The producer extraordinaire on his new horror/thriller starring Hilary Swank
He's the man behind some of the world's biggest films, including all three Matrix films. Joel Silver has created one nice little empire for himself in Silver Pictures and his horror genre company, Dark Castle.
His latest film is The Reaping, starring Hilary Swank, Idris Elba and AnnaSophia Robb; Hilary and Idris travel to a small town in Louisiana to investigate why strange things are happening. The first thing they discover is the river in the area has turned blood red; the townspeople blame it on AnnaSophia, saying she's living with evil spirits inside of her.
Joel sat down with Movieweb.com and SplatterFilms.com to talk about The Reaping, but also to discuss some of his future projects including Speed Racer, Wonder Woman, and Logan's Run; check out what he had to say:
What made Hilary Swank so perfect for this movie?
Joel Silver: I mean, she wanted to do a movie like this. And I knew her, and she said to me, 'Find a film like this I can do, I'd like to do one.' And this script came in, and I sent it to her, and she said, 'I like this.' She liked the idea, she liked the character, she liked the twists, she liked the whole idea; she liked the notion you think it's an evil child movie, but it isn't, it's the opposite. She said let's see if we can make this work, and we were able to do that.
What's appealing about her as a person?
Joel Silver: She's a great girl, she's smart, she's sweet, she's a very beautiful girl; she looks better she's looked in any movie, I think. It's not hard because she has played pretty rough roles, and she's not playing princess, but she looks great in the picture. And she's a great partner, she works hard and everyone loves her and she's a real friend, and I'm just proud of the performance and proud of the movie.
What about Idris?
Joel Silver: I mean, he's a fantastic guy, and he's just this big strong guy and he's a really sweet guy. And I think that's what he brought, he brought us this kind of size and scale.
And he's really afraid of bugs.
Joel Silver: Yeah, I know. But I think he brings a lot to it; I liked working with him, I'd love to do another picture with him. He was a friend of Stephen's, I met him through Stephen one night, and I said, 'Let's go with him.'
You were on the set of Whiteout?
Joel Silver: Yeah.
How was it?
Joel Silver: It was cold, it was cold, it was cold up there. Look, they built the set on the shore of that Lake Winnipeg up there - it's such an expansive ice; you could really see the curvature, and it really looked like an arch. It was fantastic, to land those planes on that frozen lake, it really felt like it was the bottom of the world.
Are you done there?
Joel Silver: We're done there, we're now starting in Montreal next week.
How does that compare to Louisiana?
Joel Silver: I prefer - it was cold - I prefer shooting in cold rather than shooting in hot because you can make yourself warm; you really can't make yourself cool. So at least you can bundle up; when I was there, it was 15 degrees, but there was a day at negative 40 at one point, so it was cold, it was cold. But, they got out of there, so they're through with the exterior stuff now.
Is Speed Racer going to have a lot of blue screen?
Joel Silver: I mean, it's a really - these filmmakers are really - first off, they approach everything from a stand point of story and script; they're writers first. So the script they wrote is really spectacular and it's a really great story and incredible characters. And they were impressed by Speed Racer because it was the first Japanese animation they saw when they were kids; it was the first thing they were aware of a different kind of animation, It made them learn about Japanese animation, so it's kind of seminal, and they always like the idea of the material, so they've always known about it. And they've always wanted to make a movie that could be seen by the whole family, because every movie they've made have been adult movies. And they're also great film buffs; they love Capra movies, they wanted to make a movie that could have real sentiment. And they feel that a lot of the adult films they see or are aware of are very cynical. But they feel that when they come to the family movies, some of the animated movies that we see are, have a great sense of - they feel they return to a kind of filmmaking that they love, so they feel like they can do that in this movie. It doesn't have to be a cynical story, it can be a movie that is as human and as accessible, and is sentimental. So you're going to see a kind of real story, and then technologically, you're going to see things that you've never even dreamed of, or you've seen before.
Are they mixing in some of their beliefs and philosophies?
Joel Silver: Oh yeah, sure, sure; but they way it's being made is - I keep showing the studio tests and they sit in their room, and I show them the test. When the lights go up, they just look at me and they say, 'Can you show that to us again?' They don't even - they can't believe what they're seeing, it's just the way they're working with images and how they're putting it together. It's going to be the first HD movie they've ever shot, cause they've never shot in HD.
Is Dark Castle changing?
