The director talks about his new film, his working relationship with Shia LaBeouf and future projects
Twas the night (afternoon, technically, but whatever) before Comic-Con, the tension was high, but we got to see some of Eagle Eye! While I'll hold off on my yuletide poetic career for now, the above statement was rather true as I and a select group of online journalists were granted a sneak peek at the film the day before the Comic-Con circus started and we also got to have a roundtable-ish (it was in the screening room) chat with director D.J. Caruso and the uber-hot screenwriters Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman. Now that the film is nearing its September 26 release date, I got the chance to speak with D.J. Caruso one-on-one over the phone. Here's what the filmmaker had to say about his new film and much more.
I really enjoyed the footage we saw before Comic-Con.
D.J. Caruso: How was Comic-Con?
Well, it was... insane.
D.J. Caruso: Was it insane? Yeah, I can imagine.
Well, it was my first one and I was kind of taking it all in. It was a maddening experience, for sure.
D.J. Caruso: It is. It's overwhelming, in a way.
When we talked after screening the first 30 minutes or so, you said that you wouldn't be done with the film until about September 12. We're creeping up on that.
D.J. Caruso: Yeah, well I'm going to check the answer prints. I'm in New York now because I'm just coming back from Toronto. We had to do it in IMAX. I didn't know, but know I do, obviously the IMAX is not the same as a Dolby 5.1 cinema film. We went and did the IMAX mix in Toronto for two days up in the IMAX theater and I'm going to check the answer prints on Wednesday, so, technically, I'm done, because I'm just checking answer prints. We barely made it.
Was that early on that you decided to go IMAX with this?
D.J. Caruso: No. What it was, it was so unusual, I would've never imagined this being an IMAX movie and IMAX contacted Paramount after they saw the trailer or whatever and then we had sent them the portion of the movie that you had seen and they just thought it would be a good IMAX movie for them because... well, they don't have Harry Potter anymore (Laughs). Apparently, they didn't have sort of a fall IMAX movie before the holidays kick in.
We didn't really touch on it that much after the screening, but how did Orci and Kurtzman's script come into your hands in the first place?
D.J. Caruso: How did the screenplay come to me? When I finished Disturbia, the folks at Dreamworks said that Steven (Spielberg) had an idea that had sort of been gestating for awhile that he was thinking of directing over the years, but he decided he wanted someone else to do it and would I consider it. I read it and had some thoughts and went in to talk to those guys. It all came from within Dreamworks because of our relationship on Disturbia.
It seems like you're kind of getting into the Spielberg area now with Shia and Orci and Kurtzman and everyone else.
D.J. Caruso: Yeah, it's kind of a nice place to be. It's a small, really small studio that's run by a director and Stacy Snider who, to me, is the greatest executive, her and Adam Goodman are a great team. It's just a really filmmaker-friendly place. I think that whenever a director runs a company, you can have a different kind of understanding than a regular kind of studio.
The footage we saw was very very kinetic, very fast-paced. Is this pretty much unrelenting, and keeps going and going?
D.J. Caruso: Oh, it does keep going but the editing process was more about letting the movie slow down a bit so we could get with the characters and get with the story because every roller-coaster has those up moments where you're going, 'Oh shit. How high is this thing going?' and then it goes downhill. I will say, and I mean this in a good way, it's a pretty exhausting movie. It's based on characters and frenetic action and you're trying to figure out what's going on and ultimately you're dealing with a 1984 George Orwell premise of, instead of it being infused in our life, we're inviting it in our life with the technology. It's a popcorn movie, it's a lot of fun, but I'd like to say it's slightly more complicated than your average popcorn movie.
Actually, after seeing it, I was kind of surprised that this was even a September release. It seems more like a summer tentpole kind of action thing. Were you kind of surprised that it got this release?
D.J. Caruso: You know, I agree because I thought, when we were first making it, that we were going to be a summer action movie then, basically, Paramount started thinking about it and started looking at the marketplace and said, 'You know what? We really feel like September is a good place for it.' Pineapple Express and Tropic Thunder dominated the August and everyone at Dreamworks they loved Tropic Thunder and knew it would do well, but I thought Pineapple Express was going to do twice the business that it did. So, they said 'Let's go in September' and I think it's a real good move now because I think there's going to be a real hunger and a real thirst for that kind of kick-ass action movie again because after what happens in Labor Day and the end of summer, now we're into a lot of arthouse and a lot of Academy-type movies and, hopefully, by the third week of September, people are going to be like, 'All right, great. I want to go see a car blow up.'
Do you have a favorite moment from the set or a favorite scene while you were filming this?
