With the success of this summer’s “Superman Returns,” Warner Bros. Pictures had much to be excited about. The fans seemed equally enthused as they filled the Warner Bros. panel in Hall H (capacity 6500) at Comic-Con International in San Diego. The studio had several films to present, and began with a scary one – “The Reaping.”
In attendance for the movie was the producer, Joel Silver (“Lethal Weapon,” “The Matrix”), director Stephen Hopkins (“Lost in Space,” “The Ghost and the Darkness”), and stars Hilary Swank (“Million Dollar Baby,” “Boys Don’t Cry”) and AnnaSophia Robb (“Because of Winn-Dixie”). The trailer was screened for the audience, and left many people itching to see more.
The film’s story is about a professional “de-bunker” – someone whose job it is to explain strange occurrences and other bizarre phenomena. This character is played by Swank, who visits a small town in Louisiana where the Old Testament plagues seem to be occurring. Water turns to blood, locusts (lots of locusts!) appear, and people die. The reason for these plagues appears to be tied to the life of a young girl (Robb), although Swank is obviously skeptical. However, if you were a resident of this small town, it would be a good time to move.
Hopkins discussed the filming of the movie, which was actually done down in Louisiana. He indicated that they were there for both of the major hurricanes, and said crew lost many possessions, including friends and loved ones. According to the director, the second hurricane hit them worse. He said, at times, they were making the film without phones, email, and sometimes generators (which went to FEMA). Hopkins said it really forced them to go back to the basics of filmmaking.
Robb talked about the locusts. While most are computer-generated, many of them were real. Robb had several scenes dealing with the locusts, and had to let them crawl all over her. As a result, she just became used to the feeling of them. She would walk on the set, and the locust wranglers would actually toss the bugs on her to get them to stick on her.
Swank also commented on her preparation for the film, saying Hopkins gave her lots of info about professional “de-bunkers,” and they even had one on the set. Swank laughed as she recalled that Hopkins signed her up for a subscription to “The Skeptical Enquirer” (although she confessed it contained a lot of interesting information).
During the Q&A, a fan asked Swank if she would be willing to do TV, and more specifically, if she would be willing to do a Supergirl TV show. Swank chuckled, and replied, “Wow. That’s very specific.” However, she did explain that she was willing to do any kind of work, provided the material was good and spoke to her, which was the main reason she did “The Reaping.”
Next up came director Neil LaBute (“In the Company of Men,” “Nurse Betty”), who was there to talk about his remake of the film “The Wicker Man,” starring Nicolas Cage. He began by showing the audience the opening scene from the film. Cage is a motorcycle cop who pulls over a mother and her young daughter in the station wagon they are driving. He’s not giving them a ticket though, he’s merely handing back a doll the girl threw out of the car. Cage’s character talks to them, turns his back to pick up something, and…wham!
What’s the “wham!”? I’ll let you experience it for yourself. Needless to say, it certainly made the audience jump.
LaBute talked a bit about the film, and explained that his version is more of a “inspired by the original” as opposed to a strict remake. Addressing questions from audience members, he explained that Nicolas Cage’s production company approached him to direct.
He also said that his regular acting cohort Aaron Eckhart (“In the Company of Men,” “Thank You For Smoking”) will be appearing in the film in a small but pivotal role. As for Chris Lee (who starred in the original film), he won’t be in the movie.
Harry Potter made an appearance after this…sort of. A quick video clip of Daniel Radcliffe (who plays Harry) speaking from the set of “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” was shown. His hair appears to be the shortest it’s ever been for this film. Daniel said the movie is going great, and that he was sure audiences were curious about the kiss Harry Potter receives in the movie. He then went on to say, “Well, the kiss is…”
Unfortunately, the director, David Yates, then appeared and started talking about the movie as well. He mentioned that Hagrid’s giant brother Grawp will be in the film, as well as Dolores Umbridge, whom the director described as “a cross between Doris Day and Freddy Krueger.”
