Posted on Wednesday, June 19th, 2013 by Peter Sciretta
At some point in the film you’re going to go to the antiverse, we saw some production artwork with the antiverse. Sometimes movies feel the need to reveal everything, “this is the bad guys plan, this is why this happened,” a lot of exposition if you will. How much of the motivation of why things are happening are you going to delve into?
DEL TORO: In my mind that’s the part that is horrible, the part where you reveal what they do in the antiverse. This is a movie where I have had to deal with more dialogue than ever, and the way I cast the movie was – who do I want to hear say these things? Who do I want Charlie Hunnam to go against? Who can really tell Charlie Hunnam “sit down and listen”? I go, “Idris Elba” Now who do I want Idris Elba to be irritated by? And that’s how we cast it. So a lot of the information – there’s a particular scene where we have a two page monologue and it’s so compelling, because the motive is so compelling, but it’s not a spoiler and it really feels dramatic. The moment you know the plan about the antiverse is the moment that you want to know more and we don’t give you more.
The other half of that is with the villains side, what’s coming through.
DEL TORO: What’s horrible is when you are told to explain the steps. When the studio says we need to know the bad guys plan and then we need to thwart it beat by beat. That is exposition, but if somebody tells you, “They don’t want them for their blood they want them for their souls,” I’m giving you a big twist. When you reveal the real plan and there’s a big twist and you go, “Man I didn’t see that coming,” and it ups the ante automatically. It cancels itself as exposition, it becomes drama. If the exposition is simply the layout of a plan, it becomes a schematic. But if it ups the ante, if it reveals a new thing, a new layer of the drama it actually nullifies itself as exposition and it becomes drama. That’s what we’re trying to do. Every time somebody says something you go, “I want to know more about it.” And I try not to tell you everything about it. Sometimes I feel revealing enough but not – if you know everything the mystery goes away.
I don’t think I phrased my last question properly, because you gave a great answer about the exposition of characters in our universe, but I was wondering more about the characters in the antiverse.
DEL TORO: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Are we going to learn their motivations?
DEL TORO: Oh, yeah. That’s what I think makes it terrifying.
When we learn what happens to them, or why they’re doing it?
DEL TORO: Why they’re doing it, but what I think is great is that when you learn why their doing it, instead of closing the mystery it opens a new one. You know what I’m saying? When you learn, you think you know why – let me put it this way, monsters are coming to earth, what do they want? They want to take over earth or whatever, but when you learn the origin of what they do and all that, I think it adds to the mystery. And the antiverse is only glimpsed in the movie. You get a few, very few minutes of the antiverse and you’re finished. You don’t see it that much.
I’m curious about the visual style that you’re going for in this film, would it compare to the other films you’ve done? Are you going for a whole new look?
DEL TORO: I think it’s very much consistent with what I do, meaning I still do my blue steel with amber [laughs]. You can see the set is a steely blue color and then amber fires and amber tents. I still do the same contrasting, but it’s unique to the movie in the sense the surfaces are very different from what I’ve done. The suits, the robots, the cockpits, all of that; it has its own look. What I’m trying to do is make a place that you can do with concrete and metal, this and that, but then light with very vivid colors so you have a very saturated look, but tis not because you are using saturated surfaces. I’m not going for the super-shiny, new car, stainless steel, sexy line kind of surface and then lighting it with a super-polished cool fluorescent, for example, which would give it a new car ad type of feel. I’m going for really grungy, beautifully grungy, surface with very saturated colors. So it creates a very different dynamic. There are moments in the movie where I truly think they look living, like a living comic. I like it. I sais this yesterday, but I really think that of all the movies I’ve done, this is the one that very consciously I have spoken about the least because I don’t think people expect what they’re going to get. I think the scale of the movie is much more different than anything I’ve ever done and the tone of the movie is different, but still I feel at home. I want people to be surprised.
This is the first time you worked with the digital camera, does that change anything?
DEL TORO: A lot. This is a movie that is perfectly suited for it, I could not have done, for example, in my mind I could not have done Devil’s Backbone like that. These are saturated colors. The camera exacerbates some of the colors, crunches others. So I can have very vivid blues, very vivid reds, very vivid this and this and it is perfect sort of for the movie, But other movies I still romantically, and stupidly perhaps, I still want to think you can go back to film.
Some filmmakers have moved into 48 frames per second, was that ever a consideration for you on this?
DEL TORO: Not really for me, no. I am not attracted to it so far. I know that Jim [Cameron] loves it and Peter [Jackson] loves it, and there’s a lot of proponents of it. I just like my movies without the frames. I like for them to have blurs and all the stuff that comes with a movie experience. I am much more attracted to that. I think it’s very helpful, really beautiful for 3D. If you’re doing 3D I think you should definitely approach it, because you get more of a feeling of being in a real space, but if you’re not shooting 3D so far I’m not into that.
