With Jurassic World now in theaters, I recently landed an exclusive interview with producer Frank Marshall. During our wide-ranging conversation, we talked about making the sequel, why they wanted Colin Trevorrow to direct, the long development process, future sequel plans, and what they learned from friends and family screenings. In addition, Marshall also talked about trying to finish Orson Welles’s last film (The Other Side of the Wind) by raising funds on Indiegogo, the status of Bourne 5 with Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon, the Assassin’s Creed movie with Justin Kurzel, and the Sully Sullenberger story being directed by Clint Eastwood.
If you didn’t know, executive producer Steven Spielberg personally oversaw the Jurassic World story development, as Trevorrow and his writing partner Derek Connolly fine-tuned the existing screenplay penned by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (Rise of the Planet of the Apes), which for the first time takes place within a functioning Jurassic Park. The film also stars Nick Robinson, Ty Simpkins, Vincent D’Onofrio, Omar Sy, Irrfan Khan, Jake Johnson, and Judy Greer. For more on the film, read Perri’s review.
COLLIDER: I have to ask you a true or false question. Is it true that the only reason you agreed to make Jurassic World and be a part of it is to play with Chris Pratt and Jimmy Buffett at the premiere party?
FRANK MARSHALL: Absolutely true.
[Laughs] I saw the picture. What was that like being able to play with Chris Pratt and Jimmy Buffett?
MARSHALL: [Laughs] It was, you know, everybody’s dream come true. [Laughs]
Well, especially for them.
MARSHALL: [Laughs] Yeah, yeah, exactly, to play with me. No, it was fun. Jimmy’s a great friend and lets me come up on Margaritaville every once in a while on his tour, so the added bonus was getting Chris up there to join in and have some fun, so it was really great.
Were you up there for a while, or was it the one song?
MARSHALL: No I just did the one song. I do a couple of others, but he only sang four songs so that was kind of the closer. It kind of brought the house down, and Chris got to say happy birthday to his mom, so it all worked out great.
Before jumping into Jurassic, which congratulations on the movie…
MARSHALL: Thank you.
I definitely want to touch on Orson Welles’s last film. What’s the status? How is the Indiegogo going? What can you tell people about it?
MARSHALL: It’s not going as well as I had hoped to be honest. It’s pretty slow, although we’re inching up every day. We’ve raised about 25% of what we’d like to raise. I think it’s been great that so many people have joined in on the campaign, and I’ve just gotta get to a point where I can get the last bit of the rights and then I’m able to get the negative out of the lab and print, and put together maybe fifteen, twenty minutes of the beginning of the movie that makes sense, so then I can get a distributor on board to help us finish the rest of post-production. The hiccup here is, yes there’s forty minutes of cut footage by Orson, but it’s randomly throughout the movie, so there’s no real way to say to somebody there’s a movie that extends here, so that’s what I’m trying to get to.
Sure. If I’m not mistaken, you were on set of the movie. You helped bring it to life back then.
MARSHALL: Yes, I mean, talk about the thrill of a lifetime. To be there with Orson Welles every day, twenty-four hours a day and see his genius at work was something I’ll never forget and really keeps inspiring me to help get this last movie of his finished.
I’m obviously a huge cinephile and Orson’s work is staggering. It is amazing to me that there is something that he made that could be still seen all of these years later.
MARSHALL: Yes and I think unfortunately the stigma that he had back then seems to still be there that people don’t get it. They don’t trust the fact that he was this genius and the guy that made Citizen Kane, Touch of Evil, and The Magnificent Ambersons, and there might be this fantastic movie in there. Whatever it is, we should preserve it for cinema history, no matter what it comes out like.
I am in full agreement, and I really hope this comes together. Whatever I can do to help.
MARSHALL: If you could just keep sending people to the Indiegogo campaign, that’s the best way for everybody to help. And I have to say that knowing Orson as I did, he would be tickled pink that the real people, fans of the movies are going to help get his last movie made.
One other thing I wanted to touch on: I really enjoyed Sinatra, which premiered recently. Can you talk about being a part of Sinatra, bringing that to life, and the challenge of telling his story?
