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Brad Bird offers update on the disaster movie, “1906”

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With “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol,” Brad Bird has proven that he’s got what it takes to be a great live-action filmmaker. The director best known for his work on “The Iron Giant,” “The Incredibles” and “Ratatouille” wowed audiences with his installment of the “Mission: Impossible” saga that was released last year, and has said in interviews that he plans to continue making live action movies.

It would make sense that Bird would next go on to make his long-planned San Francisco earthquake movie “1906,” but it turns out that’s not the case. IFC had the chance to catch up with Bird while he was promoting the Los Angeles Animation Festival’s charity screening of “The Iron Giant,” and he shared that “1906” is no closer to making its way to the big screen than it ever was.

The problem, he explained, never had anything to do with his lack of a live action resume. Instead, it is with his struggle to gather all the strands of “1906’s” story together into one feature-length script that has caused Bird the most problems in adapting it.

“If there were any doubts that I could handle a live action film, I think those have eased. But it doesn’t make solving the story challenges [of that film] any easier,” Bird explained. “I mean, that’s really what’s so far kept it from moving forward, is that it’s just an incredibly challenging story to pull together.”

“1906” is based on the best-selling novel of the same name that was written by James Dalessandro. It examines the corruption in the San Francisco government before and during the 1906 earthquake that shook the city. There are many different storylines woven together to craft the larger picture that is “1906,” and it doesn’t help that the story is set against one of the most famous natural disasters in American history.

“I mean, in a movie like ‘Titanic,’ there’s a certain amount of healthy limitation in the fact that it’s one ship in the middle of the ocean,” Bird said. “With ‘1906,’ it’s a city, and it becomes exponentially harder to sort of reign in the storylines and take advantage of all the amazing things that were happening in this place at that particular moment in time. The script and the story is what’s elusive on ‘1906’ more than it is any hesitations with me as a filmmaker.”

Bird has often said that it would be much easier to adapt the story as a mini-series instead of a film but, as he told us, “I want to be on the big screen.” And even in the sequel-happy world that we now live in, “1906” wouldn’t really work as a feature film series because it centers around the earthquake.

“I don’t think you can really do a ‘1906 Part 2: The Rebuilding,'” Bird said with a laugh. “If you’re going to deal with the earthquake, you have to deal with it in the movie, and I just think the audience would just hate you if you led up to the earthquake and then didn’t have it in the first film. And I think after the earthquake and after all of that is over, it sort of becomes a slower film about rebuilding a city, which is maybe good, but I think it would be a tough thing to plan for.”

So it sounds like the rumor suggesting that “1906” would come out this year is only a bit of wishful fantasy. But Bird hasn’t written the adaptation off just yet.

“I’ve got to find a way to do it in a movie length and that’s what’s been challenging, is trying to pull the story in enough to fit into a movie, and yet take advantage of all the unbelievable rich and diverse stories at that particular place at that moment in time,” he said. “You never know. We may get it figured out yet.”

Would you rather see “1906” as a feature film or a miniseries? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

Bourne

Bourne to Run

10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Bourne Movies

Catch The Bourne Ultimatum this month on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

You know his name, as the Super Bowl teaser for the upcoming summer blockbuster Jason Bourne reminded us. In this era of franchise films, that seems to be more than enough to get another entry in the now 15-year-old series greenlit. And gosh darn it if we aren’t into it. Before you catch The Bourne Ultimatum on IFC, here are some surprising facts about the Bourne movies that you may not know. And unlike Jason Bourne, try not to forget them.


10. Matt Damon was a long shot to play Jason Bourne.

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Coming off of Good Will Hunting and The Legend of Bagger Vance, early ’00s Matt Damon didn’t exactly scream “ripped killing machine.” In fact, Brad Pitt, Russell Crowe and even Sylvester Stallone were all offered the part before it fell into the hands of the Boston boy made good. It was his enthusiasm for director Doug Liman’s more frenetic vision that ultimately helped land him the part.


