the kind of producer/mentor he never had, and to see how far along his Alice project really is.
Rotten Tomatoes: You’re a producer on Shane Acker’s “stitchpunk” adventure, 9. Could you describe your involvement as far as what kind of input you had in the production?
Tim Burton: Well I saw Shane’s short film, many years ago, and I loved it. It felt like it was a part of a bigger picture, so I met him and talked to him, and… I just got excited because it was not something I had seen before. You’ve seen post-apocalyptic imagery before, but there was something about this that was quite touching. I just really loved it, I felt very connected to it. I’m going through the kind of thing myself, where it was hard to get movies going; I just felt I could help him keep the outside forces away and let him make his movie. What was really nice about it was, you see a lot of personal films, but you rarely see personal animated films. It was exciting to me to see that happen.
RT: How did Shane describe the project to you initially?
TB: He didn’t have to, because he had the short film. That’s the best.He didn’t really have to sell himself, you could see his talent in what he was doing. He spent so much time on the short, that he already kind of had some idea in mind how to expand it. So we hired a script writer that I’d worked with before, and she helped flesh it out. With nine characters, you only see a couple, so it was interesting to see these other creatures.
RT: Would 9 appeal in the same way to younger audiences and older ones?
TB: I’m sure some people might think it’ll be too scary for kids, and it’s quite intense, it’s quite scary. But there’s nothing in it – there’s no blood, nudity, or swearing, or things that maybe would make it not appropriate for kids. So I think it’s one of those things; kids are funny, a lot of kids like that sort of things, some kids are afraid of that sort of thing, but I feel comfortable showing it to a kid. Because I would have loved it myself.
RT: What kind of creative notes did you give Shane?
TB: As an animator, you really have to do so much, think about so many things. Your mind is just filled with details; Shane’s got to do this and that. For me it was easy; I was just sort of somebody who could give a fresh perspective. I think all of the producers, our job was to let him do his thing and keep any outside evil forces away and let him focus on the film, and when appropriate, make some suggestions. It was very easy, because there weren’t any egos involved. Shane’s such a good artist that he didn’t feel threatened by anybody if they had a suggestion. So yes, our primary goal was to let him do his thing.
RT: What were your interactions like with 9‘s other director producer, Timur Bekmambetov?
TB: Same thing. He’s made movies, too. He’s great; he has a different perspective. It felt like a very positive group of people. There were no fights, or drag-out things. Everybody was just all for the project, so it was good. You usually have to have more fights to get things done, and this was more focused on the movie, which was good.
The idea of an established director taking a younger filmmaker under his or her wing is nice, that even an auteur would take an interest in helping another artist’s career.
TB: I think I felt connected to his sense of design and the world he crafted. I’ve not done characters like that, but it’s an aesthetic I felt close to. That’s, again, why I wanted to be involved, because I felt like, if he wants some suggestions I could give them to him, if he doesn’t, fine. So it felt very easy, there wasn’t a lot of pressure for me. The pressure’s on him for that. [Laughs] I was helpful when necessary.
As it happens, Peter Jackson recently described his similar relationship producing a younger director, Neill Blomkamp, on his film, District 9. He talked of it as protecting the director from the studio, if need be.
TB: Absolutely. Especially when you’ve been through it yourself. It stays with you, those things, and I always wished I had somebody like that because you work with people that are supposed to protect you, but then they end up [saying], “Well, you’ve got to do it like this, or like that.” And that’s not what anybody wants. As a director, I don’t want anybody to do that to me. So I was very aware of not wanting to do that to him, and again, protect him and be of use whenever was helpful.
Did you have a mentor yourself in your early career?
TB: Not really. That’s why it’s nice to be able to, if it works out that way, to do that for someone. I mean, you don’t do it with anyone; you have to share some connective tissue, otherwise, why do it? I felt that connection with Shane, and I also wanted to see what he was going to do. So it was more of an exciting prospect.
RT: I would imagine you probably have enough of your own ideas funneling into your own directorial projects.
TB: Yeah, it wasn’t like Shane didn’t have anything. He didn’t have to come in and pitch it, and say, “It’s a cross between Terminator and Wall-E,” or whatever. He didn’t have to do any of that, because he had his film, so it was very easy.
RT: On Thursday you appeared on a panel here to share the first trailer for Alice in Wonderland. What were your feelings presenting yourself to the Comic-Con crowd for the first time as a filmmaker?
TB: I haven’t been here since I was a student, so obviously it’s gotten much bigger. But the thing that’s always been great about it is that people are very passionate about things, so it’s scary because you don’t know how people are going to react, but at the same time, that passion is very exciting. There’s an energy to this kind of thing. It’s great, it’s really exciting — people dressing up and that kind of thing. I love it. It was that way many years ago, it’s just a lot more of it, bigger. But it’s still got that spirit, which is nice.
