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SPEED ZONE: Joel Silver talks “Speed Racer”

by  in Movie News, TV News Comment
SPEED ZONE: Joel Silver talks “Speed Racer”
Without a doubt, this is the Mach 5

This past Saturday at a press junket for the upcoming Warner Bros. release of “Speed Racer” held at the Long Beach Grand Prix, mega-producer Joel Silver talked about “Speed Racer,” working with the Wachowskis, and the state of “Wonder Woman.”

Silver calls the film “unusual” but loves it and is happy about the pre-release reaction so far. Also unusual for the producer was the film’s intended PG rating. Silver is known for high-octane, violent R-rated fare like the “Lethal Weapon” series and “the Matrix.” Silver says he “always had a desire” to make a big family movie and all that entails. “I walked into a Toys ‘R’ Us a few days ago and the entire store was incredibly full of ‘Speed Racer’ material. It’s like Lion King,” says Silver. He never before had a filmmaking experience with ancillary product lines or lunch boxes. “It’s all part of what we’re trying to do … make a big family movie.” One of those products is a twenty minute DVD to be available at Target. Silver says it is “a mock documentary about the Racer family.” The entire cast is in character talking about their lives. The short will be extended for the eventual home video release of the film. Silver is excited about its eventual Blu-Ray release. “Where ‘the Matrix’ really helped sell DVD … this movie will help Blu-Ray,” he says.

One of the amazingly stylized racing scene from Speed Racer

Talking about the Wachowskis, Silver says he loves working with them and happy to be their spokesman in the press. “Andy and Larry are the greatest guys I’ve ever worked with,” he says, “they’re smart, they know what they want.” Silver held the right to “Speed Racer” for twenty years, but it was only seeing the technology utilized in the Matrix trilogy that made it possible for such a picture to be made. “The camera loses its physical self,” he says. “We’re not limited by the space of the camera … it changes the way we make movies.”

When asked if he might hand the Wachowskis the film version of “Wonder Woman,” he laughed and said, “We’ll see.” He did say Andy Wachowski once pitched an idea for how that film might open, but talks never went much further than that. Silver is not rushing development on that film, but is preparing a new screenplay from a pair of writers who previously wrote a “Wonder Woman” spec script set in World War II. Silver, however, says, “I don’t want to make the movie that way.” Instead the movie will be set in the present day and, after several false starts, he has decided the film will detail the character’s origin. “I thought I didn’t want to do a genesis story,” says the producer, but after seeing Spider-Man, he reconsidered. “I got to find a way to do it that’s effective,” he says. As for casting, he says, “If it’s a genesis story, it has to be an unknown.”

Emile Hirsch is Speed Racer, Christina Ricci is Trixie

When asked about the trend of major motion pictures using comic books and anime as their inspiration he said it is simple demand. “People want to see these movies,” he says. His job is to supply the sorts of movies people want to see. He mentioned reading about the announcement of a “Ghost in the Shell” adaptation and joked, “We kind of already did that.” The Matrix trilogy takes inspiration from that film and the Wachowskis screened it for Silver when they first pitched their concept to him.

As for the Wachowski next project, Silver says he is unsure. Their method consumes them so they do not think a project ahead while actively working. Silver says, “They take time off and then they get back to work and when they want to … they call me and they say ‘we want to do something.'” He suggested the possibility of Speed Racer sequels if the film is successful.

They are, however, involved in “Ninja Assassin” directed by V for Vendetta’s James McTeigue. Silver calls it a “full-on martial arts movies.” A fan of Bruce Lee’s films, Silver says, “I’ve been bugging these guys to make a martial arts movie.” The film will feature wire-work, special effects and actor Rain, who appears in “Speed Racer.” The film is due next year.

Now discuss this story in CBR’s TV/Film forum.

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