When Joe Johnston was announced as the director of Captain America: The First Avenger, a fair number of people scratched their heads in confusion. “Joe Johnston? The guy who directed The Wolfman? Wasn’t The Wolfman… not so great?”
“Not so great” is being kind, based on what some of the critics had to say. You know what though? Johnston knows that too — he was, after all, a late-in-the-game arrival to the production — and he’s accepted it. He went into detail on that in a recent interview with ComicBookMovie.
“I had three weeks of prep on Wolfman, a ridiculously inadequate amount of time to try to bring together the fractured and scattered pieces of the production,” he explained. “I had taken the job mostly because I had a cash flow problem, the only time in my career I’ve ever let finances enter into the decision process. Money is always the wrong reason for doing something that requires passionate devotion.”
Well that’s mighty big of you to admit, Joe. How very refresh– what? You have more to say?! “The production was a leaky, rudderless ship in a perfect storm suffering from bad decisions, infighting, reluctance of the powers-that-be to take responsibility, and too many under-qualified cooks in the kitchen,” he continued. “The good news and bad news about directing is that when the picture works you’re showered with all the credit and when it doesn’t work you’re dumped on with all the blame. Both scenarios are undeserved. I take full responsibility for The Wolfman not working because it goes with the territory.”
Wow. Well I hope no one from Universal is in the room. Otherwise…. awk-ward.
Kidding aside, this really is a refreshing admission from the director. I’m among the school of people who believe that if you treat your audience respectfully, as fellow adults, you get a much fairer treatment in the court of public opinion when things turn against you for one reason or another. Johnston is clearly acutely aware of what went wrong with The Wolfman and he doesn’t shy away from that in discussing it. Since the keys to Captain America are dangling from his belt, you can take that as a good sign.
“I had thirty weeks of prep on Captain America,” he said of the Marvel Comics adaptation. “I have a small team of qualified, supportive, creative producers who are actually helping me achieve my vision of the film. I had a dream cast headed by Chris Evans. I had the best designers, artists, sculptors, craftspeople…a creative team that could design, build and photograph anything and have it look amazing and beautiful. We had unbelievable luck with the weather wherever we shot in England. The weather was so good we were compelled to make it rain for a couple of sequences just for some variety. At times I felt as if the gods were saying, ‘Ahem, sorry about that Wolfman thing… let us make it up to you.’ Captain America was probably the most universally positive experience I’ve had in this mad business.”
Johnston did great work on Jumanji, Jurassic Park III and ESPECIALLY The Rocketeer. He’s got the creativity in him to do Cap justice. And based on his clear-headed comments, he’s also obviously capable of taking a deep breath, stepping back and considering the bigger picture. A vitally important attitude to have in a managerial role, especially one that involves running a ship as complex as the Captain America production.