D.J. Caruso: Well, favorite moments from the set... first of all, we all had a lot of fun and it was insane. Shooting that car chase, we were also shooting that in one of Los Angeles' rare tornado warning moments. I think that one of the nicer moments for me was when I kind of realized that Shia was growning up. Just seeing him up in the airplane, we had taken them up in a crate an they're kind of hiding out, they don't know where they're going but they know the plane is going somewhere they shouldn't be going. They sort of had to inject themselves with these drugs that made their heart rate slow down and the cabin is not going to be pressurized where they are. It was a great scene where Shia basically talks Michelle down, knowing she's ten years his senior and having this guy, a 22-year-old guy, who everyone still thinks of as the kid from Disturbia and Transformers, as a young adult. It was almost like a Cary Grant or like a young Clooney or something, but it was like a grown-up Shia moment and, as a director, I was really proud that he wasn't a teenage boy anymore.
Yeah, it did seem like that from the footage we saw too. He's played the young rambunctious kid in pretty much all of his stuff that he's done.
D.J. Caruso: Yeah! Pretty much everything and I'm assuming in Transformers 2 he'll go back to that.
I saw that you were attached to a pilot that you're directing.
D.J. Caruso: Well, I'm trying to work on the Max comic called Johnny Dynamite, which is another graphic-novel thing and we're still working on that and trying to get it ready. It was a little too, well, not little, a lot too racy for NBC so they got cold feet on it. They decided not to make it.
So you're looking for somewhere else to set it up then?
D.J. Caruso: Yeah, we're going to try to find another home for that.
Can you talk a little about the story of that?
D.J. Caruso:Johnny Dynamite is basically a Max Collins creation where, basically, Johnny Dynamite is a cop from Chicago who goes to Vegas in search of his girlfriend and ultimately, in searching for his girlfriend, he sort of stumbles into the underworld of Vegas and happens to be infused with the deals people make with the devil when they get to Vegas. The premise would be that Bugsy Segal got there in the desert, many years ago, there's a reason that Vegas ended up where it was, because he met the devil. It's kind of cool. It's sort of like an Eagle Eye story meets The X-Files kind of thing. It's a really really cool thing, perhaps to racy for network TV.
D.J. Caruso: Yeah, that's what we're thinking.
You can see, especially in the car-chase scene, it really has a The French Connection sort of feel. Is that the kind of feel you want moviegoers to take away from this?
D.J. Caruso: Well, you want people to go, 'That was a great car chase, like The French Connection. There have been some really cool car chases lately and some cool stuff, but we just really wanted it to be real and visceral. What I loved about The French Connection is when a car crashed and Hackman went through all that shit and his car was all f*&%ed up, that's the car he finishes the shoot with. So, you just really want it to be inspired by that with the handheld cameras, just taking the ride. At the same time, we used the technology to our advantage. All the CG work, really, in the car sequences, were cables and stuff and ratchets being removed. Also, at the same time, it's a really cool car chase for character because it's the first time our two characters get together.
You also talked at the screening about Y: The Last Man. Have there been any developments on that?
D.J. Caruso: Hopefully there will be a big development. We just turned in the script last Friday to the studio and now we're just waiting for them to say, 'Let's go make this thing' and hopefully, from what I understand, they want it to be a movie that comes out in 2010, so we can get going quickly. I'd love to make it my next movie.
And do you still have Shia interested in that as well?
D.J. Caruso: Yeah. We definitely have Shia interested, depending on how fast or where it goes. I know after Transformers 2, he's going to need to take a break, get his hand a little healthier when we're shooting the movie and then we'll see what happens. I think he'd make a really great Yorick.
Are you going to continue to try and develop anything you can with Shia? You guys have a very good rapport, everything seems to mesh really well. It could be one of those Scorcese-DiCaprio kind of thing.
D.J. Caruso: (Laughs) Yeah, that would be nice. I would never compare myself to Marty Scorcese because he's a f&%^ing genius. But yeah, it's nice. It's nice to have those relationships, like Spielberg and Hanks used to work a lot together. If the right thing comes along, it'd be something that we can all work together on.
Finally, the movie comes out September 26th. It looks like quite a thrill ride and I can't wait to see the rest. What would you like to say to people who might not be as familiar with it, what to expect here?
D.J. Caruso: It's a really fun, action, popcorn movie, but at the same time, I'd like to believe that it's a little bit smarter than your average popcorn movie because there is sort of a cautionary tale underneath it. At the same time that you're there and you're getting thrilled and you're enjoying the action - there's some crazy stuff - there's a little bit of a cautionary web underneath it that makes it a little bit more intriguing and, hopefully, more interesting that just a straight action movie.
Well, that's about all I have, D.J. Thanks a lot for your time, and I can't wait to see the rest of the film.
D.J. Caruso: Oh, I apprecate it. Thank you. It was a great interview.
Be sure to catch the thrill ride that is Eagle Eye when it hits the theaters on September 26.