RT: You noted that you’re still in production on Alice. How far along are you?
TB: I’ll be working up until the end. It’s a weird process, because we’re using so many different techniques, it takes a very long time to get to a finished shot, so I have very few finished shots, if any. And it comes out in March. So there’s a lot of work to do, but a lot of it will come together at the end. It’s a bit scary, but it’s exciting as well.
RT: Considering how many different balls you’re juggling with Alice, so to speak, do you think this is a film you could have made early in your career, or is there a sort of necessary learning process as a filmmaker that you had to go through to get to this point?
TB: No, it would be hard. It’s kind of working in the opposite way of how you work. Usually you have actors and sets and you do a shot and you know what you’re going to get, even with stop-motion animation — you have a set and character there, and you know pretty quick what you’re getting. This is like the opposite; you’ve got this little piece, and that little piece, and you’re trying to stick them together. And you don’t know exactly what you’re going to get! So it’s scary and it’s exciting, but it’s nice to keep that sort of fear factor.
RT: What I like best about that idea is that means there are all those elements that will eventually come together in the final film, but for now they’re only dancing around in your head.
TB: Well, they’re trying to be held together. That’s the scary part! My head leaks a lot, so I don’t know what’s going to happen. But it’s good to have that kind of challenge. The fact is, in film you don’t know — you never know how something’s going to turn out. You have something in your head, and it might come out 90 percent of that, 50 percent, who knows? But it’s all that way anyway, so this is just the extreme version of that.
Get our latest Comic-Con 2009 updates here:
Saturday’s Iron Man 2 panel was preceded by Mike Judge’s Extract, Zombieland, and Roland Emmerich’s 2012, from which a clip was shown that can only be described as eye-searing disaster porn at its very HUGEST. And while nothing quite prepared the audience for 2012‘s rampant, wanton, wall-to-wall destruction — during which, in the span of five onscreen minutes, John Cusack literally outran an earthquake in a stretch limo while all of Los Angeles crumbled around him (more on that below) — the day clearly belonged to Jon Favreau, who once again wowed the Hall H crowd with a montage of Iron Man scenes culminating in a shot of War Machine that brought the room to its feet.
Our day began with an attempt to catch the presentation of Extract, the first movie to come from Mike Judge (Beavis and Butthead) since his little-seen Idiocracy. But since Hall H was already packed (with thousands waiting hours in line to fill in), the best we could do was crash the backstage green room. There, we watched the panel via video feed and watched as the day’s stars ambled through.
Mila Kunis sat for lunch. Jason Bateman chatted with Jon Favreau. Hurley from Lost dropped in. Woody Harrelson, sunburnt in a breezy yellow shirt, looked like he’d just wandered in from the beach.
Extract seemed to go over well with the crowd. It’s like Office Space only set in a factory, where Jason Bateman (whose character is married to Kristen Wiig, who couldn’t make it because she was filming Greg Mottola’s Paul) becomes interested in a new temp (Mila Kunis).
Described by Sony’s overexcited moderator, who would later earn boos for Q&A nerd abuse, Zombieland is a “road trip coming-of-age romantic comedy zombie movie.” Judging from the red band clips shown, he’s not far off. Jesse Eisenberg (Adventureland) finds himself one of few survivors of a zombie outbreak, teaming up with a banjo-toting Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin to fight off the monsters. Somehow, he finds himself again in an amusement park. In a scene from the film, Eisenberg “rescues” his hot neighbor (Amber Heard) only to find her transformed into a zombie shortly after. Neurotic voice overs and a comic chase around his apartment ensue, culminating in what might be the world’s first zombie death-by-toilet lid.
Director Ruben Fleischer shot the film in 42 days. Zombieland features the speedy type of zombie, and fun-gross-awesome moments that play up the odd couple dynamic between Eisenberg and Harrelson. But though entertaining, it’s hard to tell if Zombieland will be the next landmark zombie movie, or just another black comedy horror pic (think Shaun of the Dead) — although it does star two Oscar nominees, so there’s that.
On to Roland Emmerich‘s 2012, a film that most certainly will live up to its over the top trailer. True, I’m basing this on five minutes of footage, but what five minutes! Allow me to recap, as best I can.
Jackson Curtis (John Cusack) tracks down a renegade hippie radio jockey who broadcasts from a trailer in the woods, warning all that the world is fast approaching its “expiration date.” Said jockey is played by none other than Woody Harrelson (what a coincidence!) in long shaggy locks with a cockeyed craziness about him. Yes, he’s a wise eccentric. Will the world listen??