You mentioned you might be filming one of the climactic scenes on IMAX, a lot of us have been entranced by what Brad Bird did on Mission Impossible 4, what Nolan’s done onThe Dark Knight series. Was there ever any consideration of shooting more of the film in IMAX, or was it always “I have this one sequence that I really am looking to”?
DEL TORO: It is a very contained sequence. I think that we planned the movie, like the cockpits of the robots are so confined that we were really very hard pressed to be able to even maneuver inside them. We consider the one sequence in IMAX in the middle of an action sequence because I am very interested in seeing the opening like that. I also love what they did, but it is a very contained sequence.
Earlier you were talking about casting, how you were going for kind of smaller names, I’m curious how you chose Charlie Hunnam, obviously he works with Ron Perlman onSons of Anarchy, but I’m curious how you chose him.
DEL TORO: I actually wanted to work with Charlie before Sons of Anarchy and before he met Ron. I wanted to cast him as the prince in Hellboy 2 because I like him very much in Nicholas Nickleby. I saw him and I thought he had an earnest, really honest nature. And he was the kind of guy that I can relate, as a male audience member I go, “I like that guy. I would like to have a few beers with that guy,” rather than “I don’t find him relatable”. he has an earthy quality. So I thought it would be interesting to cast the “bad guy” on Hellboy 2 with somebody sympathetic. Luke [Goss] and him were my two choices and we did some quick studies on the two faces and Charlie’s bones were too broad. Charlie has too strong, too broad bone structure. Luke has a very fine, sort of Terence Stamp type of bone structure. But we met, he read for the camera, I said to him, “I’m going to cast you as soon as I can.” Then the great thing is when Legendary and I met with me as director, we said the first name was Charlie, we said well there’s this guy Charlie Hunnam and Thomas said, “I love him. I love him.” And it was great, instantly happy.
One of the many things that is cool about the film is that it takes place all around the world and we know that some of it takes place in Hong Kong, in Alaska, we’ve heard that there’s going to be meteor reports that you see some of the other things going on.
DEL TORO: Yeah.
Can you talk about what areas of the planet we will see in this movie dealing with what’s going on?
DEL TORO: Well I wanted very much to make it a global thing so we show San Francisco, we show Sydney, we show a little bit of Vladivostok in Russia. We have the body of the movie in Hong Kong, you see Tokyo, you see Alaska, that’s about it.
If you show Tokyo monsters, this is like the moment- everyone over there is going to freak out. Did you choose something extra special for whatever is going on in Tokyo?
DEL TORO: Well, I didn’t want to marry the monsters with the landmarks, which is what normally people do. Like if the monster goes to Paris it destroys the Eiffel Tower [laughs]. I didn’t want to do that, the scene in Tokyo is seen from the point of view of someone on the street. So you don’t get a super complete view of the monster in that sense. I didn’t want to do the big aerial shots. I wanted it to be experienced with the character on the street. So we actually go to any street in any neighborhood in Tokyo, rather than going for the landmarks. The only place where we marry the landmark and the background was Sydney, because the Opera House happens to be in the harbor [laughs], and the monsters come from the sea so…and in San Francisco we do violence to the Golden Gate. But I didn’t want to continue the check marks, you know, “Now, let’s go to Hong Kong and destroy the Bank of China.”
You didn’t want to make a Roland Emmerich film.
DEL TORO: I didn’t want to make it like post cards, post cards from monster-land.
The movie takes place in 2013 and then we forward to 2025 at some point. Obviously the invasion takes place in 2013, technology obviously pushes forward to develop these robots, what other futuristic kind of things are you working in? Or have all the resources of the planet been put into the robot program?
DEL TORO: That’s exactly right. One of the first things we did is say, “Well what happens to the world?” Because let’s say the first Kaiju makes land in 2013, huge commotion, right? Everybody goes into mourning, memorializing, this thing was so hard to stop it took so many days, so many people were lost. It becomes almost like a landmark of grief, and then seven months later another guy comes in. It becomes a second Kaiju, we memorialize it, we grieve, we go “oh my god” and then the third Kaiju shows up seven months later and you go alright, we go, “alright, what are we going to do about it?” And then all the worlds technology and resources pull into creating the Jeagers, and what happens then is you don’t have – one of the things I knew I didn’t want, I didn’t want flying cars, I didn’t want everybody has a floating screen in their hand. I wanted to make it very discreet, like certain consoles have a 3d super deep aspect and others are normal. A lot of the stuff is patched up, a lot of the stuff – 12 years later, if the Jeagers haven’t stopped something in 10 years, what do people think about the Jeagers? They haven’t been able to stop it, what are we going to do? So they go into building walls; huge, gigantic, obscenely big walls. So a lot of the technology goes there. What happens when beach front property is the worst property you can buy? What happens when 100 miles from the coast you cannot live, then you lose automatically a third of the country.