9. Love interest Marie was almost played by Sarah Polley.

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Damon wasn’t the only casting surprise. Franka Potente, of Run Lola Run fame, wasn’t the filmmaker’s first choice for the role or Marie in The Bourne Identity. In fact, Liman wanted his Go star Sarah Polley for the part, but she turned it down in favor of making indie movies back in Canada. A quick rewrite changed the character from American Marie Purcell to European Marie Helena Kreutz, and the rest is movie history.


8. Director Doug Liman was obsessed with the Bourne books.

Universal Picutres

Universal Pictures

Liman had long been a fan of the Bourne book series. When Warner Bros.’ rights to the books lapsed in the late ’90s, Liman flew himself to author Robert Ludlum’s Montana home, mere days after earning his pilot’s license. The author was so impressed with his passion for the material, he sold the rights on the spot.


7. Liman’s father actually worked for the NSA.

Universal Picutres

Universal Pictures

Part of Liman’s fasciation with the Bourne series was that his own father played the same spy craft games portrayed in the books while working for the NSA. In fact, many of the Treadstone details were taken from his father’s own exploits, and Chris Cooper’s character, Alex Conklin, was based on Oliver Stone, whom Arthur Liman famously cross examined as chief counsel of the Iran-Contra hearings.


6. Tony Gilroy threw the novel’s story out while writing The Bourne Identity.

Universal Picutres

Universal Picutres

Despite being based on a hit book, screenwriter Tony Gilroy, coming off of The Devil’s Advocate, had no idea how to adapt it into a movie. He said the book was more concerned with people “running to airports” than character, and would need a complete rewrite. Director Doug Liman agreed, and Gilroy claims to have condensed the original novel into the first five minutes. Getting that out of the way, he then wrote his own story, based on a man who wakes up one day not remembering anything but how to kill.


5. Damon walked like a boxer to get into character.

Universal Picutres

Universal Picutres

Damon had never played a character like Bourne before, and was searching for a way to capture his physicality. Doug Liman told him to walk like a boxer to give Jason Bourne an edge. Damon took that to heart, training for six months in boxing, marital arts and firearms.


4. Damon broke an actor’s nose.

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

Damon’s training for the films is legendary, but mistakes still happen. While filming a scene for The Bourne Ultimatum, Damon hit actor Tim Griffin so hard, he shattered his nose. Apparently, the space the scene was filmed in was smaller than originally intended, throwing Damon off just enough to exert a real beat down.


3. James Bond visited The Bourne Legacy set.

Eon Productions

Eon Productions

Actor Daniel Craig stopped by the set of The Bourne Legacy to visit his wife, actress Rachel Weisz, who was starring in the movie. While having James Bond on a Bourne set must have been exciting, The Bourne Legacy was the only Bourne movie to not actually feature Jason Bourne, meaning our bets on who would kick whose ass would have to wait for another day.


2. The Bourne Identity was nearly a bomb (in the box office sense).

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

As reshoots began to pile up, and an all-out war between the studio and director Doug Liman spilled into the press, expectations were that The Bourne Identity was going to flop. Matt Damon told GQ that, “the word on Bourne was that it was supposed to be a turkey…It’s very rare that a movie comes out a year late, has four rounds of reshoots, and it’s good.”


1. Matt Damon wasn’t the first actor to play Bourne.

Warner Brothers Television

Warner Brothers Television

Aired on ABC in 1988, the TV movie adaptation of The Bourne Identity, while not exactly critically acclaimed, was a more faithful version of Ludlum’s book. Richard Chamberlain, of The Thorn Birds fame, played a much less ass-kicking spy, while “Charlie’s Angel” Jaclyn Smith played love interest Marie. If you like your Bourne movies heavy with poorly lit ’80s melodrama, this might just be the adaptation for you. Otherwise, you should catch The Bourne Ultimatum when it airs this month on IFC.

