DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. are taking moviegoers for a wild ride through the universe this summer with “Green Lantern,” the newest
DC Comics superhero property to get the big screen treatment. Opening domestically June 17, “Green Lantern” tells the origin story of Hal Jordan, the first human Lantern to join the intergalactic peacekeeping Green Lantern Corps. Directed by Martin Campbell, best known for his work on “Casino Royale” and “Goldeneye” Campbell admitted that “Green Lantern” marked his first computer graphics-heavy comic book movie. “It just fascinated me, the whole world of Green Lantern, going to another planet, going to the center of the universe, so that’s why I did it,” said the director, pointing to the movie’s expansive universe as what originally drew him to the film. The world of the Green Lantern Corps also appealed to actor Ryan Reynolds, who portrays the film version of Hal Jordan.
“I’ve never worked on a movie that required this much imagination, it really felt like I was a kid again — everything that was in this world you had to imagine,” said Reynolds. As many of his scenes took place on the digitally created Oa, Reynolds said he spent much on his time on set in front a blue screen while production designer Grant Major, previously the designer for “Lord of the Rings,” showed Reynolds visual references for the characters and places he was supposed to be reacting to. “I have to imagine what [everything] is and then express it through my eyes to the audience,” said Reynolds.
While employing a large amount of CG, the movie also made use of intense makeup prosthetics, as actors Mark Strong and Peter Sarsgaard discovered. “I have to bow to Peter on the prosthetics front as he had a much heavier burden than me!” laughed Strong, who played the purple-skinned, long-eared Green Lantern, Sinestro. Sarsgaard, who brought giant-headed villain Hector Hammond to life, said that the prosthetics actually helped him figure out the film’s shooting timeline.
“For once, I could tell where I was… I had clear stages that told me where I was in the movie, which was nice,” said Sarsgaard, pointing to his forehead. The “Boy’s Don’t Cry” and “Jarhead” actor also had sage words of advice for Strong about the spirit glue used to hold the prosthetic pieces in place.
“I finished as [Strong] was starting, and my passing comment to him was, ‘you’re going to find you have this thing about the glue. You dream about the glue, you want the glue again — its like, do you really like Tang or is it the sense memory?'” joked Sarsgaard. After a moment he laughed and added, “And it was kind of impossible to get off!”
Turning from special effects to characters, Reynolds, best known for his funny-man roles in comedies such as “National Lampoon’s Van Wilder” and “The Proposal,” said he believed Hal Jordan had much of the same energy as his more overtly comedic parts. “There’s a tone that’s a little different… He’s not a character who is overly funny but he’s witty; I always say he’s a guy who can throw a punch, tell a joke and kiss a girl,” said Reynolds. “There’s something really iconic and fun about that guy because anything is possible with that guy.”
Reynolds also acknowledged that Hal Jordan is not his first foray into comic book movies, but rather his third after Reynolds’ early role as Hannibal King in “Blade: Trinity” and recent turn as Deadpool in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” a character whose role in the film the actor described as “ancillary.”
“By 2014 I’m going to do ‘Wonder Woman,’ but after that I’m hanging up the lasso and those short-shorts,” Reynolds joked when asked about his multiple comic book roles. Defining himself as a casual reader of comics, Reynolds said he grew up with “X-Men” and reiterated his love for the Merc with a Mouth, Deadpool. “I do have that [“Deadpool”] film in development still, so we’ll see what happens with that, but Green Lantern is the first sort of iconic superhero role I’ve been in,” Reynolds said.
Writer and Producer Greg Berlanti said he also focused on the iconic aspects of Hal Jordan when going through the first drafts of the movie with co-writers Michael Green, Michael Goldenberg and Marc Guggenheim. “We all shared a common love for the character, and as [a writer] you try to honor that, but you also try to tell a great story and you ultimately hope your love and honor for the characters comes through,” said Berlanti.
Blake Lively was similarly enthusiastic about her role as pilot-turned-businesswoman Carol Ferris. “It’s rare to see such strong women existing in films as equals to men, especially in this genre… and I loved that, if this franchise continues, she does become a villain! That was also a very, very appealing element to this,” said Lively. The project also appealed to Lively simply because it was a comic book movie. “I grew up a fan of these comics films and I would come out of them wanting to fly and kick someone’s butt!” the actress laughed.
Strong then touched on his portrayal of Sinestro, a character who, in DC Comics continuity, is a fallen Green Lantern and head of the evil Sinestro Corps. The movie, however, takes place before his fall, affording the actor the opportunity to make unique acting choices as Strong explained. “It’s great to play him before he goes there; I couldn’t really imbue him with anything that happens after this but I tried to give him characteristics that were believable should he decide to go [to] the dark, or the yellow, side,” Strong explained.
Switching gears, Campbell and producer Donald De Line touched on the difficulties of casting actors to voice the fully CG Green Lantern Corps characters, notably Tomar-Re and Kilowog. “Sometimes with even the most talented actors [the voice] doesn’t match the body,” said Campbell. Eventually settling on Geoffrey Rush and Michael Clarke Duncan for Tomar-Re and Kilowog respectively, De Line explained their voice casting process in more depth.
“We would take a piece of artwork, like Tomar-Re or Kilowog, and put it up on a monitor and we’d take voice clips for various actors who we though would be interesting for the characters, then we’d listen to that voice clip over the image,'” said De Line, adding, “We’d sometimes crack up as we were listening to clips from things like ‘Full Metal Jacket!'”
While the June 17 film is the first movie version of the classic DC Comics character, many fans have come to know the Green Lantern Corps through Warner Bros. Animation’s “Justice League” animated television series, which starred African-American John Stewart as the defender of Space Sector 2814. While Berlanti acknowledged the popularity of the character, he defended the choice to center the movie on Hal Jordan.
“For me as a comic book fan it was for two separate reasons: one was that Geoff Johns had really brought Hal Jordan back with ‘Rebirth,’ and when you’re sitting down and trying to honor the origin of the comic it felt like the right place to start, the Silver Age with Hal being the first Earthling to go and join the Corps,” said Berlanti.
Ultimately, all thought the real hook of the movie was not the space battles or the special effects but the humanity of Hal as he struggles to do the right thing and save the universe.
“For me… it was mostly finding out who Hal Jordan was and also distilling what the fanboys love about him and making sure that can be found up on screen, because if they love it there’s a good chance the broader audience will love it when they are introduced to him for the first time,” said Reynolds.
“[Hal’s] incredibly flawed and doesn’t know if he wants to be a superhero… you can really relate and connect with the people at the heart of this story,” added Lively.
“Green Lantern” hits theatres nationwide June 17.