The answer is no, as we find when Curtis frantically races through Los Angeles to warn his ex-wife (Amanda Peet) and their two children. Naturally, a new husband complicates things, but not as much as the impending wave of plate tectonics that are about to decimate LA! Rumbles shake the house as Cusack arrives just in time to pile the family in…a stretch limo. Then, as they drive down the street, earthquakes LITERALLY chase them, swallowing up the ground right on their heels. A car of senior citizens get in Cusack’s way, of course. A wall of pavement erupts in their path, and their car is creamed; Cusack JUMPS THE PAVEMENT, and the limo becomes airborne. Folks, this is only the beginning.
Peet, Cusack, and their co-stars mug their best (one can only imagine they were acting against green screens; think Nic Cage in Knowing) as their limo races through the fast-crumbling streets, taking them from the ‘burbs to the crashing down freeways of Los Angeles, and then to downtown LA. A gas station explodes. Thousands of extras are killed. Entire neighborhoods fall into cracks in the earth. The giant donut from Randy’s Donut rolls down the street. As their limousine magically drives a path in the exact correct direction (headed toward a waiting airplane), all of civilization tumbles down. It’s like a Where’s Waldo puzzle; everywhere you look on the screen, something is being completely destroyed.
And then, something amazing happens. Racing through downtown LA, the group sees two enormous buildings crashing inward. There’s no where to go! But just when you think the limo is going to crash into the side of a building, THEY DRIVE THROUGH THE BUILDING, bursting through its windows. Oh. My. God.
As if that weren’t enough, Cusack and Co. instantly (inexplicably) make it to his waiting personal airplane, which is parked on an airstrip. BUT THE EARTHQUAKE IS STILL COMING! As Peet alternates between looking back at the approaching destruction and shrieking at Cusack, the plane literally takes off seconds before the quake reaches it. Peet’s new hubby (actor-director Tom McCarthy) is flying the plane — but he’s never flown before! Narrow miss after narrow miss ensue, as the heroes fly between exploding things, collapsing Hollywood Hills mansions, and then, downtown skyscrapers.
We see images of disaster from around the world, including the complete destruction of the Sistine Chapel and other global landmarks and entire cities sliding into the ocean. Roland Emmerich has destroyed the entire world. (Next, he wants to adapt Isaac Asimov’s Foundation — a film he calls “a very ambitious project, bigger than 2012.)
Next: What could possibly top 2012? Get Tony Stark on the line!
Finally, Favreau walked into Hall H. And he topped the 2012 clip, big time.
After leading the Hall in a round of “Happy Birthday” to his son, Max, Favreau and Robert Downey Jr. cut right to the chase — showing the thousands of fans in attendance about five minutes of footage from Iron Man 2.
Tony Stark lounges in his Iron Man suit, sitting in the giant donut at LA landmark Randy’s Donuts (where Jim Carrey and Damon Wayans got stuck in Earth Girls Are Easy). Below him, we see Nick Fury from behind. He wants a word with Stark.
They have coffee talk inside Randy’s, where Stark says, “I don’t want to join your superhero boy band” — by which he means the Avengers, the superhero team that will indeed get its own movie in a few years.
Later, Stark is questioned in a public Senate inquiry into his “Iron Man weapon,” which he revealed to be his at the end of the first Iron Man. His secret’s out now, and while he hams it up to the press (“You’re welcome. I just privatized world peace!”) Senator Stern (Garry Shandling) is most definitely not amused (“F*** you, Mr. Stark!”). When Stark refuses to hand over the Iron Man technology to the government, Stern calls in a familiar (and at the same time, unfamiliar) face: Colonel James Rhodes, now played by Don Cheadle. Favreau addresses the infamous re-casting with subtlety.
“It’s me, I’m here. Deal with it. Move on,” Rhodey tells Stark, in effect telling us all to quit asking about how or why Cheadle replaced Iron Man actor Terrence Howard in the role.
Next, we see a montage of Russian thug Ivan Venko (Mickey Rourke) working in a dank room papered with articles about Tony Stark and his peace-keeping crusade. Venko slaves away, soldering metal parts and welding iron; simultaneously, Stark works in his high-tech laboratory. On the speedway set, amid fresh destruction and fleeing onlookers, Stark (outside of the Mark 2 in a blue Stark Industries body suit) lays on the ground, disoriented and bloody. Venko approaches him, long haired and grimy with a cig hanging from his mouth; he’s in full Whiplash mode, twirling supercharged cables in both hands. The audience gasps in delight from seeing the previously released Whiplash image fleshed out on film.
Lastly, we were given a warehouse scene, where government officials led by Col. Rhodes are meeting with weapons dealer Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell, in classic smarmy Rockwell mode). Rhodes buys everything Hammer’s got. We cut to a full look at Rhodey’s own Iron Man-style suit, War Machine, with automatic guns blazing in both arms and a third weapon blasting from the back of his suit!
The lights go up, and the entirety of Hall H leaps to its feet.
