Chris Columbus Talks ‘Pixels’, Video Game Licenses, Pac-Man Creator, Return to Amblin Era and John Hughes
Posted on Monday, April 27th, 2015 by Peter Sciretta
While in Las Vegas for CinemaCon 2015 last week, I got the opportunity to sit down with Chris Columbus, a screenwriter and director who had a dramatic effect on the cinema of my childhood, and yours. Lets do a list: Gremlins, Goonies, Young Sherlock Holmes, Adventures in Babysitting, Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire, Stepmom, and the first installments of the Harry Potter franchise. His latest film Pixels seems to be a return to the roots of his earlier days, and I’m personally excited to see it.
In my interview with Chris Columbus (who turns out to be a daily /Film reader) I ask him if he will ever return to writing original screenplays again like he did with Gremlins and Goonies. He explains how he got involved with Pixels, initially having not seen the viral short film which inspired the movie. He talks a bit about how the licensed video game characters became involved with the project and also talks about Pac Man creator Toru Iwatani‘s appearance in the film, not as himself (as seen in the trailer) but in a cameo role.
We learn whether or not there was any pressure to differentiate the movie from Ghostbusters, and Columbus talks about a return to the Amblin era of films, whether he’d ever direct one of John Hughes‘ unproduced screenplays, and he even gives us an update on the Gremlins reboot. Hit the jump to read my full Chris Columbus interview from CinemaCon 2015 in Las Vegas.
Chris Columbus Interview From CinemaCon 2015
Peter Sciretta: Hey Chris, I wanted to first say I’m a big fan. Your movies helped define my childhood.
Chris Columbus: Well thank you. Huge fan of Slashfilm. I read it all the time.
Oh thank you.
Yes, yes, yes, I’m obsessed. I love movie sites like Ain’t It Cool and Slashfilm and Hitfix, Drew’s site. I’ve known Drew for years since he was at Ain’t It Cool. But yeah, Slash is great.
I feel like the three sites you mentioned bring an enthusiasm that some of the other sites lack.
You wrote some seminal movies of my childhood and directed some of them, too. Why have you not written a movie in 20 years or so?
Well to be honest, I’ve written on most of the movies I’ve done. With the exception of Potter — and I got the Potter job by actually rewriting the script. Not because I didn’t like Steve Kloves’ script but because I wanted to do a screenplay, they sent, Warner’s sent me a script and I basically rewrote it with screen directions to show them how I would direct the movie. But I’ve rewritten on almost every movie I’ve done. But I just don’t take credit. So…
Will we ever get another original screenplay?
There are a couple originals floating around out there. I did three screenplays two years ago based on novels. Those are gonna get made. So I love writing. When I’m not directing and when I’m not working on some other aspect of producing, I’m writing just to keep myself busy. So yeah, I would love to do another original screenplay. But and one that I would direct myself, you know. But we’ll see what happens.
This movie, Pixels, is interesting… I came across that viral short film which everybody loved. But when it was announced they were gonna make that into a movie, everybody didn’t quite understand how it could become a movie… But now that we see it and we understand.
How did you get involved and how did you go from A to B?
Well I didn’t, first of all, I didn’t know about point A. For some reason, I never saw the short. So I went in. Adam Sandler, who I never met, liked a script that we had, which was based on an old Korean movie called Hello, Ghost. And we wanted to remake it. A very emotional movie. And I went in to meet with Adam about that. And as I was leaving, we kind of hit it off and Adam said, hey, Columbus, you should take a look at this script. It’s a rewrite that just came in. We’ve been working on it for a while called Pixels. And he told me a little of the story and I was intrigued and I read it on the airplane ride back to San Francisco. And I fell in love with it. I fell in love with it because it was one of the most original ideas I had seen since the Amblin days. And it was not a sequel. It was not a movie based on a comic book or a boardgame. It was just truly an original summer movie. And I said, I wanna do it. So that was it.
Then he told me about the fact that it was based on a short film. So I looked at the film and I thought those visuals are a starting point for us. I mean, we can take them to the next level. And that’s why I decided to do it. The story itself is just so fascinating, having, you know, been around working in the ’80s at Amblin and going down, when I was a writer for Steven [Spielberg], I used to go down to this room and play, he had all the arcade games and I would play them. So that’s at times I got to know some of the games. But I was just amazed at how this story worked so well from a character point of view as opposed to the short.