Brad Bird is “gratified” by the continued popularity of “The Iron Giant”

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It’s hard to believe that it’s been 13 years since “The Iron Giant” first charmed audiences in theaters. The movie launched the career of beloved filmmaker Brad Bird, who has gone on to write and direct such projects as “The Incredibles” and “Ratatouille,” as well as helm last year’s “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol” (his first live action feature).

“The Iron Giant” is being honored with a charity screening tomorrow at the Los Angeles Animation Festival, and Bird and actors Christopher McDonald and Eli Marienthal are expected to be in attendance. IFC had the chance to catch up with Bird in anticipation of the screening to talk to him about “The Iron Giant” more than a decade after it was first released.

IFC: You must be excited about “The Iron Giant” screening tomorrow night at the Animation Festival.

BRAD BIRD: It’s so awesome getting an opportunity to see it again on a large screen with an audience.

IFC: Did you expect that this film would be as popular now as it was when it came out?

BIRD: That’s what you hope for. You want these things to last. I think all of us who made it are gratified that it has.

IFC: Vin Diesel did the voice for the Iron Giant in his pre-“Fast and the Furious” and “Riddick” days. Do you guys still talk?

BIRD: No, I haven’t talked to him in a long time, but I’m happy that he’s gotten the great career that he has, because I got along great with him, and he was very easy and good to work with.

IFC: How was the casting process different for this film than it was for, say, a live action film?

BIRD: It was different for every one of [the cast members]. I oftentimes kind of hear voices in my head and sometimes they’re famous people and sometimes they’re not, and sometimes they’re a little bit famous and sometimes they’re somebody that is about to be famous. I don’t really cast for any sort of marquee value, I cast because I think they’re right for it.

In the instance of Harry Connick [Jr.] in the first recording session, he kind of put on a beatnik voice and we tried it for about five minutes and I said, “How would you say this?” And he said, “Well I’d just say dah duh dah duh dah,” and he had this great sort of New Orleans-tinged lilt, and it sounded effortlessly cool. And I just said, “Just do that.” And it worked great. Even though I hadn’t thought of the character as having any kind of subtle accent, it made him an outsider — you know, since the film is set in Maine — and it made him very subtly vocally — I mean visually, he’s very much an outsider — made him an outsider in a way that was unexpected and terrific.

I was just really happy with our voice cast. I think Jennifer [Aniston] did a fantastic job, and I think Chris McDonald was perfect as Kent Mansley, and we had a wonderful child actor in Eli Marienthal, and I was just happy straight down the line. Vin, as you said, was not well known at that time, but he had made a short film called “Multi-Facial” that I had seen and he was versatile, but he had this sort of rumble that just sounded powerful and yet sympathetic.

IFC: How would you say animated filmmaking has changed since you did “The Iron Giant”?

BIRD: At the time that “Iron Giant” was done, Disney was considered really kind of the only place that could be really successful at it. I mean, Pixar was successful. They had done like two films at that point. Pixar’s second film, “A Bug’s Life,” came out the same year as “Iron Giant.” Because that was released by Disney, that was kind of included under the Disney umbrella. Now I think people think very differently about animation. Many different studios have had successful animation releases, and it’s considered more a part of the mainstream movie diet than it was when we made “Iron Giant.”

IFC: Would you ever make a sequel to it?

BIRD: I don’t think so. I think that the story is pretty much complete as it is, even though it suggests something beyond the film at the end. I kind of think that that’s the story that we set out to tell and we told it. But I do, you know, think about doing other animated films.

Do you plan on checking out “The Iron Giant” in Los Angeles tomorrow? Do you think the film has aged well? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

Jurassic Park Cast

Park Visitors

10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Jurassic Park Cast

Visit IFC.com for all things Jurassic Park.

