Director's Panel Comic-Con 2020

Our friends over at Collider hosted a Directors on Directing panel during this year’s Comic-Con at Home, where Robert Rodriguez (We Can Be Heroes), Colin Trevorrow (Jurassic World: Dominion), and Joseph Kosinski (Top Gun: Maverick) spoke about their past, present, and upcoming work. They revealed some interesting tidbits we’d never heard before about some of their projects, including the surprise return of Sharkboy and Lavagirl, 

You can watch the full panel here, but we’ll hit you with the highlights below.

Balancing Fan Service With Staying True to Your Vision

Much of the panel involved these filmmakers getting into the nuts and bolts of directing, revealing misconceptions about the profession, and talking about under-discussed aspects like the pitching process.

But there were several standout moments, such as when Trevorrow talked about balancing fan expectations and staying true to his own vision in a huge blockbuster franchise – something he knows quite a bit about, considering his work on Jurassic World and his time spent developing Star Wars: Episode 9.

“I think there’s something really interesting that we’ve discovered generationally, for people who are roughly our age,” he said. “A lot of these films that were made in the ’70s and ’80s, in a lot of ways have become almost our belief system for some of us. They’re our myths in a way that is so powerful, and it goes beyond just being a film. So when you start to delve into telling further stories, another chapter in the Bible, another testament, it gets very complicated. Because we hold our beliefs very, very close in a personal way. The only way to even begin to approach it is to respect that, respect that it is possible for something created 30, 40 years ago to be as personal to someone as a belief system or a religion is for other people. I respect that. I’m one of those people, in a lot of ways. If you can approach it that way, you have to trust yourself that your instincts are just as strong as anyone else who grew up on that thing and follow it. But it is a dangerous game.”

Kosinski, who’s directing this year’s Top Gun: Maverick, also chimed in on the topic of fan service. “The idea of fan service is a very alluring, tricky thing. Because it’s kind of like an easy win. But ultimately, you have to decide: does this serve the story you’re telling? And let your story be your guide.” Hopefully, that means we won’t see an excessive number of nods and winks in Maverick.

top gun maverick release date

Updates on Top Gun: Maverick, Jurassic World: Dominion, and We Can Be Heroes

Speaking of which, the filmmakers all gave updates about their upcoming projects, and Kosinski went first, passing along the status of the long-awaited Top Gun sequel. “We’re in the home stretch,” he said. “We were supposed to be out June 26, but everything got pushed down. Luckily we were deep in post, so it’s something we were able to finish…we made an old school movie using the latest technology. It’s definitely a Top Gun movie, and I can’t wait to show it to people.”

Trevorrow says he and his team are about to get back to work. “Just hours ago, before we taped this, it was announced that we’re going to be going back in production on Jurassic World: Dominion. We had to stop just like the rest of the world…if you saw the last movie, you know it’s not just people on an island anymore. It’s really a large scale, global, epic story with characters from the original Jurassic Park all in major roles and of course Bryce [Dallas Howard] and Chris [Pratt].”

Trevorrow also points out that this forced break in production has given him the opportunity to take a look at the project from a different angle. “I wish we all had that [all the time]: the ability to just stop and think for a second about what you were doing, cut it together, make sure – especially if you’re trying something really new – that what you believed would work is working. And we did, we got to do that. We didn’t really change the script much, but we were definitely able to cut and put several sequences through the visual effects pipeline and, in a lot of ways, establish relationships with each other.”

Later in the conversation, he explained that they’ve gone more practical with each movie in this new trilogy, with the forthcoming Dominion containing more practical effects than the previous two films.

As for Rodriguez, he’s working on a new project called We Can Be Heroes for Netflix. He talked about how the streaming service came to him and asked if he could make something that tried to replicate the type of story he told in his Spy Kids movies, and he was excited to take on the challenge. “We came up with this, almost an Avengers superhero team, but they all have kids, and the kids have powers, but they don’t know how to use them because they’re just so young,” he said. “It’s really fun. It’s the most challenging movie I’ve done, because as any director would know, the most challenging scene to do is like a dinner scene where you’ve got eleven people. Well, the whole movie I had eleven superhero kids in every shot. Trying to figure out how to film that was incredible. It’s really challenging and exciting, and I already shot it and I was editing it when [the pandemic] happened and I’m scoring it right now.”

He also revealed some cool casting info about the project. “It’s a huge cast. Pedro Pascal plays sort of like the Antonio Banderas type of role. Even Sharkboy and Lavagirl even show up as superhero parents who have a daughter who’s got shark and lava powers. She’s like 6.” (For those who don’t remember, Rodriguez directed a film called The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl 3-D back in 2005.)

A Last-Second Decision on Trevorrow’s First Film May Have Changed His Entire Career

During a section of the panel in which the filmmakers discussed moments they fought for in their careers, Trevorrow talked about dramatically altering the ending of his first film, Safety Not Guaranteed, just two weeks before it screened at the Sundance Film Festival. (Spoilers ahead.)

“We changed the ending of that movie so that the time machine worked after we were done with the film and had been accepted into Sundance and we got what we were after: we had been recognized for having made something that worked,” he said. “I just had this instinct. I remember walking the streets of New York City and it just didn’t feel right, it didn’t feel like mine. There was just something wrong. I went and asked everyone, ‘Will you go with me if I change this ending and the time machine does work?’, which had never been discussed up to that point. This was two weeks before Sundance, and I did it. It can be argued that it might have changed the trajectory of my career, that singular choice. I think there are a lot of moments we look back on as directors that you think may have been an instinct at the time, and you realize that was the thing that made this all come together and work in the first place.”

Ford vs. Ferrari Almost Looked Very Different

When asked about “projects that got away,” Kosinski dropped a very cool “what if?” scenario.

“The one that I always think about that got away was called Go Like Hell, which eventually did get made as Ford vs. Ferrari,” he said. “I always wanted to make a racing film, and the thing about racing movies is it can’t be about racing. It has to have some amazing story underneath to [justify] being made. That story was one of those great stories of an incredible friendship, an incredible rivalry, and an incredibly dangerous race. I wouldn’t say we got close to production, but I got to the point where I had Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt at a table read, reading the script together, which was pretty neat. But we couldn’t get the budget to the number it had to be at. It was the right number. But that was the one for me that got away, but I was thrilled to see that they ended up making an amazing version of it.”

We actually knew that Kosinski and Cruise were interested in Pitt co-starring, but this is the first time we’ve heard that it got as far as a table read.

And Finally, Trevorrow on Leaving Star Wars

In that same “one that got away” segment, Trevorrow once again addressed parting ways from a galaxy far, far away:

“I’ve been very fortunate in the films that I’ve directed: the path that I wanted to follow and the path that everyone involved wanted to follow was the same. And it’s totally possible for people to see two totally different paths through the woods. That was just an experience – obviously you can imagine with all of these things, it can get to the point of being traumatic when there’s something you care about that much, invested that much in it. But that’s one of the things you accept when you take on any role in film, and especially as a storyteller. There are going to be heartbreaks. There’s going to be crushing disappointments and victories, and hopefully they’ll balance out in the end. I didn’t get to have a table read with Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, that’s pretty awesome. But hang on…[Trevorrow gets up and retrieves a statue of an unused Star Wars spaceship] My son and I designed a ship, and one of the two ships is at the theme park in Disneyland, and this is the other one, and it only exists in this 3D model. It’s called the TIE Marauder. For Christmas, the guys painted it for me, so I only have this in a 3D model. This is the only one in the world.”

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