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.

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Weird Roles

Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Season 6: Episode 1: Pickathon

Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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Byrning Down the House

Everything You Need to Know About the Film That Inspired “Final Transmission”

Documentary Now! pays tribute to "Stop Making Sense" this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Cinecom/courtesy Everett Collection

This week Documentary Now! is with the band. For everyone who’s ever wanted to be a roadie without leaving the couch, “Final Transmission” pulls back the curtain on experimental rock group Test Pattern’s final concert. Before you tune in Wednesday at 10P on IFC, plug your amp into this guide for Stop Making Sense, the acclaimed 1984 Talking Heads concert documentary.

Put on Your Dancing Shoes

Hailed as one of the best concert films ever created, director Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) captured the energy and eccentricities of a band known for pushing the limits of music and performance.

Make an Entrance

Lead singer David Byrne treats the concert like a story: He enters an empty stage with a boom box and sings the first song on the setlist solo, then welcomes the other members of the group to the stage one song at a time.

Steal the Spotlight

David Byrne Dancing
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Always a physical performer, Byrne infuses the stage and the film with contagious joy — jogging in place, dancing with lamps, and generally carrying the show’s high energy on his shoulders.

Suit Yourself

Byrne makes a splash in his “big suit,” a boxy business suit that grows with each song until he looks like a boy who raided his father’s closet. Don’t overthink it; on the DVD, the singer explains, “Music is very physical, and often the body understands it before the head.”

View from the Front Row

Stop Making Sense Band On Stage
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Demme (who also helmed 1987’s Swimming to Cambodia, the inspiration for this season’s Documentary Now! episode “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything”) films the show by putting viewers in the audience’s shoes. The camera rarely shows the crowd and never cuts to interviews or talking heads — except the ones onstage.

Let’s Get Digital

Tina Weymouth Keyboard
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Stop Making Sense isn’t just a good time — it’s also the first rock movie to be recorded entirely using digital audio techniques. The sound holds up more than 30 years later.

Out of Pocket

Talk about investing in your art: Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz told Rolling Stone that the members of the band “basically put [their] life savings” into the movie, and they didn’t regret it.

Catch Documentary Now!’s tribute to Stop Making Sense when “Final Transmission” premieres Wednesday, October 12 at 10P on IFC.

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