Joel Silver: Not really, I mean Dark Castle is changing; it's going to be - this is the last film that was financed by Warners, in this case it was Warner Brothers and Dark Castle. As we're moving forward, they're going to be financed by us; we raise the money to make the picture ourselves. And the first in the new structure is Whiteout. But it's also going to be more of a genre label, as opposed to just a horror label; up till now, they've just been horror movies, but Whiteout is more of a thriller. And we're going to make movies that are going to be action movies, urban comedies, we're going to go into a more not strict horror label. But it's whatever comes in; this script came in and it got together pretty quickly, and I liked where it was going, and I liked the twists in it, and Hilary said yes, and Stephen Hopkins said yes, and we made it. But it's a little more sophisticated than House of Wax, which is a slasher film; I like slasher films. But look, 300 is more of a slasher film, too, in a way, so that's their genre movie. Look, they can be different movies and I think this one is a little more sophisticated than not, but still I think it's a good scary movie.
Have you changed your attitude?
Joel Silver: Once I decided to raise the money and build the company, I wanted to broaden it a little bit; I'll start doing television shows. I think we're going to make a deal with Sci Fi to do a series of shows for them. I still have my Silver Pictures Television, I still have a company doing that. But I'm going to go into and do more genre television; I'm doing a pilot for CBS, that's kind of a vampire pilot, so I still stay in the same things I like to do, but like to tweak it a little bit.
Are you concerned about having to shift the release date?
Joel Silver: It's just the effects are just not - I mean, the earlier movies we did, they were able to set a date and a time and go. But these visual effects in this movie is full of visual effects, far more than anybody realizes; we know, but studios don't always realize that, and they say - I was actually making the picture, and they say, 'Could we come out last April?' And I said, 'I can't come out until next April. I mean, you guys are nuts.' They said, 'Can we try to make it this April?' And I said, 'It's just not possible.' That scene with the locusts, there were no locusts; there're no locusts, it's just them in front of a house. I mean, everyone's acting like there are locusts, but we have to put all that in, and that's multi layers of activity, and you just can't do that.
What's going on with Wonder Woman?
Joel Silver: I mean, we're struggling with it, but we'll fix it, we'll solve it.
Is it possible the character will appear in the Justice League?
Joel Silver: I hope so, I hope that happens; I don't know where that - again, I said this over at Wondercon: for years now, Marvel's just been kicking the DC Comics' characters ass; they've been killing them. And look, I don't know if that's because the Marvel characters are more self deprecating and more they twist on the super hero character. But I mean, DC is the foundation of the super hero character; they're where it came from. And Watchmen, it's definitely not - it's more in the Marvel direction, but I would hope that we can bring some of these DC characters. We're doing Batman now, and I hope they can do another Superman, I hope we can figure out Wonder Woman, I hope they make Justice League; I hope we can do a lot of these characters, cause I think it's good to get them out there, and I'd like to win that war.
Do you think Dark Castle films get a fair shake from the critical community?
Joel Silver: I don't know, I mean I think that there's always been some kind of disconnect between the big commercial movies and the critical community. When I did Matrix, I didn't get good reviews on that movie, and it was groundbreaking and interesting. I remember years ago when I made Lethal 1, I remember I got terrible reviews on the movie; and then, Lethal 2 came out and the same reviewers that said that 1 was terrible, said, 'Well this movie is really bad, not like that great movie Lethal 1.' It didn't make sense that they didn't say that was great then, so it's hard to kind of find a way. The critical community, there's kind of three different businesses that are existing now - there's the tentpole, blockbuster movie that really doesn't need critical acclaim, but it doesn't hurt if it gets it; it gives it a bit of a drive, that gets it beyond just that normal successful movie. There's the kind of genre movie that does not require critical acclaim at all; it works it to a level that works. And then there are the art films that requires it; without that, they can't survive. So I wish there was a way we could find a way we could even it all out, but a movie like 300 gets terrible reviews and gets a great response.
Does that remind you of The Matrix at all?
Joel Silver: Oh yeah, The Matrix is a little different kind of story, in that it was a lot more there than just the story. But I think it looked different, I think it looked different; and the thing about Speed Racer is it's going to look very different. And I think when movies look different, I think people take notice of that.
What kind of urban comedy would you like to do?
Joel Silver: Yeah, I'd love to work with Tyler Perry, I think he's fantastic; I'd love to work with him. But yeah, I've always had a whole slate of kind of urban movies that I've made and I want to make more of them, so that's my intention.
What's the update on Logan's Run?
Joel Silver: Look, I'm passionate about that; Bryan Singer was really excited about it, and then he made Superman. And then he left Logan's Run to do Superman, and it was kind of out of his system. But I'll figure out a way to do it.
Before all of Joel's other projects come out, The Reaping hits theaters April 5th; it's rated R.