Hey folks, Harry here -- Well, about friggin' time. We finally get a real interview with Bryan Singer and he officially nixes Jesus as playing SUPERMAN - (Millar - get ready to pay up!) and calls all the bizarre casting rumors on the net bunk. He explains leaving X3 and talks of LOGAN'S RUN and more! I'm hearing through sheetrock that Bryan is close to having found his unknown, but recent events may mean a delay in announcing that decision. We'll see. The main point is that apparently Bryan seems to be completely in love with Donner's original and is planning on making a film that honors that... and he wants me grow my hair longer for the Jimmy Olsen wig! DONE! Here ya go...
Hey, Harry. Capone in Chicago here, taking a little sidetrack during the Chicago International Film Festival. One trend I've been seeing a lot more in film festivals in general lately is the screening of new television shows. At this year's CIFF, they are showing the premiere episodes of two new shows--Showtime's "Huff" with Hank Azaria, and Fox's "House" with Hugh Laurie--as well as the season premiere of "Arrested Development." I'm not against such screenings; I just usually make a habit of skipping them. This past Saturday I had a ticket to see Christopher Walken's latest drama AROUND THE BEND. Walken was there to receive a career achievement award, so it was certainly an event worth attending. But then I got a call from Fox, asking if I'd be interested in doing some interviews in connection with "House." Now I like Hugh Laurie a lot, being a fan of his UK television work. Most U.S. audiences know him as the father in the STUART LITTLE films, but I didn't think it was worth passing up the chance to see Walken in person. But I spoke too soon. Turns out one of the executive producers of "House" is a young director named Bryan Singer, who also directed the pilot and first episode of the series and would be on hand with Laurie for a Q&A after the film. Tim to kiss Walken's dancing ass goodbye.
I kid you not when I say that Singer's appearance at the CIFF was the best kept secret at this year's event. It wasn't supposed to be, but it was. I would never have heard about it were it not for the folks at Fox calling me, and I pay pretty close attention to the guest list at the fest. For example, I know that Jeffrey Tambor will be at the "Arrested Development" showing that I can't get to. To further emphasize my point, during the Q&A, there wasn't a single question to Singer about X-MEN, SUPERMAN, USUAL SUSPECTS, or any of his film work. I was stunned. Could it be that the not-even-close-to-capacity crowd was actually all there to simply watch a new TV show? Or see Hugh Laurie? I guess so. I was also the only journalist who seemed all that interested in interviewing Singer. Others did, but they seemed far more focused on Laurie being there. I have no explanation for this, nor do I need one. It gave me more time with Singer. Oh, and for the record. I really like "House." Laurie is fantastic in the role of a total bastard of a doctor of diagnostic medicine, who leads a team that examines strange and sometimes gruesome illnesses in an effort to first identify, then treat, and hopefully cure their patients. The series begs the question: what's more important, that a doctor does his job extremely well or that he treats the patients and his staff kindly. Clearly Dr. House (Laurie) believes the former. His character is so richly drawn and unique to television that he almost threatens to make the rest of the actors look downright bland. I'd be curious to see how the show deals with this issue. And Laurie's character is not the kind of guy that is a loveable curmudgeon. He's a true asshole. He doesn't even meet the patient he's treating (played by guest star Robin Tunney) in the pilot; he doesn't see a reason to. There's plenty of blood and extremely graphic medical procedures for all the gore lovers, Singer and his team have made sure of that. Anyway, the show is above average to be certain and I'll certainly watch the 2nd episode that Singer has directed.
One more thing, this interview was conducted before the world found out about Christopher Reeves' death. I'm sure Bryan would have paid tribute to Reeves if we'd known at this point since his love for the original SUPERMAN film is so evident. Okay, let's talk about superheros...
Capone: First off, make the case for yet another medical-based drama based. There are a lot of them out there.
Bryan Singer: For this show, it's all character driven, primarily Dr. House driven. There are two things that are distinct about this drama: one is the House character, an irreverent, chronic-pain-suffering, pill-popping, brilliant doctor, who hates patients. He's the Archie Bunker of medicine. For that alone, it's fun to watch him evolve and watch his team follow him. Secondly, what's different than shows like "E.R.", which is based in emergency medicine, this sort of show exposes the more realistic and frustrating and fallible aspects of medicine. Even thought some of the illnesses that occur are rare--some are not so rare--it will be a real eye-opener to get a taste a what's really going on at a lot of hospitals. It doesn't mean to be critical of them. It's human, it's reality.
Capone: At a time when television dramas seem to be thriving, there are still certain networks--I won't name names--that have a reputation for not giving good shows enough of a run to let the audience find it. Are you concerned about that?