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Photo Credit: ©Universal/courtesy Everett Collection

Jurassic Park taught us all many things. We learned a lot about hiding from velociraptors in fancy kitchens, using “please” when dealing with nefarious computer hackers named Nedry, and that Jeff Goldblum never needs an excuse to have his shirt casually fly open during the most climactic parts of a movie. But how much do you know about the great actors who brought the characters to life? Before you catch IFC’s Jurassic Park movie marathon, check out a few things you might not know about the cast. Don’t worry, we spared no expense.

1. Sam Neill is an award-winning wine maker.

In 1993, the same year Jurassic Park hit theaters, the Golden Globe and Emmy-nominated actor started a small vineyard outside of Gibbston, New Zealand with five acres of Pinot Noir grapes. Now 23 years later, the vineyard, named Two Paddocks, has grown in size, producing five varieties of Pinot and two varieties of Riesling. Neill discovered his love for red wine through his acting mentor, the legendary James Mason, when the pair would dine together in London around the time the future Dr. Grant starred as the adult Damien in The Omen III: The Final Conflict. Insert “blood of Christ” joke here.


2. Laura Dern has been in nine movies (and counting) with her mother.

Yes, the actress who brought Ellie Satler to life is the daughter of Academy-Award nominated actors Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd, so she comes by the performing bug naturally. In fact, the trio is the first family to ever receive adjoining stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. But Laura Dern has most frequently worked with her mother, with both of them receiving Academy Award nominations for the 1991 period drama Rambling Rose, the first time in history that a mother and daughter received acting nominations the same year and for the same film. Dern was just 24 at the time, making her one of the youngest Best Actress nominees in history.


3. Jeff Goldblum is an accomplished jazz pianist.

Before he flirted with Ellie Satler via chaos theory lesson, beloved actor (and frequent Portlandia guest star) Jeff Goldblum grew up in Pittsburgh, where he learned to play piano from his parents as a kid and started playing gigs at cocktail lounges around the city in his teens. At the encouragement of Woody Allen, Goldblum formed the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra (named for a Pittsburgh neighbor) in the early ’90s. The quintet plays a regular weekly show in Los Angeles that is heavily improvised, with Goldblum interacting with audience members in between sets of Thelonius Monk or Dave Brubeck. And if you’re REALLY lucky, the national treasure known as Goldblum might sing his version of the Jurassic Park theme with lyrics, which we’re guessing probably causes much chaos (wink wink) among fans in the audience.


4. Wayne Knight worked as a private detective in between acting jobs.

Knight got his first Broadway role by writing to the producers of the long-running comedy Gemini and demanding an audition if they ever needed a replacement actor. They called him in for an audition, and he got the job. But in between acting gigs, Knight waited tables around New York City. A friend had gotten a job at a detective agency, and Knight decided to give it a try since the agency liked hiring actors (they tended to be pretty adept at lying). It’s safe to say Knight’s detective work literally paid off, as one of his first major movie roles was as a detective interrogating Sharon Stone during the infamous leg-crossing scene in Basic Instinct.


5. Ariana Richards was in a Ben Folds music video.

One of Ben Folds’ first hits was “Brick” off the 1997 album Ben Folds Five album, Whatever and Ever Amen. Richards starred in the 1998 music video for the song, playing a pregnant high school teenager going to get an abortion in a nod to Folds’ own experience with his high school girlfriend. Richards followed that up with a role in the direct-to-video flick Tremors 3: Back to Perfection, reprising her original Tremors role as Mindy Sterngood. These days, Richards is a studio painter, specializing in portraiture and landscapes in the style of the Impressionists. One of her pieces hangs in Steven Spielberg’s office.