But while most of the Con-goers lucky enough to see it walked away raving, the Iron Man 2 footage didn’t quite seem to repeat the sheer, explosive reaction of 2007’s Iron Man panel — at which Favreau debuted the first look at Iron Man, soaring above the clouds, and started a wave of buzz that Paramount rode out to the following year.
A similar thing happened at Thursday’s presentation for The Twilight Saga: New Moon, where Summit unveiled two smartly-chosen scenes: one featuring Taylor Lautner, another featuring Robert Pattinson, both featuring each actor shirtless. Though Twilighters did line up hours early (some a full day ahead of the panel), the reaction to New Moon was practically subdued compared to the one that packed Hall H with — gasp! — women and announced to the world that Twilight was to be taken seriously.
Still, Iron Man earned the biggest standing ovation yet this year, and May 2010 can’t come fast enough.
Get our latest Comic-Con 2009 updates here:
Robert Rodriguez is known as Hollywood’s DIY filmmaker, having “shot, chopped, and scored” his own films from El Mariachi to his 2007 collaboration with Quentin Tarantino, Planet Terror. This August, he’ll blaze another trail — movie making as family bonding project — with the kid flick Shorts, which Rodriguez conceived largely in collaboration with his own children. We met the soft-spoken auteur in a secluded room hidden within the San Diego Convention Center to talk about his favorite films and learn more about how the imaginations of his son led to his most family-friendly film since Spy Kids 3-D and The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lava Girl.
Jaws, because I just showed it to my kids for the first time. They’d seen snippets, but that’s the first time I said, “Okay, you guys are old enough. Gotta bite the bullet; we’re going to watch the damn thing all together.” My son, my ten-year-old, was like… So I watched it when I was seven because it was released on my birthday in 1975. June 20th, 1975, Jaws came out, and that was my birthday present. He was like — with the sheets — doing this [mimics pulling covers over head] over his head, and I was like, “What are you doing?” He said, “I’m practicing to make sure they go up high enough.” [laughs] So we watched that. They loved that, and they were like, “What else can we watch?”
Blade Runner is also one of my favorites. I love film noir movies, and that was just a new way of doing it. Set in the future, made up worlds. It’s just a straight up great movie; everything fell into place, which is just rare for things to happen that way. How everything came together, the artistry that went into it, the design, the music, and how resilient the story is, how you can just keep making new versions of it, and they all still kind of work. [laughs] When you can just keep remaking the same movie with the same footage and just kind of tweak it a little bit…
Escape From New York, because that’s the one that made me want to make movies. It was a fantasy world. It was like, “What? There’s a wall around New York? It’s a prison? You can do that? You can just make stuff like that up?” That’s a lot of freedom; I thought that was very freeing. I was twelve when I saw that, twelve or thirteen. And I saw that [John Carpenter] wrote it, directed it, and did the music, and I was just like, “This guy’s doing everything. You can do that?” It just felt like, it was so renegade. It was independently done, and it made me want to start making movies, and I started making movies from that point on. It was just very inspiring. I knew I had a lot of interest, and that made me… That was movie that just really marked my life.
Next, Rodriguez talks about his upcoming kid flick Shorts and what it’s like to draw inspiration from his own children.
RT: If you could talk about Shorts. I find it fascinating that, in your career, you’ve made more adult entertainment, but have also enriched children’s films.
Robert Rodriguez: I just started, actually — when I first started out — making action-type movies in my back yard, but also family comedies, because I have ten brothers and sisters. So I would make Little Rascal-type movies, short films, and enter them in contests, and they would win. None of the other short films were made with children doing action and comedy, and people were just laughing. There was such a great reaction that they would vote for my movies and they would win. I would hear it; I would go, and you would hear the movies, and they would play very quietly, but ours would come up, and you couldn’t hear the movie because people would laugh so much and clap so much. It was just nonstop. Really fast-paced, one joke after another, and visual, and kids… Hello, what a winning formula! [laughs] So later, once El Mariachi hit, I told the studios, “I also want to do a really good family film, because nobody’s really doing those.” You know, with live action, with kids, imaginative, based on my experiences growing up in a family with ten kids, because a lot of it was based on my family.
Now that I have five kids of my own, we come up with stuff all the time. While I’m making these other movies, I get these other ideas, and I go back to making family films, because I have some ideas for them. I think, “That’d be a lot of fun.” It helps exercise a different muscle and a different creativity and figuring out storytelling in a different way. Helps to expand your horizons a little bit. I mean, I haven’t gone that far and done a romantic comedy; my idea of a romantic screwball comedy was Planet Terror, where you have the guy and the girl, ex-boyrfriend, ex-girlfriend… He’s pissed off because she has no leg, and they kind of banter back and forth, but they’re zombies, you know? [laughs] Kind of always have to throw that in, but that’s my romantic comedy.
