In part one of our interview with “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” producer Don Murphy we learned about the development of the concept, which moved rapidly from Alan Moore’s pitch to finished film. In part two: Murphy discusses some of the hurdles during the production, including a personality clash between director Stephen Norrington and star Sean Connery, a natural disaster and more.
Then Murphy looks into his crystal ball and tells us what the future holds for his other comic book adaptations, like “Death: The High Cost of Living,” “Iron Man,” “Spawn 2” and yet another Alan Moore project.
BUT WHO SHALL LEAD THEM?
Murphy with Shane West on the set of ‘LXG’
Another major change that has fans concerned is the change in roles for Mina Harker (played by Peta Wilson in the movie). We asked why the character was shuffled to a less prominent position in the movie than she held in the comics.
“She’s very prominent in the movie, so that’s not fair to say,” Murphy countered. “She was the leader in the comic book. When the time came to cast the movie, it became a question of, do we try to cast Mina and, if so, who is the actress that can support a summer blockbuster?”
When no suitable candidates came up, the filmmakers began looking for an alternative to lead the movie and the team.
“Alan and Kevin had always told me that they modeled Quatermain on Connery. The idea became to try to offer it to him and see what he would do,” Murphy said. Connery came on board quickly.
DISQUIET ON THE SET
Of course, clashes between Connery and Norrington have now become legendary. Just last week at the movie’s premiere the actor remarked to the press that they should stop asking him about Norrington.
“Ask me about someone I like, will you? Everyone else in the film was a pleasure to work with. Not him,” Connery said in one report.
Murphy agrees that there was friction between the two, but rumors about what happened between them are overblown.
“Sean had no fist fight with nobody and neither did Norrington. They’re both too professional to have done such a thing,” Murphy said.
“Steven had his vision and he wanted Sean to hit his marks and not say anything. Sean’s made fifty-two movies and has a definite opinion about what he wants. They did not always see eye to eye.”
Likewise Murphy tells us that rumors of Connery wresting the post-production work away from the director are “ludicrous.” As recently as two days before the premiere, Norrington was still in the mixing studio working with his editor.
“Did Steven, at a certain point, just sort of stop editing and the studio have to give him a lot of notes and Don Murphy have to give him a lot of notes and Sean Connery have to give him a lot of notes? Yeah,” Murphy explained, continuing, “but Steven edited the movie. So that [rumor] was just some kind of weird, weird fucking press thing that kind of permeated the ether.”
WHERE’S THE PARTY?
Neither Norrington nor Moore attended the film’s premier last week, but Murphy told us ahead of time that that’s normal behavior for both men.
As far a Moore is concerned, the producer tells us, “He wishes it well. He hasn’t even seen ‘From Hell.’ He’s just not into movies. I invited him to the premiere. He doesn’t have a passport. I invited his daughters. They may go to a London premiere.”
The media may buzz over the fact that Norrington didn’t show up for his own movie too. Murphy responds saying, “And then I’d tell you he didn’t go to the premiere of ‘Blade’ and you’d go, ‘Oh, he’s just a strange person.'”
“League” artist and co-creator Kevin O’Neill, on the other hand, did go to the premiere, as well as visiting the set during filming.
LXG filmed on location in Prague last year. That city, along with several other major cities, was the victim of torrential flooding. As bad luck would have it, the natural disaster swept through the city during filming and wiped out several LXG sets including, ironically, the Nautilus submarine set. In addition to the expected delays and insurance issues, the event had an impact on the finished movie.
“The coda, the epilogue is not what we would have shot had we stayed in Prague,” Murphy said. “We had to be out by Christmas otherwise it was too expensive.”
The epilogue would have featured Campion Bond, precursor to a certain big-screen spy, and set up the premise for the sequel. That conversation would hint that the next threat the League faces at the movies would be the same one found in the currently running second series of the comics.
As with any movie, a good take at the box office will certainly lead to a sequel. “It certainly lends itself to it,” the producer said. “James and I have talked about either the Martian story or something like ‘At the Earth’s Core.'”
Murphy also added that things are structured so that any and all of the current roster could return.
With this outing, fans will want to watch carefully. Just as with the comics and similar to the “X2” movie, “LXG” is filled with Easter eggs for the observant moviegoer.
“There are paintings in the British museum of the earlier Leagues, just like there are in the comics,” Murphy said. “If you look closely there’s a big billboard reporting the flares on Mars. There’s also one of these huge banner inviting you to a ‘performance this night by Mr. Moore and Mr. O’Neill.’
“There’re a lot of nods to the conceit that all British literature happened.”
MORE COMICS TO FILM
As we said, Murphy has been on the comic-to-film bandwagon before the bandwagon was barreling through movie houses ringing up big receipts. He’s got a number of other comic-based properties in the work, including a few that may go into production soon.
With two Alan Moore comics on screen, Murphy may be turning his attention to a film by that other great English comic writer later this year.
The producer tells us to expect an announcement about Neil Gaiman’s “Death: The High Cost of Living” at the upcoming Comic-Con International in San Diego. According to Murphy, Warner Bros has given the project a green light and they could be filming on it as soon as this year. Gaiman himself wrote the screenplay and will be directing the movie.
“He will direct it for sure, otherwise I won’t make it,” Murphy said.
He also tells us that Marvel’s “Iron Man” looks to be a hot property. “Smallville” gurus Alfred Gough and Miles Millar are hard at work on the script.
“We are waiting for the new script and New Line has indicated that, because of obviously all the Marvel success, they’d like to get that going later this year,” Murphy said. “We’ll see.”
A little further down the pipeline is an adaptation of Hitosi Iwaaki’s manga “Parasyte,” about alien spores bent on taking over the Earth but instead take over the left hand of a hapless teenager named Mike.
“We have the director of ‘Cat in the Hat’ who wants to do it next, so that could come together pretty fast,” Murphy speculates.
Another exciting project is the recently announced live-action “Transformers,” which Murphy is producing with “X-Men’s” Tom DeSanto. While there’s little new news since the June announcement, Murphy tells us that the story has had the intended effect of garnering immediate attention to the project.
In addition to studio interest, four or five directors came forward looking to talk about the project, including Michael Bay, Robert Zemeckis and Joseph Kahn.
Not doing quite as well is the long-suffering “Astro Boy” a project that Murphy said is “beyond frustrating.”
“First Sony was gonna make it live-action, then they didn’t make it live-action because of ‘A.I.’ Now they spent the last year and half trying to make it [CG] animated,” the producer explained.
“Of all the projects I have right now it’s certainly the most frustrating. I can’t tell you what’s going on with it because I don’t really understand what’s going on with it at the moment. It was always Amy Pascal’s favorite film. I happen to think whoever made that film would make a lot of money, it would be a big hit, and have a franchise. It’s not even that hard. It’s Pinocchio.”
Also at Sony is the second “Spawn” movie, a sequel to a film made at a different studio. Hans Rodionoff wrote the latest script that one. “Sam and Twitch are prominent characters. This movie is smaller and have perhaps even a cooler and scarier.”
However, in spite of the current heat on superhero fare, things are not moving quickly with the studio.
“We turned in the draft to Sony. Sony’s a mess. I’m not sure where that stands at the moment,” Murphy lamented. “If Sony doesn’t make it I’m sure that New Line would want their franchise back.”
Murphy hinted at one more top-secret project that is in the early stages of development. Few details could be divulged but the producer told us this much:
“There’s one of Alan Moore’s obscure works that I’m working to bring to television.”
At this point the focus is still on “LXG,” though. The movie bows this Friday and, until them, there’s no rest for the producer.