Exclusive: Producer Dan Lin on the LEGO MOVIE and GANGSTER SQUAD

     December 16, 2009

Lego slice.jpg

I think the following week should be called “7 Days with Producer Dan Lin”.  That’s because when I was in London a few days ago, I spoke at length with the Sherlock Holmes producer about not only his latest film, but everything he has in development.  Trust me, if you’re interested in anything on Dan Lin’s IMDb page, over the next few days I’ll be able to provide an update.  But since it was such a wide ranging interview, I’ve decided to post it over the next week as separate articles almost every night.  At least that’s the plan.

So to kick off “7 Days with Producer Dan Lin,” let’s start with the Lego movie and Gangster Squad.  The big info is he thinks both of these projects are moving forward very quickly in the development cycle.

Regarding Lego, Lin says they’re “talking to several directors right now.”  He also says the film should be rated PG, he hopes to be making it in 2010, and he describes how the Denmark company is involved in the film, plus a few more details on the movie.

On Gangster Squad, Lin says they are getting a draft of the script the first week of January and it’s based on the series of L.A. Times articles by Paul Lieberman.  According to Lin, “It’s something based off of a real-life story. Will Bell, an ex-LAPD cop, is writing it. And it’s about when the gangsters had taken over the east coast. They’d taken over New York. They’d taken over Chicago. Bugsy Siegel was a big gangster at the time and they sent out Mickey Cohen to take over L.A. And Gangster Squad is about a group of rag-tag cops that were put together to take down the mob and take down Mickey Cohen. And their motto was ‘justice or just us’.”  Much more after the jump:

What would you categorize of your other projects that you’re touching on as stuff that’s really forward rather quickly?

Lego_image (1).jpgDan Lin: I would say the top 2 for me are my Lego movie and a movie called Gangster Squad. Lego Movie is an animation live-action hybrid that we’re working on. It’s something we’re talking to several directors about right now. We did a test with this company called Blur in Venice that turned out great. But it’s one of my passionate projects. I loved playing with Legos. My son loves playing with Legos.

I loved playing with Legos!

Dan Lin: It embodies kind of the most important values for me as a creative person-imagination and creativity. And that’s something that we’re working on right now.

Before you go into the other project, can you tell people a little bit about like your sort of…right now the big joke is if there’s any sort of name recognition with like a board game it’s going to be made. Anything that people know it’s easier to sell so we want to make it. With Lego you obviously have many different worlds there that they’re created from the castles to the dragon things to space to Harry Potter Lego. Is there sort of…is there a certain direction that you’re looking at? Is it more like a Spielbergian thing where it’s about a kid and his Lego set and he goes into that world?

Dan Lin: I don’t want to give away too much about the story just yet until we publicly announce it, but I will tell you what you mentioned…what’s great about Lego is the worlds. There’s all these different worlds. Space, pirates, Viking world, so it allows a director to play in a lot of different worlds. What it also…naturally the toy doesn’t have any characters as you know besides the licensed product, there’s no character. There’s a spaceman but there’s no personality to the spaceman. And that’s intentional because when Lego designs its toys they want you as the player-the child- they want the player to bring and create the character themselves. So that’s what we’re working on with the movie right now. I would say there are several Lego characteristics that we’re trying to build into the movie. Their company motto is only the best is good enough. So they’ve raised a very high bar for the movie. Something else we’ve talked about with them is never the same toy twice. You know, with Legos you build per the instructions and then you break it apart and build something else on your own with your own creativity. So, for us, Superglue is evil in the world of Lego. It’s all about building what your mind wants you to build, what your imagination allows you to build.

Lego_image (3).jpgObviously Lego is a huge company. How involved are they in making….like do you guys have the rights or do you have to sort of work it with Lego once you guys come up with your script and you come up with your director and you sort of pitch it back to the Denmark guys?

Dan Lin: They’re very involved. I consider them our partners in the movie. We have the rights to the movie, but they have a lot of checks and balances with us, so certainly they’re very involved in choosing the writer, choosing the writer, approving the take. They’ve got a very valuable brand, as you know. It’s like the…they have the parent seal of approval and it’s something that we really respect so they’re involved every step of the way.

G or PG?

Dan Lin: Most likely PG. It hasn’t been sited but most likely PG. The challenge for us is, as you know, the Lego toys are geared to boys 5 to 12 and we’re trying to make a movie that can appeal to all audiences and so that age up Lego, while still retaining what younger kids love about Lego.

As you said you’re currently going out and is this a project you think could be going in 2010 or you hope?

Lego_image (2).jpgDan Lin: That’s my hope.

Being a producer you have these scripts coming in etc, say you get the script for Lego and you’re very happy with it. What exactly is the process after you’re happy with it to get the studio behind you and then getting it in front of cameras?

Dan Lin: These days just the script alone may not be enough, so in the case of Lego Warner Brothers is going to know what does it look like? What could it look like? What do Lego mini figures look like when they actually move? What do these Lego worlds…how do they look realized on film?  How’s it going to be different from the toys? The commercials? The video games? So, for me, I’m going to be presenting a script that I love and also a test of what the movie will look like. It’ll be like a teaser trailer and then present that to Jeff Robinoff who makes the greenlight decisions along with Alan Horn. Jeff Robinoff and Alan Horn and they have a green-light committee that’ll make the decision whether or not we make the movie.

And you mentioned another project.

Gangster Squad.jpgDan Lin: The 2nd was Gangster Squad. It’s something based off of a real-life story. Will Bell, an ex-LAPD cop, is writing it. And it’s about when the gangsters had taken over the east coast. They’d taken over New York. They’d taken over Chicago. Bugsy Siegel was a big gangster at the time and they sent out Mickey Cohen to take over L.A. And Gangster Squad is about a group of rag-tag cops that were put together to take down the mob and take down Mickey Cohen. And their motto was “justice or just us”. They were doing what they felt was best for the city. If they had success, the police chief would get all the credit. If they failed, no one would know who they were. So, for me, it’s a classic hero story about people who do what’s right because of their own beliefs not for personal glory.

I’m assuming this one is a little more R-rated.

Dan Lin: It’s most likely R-rated. Tonally it’s more like a film I worked on in the past The Departed.

Which is a great film. With this project…so it’s just being written right now?

Dan Lin: Yes.  We’re getting a draft as soon as we come back so we’re getting a draft in the first week of January. And it’s based on a series of L.A. Times articles by this guy named Paul Lieberman, so he laid out a series of…it was 7 different articles that he laid out that are now being adapted into a movie.

Gangster Squad (2).jpgIt sounds to me, while it’s different, there’s still an element almost of The Untouchables.

Dan Lin: Yes.

I guess could you describe it vs. The Untouchables or is it…does that make any sense?

Dan Lin: Yeah. I would say…how do I describe…what do you mean vs.

What is the tone compared to The Untouchables. And are you thinking in like a similar kind of thing or is it going to be kind of grittier. A little more dirty?

Dan Lin: Right. It’s probably too early to tell until the director gets involved. Depending on the director one director could take it in a darker way and one can take it slightly lighter, so I think it depends on the director. Look at Guy Ritchie with Sherlock Holmes. If we had a director like Christopher Nolan, he probably would have taken Sherlock Holmes in maybe a darker area vs. Guy gives you the grit of London but a lot of the humor. So it’s ultimately the director will take our script and shift the tone one way or the other.

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