SET VISIT: Green Lantern
Green Lantern is based on the popular DC Comics' character that first appeared in All-American Comics issue #16 way back in 1940 and has kept up its popularity for almost sixty years. While the character has gone through many changes over the decades and several different people have wielded the powerful ring, the film will tell the tale of Hal Jordan, the most prominent and popular of all the Lanterns. Jordan was a test pilot before the death of Abin Sur, the Lantern assigned to protect Earth's sector of the universe, when Sur's ring chose Jordan as Earth's new protector. Upon taking the Lantern's oath, Jordan was propelled into a world of extra-terrestrial creatures, emerald power rings and outer-space adventures.
In the film, which is directed by Casino Royale's Martin Campbell, Ryan Reynolds stars as Hal Jordan, and actress Blake Lively (Gossip Girl) plays Carol Ferris, the VP of Ferris Aircraft and Hal's long-time love interest. After Abin Sur crashes on Earth and passes the ring to Jordan, Hal is whisked off to the Planet Oa where he begins his training. Jordan soon meets Tomar-Re (voiced by Geoffrey Rush) a bird-beaked Lantern who teaches Hal to use his new powers. Actor Michael Clarke Duncan voices Kilowog, the bulldog-faced member of the Corps who acts as a trainer to new recruits. Finally, he meets Sinestro, the so-called greatest of the Green Lanterns who unites the Corps to stop a new enemy called Parallax. Meanwhile, Dr. Amanda Waller (the DC Universe's version of Nick Fury) played by Angela Bassett enlists Dr. Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) to examine Abin Sur's deceased body, which results in Hammond gaining new powers of his own. In the end, Hal must learn to use his newfound powers in order to stop Hammond and help the Corps defeat Parallax once and for all.
Last summer, we had the opportunity to travel to New Orleans and visit the set of the exciting new movie. While we were unable to witness any actual filming, we were given a sneak peak at some of the previz created for the film, two fully cut scenes, the Green Lantern uniform, the ring, the lantern itself and a few of the outer-space creatures that will be seen in the movie. In addition to that, we also had the opportunity to speak with actors Ryan Reynolds (X-Men Origins: Wolverine), who will play Hal Jordan, and Mark Strong (Kick-Ass), who portrays Jordan's mentor and future archenemy, Sinestro, as well as director Martin Campbell (Casino Royale).
When we arrived at the New Orleans area studio we were greeted by producer Donald De Line (The Italian Job) and DC Comics writer Geoff Johns ("Green Lantern: Rebirth," "Infinite Crisis"), who took us on to an empty soundstage. They explained that while they were unable to give us access to any actual filming, they wanted to give us a taste of the movie. They had lined the walls with production stills, concept art, and designs, and then walked us through it and basically explained the entire movie to us. Of course we can't tell you what they told us but we can say that fans of the comic book character will be pleased with the faithful interpretation of the source material, especially fans of Geoff Johns's "Green Lantern: Secret Origins" and "Green Lantern: Rebirth." We saw glimpses of all the Lantern Corps. Members in the film, and in addition to Kilowog, and Tomar-Re, they included Salaak, Boodikka, Green Man, and fan-favorite Bzzd, who is a tiny bee who wields the Lantern ring.Johns brought out the ring and the actual Lantern that is used in the film. We had a chance to not only try on the ring, but also perform the oath with the Lantern. Next, we were escorted into a screening room and had a chance to watch some scenes and visual effects previz from the film. The first of the two scenes featured Hal getting chewed out by his boss, Carol's dad, and then speaking with Carol. The second scene involved Amanda Waller introducing Hector Hammond to the body of Abin Sur and we got our first glimpse at the madness to come from Hammond. The previz scenes were really cool and included Tomar-Re talking to Hal with a temporary voice over lifted from Anthony Hopkins performance in The Mask of Zorro, which was directed by Martin Campbell. The other great previz scene featured the Lanterns teaching Hal to fly and just as they soar away he begins to fall and then at the last second catches himself and triumphantly joins them in the air.