So Shorts. My son came up with that. He said, “I want to come up with the next family movie. My brother came up with the other one.” I said, “Well, when do you want to do it? Have at it. What’s your idea?” And he said, “Something like The Little Rascals.” I said, “Of course! That’s all I used to do, is short films! This would be great if we made a bunch of shorts, and they can all be intertwined. Kind of like Pulp Fiction for kids.” And he came up with this great rainbow rock, so we decided to make it a wishing rock, and that would be the element that tied all the stories together. We just kind of developed the idea piece by piece, and we shot a fake trailer for it at home, and the studio showed it to Warner Bros. and they bought it. So I went and finished the script, shot the real movie there in Austin, and it’s just a lot of fun. It was one of those projects that just came out of “What if we did this?” and just kept growing and growing and growing and growing.
RT: That sounds like a great family activity.
RR: It is! You’re at dinnertime, going, “What if one kid wants to keep the rock away from the other kids, and they’re all surrounding him, and he’s holding it up, and he says, ‘I wish for really long arms,’ and his arms go really high up? And then the other girl’s crawling like a spider — she’s invisible — and she grabs it. She appears, and then she disappears… [laughs] She turns into a toaster.” If they laugh you write it down. If they don’t, you come up with something else.
RT: Did any of the ideas in the movie for scenes or storylines come from your kids?
RR: Oh yeah, a lot of them. My son came up with the rock, with the canyon, with the snakes — we have a bunch of snakes. My son kept saying, “Crocodile canyon.” Yeah, they would come up with stuff that I would write down and we’d keep sometimes. You need so many ideas in a movie like that, you’re like, “I’m taking that one, too.” [laughs] It’s all up for grabs.
RT: That’s great. It’s harnessing a child’s natural imagination.
RR: Well, that, and also, it’s as close as you get to going back in a time machine and interviewing yourself at that age, of what you find entertaining. A lot of it is stuff we take for granted, and it’s basically empowerment. You know, if you want to go down the street, you can just get in a car and go; a kid can’t do that, so that’s why he would fantasize about being able to fly, or having a jet pack like in Spy Kids, or having a rock that they could just wish they could go anywhere or do anything or be anything. If you look at traditionally what movies are usually big with kids, empowerment is a big thing for them. Whether it’s Power Rangers or Spy Kids or Harry Potter or something like this, or Sharkboy and Lavagirl where, you know, he’s half boy and half shark. Little kids just eat that up. It’s like, yeah, they want to be strong, they want to have powers.
RT: Speaking of Sharkboy, it just occurred to me that Sharkboy is now Twilight-boy.
RR: Yeah, mm-hmm. [Taylor Lautner’s] great. You know, when he came in — he was the first kid who came in. I got it on video. He came in, he’s this athletic kid, does karate and stuff. I turned to my son, who wrote the idea — he was there in casting with me — I said, “What do you think of him as Sharkboy?” and he said, “Yup.” I was watching this again recently. He was only the first one that came in; I said, “You think that’s the one?” He said, “Yup.” [laughs] I said, “I think so, too. I don’t think we’ll do better than that.”
RT: Obviously, you have this reputation for making awesome movies, and doing so many of the elements yourself.
RR: It’s just fun. Like I said, I was inspired by that movie that made me think I could do those things. They’re just fun jobs. I just kept the jobs that I liked, and the other ones I gave to other people. But yeah, doing music and photography and editing and special effects and all that’s so much a part of the job for me.
Get our latest Comic-Con 2009 updates here:
Welcome to RT’s Comic-Con 2009 news page! Every day, we’ll
create and update a page as breaking news and items of note hit the Internet. Check out yesterday’s full news page, and then read Jen’s very detailed impressions.
Now, here’s day three’s notables and quotables so far:
Is it possible that after only two films (his cult hit debut Donnie Darko and his infamously panned follow-up, Southland Tales), director Richard Kelly has already achieved auteur status? Audiences will find out this Halloween, when Kelly’s next film, The Box, opens in theaters. Based on Richard Matheson’s short story Button, Button, the old-fashioned thriller follows a married couple (Cameron Diaz and James Marsden) who are given a choice: if they push a button they’ll receive one million dollars, but someone somewhere will die. Rotten Tomatoes spoke with Kelly in San Diego just hours before he debuted extended footage from The Box and discussed his favorite films, the genesis of The Box, and his hopes to return to Southland Tales with an eventual Director’s Cut.
On the flipside, Barry Lyndon, for me, is the most beautiful film ever made, for its beauty and also for its statement about our hubris as a species, in the character of Barry Lyndon being a fool who destroys everyone around him. After that it’s really murky.
My favorite Spielberg film is probably Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Next: Kelly talks about the merits of ambiguity in cinema, and why The Box is his most personal film.
