CCI XTRA: New Line Cinema - "Shoot Em Up," "The Golden Compass" and More

Hall H of the San Diego Convention Center was filled to capacity for the New Line Cinema movie preview panel for this year's Comic-Con International. Star Clive Owen and Director Michael Davis were proud to introduce the upcoming action/thriller "Shoot 'Em Up" before getting to the rest of the year's films.

This being the 40th anniversary of "New Line", the studio has come a long way, introducing this year "Rush Hour 3," "Hairspray," "Shoot 'Em Up," "The Golden Compass," and, later this year, Jack Black's "Be Kind, Rewind."

The audience was treated to several clips of "Shoot 'Em Up," which had an advanced screening fourteen hours prior, in the middle of the night, to some lucky Comic-Con attendees.

Scene after scene of over-the-top shoot-outs were seen in the several clips displayed, indicating a hideously high body count in this film. Most of the action shown was done while Owen was cradling a newborn child in his arms. A number of comedic scenes were shown as well, including a death by carrot, and the severing of the umbilical cord of said baby with a fired bullet.

Writer-Director Michael Davis said he wrote the script seven years ago, inspired by a Chow Yun-Fat movie. But really, he said, the script has its roots in Davis's childhood. As a young man, he snuck a tape recorder into various James Bond movies and listened to them afterwards over and over again. "I wrote my own James Bond books-- this is in seventh grade. One of them was called 'Masquerade of Death.' I've been dreaming about making this kind of movie since I was a kid. In high school, I dressed up like Indiana Jones, and I got on local TV. So I've been living and dreaming this sort of film since I was a kid."

Happy to be announcing details of the film at Comic-Con, Davis said "This is sort of the Mecca of pop culture."

Davis wasn't always so lucky with the action/thriller genre. "I wrote 35 screenplays before I got to make this movie," he said. "I worked on 'Pee-Wee's Playhouse.' I kept dreaming and dreaming that I would actually make it, but nobody was going to let me make a big action movie."

Though he made five movies on his own, Davis said he kept going into more and more debt, and that his last movie put him $70,000 in debt. He then decided "to get out of the business, and was going to look for a teaching job, and even got my teaching credentials," the filmmaker explained. He gave the "Shoot 'Em Up" script to a producer as a last ditch effort, and, "unbelievably, they sent the script to New Line and they loved the script."

But loving the script wasn't enough, apparently, as Davis felt motivated to put together his own 15-minute animated movie to persuade New Line to accept the film. "It involved 17,000 drawings," Davis said. "I showed that animation with my producers to New Line, and they let me make the movie."

Concerning the choice of Owen for the lead role, "My number one absolute favorite choice for this movie was Clive Owen" said Davis.

Owen accepted the praise gracefully, and said, "I'll just tell you a little bit about how I got involved. I read the script and it was one of the wildest, most fresh things I had seen in years. This is John Woo's wet dream.

"I have not worked with a more organized, prepared, and disciplined director," Owen added."

As for that previously mentioned 15 minutes of animation Davis created? The audience was given the opportunity to see it, followed immediately by the actual scene in the movie that was portrayed in the animation. The two were nearly identical.

Owen admitted he had seen that short animation when he read the script for the first time, and found it helpful. "It's pretty much shot by shot," Owen said.

Turning focus on the villain of the movie, another clip was shown featuring Paul Giamatti. Giamatti plays the role of a hit man with hundreds of thugs assisting him in the task of killing Monica Bellucci's character and her unborn (and later born) child. Owen's character is so adept at slaying thug after thug that Giamatti's character is heard saying, "My god do we really suck, or is this guy really that good?"

The panel then turned to a question and answer session from the audience.

On the subject of whether or not Owen was considered for the James Bond role, Owen confessed, "The whole Bond thing was always only rumor. I was never offered that part, and it was always only on the radar. ['Shoot 'Em Up'] is an incredibly smart, witty movie and that's why I wanted to do it."

On the subject of the music for the film, which the questioning fan said he enjoyed a lot, Davis said, "I am a musical idiot, I had a lot of help from my producers Susan and Rick. I got this guy who did the Guy Richie movie. I had a lot of help. I'm glad you like the music."

Though clearly not intended for children, a child did see "Shoot 'Em Up" at the special screening and said, "It was the best action packed movie I ever saw," and then asked, "How did you make the sky scene?" in reference to a scene in which Owen slides down a wire from on-high to kill dozens of thugs.

Davis replied, "I hung Clive from wires for four days in a row. Shot with green screen. But the funny thing I have to tell you is that Clive never every complained while he was hanging up there on the wires. But later on, when I was looking at it, if you freez- framed, you could see this grimace on his face."

Asked if Owen would work with Davis again, Owen responded an unquestioning yes. "He has a very very particular vision, and it's a singular one," Owen said. "Very, very smart and wittyt. Of course I would work with him again."

On working with babies, and dolls of babies, Davis jokingly remarked, "In Canada, they take care of their babies, they let them work longer, they can work 8 hours a day. With twins, we had a baby whenever we wanted. We coordinated her feeding schedules. If we wanted a crying baby, we didn't feed the baby."

On the budget in this film for leather coats alone, "The studio gave us everything we wanted. Costuming, just everything," said Davis.

Moving on to the upcoming Jack Black film "Be Kind, Rewind," a clip was played that covered the basics of the plot fairly well. It portrays Jack Black as a video store owner who becomes magnetized, accidentally erasing all the store's tapes. Not being able to afford new tapes, Black and his partner decide to reshoot all the movies in the store, using themselves as the actors. Unexpectedly, the crudely made knock-offs become more popular than the originals. The audience seemed to respond well to the film, with an uproarious applause at the end of the clip.

Finally, the panel turned to the film "The Golden Compass," based on a set of the popular "His Dark Materials" fantasy books written by Philip Pullman. Chris Weitz directed and wrote the film and is still in London working on it down to the wire for the December 7 release date. He was present, however, by prerecorded tape, where he said "Hello, Comic-Con. I wish I was in San Diego with you. I am thrilled to announce that you are about to see the following five minutes, set in a parallel world of sweeping landscape and talking polar bears. We can't wait to share this film with you."

What followed was a five minute clip prepared just for the Comic-Con audience. With an intense amount of CGI and special effects, the footage included scenes of swordplay, witches and dirigibles ruling the skies, ice bears as brave warriors and talking cats as personal demons. This is an alternate world dominated by the Magisterium, who seeks control of all humanity. The greatest threat to this domination is the curiosity of a child. Played by the young Dakota Blue Richards, Lyra is prophesied to be the downfall of this force and is the keeper of magical compass called a Alethiometer. The audience seemed to want more, and gave the panel and "The Golden Compass" clip a big applause.

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