Next we were joined by director Martin Campbell, who in addition to making The Mask of Zorro and Edge of Darkness, is best known for successfully rebooting the James Bond series twice, with both Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig's first Bond performances, Goldeneye and Casino Royale, respectively. Since the director is known for using a lot of practical effects in his action sequences, we began by asking him if he's had to make a big adjustment to work on a movie that relies so heavily on visual effects. "I was. I'd never done a superhero movie before, so just the complexity of it and, a lot of technical stuff that had to be dealt with. Everything from the suit, to the attention to detail, to trying to be true to the origin story and everything else, but really you just treat it like a another drama, as seriously as you would Hamlet. A big mistake with superhero movies, with this type of story, is not to take it seriously. I think you treat it as if I was doing Shakespeare."
The director also talked about the casting process and why he felt that Ryan Reynolds was the right man to wear the ring. "Well I think we tested eight actors. I can't quite remember. And the thing was that it got down to two of them," explained Campbell. "We'd been screening them. I had to say that, for me, Ryan was always the choice. I never ever considered anybody else. It's just one of those things where you end up with a process of elimination. It's very obvious that someone finally stands out and of course it was Ryan for all the reasons that you know. He has a terrific sense of humor and also of course he's a very fine actor." He also revealed to us that Justin Timberlake was the other finalist for the role and he said this about his screen test. "He was very good. He worked very hard and was very good, perhaps a little younger than Ryan, a little boyish if you will. But he did very well and I was very impressed with his screen test."
The director also spoke about casting Blake Lively in her role. "With Blake, again, these people come to the surface. You talk about casting and who should it be in the early days. She was somebody Warner Bros. wanted very much. In fact, I think she had just done The Town for them. We had tested five or six actresses and the real secret is when you put them together with the actor and you just run the footage and see how they respond. In this case it was Ryan. They had already cast him. So he did the final tests with the girls and it becomes very obvious very quickly as to the chemistry between them and clearly she came out on top."
Next Campbell talked about the scope of the film and the largeness of its scale. "Well obviously the scope of Green Lantern is huge. By virtue of these stories and the character being part of an intergalactic police force. You go to Oa, which are very unusual superheroes. You look at Superman, he basically resides in one city and, whoever's got the Kryptonite turns out to be the bad guy. It's very limiting as to what you can do with that character. This character, you can go anywhere on Earth, but more importantly you go to space and the universe of Oa. It's at the center of the universe. How much bigger scope can you get from that," he asked.
We followed up by asking Campbell if he thinks he might be interested in staying with the franchise after this film. "I don't ever think like that. My job is to simply make this one work as best as possible. I never think beyond that." As fans of the comic know, Sinestro is destined to become Hal's greatest enemy, and Carol will eventually become a villain named Star Sapphire and the director went on to reference that. "Clearly there are many more stories. We all know what happens to the characters. Sinestro, obviously, and Carol and the way they've developed over the years. To be honest, I just concentrate firmly on this one. I'd much rather keep my sites on the origin story."
We followed up by asking Campbell if there is any foreshadowing in this first film to some of those possible upcoming events. "Not really. Not overtly, not obviously. I think we've been fairly honest to the origin story. We've kept that all very much in tact. So no, not really any obvious foreshadowing but there's a lot of technical challenges. Everything's got to be imagined. Creating that world is very challenging. The creatures are very challenging. They're based on all the comic characters. We've got twenty-five up front characters recognizable from the comics," assured the director.
Finally, Campbell's editor on the film is Stuart Baird, the man who cut Richard Donner's Superman, which is thought by many to still be the greatest super hero movie ever made and the director talked about his contributions t this film. "He's very clever and obviously he cut Richard Donner's Superman. I thought that was one of the best, if not the best ever made. It had the emotional punch, that movie, which was so great and also a great relationship between Superman and Lois Lane. It was a terrific relationship they had. It had humor and it was totally right. It also had the right emotional balance with him as a boy and Glenn Ford as his father and it was quite moving. I remember the sequence where he takes her for a flight and nothing is sort of said. Small gestures made up for so much in that. Clearly he'd been on that movie for a while. He cut his teeth on that and I think he did a marvelous job. I'm sure he's hopefully inherited something that I'll see in the cut for Green Lantern," Campbell said.
After we were done speaking with Campbell, actor Mark Strong was kind enough to come into speak with us on his day off. Strong has racked up an impressive resume of film roles over the last few years with appearances in movies like Robin Hood, Sherlock Holmes, and Kick-Ass. Since the character of Sinestro has a checkered history in the comics we began by asking Strong if he takes that into account when he is playing the role. "I thought initially the way to deal with it would be just to play what's in the script and ignore what's ahead, but the fact is I'm so aware of what happens to this character over the course of the comics. I've had a number of really interesting conversations with Geoff Johns about back-story that doesn't even exist in the comics that he kind of knows about, which I find really interesting to fill in elements of the character. But knowing what happens to Sinestro kind of defines the way he behaves in this film, and even though in this first one he is essentially a hard taskmaster for Hal," explained Strong.
"He's his mentor as he comes into the Corps and he obviously doesn't believe human beings should be members of the Corps so he's pretty antagonistic towards Hal," Strong continued. "But that isn't to do with what happens to him subsequently in the later story. It's has to do with what he believes humans are capable of, so there is a streak of arrogance and danger about him, but that is to do with the fact that I see him in this more as kind of military commander than anything else. That's how he needs to be, to control the Corps and they are facing a very dangerous enemy, so he is in protection mode, but he is not evil in this first one in the way we understand he becomes."
The actor also compared the relationship between Hal and Sinestro to the relationship between Ethan Hawke and Denzel Washington's characters relationship in Training Day. "Its not dissimilar. Kilowog is his physical trainer and Tomar-Re is his spiritual guide, but I think Sinestro really does put him through his paces in terms of training as such. There is a scene where they meet on what are called the training platforms where Tomar-Re and Kilowog are putting him through his paces and Sinestro introduces himself to Hal in a very physical way. That's the best way of putting it. It's all to do with his feelings about the death of Abin Sur, his personal mentor," explained Strong. "His attitude towards humans becoming members of the Corps is pretty explosive and at that stage, I'm not even sure he believes Hal is going to survive. So he is not a trainer in a sense, but he's certainly a hard taskmaster."
Since Strong has been involved with comic book and genre movie in the past, we asked him if he had any concerns about taking on this role. "I definitely thought about it because how often can you play something that shares its DNA with other characters before it either becomes uninteresting to me and to an audience or you hit a dead end with variation of what one could introduce to the character. But it didn't bother me because I suppose if you were playing a leading man you have the same problem. Harrison Ford is essentially the same in every movie he's in, but it doesn't cause us any problems because it's the story that's important and the place of the character within the narrative of that story that's important. If the story and the film are successful and work, you won't be considering that and I don't consider that. I take everything on its own merits, so I considered it but it doesn't bother me at all."Strong how faithful he feels he needs to be to the source material. "Yeah, I think the source material in itself is gold dust, so it's not difficult to want to be true to it. I've acquainted myself with it because growing up in England we didn't really have Marvel and DC and I didn't know what Green Lantern was when this project came up. I decided to have a look at it and I've kind of got quite into it, especially Geoff's stuff. I've had a dip into earlier incarnations but I don't find that particularly useful. It's interesting to know where it comes from, but I think I've been concentrating on the visualization of the recent stuff," said Strong. "I go there to see where it all comes from, and it's sort of interesting to know that Hector, the way that Hector is portrayed in the film is slightly different than the way Hector is portrayed in the comic, not what happens to him. So it's good to know that and know why the differences have been chosen if they exist because it makes it more interesting."
The actor also spoke about what he learned about his character from comics and how it helped him shape his character. "Having read the comics and stuff, and I realized he is the oracle at the moment. I thought finding out stuff from the comics would be a real bonus and it was. It just reminded me that Sinestro is the greatest of the Green Lanterns at the point we meet them, it reminded me that he always thinks he's correct and right. He's more intelligent than anybody else in the room. He's arrogant, but his need for control and correctness can sometimes lead to that arrogance. It's not that he enjoys being arrogant or enjoys coming across as appearing bad, it's his desire for order that makes him that way. Stuff like that, you know, which is useful in the way you carry yourself."
Strong continued to discuss his character and how he chose to have Sinestro wield the power in his ring. "Well you have to decide how your character is going to use their ring. What's very interesting is the way they are grading how each of the Lanterns look. I mean each suit is going to fit the particular kind of alien they are, so they all are going to be different. By the same token you have to work out how you are going to use your ring," he explained. "Hal, I think, has decided to do what any Earthbound human being would if they were given a ring and told point it at something it'll work, he points at something and it works. Sinestro hardly needs to; he's been doing it for millions of years so he doesn't need to do anything but he's very much in tune with his ring and able to use it."
Finally, the actor spoke about the Shakespearian themes in the film and how they helped him portray the role. "The Shakespeare analogy is very useful because I think the tragedy of his character is epic in the way Shakespeare's characters often are. In terms of playing it, you know I've been in the Royal Shakespeare Company, and I would say that is proving very useful in terms of this because the things that you learn are about reaching a stage filled with two thousand people. So on set I feel like the voice and his movements are probably the most similar to what I learned doing Shakespeare, and playing Shakespeare on stage. That just means there is stillness about him. You literally have to use your arms in a certain way, you have to play stuff in a certain way to give your character strength, because he is an alien as well, and I have to give him something stronger than an ordinary human being. So the Shakespearean analogies are not that far wrong."
Last but not least, we finally had an opportunity to talk with Ryan Reynolds, the man who will wear the green ring in the upcoming film. Reynolds has appeared in several successful films lately including Blade: Trinity, Smoking Aces, and The Proposal, but is best known by comic book fans for his portrayal of the Marvel comics anti-hero Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. In addition to doing a Deadpool movie, Reynolds's name has been thrown around for years as a possible choice to play the lead in a Flash movie, so we began by asking the actor if those prospective films became a conflict for him in taking on the lead in Green Lantern. "Well yeah, the conflict I had at all had to do with Deadpool. If I had done a Deadpool movie, I wouldn't have done a Flash movie. The Flash always felt like a slightly PG-13 version of Deadpool in terms of wit. Obviously Deadpool is more of a deconstruction of super hero movies. That, I don't see as a conflict to Green Lantern," he explained.
"Green Lantern came on the radar the same as any other movie would. They said would you like to meet with Martin Campbell, he's directing. I knew a little bit about Green Lantern comics," Reynolds continued. "I knew a certain amount about comics, I don't profess to be a comic guru, but I read Deadpool since I was 20. My brother introduced me to it. I thought it was the coolest comic out there. When I was younger I liked X-Men, Spiderman, and Superman. I met with Martin and it was like any other film. At the time that I met him I wasn't super interested in playing the part but I was really interested in Martin Campbell."Reynolds. "I was anxious to sit down with him and hear what he had to say. We had a meeting, and one more where he took me up to the art department and I couldn't believe what I was seeing; it's pretty compelling stuff. For me what I fell in love was the scope. Granted the first one has to work in order for there to be others, if it does work I see it going so far beyond Hal Jordan. Hal Jordan is the key story in the mythology but there's so much more to tell. It can go far beyond him in the fall of Hal and all that," teased the actor.