RT: So what of The Box will be show at Comic-Con?
RK: It’s a four and a half minute montage that I cut together. It has the score from the film, so I’m really excited for everyone to see it.
RT: What interested you in The Box?
RK: This was a short story that I optioned about six years ago, so I’ve been trying to figure out how to turn it into a film for several years now. In 2006, it finally all clicked for me. I figured out how to crack the story. The timing was right, and I felt like I wanted to make this my third film. I felt I wanted to go back and make a film in Virginia, where I grew up. [I wanted] to take my parents and my family and the elements of their lives and merge it with Richard Matheson’s short story, to flesh out Arthur and Norma in a very personal way, and to do an old-fashioned suspense film. It’s kind of an old-fashioned film in the sense that there’s not one swear word in it, there’s very little violence ultimately. It’s a very suspenseful film that I hope we’ve made, in the tradition of the kinds of films that my parents grew up with. I guess it would be Alfred Hitchcock who’s someone that I think of. My parents introduced me to Alfred Hitchcock films.
RK: Yeah, it has this tantalizing concept of this button that could cause the death of another human being. And receiving a million dollars for it — that’s a question that you could propose to anyone. I think it’s interesting to think about how many people would go through with it (laughs), and to think about why they would go through with it. Arthur’s a scientist, and he looks at this button unit, and there’s no technology in it. It’s a piece of wood. When he opens it up, the button doesn’t do anything. And so, in his mind, push it! There’s no way this could cause the death of another human being. Push it a hundred times. Who cares? It’s just superstition. But then, when you get into the idea of, is there something greater at work? Is there some sort of magic or a higher power at work? That’s when Arthur’s made to believe, OK, this is real. And Mr. Stewart has some sort of greater ability.
RT: Are we speaking in religious terms here?
RK: I think we’re talking about science and religion, and ultimately, some sort of supernatural entity that is kind of controlling all of this that Mr. Stewart has access to. That’s part of the investigation into the mystery.
RT: Do feel like your fans will see this as a “Richard Kelly film?”
RK: I hope so. I’ve taken something that was six pages long, that was Richard Matheson’s creation, and I’ve been very reverential to it. But I’ve definitely brought a lot [to it]. It’s the most personal film I’ve ever made. At the same time, it’s also my first studio film, and [it’s] more mainstream than the previous two films. It feels very much like something that people would expect from me, I guess (laughs). Specifically with Donnie Darko; I think it feels tonally similar to Donnie Darko in a lot of ways.
RT: I appreciate the fact that Donnie Darko doesn’t spell out its meaning. Is that something you strive for in all of your films?
RK: I always like that there’s a degree of ambiguity, and that there’s a lot for people to digest and think about. I hope to always make films that people can watch more than once and continue to see new things, because for me, those are the films that continue to age well. At the same time, it’s also about giving people enough answers so that they don’t feel alienated of confused. It’s about finding that balance in the middle.
RT: I found Southland Tales fascinating. Does that movie still stay with you?
RK: I’m so proud of that film. What I really want to do is to be able to go back and do a longer director’s cut of it at some point. There are still some unfinished visual effects that I’d like to do. And then the whole graphic novel prequel, that will always stay with me, and I hope that one day I’ll get to revisit all of that.
RT: What’s the optimal length you’re thinking of?
RK: I’d love to put an additional 10 or 15 minutes back into the film. Then, I’d love to do the whole prequel saga as an animated motion-capture film at some point. If the actors aren’t all in wheelchairs by that point (laughs).
Get our latest Comic-Con 2009 updates here:
Welcome to RT’s Comic-Con 2009 news page! Every day, we’ll
create and update a page as breaking news and items of note hit the Internet. Check out yesterday’s full news page, and then read Jen’s very detailed impressions.
Now, here’s day two’s notables and quotables so far:
Get our latest Comic-Con 2009 updates here:
Movie lovers crammed into the San Diego Convention Center today to kick off the 2009 Comic-Con International, the annual geek fest celebrating all things comic book and, as the official badge states, “related popular art forms.” Of course, in recent years, movies (the most popular of art forms, we think) have dominated the festivities; Thursday alone boasted headlining panels for upcoming event films like James Cameron’s Avatar and Summit Entertainment’s The Twilight Saga: New Moon, as well as a host of genre flicks ranging from Astro Boy to Tron 2 to Alice in Wonderland. Read on for impressions of Thursday’s panels, exclusive footage screenings, and more from ground zero!
Getting into Hall H for the morning’s first panel was easier than normal, thanks to a magic yellow VIP ticket courtesy of the fine folks at Disney. While yes, interest I’m sure was high for Disney’s 3D panel (the “first ever 3D panel at Comic-Con”) and for guest fanboy – er, guest moderator, Patton Oswalt — the real reason Hall H filled up as soon as the doors opened? The Twilight panel, which wouldn’t start for another three hours. Thus, thousands of Twilighters (and a few lucky “regular” folk) got a nice peek at footage from A Christmas Carol 3D, Alice in Wonderland, and Tron.
