There are some directors who are hesitant to tackle reboots or remakes, tepid of being compared to what filmmakers prior to them did with the material.
Louis Leterrier is not one of them.
He already brought a kinetic punch to the Transporter sequel, already rebooted The Incredible Hulk with Edward Norton after its initial false start in the hands of Ang Lee. Now he turns his attention to Clash of the Titans, opening Friday, an update to the far-flung 1981 adventure film featuring monsters from the imagination of Ray Harryhausen. And he doesn’t hold back that he’s chomping at the bit to get his hands around an Avengers film.
Obviously the big news here is the decision to push back the release date and go ahead with a 3D conversion of the film. What is that like, to suddenly find yourself working not on a 2D film but a 3D project?
I was involved in the decision, but I was definitely not the guy who said we have to do it. I’ve always been a frustrated 2D director, the kind of filmmaker who throws the camera through stuff and has followed the new technology surrounding 3D. For one of my movies in the ’80s I had a 65mm camera and then reprojected the film at 60 frames per second which was almost the same as creating a 3D experience.
So in some ways, this was a natural fit because the way I shoot my stuff I love to put all of these elements into the shot, you have dust and pebbles flying everywhere and there’s a lot here that comes at the audience. The technology has also advanced to the point where there’s a real interactivity to control the intraocular depth, so there’s an art to bringing the viewer into the movie, and doing it differently between different scenes. (More at Techland: The 10 best camera apps for the iPhone)
I’m wondering though, in this post-Avatar world, if taking a sudden plunge into 3D then adds new layers of expectations and stress for directors. I mean, we’ve already seen the Spider-Man franchise fall apart because of 3D issues.
You know, no one thought, even from the studio side, that a film about greek Gods and men wearing skirts riding winged horses could be engaging. But I told them: You’re wrong. Give me enough money to do it and I’ll do it. And then we screened the movie a week before Avatar came out, and you started hearing these real rumbles, that ‘this is absolutely amazing.’ And then Avatar comes out, and they’re like: Okay, we have to do this. And then immediately I’m really worried because you have to shoot it in 3D, it’s not the same to convert.
But they managed to convince you.
Well, it really all came down to ‘View-D,’ this new conversion process, and there’s a little bit of secrets here and I can’t really talk about it, but it’s absolutely amazing and it made me a believer. You’re working with the screen, as a plane with an XYZ scale, and you can work in a very detailed way in sliding back and forth on that Z scale, deciding where you want to focus the eye. And it offered this brand new way of telling the story. (More at Techland: Monster March Madness – The Final Four!)
Speaking of the story, what is it about Titans that gets you revved up. When you’re sitting down to storyboard this thing out, what are you most excited about, whether we’re talking 2D or 3D or hell 1D drawings, whatever…what were your favorite gods to bring back to life?
You know, they’re all my babies, so they are all my favorites. It’s really a work of passion. But when you start thinking about something like the Kraken, your mind starts to reel when you have today’s technology at your disposal. It’s the secret weapon of the gods, the gods’ attack dog, and that was fun, to start thinking about what it looks like and how it swims and when it reveals itself as this gigantic presence. You start looking at other movies that have these giants in them, like Cloverfield – which was a fantastic movie. But even there, you kind of know what it’s going to look like. In Titans, we tried to think on a scale where you really have no idea what you’re looking at until all hell breaks loose.
You seem surprisingly comfortable stepping into material that others have worked with. When we talk about Transporter or Hulk or Titans, you jump right in, bringing your own spin to the franchise. Is it ever intimidating?
I love Ang Lee’s Hulk and I’m such a fan of Ray Harryhausen. It’s really tough, but then people come to me and we talk about making these movies and there’s no way I can say no. I try to find a way of making it my own, to pay homage to the original and hopefully offer everyone – even those who don’t know the original – a good movie. With Titans, I tried to think of how that old movie would have been made today, to use today’s technology but to keep the fun and the camp and help audiences to see what the did differently back then.
In terms of process, how do you go about making this your own? How do you approach the material?
I try to know where each character is coming from, and where their course takes them. Before even stepping up to this movie I had briefly written a prequel and sequel, stories that followed each of these characters so I had a point of reference. For me, that was important – to have a clear handle on who they are.
Is that what you’re hoping to do for The Avengers as well – I’ve read that you’re on the shortlist with Marvel.
Yeah, I’m about ready to just start camping outside their offices, until they give me the chance…what I love about Avengers is the human story of all these egos, sitting down together and having to work together. It’s all about the evolution of the superhero comic book, to have them all come together and to watch what works and what doesn’t.
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