The Meg

A couple of weeks back, I sat down with filmmaker Jon Turteltaub to talk about his new movie, The Meg. In the discussion, we talk about how the filmmaker earned a credit on one of Taika Waititi‘s early films, his ambitions to make a Marvel or Star Wars movie, transitioning into making a horror movie with jump scares, cinematic inspirations for The Meg, the existence of the real Megladon, the possibility of Meg sequels, where to draw the line between logic and fun in a big blockbuster, the possibility of National Treasure 3, and the It’s A Small World movie he’s developing.

Jon Turteltaub Interview for The Meg

Thor Ragnarok BTS - Taika Waititi and Chris Hemsworth

Hi, Jon, nice to see you again.  

How are you?

Good. I wanted to start off with something different.  I came across a credit on IMDb that you were thanked in Taika Waititi’s one of his first films, Eagle Vs. Shark.

Yeah.

How did that come about?

I met Taika at Sundance Directors Lab.  He was the young director coming up, workshopping Eagle Vs. Shark.  And we just spent a lot of time together.  And I was shocked he thanked me.  It was so nice.  But Taika is the guy I still wanna be.  And I hate that somebody younger than me is that awesome.  He’s just too damn good looking.  Too charming.  Too funny and too talented.  And he, and then when Wilderpeople came out, it was just the whole world finally saw how great he was.

I’m surprised it took him that long ’cause there was a bunch of films in there that were incredible.  

I know.  And then a dip ’cause Eagle Vs. Shark didn’t do so great.  And then of course with Ragnarok which was a, I mean, the most brilliant hire for Marvel ever.  Brilliant.  And he killed it.  So he’s done, he’s set.  

Marvel Phase 4

Have you ever wanted to do a Marvel movie?

Yeah.  Don’t make me start crying.  

I mean, you just brought it up, so just wondering.

Of course.  I would, yes, that’s the thing.  You wanna do Marvel movies and I wanna do a Star Wars movie and we’re running out of both.  

I don’t know.  I think those are gonna continue on forever.  

You think?  All right. Good.  

The Meg Reviews

[The Meg] is a much different film than I think you’re used to making.  You’re used to making like these character-centric kind of comedies and adventure films.  

Yeah.

This is much more of a horror movie than I thought it was gonna be.

It needed more horror than I’ve done.  I did a one TV show that had a bunch of like scary, suspenseful horror in it.  But this was big, scary, monster horror stuff.  But leave it to me to make sure there was plenty of fun and character and humor and emotion in it, because that’s somehow what I gravitate to.  So but the reason to do it is because you wanna do big, scary monsters.

Did you grow up on like those kind of jump scares of horror movies?

Yeah.  Of course.  The movies that scared the hell out of us growing up turned out not to be so scary anymore.  We’ve progressed.  People were terrified of seeing something creepy on screen.  It didn’t even have to jump out.  It just had to be there.  I was the right age for all the Japanese monster movies and we knew about Destroy All Monsters, Godzilla and Mothra and Gamera and Rodan, but I don’t know how, make sure it’s spelled correctly.  

Yeah.

What was my favorite was War of the Gargantuas.  And what they do for you as a kid is make you feel you’re not sitting home anymore in your living room or in a theater.  You’re seeing a whole new world.  And that’s what you’re supposed to do when you go to the movies.  And that’s what I want this to do.  

Mondo Jaws Screen Prints

What movies did you take inspiration for The Meg.  ‘Cause it’s unlike any other kind of like… I mean, it’s not Sharknado.  It’s not…

It’s definitely not Sharknado.  I mean, that was inspiration to not do Sharknado.  Right, because that [was] silly.  Right?  That was doing that.  And I wanted to make a legit shark movie.  The problem with using Jaws as inspiration is that it’s so iconic and so perfect.  You have to learn from it, but not copy it.  ‘Cause everyone’s gonna know you’re copying it.  You have to–

I love that film but I’m not even sure the pacing would work these days.

It absolutely would not.  And look at, you hand Spielberg today’s CG, he would make a completely different movie with Jaws.  And it would extraordinary and awesome, just different.

Are you saying it’s because of the constraints?

I think the constraints…he’ll always tell you that those constraints helped because it made for a movie that was more of a suspense thriller than a monster movie.  And look, the suggestion is always better than the reveal in every walk of life.  Right.  Men tend not to know that as well as women do.  Men show up and go, I love you.  Here’s some pictures.  Women are a little smarter.  Yet audiences now wanna see bigger, quicker.  And so we gave them bigger and quicker.  

You don’t show the Meg [for some time]. I wasn’t counting the minutes, but you don’t see it until far–

It takes a while.  You get a, you get suggestions and then you get a glimpse and then you get a big bite.  And you finally see a big reveal of it.  And you wanna lead up to that big reveal.  That’s a big moment in a movie.  You’re introducing your lead character in some ways.  Certainly the title character.  

the meg

So going back to the inspirations for this film, if it’s not Sharknado, it’s not Jaws, what is it?  What did you like watch or show the crew that like…?

The goal was often what to avoid.  Believe it or not.  Our inspirations were really more about pitfalls and landmines.  Where oddly enough the concept can quote unquote jump the shark here.  Right? And there are things where you’ve just gone too far.  And step one is to stay in the realm of what sharks would really do, not what a movie shark can do.  CG allows you to do anything.  So you have to restrain yourself.  And keep the shark acting like a shark.  Right?  So it’s not gonna jump on land, put on a top hat and a cane and start singing.  It’s gotta stay sharky.  The problem with that is all you have to do is stay out of the water.  So the trick is to get people in the water and why are they out there?  Right?

There’s a lot of people in that water.

And there’s people in the water.  And you gotta find those beaches where it is.  And I, before shooting, I was just researching stuff and looking at images online of Chinese beaches in China.  And images just popped up that you wouldn’t believe of thousands of people crammed together.  And I just thought oh please let me send a shark through there.  

That place is like the Hawaii of China, right?

Yes.  It’s kind of Hawaii and the French Riviera and every other beach you know combined.  It’s just packed.  Now, not in front of the really nice hotels.  They have a way of not packing it in.  But the public beach is packed.  And I mean packed.  

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