What were the highlights (and lowlights) of Thursday’s opening day festivities at Comic-Con International 2009? Read on for snippets and recaps of the day’s best movie panels.
Robert Zemeckis kicked off Thursday’s panels with an extensive look at his upcoming 3D animated film, A Christmas Carol. The art of 3D, he insisted, “is the future.” But will his latest effort be any better than the similarly crafted Beowulf?
Oswalt got the obvious question out of the way, asking Zemeckis to address the ongoing issue of the “uncanny valley” in animation – in other words, how real would Christmas Carol‘s human faces be? Zemeckis, who obviously has a thing for advancing the medium, gave a roundabout answer. The issue of the uncanny valley is an artistry issue, he said. “It has nothing to do with the technique.”
The takeaway from the Christmas Carol footage and Q&A with Robert Zemeckis? If you like Jim Carrey, you’re gonna get a LOT of him in this 3D animated adaptation of the Dickens’ classic. If, however, you find Carrey’s schtick tired and unappealing…well, perhaps you might still be a huge 3D enthusiast. Seriously, Carrey plays eight different characters, which will either make or break the film.
Tim Burton came out to show special footage from his upcoming Alice in Wonderland, a film for which the entire blogosphere was excited. Unfortunately, the special “exclusive” footage that had been prepared for Comic-Con turned out to be the very same teaser trailer leaked to the web the day before. That hardly mattered, as we got to see the trailer again in 3D, and the crowd – still full of teenage girls – screamed in unison at the sight of The Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp).
Moderator Patton Oswalt was so taken by the Alice trailer that it was shown again. Burton, who admitted that he was still in the midst of production, so he didn’t have much to really show at Comic-Con. The lights turned out. Whispers rumbled through the crowd; would Depp make a surprise appearance? Nope. Burton took questions from the open mic, revealing that his version of Alice would be based not only on Lewis Carroll’s books, but also on the Jabberwocky poem. As audience members kept referring to co-star Helena Bonham Carter as his “wife,” he felt the need to correct them: “For the record, we’re not married, thank you very much.”
Finally, Oswalt and Burton’s schtick paid off. Wrapping things up, they nonchalantly introduced a last guest. Depp walked onstage from the wings, quite literally there only to show up and wave (and get the audience riled up). Mission accomplished.
Wrapping things up for the Disney panel was Tron 2, or, as they revealed on the giant new screen of Hall H, Tron: Legacy. In addition to trotting out the cast (Olivia Wilde, Garrett Hedlund, and Jeff Bridges) and filmmakers, Disney offered a generous look at concept art; after all, Tron 2 won’t hit theaters until 2010.
Slides revealed updated versions of familiar Tron surroundings, vehicles, and adornments, including completely new and upgraded vehicles like the Light Runner, the Recognizer, and the new 5th generation Light Cycle.
However, the fun came with the showing of a rough cut of an early scene, screened in 2D. Young Garrett Hedlund rides up and parks a motorcycle in front of a familiar building: Flynn’s Arcade, which has been shut down and now languishes, unused. Inside, he flips a switch, causing the roomful of old ’70s and ’80s arcade games to light back up. Against a back wall, he finds what he’s looking for: Tron. He inserts a quarter, which comes back through, rejected. But the coin activates a secret passageway behind the console, and he steps through.
From what was shown and discussed on the panel, Tron: Legacy will have a lot to offer existing fans: cool graphics, an updated “grid,” new vehicles, martial arts (a style called “loop kicking,” or “tricking” – essentially, cool-looking aerial acrobatics), and a score by Daft Punk. A Daft Punk-Tron promotional tour is not only possible, it’s “guaranteed” by director Kosinsky!
Thursday morning began with a pre-panel press conference, a rarity of sorts at Comic-Con, where the masses (at least, 6,000 of them at a time) trade hours of standing in queues for the chance to be the first to preview footage from Hollywood’s biggest upcoming films. But with so much hubbub over this November’s vampire sequel The Twilight Saga: New Moon (and after The Twilight Panel Heard Around The World that revealed the existence of legions of fan girls last year), Comic-Con organizers felt a separate press conference might be in order.
And so, at 9:15 am sharp at the Hilton Bayfront Hotel down the road, a mass of journalists and bloggers gathered to lobby questions at Twilight: New Moon director Chris Weitz and his three main stars, Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner, and Robert Pattinson.