Yates then addressed the issue of the kiss of the kiss as well, saying “Oh, the kiss? It’s…” A production assistant interrupted and said they were both needed on the set. They quickly said goodbye and left, smiling as they left the audience wondering about that darned kiss.
“Superman Returns” was presented next, starting with a “Superman” blooper reel, including footage of Marlon Brando giving someone the finger.
Director Bryan Singer then came out to roaring applause from the audience. He said he hopes and plans to include the reel on the “Superman Returns” DVD. The director then opened the floor to questions. Among the responses he gave to questions, Singer said the following:
- The fact that Superman was raised by two earthlings and his son would be raised by two earthlings was intentionally a nice parallel that Singer hoped people would pick up on. This was the reason Singer wanted Richard White and Lois Lane to come off as “good guys” – they needed to be good parents.
- In the film, when Superman visited his sleeping son in the bedroom, Singer came up with the inspiration on how to shoot the scene from a story a crew member told him. The night before the shoot, the crewmember talked about a child that was genetically his, although the mother of the child wouldn’t let him visit said kid. Finally, she agreed to let him see the child, but just for a few minutes. The director felt confident in the way he was going to film the scene after hearing this tale.
- Another fact about the previous scene – albeit a funny one – is that the kid really fell asleep while they were filming. Singer said it was kind of surreal, and that the kid slept soundly (and wouldn’t wake up no matter how much noise was made).
- The director also mentioned a $10 million scene that he filmed – and completed the effects for – which showed Superman visiting the remnants of Krypton. Singer wasn’t sure this would be included on the DVD, and was reluctant to add it. He explained that the scene was one that really should be seen on the big screen, so he wasn’t sure he wanted people to see it on a tiny TV.
- A Superman sequel? Singer said he is in talks with Warner Bros. to do it, but no deal is in place. However, the current plan is have a sequel done for summer 2009.
- Singer also mentioned that he used this first movie to establish the characters and their world, but he wants to “get all ‘Wrath of Khan’ with his next Superman movie.
The director then surprised the audience by bringing out another director, Richard Donner (“Lethal Weapon,” “Superman: The Movie”). Donner was there to discuss a new DVD Warner Bros. would be putting out – the (very different) director’s cut of “Superman 2.”
|Richard Donner & Bryan Singer|
The audience was also treated to a scene from new DVD, showing Lois guessing Superman’s secret identity and trying to force Clark’s hand.
The director then gave Singer a standing ovation for “Superman Returns,” saying he did a fantastic job of bringing Superman to the 21st century. Singer returned the compliment by saying, “Without Donner’s film, the modern superhero film wouldn’t exist. We’d just be stuck with bad TV.”
The two then opened the floor to questions:
- When asked if Singer would ever return to the X-Men films to “undo the damage that’s been done,” the director laughed and shook his head. He then jokingly replied, “I don’t know. I have to see who’s left.”
Donner smiled and added, “But have you ever had a better producer?” This elicited more laughs from Singer, as Donner’s wife was one of the producers of “X-Men.”
- Singer also added that he did write a third of a treatment for “X3,” and that it had “Phoenix and a different villain from the X-Universe in it.” He said he couldn’t say anymore, but he reminded everyone that he is still working on his “Ultimate X-Men” comic book story.
- Another scene that didn’t make it into “Superman Returns” completely is the second half of teenaged Clark falling through the barn ceiling. As seen in the movie, young Clark floats. At this point, he was supposed to use his X-Ray vision for the first time and see his spaceship under the barn’s floor. This may end up on the DVD.
- A fan asked if we’d ever see Brainiac on the big screen. Singer said he didn’t know, but did promise lots of “scary sci-fi shit” in the next film. Donner, however, teased the audience, saying that he’s working on a project involving Brainiac, but it’s not a film.
In wrapping things up, a fan asked if Singer would ever consider doing films about other heroes? Singer smiled, and responded, “Like Aquaman?” (referring to the faux film in the HBO series “Entourage”).
Singer added, “I’ve been watching ‘Entourage,’ but I’m also living it. It’s messing with my head!
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