/Film Interview: ‘Man of Steel’ Producer Charles Roven Discusses Morality, Visual Effects and Christopher Nolan
Posted on Monday, June 17th, 2013 by Germain Lussier
Christopher Nolan and David Goyer aren’t the only people involved with Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises and Man of Steel. Producer Charles Roven has been along for the long superhero ride, too. Roven, who produced all those films along with Three Kings, Twelve Monkeys and others, is one of the unheralded architects of Warner Bros. DC line-up.
We sat down with the producer (center, with director Zack Snyder and producer Deborah Snyder) on the occasion of the Man of Steel release to talk about the film’s moral dilemmas, the level of destruction, challenges in effects, what the name “Christopher Nolan” meant to the marketing, as well as updates on films he’s attached to from Warcraft to Voltron and Uncharted.
Beware, this interview is filled with spoilers for Man of Steel. Nothing major, but enough that we held it until after the film’s opening weekend.
/Film: From the second Zod reveals himself, the movie has a really condensed timeline. It doesn’t let you catch up. Kal-El has to make all of these decisions so everything happens very quickly. The world doesn’t have the chance to react. Was that pace always part of the script — not making the story take place over several months?
Charles Roven: You know, we spent the most amount of time working on everything that was going on between the characters from the time that Zod revealed himself and we felt exactly like you are saying. When Zod appears, there’s a few things that are happening there. He challenges Earth to help him find this guy, but he also tries to co-opt him. So we were talking about “How long can we afford to leave Clark’s choice out there?” We felt that for as long as it was literally personal, there really wasn’t a choice. By “personal,” I mean when Martha is in danger, but once he’s faced with the potential annihilation of the race, then he has to pause for a minute and go “Holy shit.” “The legacy of where I come from…” And so we felt that that was a great Sophie’s Choice.
Going off that a little bit, after the movie we were talking about films like Transformers 3 and The Avengers, which both have similar city-wide, destructive finales. You guys top that. Was that the ambition?
It was a natural extension of what Zod needed to do in order to convert Earth, right? We did have discussion about “Should it just start in Metropolis?” Or “Should we get a sense that it’s happening around the world? So that it’s actually going to be much quicker?” We did talk “Do we need to have the world engine over here? Could we have the world engine just be part of the Black Sea?” We did talk about that. We ultimately decided we really wanted to and once we made it global, because in Transformers, by virtue of what they are doing, it’s in one city and the same thing with The Avengers. They are just in one city. Once we made it global, it was much more devastating.
What was the most challenging thing to create once you guys had everything in the can, post production-wise? Was it specific shots, or actions?
We were very fortunate that Zack was so dialed in. We felt so strongly about the script that we had, and Zack storyboards literally every shot of the movie with his own design. Then occasionally it might turn into pre-viz or he might give it to another storyboard artist to flesh it out, but every single shot he has drawn. So he has an unbelievable focus on what he’s doing and as long as the script is locked or tight, which it was, we didn’t really feel… So we didn’t have to shoot any additional photography. All we really had to do was finish the shots and then make a decision about whether or not we needed it, because some times actors’ performances mean you need less of something, because the actors are so good or you don’t want to overdo your welcome on a particular scene. So I would say the biggest thing we wanted to do in post-production was make you feel even in the shots that had big visual effects, that it was still part of the fabric of the realism of the movie.
We know Christopher Nolan helped break the story and was also a producer on the film. However, most people associate him with Batman. So you’ve got Superman and Batman swirling around with no set plans for a crossover. Were you aware by using his name people would connect Batman and Superman in that way? Or was it just Christopher Nolan’s name means a certain level of quality?
I think that Christopher Nolan’s name, in terms of selling the movie, does speak to quality of the films he is involved in. Now he’s never really been just a producer on a movie and in this case he’s not just a producer, he did break the story, so he’s got “story by” credit. So much of these kinds of things happen by circumstance. I was producing Dark Knight Rises with Chris when the script for Man of Steel came in and it became apparent that the studio wanted to accelerate the production on Man of Steel to the point where I don’t know that Chris ever would have directed it. I don’t think he would have, but there was no real decision he could make about it, because they wanted to shoot this.
We started shooting Dark Knight Rises in May. We started shooting Man of Steel in August, so that’s all that there was. But we always knew that Chris’s name was going to be associated with the film, because he helped create it, he was a producer on it, and the world knows him as a quality filmmaker who also did the Dark Knight trilogy. Those were great genre movies, but they were also great movies. The trilogy was a great trilogy and will go down in history. I think all of those things are a factor.
We saw LexCorp. in there a couple of times. Are there any other easter eggs people should look for?
Yeah, there’s an easter egg you should look for. [NOTE: This interview was conducted before the Wayne Enterprises logo was revealed. It's probably what Mr. Roven was referring to.]
Also, was there ever a discussion of the Marvel type stinger at the end?
I think we left it with the easter eggs we left in there and there are some easter eggs in there that you should look for.
Peter, who runs my site, talked to you years ago about a Flash movie. Now we’re looking at expanding the DC Universe. Is that still something that you’re involved with?
That script that was written years and years ago was a David Goyer script and that script is not… We haven’t moved forward with that script right now. At a certain point I was taken off the Flash project. Warner Brothers asked me when they were doing their consolidation thing and they put together their first Justice League that was going to… I think it was probably around the time just after George Miller fell out of Justice League and they announced a consolidation of their DC brand. Maybe when Diane Nelson took over and Jeff [Robinov] asked me, he said “Hey, we’d just like to bring everything back other than The Dark Knight.” And I said, “No problem. You guys are my partners. If that works for you, okay.” So I haven’t had any conversations about The Flash since that point.
Okay, cool. I have to wrap up, so I’m going to name three things that you’re attached to and hopefully you can tell me what’s updated with them? First could be Duncan Jones’s Warcraft.
First quarter 2014 we’re going to shoot that movie. We are moving forward. Obviously Legendary is making that film and I’m having a great time with Duncan producing it with his producing partners. Stewart Finnigan is executive producing it with us, Duncan’s partner, and Alex Gardner is producing it with me.
A Voltron movie?
Voltron, we are still in the script development stage.
Okay, and last is Uncharted.
Let’s say Voltron is at the beginning of the development pipeline still and Uncharted is about to emerge.
Okay, so that’s further along is what you are saying?
Man of Steel, directed by Zack Snyder, is now in theaters.