On Friday, Sony hosted a San Diego Comic-Con panel for their films Total Recall, Looper, and Elysium, with Radio personality Ralph Garman as moderator. After the break, read some of my notes from the panel, including reactions to footage shown.
The panel consisted of director Len Wiseman, and cast members Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, and Bryan Cranston. We find out right away that film was completely finished 4 days ago, and that shoot was 5-6 months. Farrell himself did about 3 months preparation for the physical role. Biel likened it to training like an athlete; a lot of boxing and chicken. Cranston talks about how physical the shoot was even for him, a smaller and less demanding role. Wiseman came up with the unique look of the film from the idea of a civilization that has to build up instead of out.
We see a six minute sizzle reel that was heavy on action and light on story and characters. That scared me a bit. However, the film looks great, and the action is high octane and well shot. Beckinsale is featured a lot more, and she kicks major ass.
We ended as we usually do with a Q&A, so here are a few random bits. The thing that drew Wiseman to the film was primarily the mystery of “Who Am I?”. When asked about the challenge of playing a character that doesn’t know himself, Colin talked about using life experiences, which he has many. Beckinsale talked about how different her character is from the same one in the original, who was played by Sharon Stone. The footage pretty much proves how much more integral she is to the overall plot. Britain plays a large role in the film because Wiseman figured it would be one of the only cities to still exist in a post-apocalyptic world. Despite the internationality of the film, Farrell never thought about using his real Irish accent, though he did jokingly think about using an Austrian one (in an homage to Arnold Schwarzenegger).
Farrell had been doing smaller films lately, and he wanted to get back into doing a big one, because they are fun and pay better. This one struck his fancy because of the script. In general, the cast were drawn to the film because of the story and the idea of making these familiar characters their own. Farrell stated that he doesn’t have any one liners in the film. One of the key elements of the film was having this love story between Farrell and Biel’s characters in the midst of all this chaos. Wiseman was inspired by the idea of the woman of your dreams turning out to be real. Beckinsale likes playing badass roles because she’s not like that at all in real life. Finally, they all talked about filming a movie that uses a lot of green screen. Most of the green screen is in the background, and there are real actors, sets, and props to work with, so it wasn’t a big deal.
Director Rian Johnson and cast members Emily Blunt and Joseph Gordon Levitt were in attendance for the panel. Johnson started off by talking about his inspiration for the film, which came from reading Philip K. Dick. It started off with the idea that it was too hard to kill people in the future and get away with it, so they send people back in time to get killed by “Loopers”. Blunt is very coy about her character, which seems to be a big plot element since the marketing also doesn’t explain who she is exactly. All we know is that she is “badass”, and it was a challenging role.
Of course, Gordon-Levitt has to talk about playing a young Bruce Willis. They only mild prosthetics to get the major features alike, but Gordon-Levitt really sells it with his performance. He hung out with Willis, watched all of his films, put the audio of those movies on his iPod, and Willis even recorded Gordon-Levitt’s lines so that he could listen to that and emulate it. Gordon-Levitt said he isn’t a good impersonator, so he internalized it. However, despite the work Gordon-Levitt had to do, the Johnson actually wrote the role for him, since the two were good friends and wanted to work together.
Since the film is about time travel, us nerds want to know about the specifics, and if there are any paradoxal issues. Johnson said he approached it like The Terminator, in that we set it up, then leave it alone. The time travel aspect isn’t the most important thing in film, it’s the story they are telling.
We saw a 4-5 min reel that looked great. The story looks very complex, there’s a lot of interaction between Willis and Gordon-Levitt, and of course plenty of action as well. We finally get to see Jeff Daniels, who is a nice addition to the cast. Also, Willis’ character is a total dick to his younger self.
Finally, we had the Q&A. Gordon-Levitt says that Emily Blunt is very funny, which is a rarity in pretty girls (that got some “oooh”s from the audience). Gordon-Levitt also talks about being around Willis, who speaks very softly because he’s confident, and how he was able to get over his fanboy reaction pretty easily once the work needs to be done. Blunt had a cute story where Willis was covered in blood from shooting a scene, and he comes over with a flowerly umbrella to cover Blunt from the sun, and the two just have a great, deep conversation. Blunt also said that this character was challenging, but her most difficult roles was in The Adjustment Bureau, since she had to learn how to dance.
This much-anticipated panel had writer-director Neill Blomkamp (District 9), producer Simon Kinberg, and stars Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, and Sharlto Copley. While this is the first Comic-Con for Damon and Foster, Copley got the greatest applause on his entry into Hall H because of his starring role in District 9. Neil talked about how he feels better releasing footage to Comic-Con than through any other traditional marketing because it feels more real.
With that in mind, we then got to see a seven minute sizzle reel that had many unfinished graphics. Fortunately, that didn’t matter. This is easily the most buzzworthy footage shown at this year’s Comic-Con so far. The film has a great mix of gritty bloody action (like District 9) and beautiful outer space sci-fi. The story is fleshed out pretty well, and the social commentary is clear as day, as it should be. The audience seemed to be blown away, and for good reason. How often do you see all these elements mixed together? Mix in great actors, and you have a perfect recipe.
The premise of the film is that in the future, the wealthy population leave the overpopulated and polluted Earth to live in a space station called Elysium. Matt Damon plays one of the poor people on Earth, and he can’t catch a break. He finally starts to get his act together when he gets radiation poisoning and has only a few days to live unless he can get to Elysium, where medicine is much more advanced. Jodie Foster is in charge of Elysium and has to stop him.
Everyone was drawn to this film because of Neill Blomkamp. They all loved District 9 (Foster even claimed director jealousy), and Blomkamp has really thought this world through. When Damon came on to the project, Blomkamp had already written a graphic novel for himself as reference, as well as books on the futuristic weaponry and vehicles to be in the film. They all seemed to like a film that has big ideas and gritty action. Blomkamp explained that his films have such strongly delineated social structures because a film needs to have an interesting environment to tell good stories.
During the fan Q&A, there were a few interesting responses. Matt Damon said that Blomkamp deserves to be mentioned in the likes of Scorcese, and Spielberg (all of whom Damon has worked with). Foster said that Blomkamp is so prepared, that you can’t tell the difference between small and big budget. His ability to answer any question made him great to work with for Damon. They shot in Mexico City for realism, and there was a funny story about the cast getting hit with a sandstorm that consisted mostly of fecal matter. A lot of the crew from District 9 is back, and they have the same mentality of trying to push the budget.
Damon talked about whether his acting method changes between dramatic and action roles. It’s the same approach for him. No matter what, acting is a magic trick, since you are making the audience believe in what you are doing. It’s just a slightly different trick each time. Damon also talked about Team America: World Police, and he said he has signed more photos of his puppet than of his real self, even though he had nothing to do with the film.
Overall it was a great panel set for Sony, with all their footage impressing the audience and myself. We’ll coverage on Saturday’s panel, so stay tuned for that.