Director Doug Liman – Exclusive Interview – JUMPER
Posted by Frosty
I normally don’t agree to do phone interviews, but I’m extremely happy that I signed up for this one. You see, normally a phone interview sucks. It’s completely impersonal and I’ve found them to lack any spice. You get these safe, standard answers, and it’s over by the time you blink. But as I said in the first sentence, I’m so happy that I agreed to do this one.
While the interview started a bit slow, after the first two questions it picked up and never stopped. Of course Doug and I discussed the making of “Jumper” and all the challenges of filming around the world. But we also talked about digital filmmaking, 3D filmmaking, sequels, what he has coming up and a lot more. It’s actually one of the best interviews I’ve ever done with a director, and it’s definitely one worth reading. Here are a few highlights to tempt the taste buds:
When I asked about sequels, he said, “I actually have a ton of ideas for the sequel because this is whole new arena for me and so my mind was in overdrive the whole time and most of the ideas I came up with we either could tease or just save it for a sequel and so it’s…this power can be used to leave this planet, this power can be used ultimately to go back in time, this power can be used if you go and work for the government you’d be the ultimate Jason Bourne.
About his upcoming projects:
Doug: I have 2 projects I’m currently developing. One of them is with Jake Gyllenhaal about a private expedition to go to the moon present day. And I think when the United States of America put a man on the moon in 1969 that was one of the greatest accomplishments mankind has ever done. And rather than tell that as a historic movie I was like can I make this relevant to a modern audience, can I have modern characters today follow the blueprint of Apollo and re-create the Apollo mission today using parts stolen from the Smithsonian Museum. And so it’s kind of an action-adventure on the surface of the moon, and the 2nd film is the story of Valerie Plame, you may know as the CIA officer whom the Bush administration exposed her identity. And that’s with Nicole Kidman. And that project sounds straightforward except that I have a take on the material that if I go do it would be the most radical and revolutionary move of my career.
Some of the other highlights include him saying he’ll probably be moving to digital cameras for his future movies and explaining why they’re easier and faster to shoot with.
But since a few of you might not know Doug’s name, here’s some info. Doug Liman started his career by directing “Swingers,” which starred Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn. From there he made the great indie film “Go,” and after that he moved into the big Hollywood arena by directing the first “Bourne” movie. After a few years he came back and directed the Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie movie “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” and now he’s back with “Jumper.” The movie stars Hayden Christensen, Jamie Bell, Rachel Bilson and Samuel L. Jackson.
The premise is that Hayden plays someone with the ability to teleport. It ends up that certain people have been born with this gift for many years. However, there is a group – called the Paladins – that is determined to hunt down and kill anyone with this power. So while Hayden just wants to live a life of leisure and pursue his own selfish dreams, once the Paladins notice him, everything changes and he’s forced to fight.
I’m trying to be kind of vague and not give it all away, but all you need to know is that it’s a solid popcorn movie and one that has great effects, amazing locations, and a ton of action. But I think my favorite part of the movie is that Hayden’s character isn’t a hero. He doesn’t want to use his gifts to save mankind or better humanity. He just wants to get laid, not work, and surf where the waves are high. It’s a nice change from every comic book movie where the main character is a superman.
Anyway, here’s the great interview with Doug. As always, if you’d like to listen to the audio click here. It’s an MP3 and easily put on a portable device for listening later. And if you want to watch some movie clips from “Jumper,” click here.
Of course a big thank you to Fox for setting us this interview, and a big thank you to Doug for giving me way more than my allotted time.
Collider: How are you doing today?
Doug Liman: Good, how are you doing?
Collider: Pretty good. Enough press for you?
Doug Liman: You know, I actually like it. I don’t know why.
Collider: Okay, I’m glad you do. So, I guess let me jump right in and say that I really actually enjoyed the movie and I wanted to know how important was it for you to keep the film as real as possible?
Doug: It was really important to me because I was very interested from a character perspective and what would someone really do if they had this power, and like you could never do an honest character exploration in the world of Spiderman or Superman or Batman, because those worlds are not at all like our world. Like Jason Bourne, who’s set very much very in my world, meeting people like that I know, and like every character in Bourne Identity outside of Matt Damon is based on a real person that I know. And even the crazy people like Julia Styles character is based on a woman that I met when I lived in Paris who worked for the CIA. And so, I wanted to sort of apply the same logic to Jumper and have somebody who could teleport in our world. It was important for me because I fell in love with the character of David Rice in the book in sort of the same way that I fell in love with Vince Vaughn’s character in Jon Favreau’s script. You know, there’s a…I’m very attracted to what I consider to be like truly honest characters. I think I’m going to be judged harshly by many people for the morality of this movie, the same way that Brad and Angie in Mr. & Mrs. Smith express no remorse whatsoever over killing people for a living. David Rice does not exactly make a great role model, especially because a lot of young people are going to see this movie, but in the hands of a sort of more traditional filmmaker the obvious story to tell is selfish superhero ultimately decides to save the world and become selfless.
Collider: See that’s a question I had for you. There was a scene in the movie where you see him watching the news with the people on the river and the announcer is saying something to the effect of “who can save these people. It’s going to take a miracle”. Did you ever shoot anything that had him doing a reaction to that or was that just a throwaway?
Doug: I had an extra moment where he turned the TV off, but it was never even a possibility that he was going to go do it. And I love that it wasn’t even a possibility. There’s something…I don’t know what it says about me that I love him for the fact that like it doesn’t even occur to him that he should go save those people. I don’t think I’m all that twisted in my life. I’m not like some tattooed filmmaker who you know hangs out on the lower east side and is part of some satanic cult or something. I’m like a nice Jewish boy from the Upper West Side, but for some reason I really fell in love with this David Rice and I wanted to go as far as I possibly could with it. The scene with the TV is not in the book. The scene with him using the power to have one-night stands all over the globe and then teleport away as opposed to having the awkward morning scene—not in the book. Faced with a heroic moment in the Coliseum where Jason Bourne would stand his ground and instead David Rice chooses to abuse his power to run away—not in the book, but I wanted to see…for me there was something heroic about all of that and it may be that David Rice is just doing things that the rest of us would think about doing but would never admit to it. And so in some crazy way he’s just being a little bit more honest.
Collider: And you mentioned the Roman Coliseum. I actually wanted to talk to you about the fact that the film does take place all around the globe and I think that’s something that’s so important to add to why the film to me was so good is that you see these people all around the globe. How much of a challenge was that to actually film in Rome, in Tokyo and you know all the locations you had?
Doug: I can’t believe we actually accomplished shooting this film where we did, given that every location—if I told you you could just pick anyone of those locations and I can tell you what the restrictions were on us. And like anyone of them you’d be like okay that sounds impossible, but hopefully that was the hardest of them all. Just pick one of those and I’ll tell you what the restrictions are.
Collider: Let’s talk about the Roman Coliseum because that blew me away.
Doug: Okay, Roman Coliseum, we were only allowed to shoot 45 minutes in the morning and 45 minutes at the end of the day—total.
Collider: So what did you do in between the morning and the end of the day?
Doug: I would shoot…first of all we would start prepping at 3 in the morning so that when our 45-minute window started we were ready. And then we would go shoot other things during the middle of the day, you know not much and then we would start prepping an hour or two before our 45-minute window opened again, because you don’t have a second to waste, like you need all the cameras loaded, you need everybody knowing exactly what they’re doing, you need the actors to have rehearsed their performances. Then we shot the Pantheon; we would go shoot the hotel. We’d grab other pieces.
Collider: This is interesting because I know that you’re famous for shooting and then re-shooting.
Doug: That option is not open to me on the Coliseum.
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