Then we started projecting that saying we are going into a ration driven economy, food skyrockets because if you close the pacific ocean, there are 3 ports open after 2020. It’s Vera Cruz, Hong Kong and Vladivostok, those are the 3 ports that are still open, the rest are closed to ship traffic. So there’s a little bit of fishing in Alaska the first few years, but then fishing stops. So imagine the impact that that does to – so we wanted to do that, not verbal, not have people say, “Yes, because it’s 2015.” But you have people say, “This is the beauty of an open port, we can get bread, we can get rice.” We make it a world. So we planned all that. That is all sort of part of the world we created for the movie. What happens with Kaijus when they fall? If removing a whale from a beach is difficult, what happens when – okay, you’ve killed a monster, it’s 25 stories high [laughs], what are you going to do? What happens when Kaijus take a dump?
Is that answered?
DEL TORO: It’s spoken about, yeah.
Talking to everybody it seems like you have your hand in everything and you’re very involved in every step of the process. When do you sleep? Can you go through your day? What time do you wake up and what do you do throughout the day?
DEL TORO: In almost every movie, but this especially, I think I sleep very little. I’m sleeping about four hours a day. The last 50 days we give inserts to Splinter Studios, but I start my day with Splinter. I go to Splinter in the morning, I say, “you’re going to put a hand pushing a button.” I approve it during the day, I’m in contact next door, I start two hours early a lot of the time and I go to bed 3 hours later than everybody. I arrive here and everybody has a question. I come here and everybody hears what they need to do, I’m the one telling them what to do. So you arrive they say, “Where’s the camera? Where does it go? What color? Is he bleeding? Is he not bleeding? Is his shoe broken?” And you have to prepare all that the night before. And then I edit, I edit every day. We are cut to the day. This movie, if you come to the editing room, yesterday’s thing is are cut, the movie is cut to the day. I need to manage the movie. We have about 2,000 CGI shots so if I’m not going to use a shot, I have turn over, I’ve been turning over sequences to ILM for the last three months.
In that respect how much has switching from film to digital-
DEL TORO: It helps a lot, it helps a lot. The instant I go to the editing room the next day and everything is there, we cut very quick then Saturdays I devote the complete day to Splinter, all the day Saturday I am shooting hands pressing buttons, a big stunt or whatever, and then Sundays I edit. Then Monday I know exactly, “Okay, we cannot do this, we can do that.” I don’t have a life.
I’m curious about the music and score, what are you thinking about for this one? Are you thinking about any people, bands writing songs?
DEL TORO: I don’t know about that, that would be cool if they want to go in that direction, I would love for the world to be populated by music from then, from 2023 but right now it’s just Ramin Djawadi, writing the score. I’m a huge fan of Game of Thrones and Prison Break and his work on Iron Man was fantastic, so I met with him and we hit it off. He is starting about four weeks from now.
It seems like you’ve created this huge world with so many possibilities, are you already meeting with video game companies?
DEL TORO: I would have loved for that to be the case; the fact is we needed to concentrate on prepping the movie. So far we met with toy companies, collectible companies, for the statues and collectibles and all that. But video games, I know what video game I want out of it, but I think the video game will come out after the movie.
I want to have a Sideshow Collectible version of a maquette.
DEL TORO: So do I. [Laughs] One of the things I do is every time we do a maquette I pay for a separate maquette out of my own pocket. I keep a duplicate of them for Bleak House [Laughs]
One thing we got to see on our tour around the different sets is we got to see the Russian Com pad and we got to see the gimbal and what’s interesting about it is the fact that the way the gimbal is operated is very similar to the pilots.
DEL TORO: We wanted to base the sort of machinery of the pilots on existing technology. There’s footage on the internet of a Japanese scientists moving a giant arm of a robot with his own arm. Snd Mark Setrakian, who is one of the great mechanical designers, has worked with me on Hellboy and Hellboy 2, creates robots for disarming bombs, military operation robots, and he has a robot that can tie a tennis shoe, it’s that refined. And he has 3D goggle vision that he puts in the robots, so you literally can se. What we did is we layered the suits so that could happen. I always called it bullshit-tanium, they’re all made of bullshit-tanium, solid core bullshit-tanium. So what we did is we said, “Okay they will have a neural link on the spine, then they will have neural links to this blah blah blah, and then they will connect.” There’s one sequence in the opening of the movie where you see them blend with the machine, get tied to the machine, the neural cortex and how they connect with each other, one handles the left hemisphere, the other one handles the right hemisphere. In order to move that size of a machine the neural influx is too much for one single pilot but if you put two they can control it. It’s based on the idea that it could be, but not at that size [laughs].