6. Sir Richard Attenborough was part of the Royal Air Force Film Unit during WWII.

Before he became an acclaimed actor and filmmaker, Richard Attenborough joined the Royal Air Force early on in WWII. After his initial training period ended, he was moved into the newly-created Film Unit, which operated out of Pinewood Studios (the future home of Star Wars and the Bond franchise, among other films). The R.A.F. Film Unit was responsible for not only documenting RAF personnel in action but making propaganda films. One such film was 1944’s Journey Together, which starred the 21 year-old Attenborough and Edward G. Robinson. Attenborough moved through the ranks of the RAF Film Unit, earning the title of sergeant, filming many missions from the rear gunner’s position. Unfortunately he sustained permanent ear damage during one mission whilst filming the Bomber Command unit on an air raid in Germany. He is also the last veteran of WWII to win the Best Director Oscar.


7. Joseph Mazzello was supposed to star in an earlier version of A.I. Artificial Intelligence.

Steven Spielberg’s 2001 film A.I. Artificial Intelligence had a long, thorny development period going all the way back to the early 1970s when Stanley Kubrick sought to turn Brian Aldiss’ short story “Super-Toys Last All Summer Long” into a feature-length film. He brought on Spielberg as a producer in 1985, but abandoned the project in 1991 after multiple re-writes and complaints that computer graphics weren’t advanced enough to bring the artificial human, David, to life. The project was revived in 1994 after Kubrick saw the special effects in Jurassic Park, and Mazzello was immediately attached to star as David. However, Kubrick’s interest in the project waned due to technical difficulties, and he made his last film, Eyes Wide Shut, instead. Spielberg took the reins after Kubrick’s death in 1999 and cast Haley Joel Osment as David (Mazzello was 17 by the time Spielberg’s version of the film went into production in the summer of 2000). The closest Mazzello ever got to making A.I. was the hokey 1997 family sci-fi film, Star Kid, where his character finds and wears an alien cybersuit with A.I. capabilities that changes his personality.


8. Bob Peck mentored Sir Ian McKellen at the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Though McKellen was actually born six years before the late Peck, the veteran actor of stage and screen has frequently cited Peck as the actor from whom he learned the most. Peck, who played game warden Muldoon in Jurassic Park, spent nine years with the Royal Shakespeare Company’s acting ensemble during what is arguably known as its “golden era.” He played a number of prominent roles alongside the likes of McKellen, Dame Judi Dench, Jeremy Irons, Sir Ben Kingsley, and Ian Holm (among others). Former RSC artistic director Trevor Nunn recalled seeing McKellen watching Peck from the wings during a performance in awe and whispering, “He is the future.” Though he won a BAFTA for his work in the BBC thriller Edge of Darkness, Peck didn’t gain widespread notoriety outside of the U.K. until his role in Jurassic Park. Sadly, he passed away just six years later in 1999 from cancer, but left a considerable mark on the stage, screen, and McKellen himself.


9. B.D. Wong is a Tony Award winner.

While B.D. Wong is known for roles in everything from Jurassic Park to Mr. Robot, he made a name for himself early in his career on the Great White Way. Wong won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play for his role as the enigmatic opera diva, Song Liling, in M. Butterfly opposite John Lithgow in 1988. He also starred as Linus in the 1999 Tony Award-winning revival of You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, aka the show that made a young Kristen Chenoweth a star. But despite Wong’s musical theatre talents, Disney chose Donny Osmond to record the songs for Wong’s character in Mulan, Captain Li Shang. Perhaps he’ll reprise the role in the inevitable Mulan stage musical?


10. Samuel L. Jackson practiced lightsaber moves on the golf course.

It’s no secret Samuel L. Jackson is crazy about golf. He has a clause added to all his film contracts that he must have easy access to golf courses even when he is on location. But in an interview with Golf Digest, Jackson admitted that he used to carry his lightsaber around in his golf bag with his clubs while on location in Australia, because he had over 109 movements to learn for his role as Mace Windu in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. Whenever play on the course was slow, Jackson would practice his movements to the delight of many of his fellow golfers. Apparently, his golf handicap is better than Mace Windu’s lightsaber skills: the character is killed during a fight with Darth Sidious in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. May the FORE be with you, Sam.

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