“A visionary is not just someone who imagines amazing things, but really someone who can take the things in their head and make them real, who can let us see through their eyes,” said EW’s own Anthony Breznican, who moderated Entertainment Weekly’s Visionaries panel at Comic-Con on Thursday.
Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men), Marc Webb (The Amazing Spider-Man), and Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) sat down with Breznican in front of a sea of fans in Hall H to discuss long takes, relationship movies in disguise, and the technological challenges of suspending Sandra Bullock in space. Take a look at some of the best moments after the jump.
On disguising your relationship comedy under the mask of a thrilling zombie movie: Edgar Wright’s The World’s End wraps up a thematic trilogy that began with Shaun of the Dead and then Hot Fuzz. “I realized [that] the three different genres like a zombie film, a cop film, and this one’s a sci-fi film, are really Trojan horses to make relationship comedies. It’s usually that me and Simon [Pegg] take something from our personal experience — in this case the rather bittersweet experience of going back to our hometown and reconnecting with old friends and combining that with a cataclysmic, otherworldly event. Usually it’s us taking something that’s happening in our lives and adding maximum devastation,” said Wright. Webb agreed: “The 12-year-old in me gets really excited to get up in the morning and blow sh– up, but what I realized as I got older is the things that are meaningful … are the relationships that ground these movies.”
The technical challenges of bringing a vision to life: Cuarón’s Gravity was one big technical challenge, focusing largely on Sandra Bullock drifting in space, possibly alone. “When I’d finished writing it I sent it to Chivo (nickname of Emmanuel Lubezki), my cinematographer on Children of Men and many others, and said, ‘Let’s make this about one character, very simple, shoot it in one year. Over the next four and a half years he’d remind me of that,” he said. “The character is not only floating but spinning on different axes. And that doesn’t happen on Earth. We tried several things. We tried the famous vomit-comet. … The problem is you’re limited to the space of the plane and it lasts for 20 seconds,” said Cuarón, explaining why they had to invent their own technology. “The core of the film was robotics. You know the robots they use to build cars? For a big chunk of the film, Sandra Bullock was in a 9×9 cube, which is a perfect cube in which all of the walls are LED lights. … The character was static and everything was moving around her.”
On using your villains in a smart way: “Villains are really a foil for the protagonist and you want them to bring out some characteristic that you haven’t seen in that character,” said Webb. “That was one of the reasons why we chose Electro as the main villain, not just to have him contend with the physical aspects of such a demonic godlike force, but somebody who has to deal with him in a creative, interesting way.”
On experimenting with what you can do with action sequences: Wright said one of the big revelations of The World’s End was using his stuntmen as actors too. “It just makes the fight scenes so much more real because you’ve got no doubles,” said Wright. Webb added: “In my movie, one of the most difficult but rewarding sequences was Andrew Garfield with a coffee cup and a mail cart, and it was this old-school physical comedy thing. It’s stunt work, but it’s kind of like dance.”
On Steven Spielberg and George Lucas’s predictions about the future of the film industry: Cuarón said, “multiplex cinemas are almost exclusively for big movies [now]. Ten years ago you could find very small movies.” Webb added, “it’s very hard to make a $15 million drama. It’s almost impossible. And the independent-film market has been marginalized in a very significant way.” Still, Cuarón was optimistic and referenced the fact that everyone with a laptop still has the ability to create a decent-looking movie. Even though you might not be able to catch a small indie at a multiplex, there will be other outlets for that kind of film. “There’s got to be a balance,” Wright said of the original versus sequel/reboot debate. “If we’re not doing more original films, there’ll be nothing to remake in 30 years time.” Webb added: “Or in five years time.”
On 3-D: Cuarón said, “In most of the cases, it’s not necessary. In most of the cases now in movies that are being released 3-D is an afterthought.” But with Gravity, Cuarón defended himself against his own criticism with a laugh: “Look, the movie took four and a half years to make, so at that time, 3-D was still cool. And I seriously wanted to make a 3-D film.” From an aesthetic standpoint, Cuarón said he’s not thrilled with the color and the resolution of shooting in 3-D, but he still preferred it for Gravity. Webb says, “the controversy totally makes sense. Sometimes it is plopped on by the marketing people and that’s very frustrating for a filmmaker to have that kind of pressure tied to your film. But I do think it’s an incredible format with enormous possibilities.” The conclusion? They all seemed to agree that when 3-D supports the storytelling and isn’t just an afterthought or a gimmick, that it’s fair game and worth exploring. “I think when people get tired of it is when it is slapped on to every film every week,” said Wright.
More great panel moments
• Cuarón said that on the grueling set of Gravity, Sandra Bullock and George Clooney had a competition to impersonate his accent. The winner? “They both suck,” Cuarón said, laughing.
• Webb was inspired by the Errol Morris documentary The Fog of War, about Vietnam-era Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. “He said ‘empathize with the enemy.’ And I think in order to solve the problems that Electro presents, Spider-Man has to empathize with him,” said Webb.
• Wright, when listing his cast members, said, “Martin Freeman, a.k.a. Bilbo. That’s what he’s contractually called now.”
• Webb, when talking about how interesting long takes can be, paused and looked over to Cuarón, known and respected for his use of the long take, and kind of paused, smiled, and said, “Well, you know what I’m talking about.”
• “The actors always want to show off in front of the stunt men. That keeps raising the stakes,” said Wright.