the mummy

Last week I got an opportunity to talk to filmmaker Alex Kurtzman about his upcoming film The Mummy. During our roundtable chat, Kurtzman explained the reason for remaking The Mummy today, what the tone of the movie will be, how to get Tom Cruise to scream in terror, why we see Tom Cruise in a body bag in the trailer, the evolution of The Mummy’s appearance, if this film will feature a romance like the original and how the film’s PG-13 rating affects the story. All this and more, after the jump.

Alex Kurtzman The Mummy Interview

the mummy

Why Remake The Mummy Today?

Alex Kurtzman: I felt strongly that when I would talk to people and get feedback, there was this sense of like, “Okay, we understand The Mummy as a title, we understand a studio wanting to make The Mummy, but why now? Why is it important? What’s going to be different about it than what came before?” And there are a bunch of things. First of all, no one has made a monster movie writ large. Meaning, no one has made a good monster movie – a proper, Universal Monsters monster movie – with the size and scope that I think we’re going to deliver in this movie.

Actually, I would say that the Brendan Fraser Mummy movie was sort of the first to kind of do that, in a real way, from a studio point of view, where they put real big dollars into a movie, but it’s different than making The Purge, you know, or something like that. So it’s just a different experience, for a very different price point.

When Universal came to me and said “We want to make a monster movie” my thought was incredible excitement and exhilaration at the idea of being able to do that thing, to make something experience what I felt, what I experienced when I first saw Frankenstein or when I first saw The Mummy come alive as a kid, in the [Boris] Karloff movie. But I felt an obligation to make sure that what I understood a monster movie to be was carried out, and I didn’t know if they were going to say, “Well, the monster’s just going to have to be the straight-up villain.” Of course the monster has to be the villain! That’s part of what makes these movies these movies. But they actually gave us the tremendous latitude to stay true to what I believe [monster movies] are about.

the mummy

What Is The Tone?

Alex Kurtzman:  I think that our goal is to make a movie that’s full of suspense, full of adventure, that has moments of horror but that isn’t defined as “a horror movie,” and that will ultimately scare the shit out of you. This goes back to the requirement, I think, of having an unpredictable Tom Cruise in the movie. Because if you remove from the audience’s mind, “Oh I know he’s going to save the day,” and in fact go, “He really might not, he has no idea what to do here,” now I’m in a situation where I’m kind of scared FOR him because I don’t know what he’s going to do and I don’t know what’s coming. It’s kind of all of the above in terms of tone. When you’re making a movie of this size you have to sort of take into account suspense and adventure and that’s a huge part of it, but I think also in terms of tone there’s a level of… when I say “grounded in reality,” I would say that maybe that’s a distinction between this and the other movies. There’s more of a fantasy world presented in those movies, so that’s it.

tom cruie screams in terror in the mummy

How To Get Tom Cruise To Scream In Terror

Alex Kurtzman: I said, “Scream in terror.” He was like, “Really?” and I said, “Yeah!” That part of it, there are – as I said – we shot in two different locations, and that part was actually on the rotisserie but you should have seen the crew when we were shooting on the vomit comet. Do you know how it works, the vomit comet? So you go up, basically with the G’s of a rocket going into space. Then you even out and everything starts to go weightless, and then you free-fall for 22 seconds and everybody goes up in the air. We had grips holding lights and puking while the shot was going on. I mean, it was the craziest experience ever and ultimately worth it because I think, again, our whole thing was “Let’s do this without cuts. Let’s really do this so that you can actually stay in this shot and watch these guys float around and go, ‘How the hell did they do it?’” Here’s the thing, you have to take a bag with you and you have to hold it right here, and the hope is that when you do vomit you manage to grab all of it in the bag before the chunks float off into space.

the mummy bodybags

Is Tom Cruise Dead? He Wakes Up In The Morgue In A Body Bag?

Alex Kurtzman: I’m not going to answer your question directly, I’m going to answer it indirectly. When we were developing the script and I knew that Tom was going to do the movie, the first thing that we talked about was, I said, “Listen…” I’d worked with Tom on Mission [Impossible] III, and I said, “I have 30-plus years of embedded ‘Tom Cruise is going to save the day’ in my experience and my relationship to you, as an actor. And the problem is in a monster movie, the scariest monster movies are the ones where the protagonist starts to feel very out of control. So how am I going to believe that you’re really out of control, because I know you’re going to save the day, you know?” And what we came to is the idea that if you present him as somebody who thinks he knows what’s going on and then you throw the craziest thing at him in the world, which is “Oh shit, he dies and then comes back up in that morgue,” now I go, “Okay, he doesn’t know what he’s into, I don’t know what he’s into, I don’t know that he’s going to save the day.” And everything became very unpredictable at that point. So in terms of what I want the conversation to be about there, it’s interesting you said “Oh my god, I’ve never heard Tom scream in fear before.” That’s exactly it. That’s exactly it. He’s never been in that position before.

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