B.S.: The Fox network has a better history than many. I can't think of an example...
Capone: Well, they've kept "Arrested Development" on despite its initial low ratings.
B.S.: If they have faith in the show, it will survive. We're already moving into episode 8. Hugh goes back to work first thing Monday morning. They see a lot of potential in our show; they really like the show and are excited about it. So hopefully with some good words and reviews about the show, even if the ratings aren't through the roof in the first month or so, they'll still stick with it.
Capone: I'm guessing that you have a little clout with Fox thanks to some other projects you've done on their behalf.
B.S.: [Laughs] Well that helps in terms of the freedom we get in terms of casting choices, production choices, the look and tone of the show. That's the power of my film career. Having said that, the film side of Fox is completely separate from the television side of Fox. We're actually a Universal production on the Fox network.
Capone: Are you directing any more episodes this season?
B.S.: Contractually, I'm not able to do any more episodes. I go through the rough cuts, look at dailies, look at and edit the scripts. I contribute that way. By doing the first episode, which we shot in Vancouver, although the show is shot in the U.S., I was able to break in a new crew and acclimate them to the direction we want the show to go.
Capone: Is the camera going into a wound or other bodily orifice going to be a standard practice for this show?
B.S.: That will continue. What I brought to the show was the idea of making that effect less CGI and using a more practical stuff, taking from the famous "Teardrop" video by Massive Attack, building bladders and organ models and shooting them in water tanks to create a more viscerally real portrayal of the human body. I defined that element.
Capone: I was surprised at the level of graphic surgical elements here.
B.S.: There's bloodier stuff on "E.R."
Capone: I know, but you like to linger.
B.S.: [Laughs] There's one episode dealing with babies that is just startling.
Capone: Are there other profile directors or actors you plan on using in upcoming episodes?
B.S.: We hopefully will have a few more interesting people in for guest shots, but we're casting for quality. Keith Gordon directs an episode that I do a cameo in. Brian Spicer doing one. Um, the guy who directed THE RULING CLASS, whose name is escaping me, is doing one [Peter Medak].
Capone: Are you surprised that you got in front of an audience today and didn't get a single superhero question? It almost seemed like everyone here was here to watch a TV show.
B.S.: I think they were. It's certainly not like at the Comic Con.
Capone: Well, you won't be so lucky with me, my friend. Where do you stand right with casting SUPERMAN? Is it really going to be called SUPERMAN RETURNS?
B.S.: That's strictly a working title. But it is a return story. It puts the first films in a kind of vague history. So what it doesn't do is tread over the 1978 Richard Donner film, it doesn't tread over "Smallville." It elaborates on the existence of Superman in the world in a history. He's out of the culture and then he returns.
Capone: Will you be using footage from the other films?
B.S.: (Long pause) It's possible. There's an introduction sequence that may or may not involve something like that, but not in the way you might be thinking.
Capone: Is there any truth to the reports that you have a deadline to lock in the main cast or Warner Bros. will step in a do it for you?
B.S.: No, that's absurd. I read that too and think it's just bizarre about James Caviezel, who's a wonderful actor. But, no, I'm committed to casting an unknown.
Capone: So asking you what that unknown might be would be pointless, because we probably would not have heard of this person, right?
Capone: Working on such high-profile projects that put you under the geek electron-microscope, is it a relief to be involved in the television project, where maybe the scrutiny is far less?
B.S.: Absolutely. Not that I mind that scrutiny because I am a geek. I am now, have always been, and forever shall be a geek, as James Cameron said once. This show allows me to shoot so much character dialogue and really takes me back to USUAL SUSPECTS days. That love doesn't always get satisfied on a feature, but this show satisfies that organ. When your life has become big-event superhero movies, and it will now be for several years, a respite like directing and defining a couple episodes of "House" is incredibly necessary. I don't like to take vacations, but this is a kind of vacation, a really pleasurable one. I'm really proud of the show.
Capone: Was it a tough decision to leave X-MEN at a point in the series where the plot for the next film, or at least part of the plot, was so clearly set up in X-2?
B.S.: I had a very strong vision for the next X-MEN picture. But SUPERMAN has always been a dream of mine. Things weren't moving as quickly as...it was difficult, and I love those actors and I have a strong relationship with the X-Men universe. I'm still taking over the writing of Ultimate X-Men for a year, so I'm by no means out of that universe. But I've had an idea for a SUPERMAN movie for many years, so for me the fact that it was available and Warner Bros. was willing to take everything it had spent 11 years developing with three other directors and throw it completely out and let me start from scratch at an accelerated level of time...once they showed the willingness, the desire and excitement to do that after my pitch, it became an obvious choice for me, but a difficult one.
Capone: Are you still committed, after SUPERMAN, to LOGAN'S RUN?
B.S.: My desire to do that film is so much so that I'm already pre-vizing [pre-visualizing] LOGAN'S RUN simultaneously while we're making SUPERMAN, so that by the time I'm done making SUPERMAN, I'll have LOGAN'S RUN completely pre-vized. I've already got five major sequences pre-vized, including Carousel. It's extraordinary, things you've never seen before. I'm usually that excited about something this far out, but if I showed you the pre-viz, I think you'd get a big kick out of it.
Capone: The real question is do you have your costume designer lined up for LOGAN'S RUN?
B.S.: As hard as it is to make sure you have a good and solid Superman suit, I think her greatest challenge will be the LOGAN'S RUN costumes. I told her that the other day actually. We had some artists do some preliminary designs to see if certain things are possible, but when she comes on board it's going to be interesting, especially in the world my LOGAN'S RUN takes place in, it's very strange.
Capone: Okay, enough with these lightweight questions. On to the real SUPERMAN dirt: will Jimmy Olsen be a young red head?
B.S.: [Laughing] I don't know how red his hair will be, but he will be a character in the film.
Capone: Certain people who shall remain nameless think red heads are the most discriminated group in movies.
B.S.: Yes, yes. I know. I'm going to ask Harry to let his hair grow a little longer so he can donate the clippings to the Jimmy Olsen wig.
Capone: Good idea. Okay, will the Fortress of Solitude be opened by a giant yellow key?
B.S.: No. Where did that come from?
Capone: It's an old comic book image, this giant oversized key that only Superman could lift.
B.S.: Don't tell Harry I didn't know what that meant. I think everyone will get a kick out of it. The Fortress will be in the film. Everything is. Some people say it's dated, but I'm very much a fan of the 1978 Donner film. That film, particularly it's first act, was a complete, day-to-day inspiration to the first X-MEN film for all of us. It's very exciting to do it. As for Dick, I'm a huge fan of his, to be able to try to protect some semblance of this character and not mess around with it. One reason I thought the Caviezel rumors were interesting is because I do believe that Superman is the Jesus of superheros.
Just as a footnote, I also interviewed Hugh Laurie, whom I found charming, funny, and easy to talk to. After talking a bit about "House," the "higher" standards of American television, and the differing pressures of American vs. British television, we moved on to discuss his role in the upcoming FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX remake, which I wasn't particularly excited about being made at all until saw the trailer. Here are a couple tidbits from our talk:
Capone: I don't know if you noticed when you came in the theatre, but there's a poster for FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX out there and your name is above the title. I think you're the fifth of five names, but it's above the title.
Hugh Laurie: Is it? That's a terrible typing mistake right there.
Capone: Does your character have a corresponding one in the original?
H.L.: No, there isn't one. There are little echoes of various bits of the original, but the only characters that are 100 percent faithful to the original are the ones played by Dennis Quaid and Giovanni Ribisi. All the rest are relatively new.
Capone: I have to confess I wasn't excited about the remake aspect of this film until I saw the trailer for the first time a couple weeks ago.
H.L.: It has that effect. It's going to be a hell of a crash, I saw that pretty confidently. [Director] John Moore, it's only his second film, his first was BEHIND ENEMY LINES, during the read through looked us in the eye and promised us that the first 24 minutes were going to be extraordinary. I think he knows his stuff. I believe they just tested it for the first time a week or so ago, and it did very well. It's being scored now. I saw that trailer too, and the great thing is, it doesn't look like anything else out right now. With a lot of films, you see the trailer and audiences are so jaded and you think, "That's a typical Denzel Washington as a cop film. I know what that it." With this, you see that sand...
Capone: That's what I think of when I remember the original, is that big silver plane in the middle of all that sand.
H.L.: And it does contain one of the great plot reversals that I remember from being a kid and seeing it for the first time, and going "Oh my god, what's that about?" So if we get that right, the great plane crash and the great twist...And having Dennis Quaid, who makes much more interesting film that many other big-named actors...
Capone: And the only other film project you've gone on the book is the animation film VALIANT, correct?
H.L.: It's a British production but an American studio [Vanguard Animation is the animation house, probably filling the void left at Disney when Pixar leaves. Vocal talents include Ewan McGregor, Ben Kingsley, John Hurt, Olivia Williams, Ricky Gervais, John Cleese, Tim Curry, Jim Broadbent, and Rupert Everett.]
That's it, everyone.