Posted on Friday, May 22nd, 2015 by Peter Sciretta
Peter: Okay. From what I understand, I have heard this legend of this pitch meeting that went into the Disney execs and there was the Disney archivist like showing the box and presenting it as if it was this real thing. Is that how it happened?
Jeff Jensen: Who told you that story? Did Damon and Brad tell that story?
Peter: I forget where I heard that. It wasn’t Damon or Brad. It was probably a third hand source, but…
Jeff: There were several occasions in which we showed people the box and it made, it became really handy like at a time when we knew, for a long time this movie from like from its early infancy when it started with Damon and was known as, you know, Project 1952. And then throughout 2011 into 2012, it was this awkward kind of thing where we were in the public eye, the project was in the public eye, but we weren’t talking about it. And this really wasn’t like an effort to be like super secretive, though I understand how secrecy works to the advantage of certain films. This was really about we really didn’t have a lot to say yet about an original film that we didn’t wanna spoil about much about. And so even within the Disney Company, I mean, there was a handful of people that knew that we were up to. It was like Sean Bailey, the President of Production. There was Brigham Taylor who was our executive on it. There was me and Damon. There were a couple other people involved. So there came a time when we were working on this thing and it started gaining some momentum that we had to start talking about an original idea. Like that wasn’t like Star Wars. That wasn’t based on any kind of brand. And sort of kind of like part of that education internally was let’s talk about Disney futurism and talk about kind of like making a story that is suffused in that. So the box came in extremely handy as a visual aide of walking people through that stuff.
Peter: I’ve even heard from the executives in that room still don’t even know that that the box might not have been a legit thing or there was maybe layers of that that were added by you guys…?
Jeff Jensen: I can’t speak to that. Because first of all, like I the, well I’ll tell you my one experience with that was there was one time when Brad and Damon put on the show for everyone and it was my job to use this phone and record them. So all I was doing was watching them. I can’t speak to the reactions.
Peter: Okay. I was wondering how different were the initial rumblings of that idea from what it eventually evolved into? What were some of the biggest differences of like where it started and where it ended?
Jeff Jensen: I think that there were always two different ways to come at this material. There is kind of like the Harry Potter approach, where kind of like, you know, at the end of the first act you’re in the magical land and you’re having an adventure there, right? But then there was the other approach that always fascinated Damon from the beginning and kind of like galvanized all of this and especially Brad when he got in. Which was sort of the journey of discovery. And we, if you’ve heard us talk about if you heard Brad and Damon talk about how Close Encounters of the Third Kind was sort of an inspiration for this movie, like when we use that comparison, we talk a lot about the narrative structure of like a guy, a main hero who has an encounter, who has a dream and like literally downloaded into his head. But now is asking questions like is that real? Is that authentic? What does that mean? What does that mean to me? And going on an adventure to prove it to himself and find it. We’d loved that idea of a narrative template for the story. And so to make it more or less about kind of like less about like you’re in the magical world but ask questions about the magical world. And like and make it a journey of discovery in that regard.
Jeff Jensen: So there’s always those two different approaches. We briefly considered this one. We kind of worked on that one for a while like the Harry Potter approach. And that was literally like the first two and a half months of our work together. We got to the end of that process, we actually came up with a pitch that we really liked. And we talked about it and we said this is good. I think we like this other approach better. And that became our focus. And it grew really organically from there. So it was big. There was a huge vision. There were a lot of characters. There were a lot of locations. So a lot of our work was actually getting that thing smaller and tighter and narrower. But in terms of the story that you see, it evolved for sure but it’s pretty much there.