IGN’s own Eric Moro moderated the press conference, which perplexingly played host to many of the same questions answered later in Summit’s massive public panel. (Why get valuable time with the elusive cast, only to ask the same old questions?) But no matter; it was, if nothing else, a chance to get more snapshots of Stewart (in full Joan Jett mode, Minor Threat t-shirt and dark eye shadow and all), Lautner (strapping, and very chatty), and Pattinson (self-effacing and handsome per usual).
Look for full New Moon press conference and panel coverage soon!
Next: James Cameron’s Avatar, Terry Gilliam’s Dr. Parnassus, Matthew Vaughn’s Kick-Ass, and Peter Jackson + District 9
The most highly anticipated new film at Comic-Con (second maybe, maybe to New Moon) was James Cameron’s Avatar, a film four years in the making, but as he says, “14 years in the dreaming.” Introduced as “The Mad Pirate,” Cameron took the stage for a lengthy informal chat. He made the film as a sort of synthesis of the things his teenage self liked. Soon enough, he got to the clip part – but instead of just bringing one or two clips to the Con, Cameron outdid his peers. We got to watch 25 minutes of footage from Avatar!
Cameron and stars Sigourney Weaver, Zoe Saldana, and Stephen Lang discussed story and character details at length, making a concerted effort to educate the audience on the little-known details of the film. Weaver plays Dr. Grace Augustine, a scientist who partakes in a program involving the alien planet, Pandora, to assume an “avatar” – a half human, half alien host body. Sam Worthington (Terminator Salvation) does the same as the lead character, Jake, who meets a native “Na’vi” (Zoe Saldana) and learns from her spiritual people.
The film’s visual splendor is something to behold; Avatar uses 3D technology not for gimmickry, but to enhance and deepen the world of Pandora, and to immerse us fully in Jake’s own exploratory experience. Deep blues, greens, purples, and pinks combine with neon flora and fauna on Pandora in one of the most beautiful animated films to come along in a while. The best scene: Jake wrangles deadly native reptilian bird, like a cowboy might break a horse. It’s breathtaking stuff, and earned a partial standing ovation.
Hall H started to thin out by the time the Terry Gilliam/Dr. Parnassus panel was to begin. Imaginarium, after all is about Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) and not necessarily about Heath Ledger. Gilliam surfaced on stage to take questions and show clips, and explained the story of Dr. Parnassus to the audience.
After watching Gilliam’s clips, a few things were apparent. One, Gilliam must have had a tiny budget. Two, he did amazing things with said tiny budget, as he had to when a writer for The Monty Python show. And three, everyone loves Heath Ledger.
Gilliam called upon one additional special guest to help him out. If you guessed that person to be Verne Troyer, you were right! Troyer, who gets the rare “serious” role in Parnassus. Riiight. The crowd didn’t exactly go wild, but the footage looked appropriately amazing.
Even in one of the day’s later time slots (and thus prone to the Comic-Con Midday Fatigue), Matthew Vaughn’s Kick-Ass previewed footage that not only got the house in a tizzy, but earned the biggest standing ovation of the day in Hall H. What could have made so many Con-goers so happy? Try the always-awesome combination of little girls kicking ass (see: The Professional), female assassins (Kill Bill), black comedy, and regular joes-turned-superheroes (Watchmen). Footage of 12-year-old Chloe Moretz not only kicking ass, but cutting entire limbs off and using foul language, is what really did the trick. Someone get Kick-Ass a release date already!
Late Thursday night I attended a “secret” screening of the Peter Jackson-produced science fiction flick, District 9. While Sony/Tri-Star have left District 9 awareness to mainly viral marketing thus far, suffice to say this is the screening that bloggers will be talking about from this year’s Con. (Another secret screening of Warner Bros.’ Ninja Assassin occurred Thursday night as well.)
Afterward, Jackson sat down with an “intimate” group of journalists to subject himself to all lines of questioning, focusing on District 9. Made for a mere $30 million, District 9 looks at least two times as expensive, and was helmed by a first time director to boot (Neil Blomkamp). Creature effects are impressive and pervasive, populating a South African refugee camp with hundreds of alien creatures who look vaguely like giant shellfish; amazingly, Jackson shared that nearly every creature image and close-up was computer generated. (More on District 9 to come.)
Jackson previewed a four-and-a-half minute extended trailer for his own upcoming directorial effort, The Lovely Bones. While I had my hesitations about this bestselling novel adaptation – how could it be filmed, for example — what Jackson had to show was moving and gorgeous. Look for the trailer to be attached to chick lit flick Julie & Julia in theaters.
And lastly, he subjected himself to a barrage of Hobbit questions. Jackson cut short the rumors that a Hobbit casting announcement might be made during Comic-Con, as a final script is still three weeks away from being submitted.
That’s it for Thursday’s wrap-up. Check Rotten Tomatoes throughout the day for our breaking Comic-Con news coverage, updated as news happens! See our gallery of costumes and cos-players.
Get our latest Comic-Con 2009 updates here: