At the recent 2006 Comic-Con International we had a chance to sit down with Lorenzo di Bonaventura. Producer of such hits as Constantine and Four Brothers, di Bonaventura was on hand to talk about his production of writer Neil Gaiman's beloved book, Stardust.
This film is a fantasy, adventure love story. In the sleepy English village of Wall a young man named Tristian (Charlie Cox) goes on a quest to win the heart of his beloved, Vicotria (Sienna Miller). His journey in search of a falling star Yvaine (Clarie Danes) takes him into a magical world where he faces the witch, Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer) and a pirate, Capitan Shakespeare (Robert De Niro). Adapted from the 1997 award-winning novel written by Neil Gaiman (Princess Mononoke, Beowulf).
During the interview di Bonaventura discussed not only bringing Gaiman's book to the big screen but his upcoming production of the Michael Bay directed, Transformers.
When working with a book like Stardust which is so beloved, are you concerned about the fans and what they are going to expect from the film?
Lorenzo di Bonaventura: Concerned? Conscious of it. I went through adapting Harry Potter to the big screen. That has a very large fanbase. What's comforting in this case is having Neil aboard in every decision like we did with J.K. Rowling. It makes you feel like, "You know what? We're certainly doing it as best we can." Sure you want to please the fans but in a way you can't listen to everybody. When you have the author you can listen to one person. Neil's so great because Neil's like, "It's a movie, you guys! It's not a book. Go! Go!" That is liberating working with him too.
How did you get involved in Stardust?
Lorenzo di Bonaventura: I'm a producer at Paramount on the lot and Matthew (Vaughn, the director) brought the project to Paramount. I've had a lot of experience in bringing in independent filmmakers and protecting them through the process. Like David O. Russell on Three Kings. So I was sort of a natural fit for a guy going from the independent world into the studio world and Neil and I had developed three projects together. Unsuccessfully, so far but when I read the script, Matthew and Jane (Goldman, the screenwriter) did a really great job. The script went through changes but I read an early draft and it was top notch off the bat.
Switching gears a bit, there is a rumor that you aren't showing any Transformers from the movie until it's released. Is that true?
Lorenzo di Bonaventura: Well, there's a lot of rumors and there's always some truth and some not. We're really leery to show them until we've done the work. We're spending a lot of money at ILM and it takes a long time to get them done, and we're doing CGI animation on their faces so we don't want to show them before they're ready. That will be close to the release date but I don't know if it's until the release. The truth is, we don't know exactly when it is we're going to feel comfortable enough to show everybody.
It's frustrating for us because everybody seems to think we're trying to hide from people or not want to show people. The truth is we're spending tens of millions of dollars at ILM. I think it's a drag when people show things too early. By the time I got to King Kong, I'd been there. I think a certain amount of holding back is good but I don't know about the last day. You'll see something before that. We hope to have a trailer in theaters by Thanksgiving. We will certainly by Christmas, we hope by Thanksgiving.
Are there any passion projects that you're working on right now?
Lorenzo di Bonaventura: Well, I'm working on combining G.I. Joe and Action Man. So that's a really fun thing to try and do. With G.I. Joe it's been around so long there's a different interpretations of what it is. There's a really interesting problem trying to figure it out.
Do you think with a movie like Superman Returns not doing so well at the box office, that this is a real sign that the budgets are out of control for these kinds of movies?
Lorenzo di Bonaventura: It always seems like there's a cycle in the movie business. I actually don't think any of these movies are succeeding or failing because of the size of their budget. What I think people are losing sight of is you can spend money and you can attract an audience by spending money. I think that's a mistake for people to believe that. There was a J.J. Abrams script at Warner Bros. that I think is one of the best scripts I ever read about Superman. I wished they had made that script. I think everybody would have gone to see that movie and they would have been really happy.
It's going to be brought under control because there's too many disappointments. If it's being used to attract an audience then it's a mistake. When it's being used to good effect than we don't care, do we?
Are there any comic projects on your plate right now?
Lorenzo di Bonaventura: I'm doing Invincible. Robert Kirkman is writing a draft for me right now. I'm really excited about it.
With G.I. Joe are you working Hasbro like you did with Transformers?
Lorenzo di Bonaventura: Yes, I am for sure. I think one of the challenges for Transformers, and I'll probably get in a lot of trouble for saying this, is to make them really cool. And the thing about the TV show, when you put them in a live action world, do not look cool. We tried it. We took it, we put it there and they don't look right. So they had to go through some kind of transformation.
So to have guys who have lived with them for as long as these guys at Hasbro have... we're able to say, "Okay guys, tell us what the fanbase is feeling..." there's a lot of different people we can go and ask the question. I think the Transformer fans are going to feel like we hit it exactly right and we got something that was really cool. It went through a real process of, "Okay, this is too far, this is not far." The coolest thing we can do, which you couldn't do in the animated series is you can have more parts. So as they are very block like we are able get them up more, and make them move faster and do a lot of things that they have never been able to do. Which I think the hardcore fanbase is going to love.
Stardust comes to theaters March 9, 2007 from Paramount Pictures.
Transformers makes it way to the theaters on July 4, 2007 through Paramount Pictures.