We followed up by asking Reynolds what it was about Martin Campbell's past work that made him believe he was capable of bringing the Hal Jordan's story to the big screen. "Martin is a great director. He can do small movies; he can do big movies. A movie like this is such collaboration. I saw the people that they hired. I got to say that has as much to do with my decision as Martin Campbell. Martin is a very smart, very shrewd guy. He's nobody's fool. He knows how to staff a movie like this. When you're dealing with a budget this high you're less of a director and more of a general. You really have to have an ability to marshal enormous forces into one creative goal. That's something that Martin is very good at."
Reynolds went on to discuss the character of Hal Jordan and how he has chosen to play the role. "Hal's story is steeped in tragedy. A lot of people lose their parents, but Hal loses his father in way that's pretty difficult for any kid to overcome. He witnesses it firsthand at ten years old. I think that stays with him forever. I never found the character to be funny; he's witty. He has moments where he can bring out his wit, but I don't see him making jokes in the movie," he said. "Anything he does do in that realm is more of a defense mechanism than anything else. He uses it as a way to push aside any issues or emotions that are presented to him they may actually address something very real and close to his heart. He's a guy that keeps his cards close to his vest. He's not giving anything up to anyone. It's mostly just that. He uses it as artful deflection."
We asked Reynolds if while he was doing research for the role he only looked at resent Green Lantern comics or if he took a look at older comic storylines as well. "The modern take borrows from the older take. I've looked at a lot of the stuff from the different periods but I mostly I stick to the script. That's what I have to go on," he answered. "It's the thing that kind of rings my bell. My job is to come in and have a very distinct take on this guy. If I haven't done that, then I haven't done my job at all. My focus is primarily on the modern take on this guy. There's a classic element to him. It's a very classic male role that I haven't really seen for a long time. He's an everyman in that regard. The tone of the movie I just found really interesting. It's not as dark as The Dark knight but not quite as light as Iron Man. It fell somewhere in the middle to me. It felt a little like Star Wars, the first three," he assured us.
"There's a real family story here," Reynolds continued to discuss the character. "He's at odds with his entire family. The subject matter of him being a test pilot is discussed in decent amount of detail. You can imagine you're the mother of a son who chooses to take on the same profession that killed her husband. She's not going to be very happy about that. That's all in the movie and that is discussed. He's a bit of a prize in this household. I think everyone else has the perception of him that he's on the wrong path in life. He himself doesn't have that. Nobody ever does the same way people play villains. They are played in a great way because they defend their character. They believe that they are not villains. They have different convictions than everyone else. Hal doesn't see himself as that. I think others do."
The actor also discussed the tone of the film and the challenge of balancing both the space and Earth bound stories. "So much of the story is on Earth and so much of the story is in space. It really helps to kind of ground us. In the scenes where we are on the earth, as we know it, we get perspective: as an audience and as an actor in the film. You can carry that reality with you into the space scenes. We really have context that way. That's been hugely helpful for me. There's a lot of blue screen, creating the world. That would have been difficult to do at the beginning. I get to take Hal, the earthling version, into that world. That was helpful because we did all that practical stuff in the beginning," Reynolds explained.Reynolds discussed working with both Blake Lively and Mark Strong on the film and what it was like creating the relationships between their characters together. "Blake's just a chemistry thing. Lot's of people came in and chemistry is not something you can manufacture. It's there or it's not and we had this great kind of push-pull kind of thing that really worked for the movie. That's something you need for Carol and Hal," said Reynolds.
"With Mark, he just brings such a weight with his characters," Reynolds continued. "When I was working with him, I felt like I was in the ring with a bullfighter. He's using my energy against me all the time. He's so elegant in the way he moves and the way he behaves and speaks. It's minimal effort for maximum gain with him and that's all he needs. He's a character where you are like, wow, I'm curious to see what this guy is like when there's maximum effort. He's obviously going to be something to contend with. I think they handle his storyline and his introduction in such a responsible way because it would be very easy to give him the mustache twisting villain role and he doesn't have that at all. He's incredibly deep and complex and there's a lot to him," Reynolds finished.