MARSHALL: Sure. Well thanks, by the way. That was another passion project for me. My dad was a guitar player and a composer and actually played on a couple [Frank] Sinatra sessions back in the 50s at Capital Records, so I had a real personal connection to this story and I do think that Frank Sinatra is probably the greatest entertainer of the 20th century, and maybe ever in his style of singing and entertaining. Like telling stories even in movies, Sinatra told stories in song, and I think that’s what made it really special. I started on this journey about five years ago when I met with Nancy Sinatra. We knew that the 100th anniversary of his birth which is this year was coming up, so we talked about trying to do some sort of documentary to celebrate that. That’s how it all started. I said to her ‘there have been so many things done and books written, etc., etc., of your Dad. What do we have or do you have anything that is new and something we can use as sort of a hook’ and she says ‘I do have this footage that was shot of his retirement concert at the time. How about that?’
And I said ‘you have footage that nobody’s seen?’ [Laughs] I said ‘I’m in’. I said ‘where is it?’, she said ‘oh, it’s at my house in Beverly Hills.’ And I said ‘oh, you have a film vault?’, and she said ‘no, it’s up in a bedroom.’ And I said ‘oh, god!’ [Laughs] But luckily, it was well preserved and they had air conditioning and when I went to see it there were all these yellow film boxes stacked up and sure enough, it was not 35, but it was 16 mm footage of this incredible retirement concert which you see him at the height of his powers. It wasn’t shot like a television show, it was shot by real cinematographers just like we did on The Last Waltz. And you see these moments in him that you’ve never seen before. So then I went and got Alex Gibney, who I had just worked with on Lance [Does he mean The Armstrong Lie?]. He loves Sinatra and loves music as well, and the rest is kind of history. He put it in this box of having the retirement concert be the structure for the film because we all felt that because Sinatra knew he was retiring…he didn’t tell anybody by the way, he didn’t tell his kids, Nancy didn’t know or Tina or Frank Jr. We all think that he chose the songs to illustrate and tell the story of his life up to that point. So that’s what we did.
I have to ask when you went to discover the film in the bedroom or wherever it was, did you notice a lot of other boxes of film that maybe has never been seen?
MARSHALL: Well, no. Because it was all concerts, it was eleven songs so there were a lot of boxes. What was in that bedroom was really that night. And then what happened was then we made the deal and we got going and they opened up their archives to us which is a huge warehouse. And that’s where we found a treasure trove of audio interviews that he had done that had never been heard before, and home movies. Like there’s this great shot of the kids on a surfboard being pushed by Frank around Toluca Lake. It’s fantastic. We found other treasures out there, but the main one was this concert in 1971.
I think one of the things that a lot of people might not realize is how ahead he was in terms of segregation. He was really a leader, and I just give him a lot of credit. And on top of that, he’s an amazing entertainer.
MARSHALL: That’s exactly right. Nobody knew about his philanthropy, for example, or his stance on civil rights and how he was a real pioneer, so I was really thrilled to be able to show that side of him.
Jumping into why I get to talk to you today, congrats on the movie.
It is going to be a juggernaut at the worldwide box office. When did you realize ‘wait a minute, this all came together. It’s really a great film’?
MARSHALL: Really when I first saw the long rough cut that Colin [Trevorrow] put together, I knew we had something special and that we were going to achieve what we had hoped, which was to create a wonderful new Jurassic Park movie. Certainly in the homage to the first movie as well as having elements that are brand new and having a new story to tell, I really felt that it was an Amblin [Entertainment] kind of movie. And it really was in that space that the first movie had been.
Did you do any test screenings or any friends and family screenings, and if you did, did those impact the final release at all?
MARSHALL: Well we had screenings within the studio where we had thirty or forty people. We had one screening up at Skywalker Ranch. I get much more from watching the movie with the audience rather than doing focus groups or that kind of thing. So yes we learned a lot in watching the movie, because we don’t ever watch the movie in the cutting room all at once, so when you’re seeing it all at once and with an audience, you are able to then discover a lot of things that you wouldn’t ordinarily know in the cutting room. We had I’d say two or three of those kinds of screenings but we never went outside the studio.
One of the things I really liked is seeing the actual, working park. Whether it be you had all those people on set or you had great CGI, it really felt like it was a real place. Have you had people tell you, ‘man, we need to build this at Universal’?
MARSHALL: Yeah, there are a lot of people that really want this to be real [laughs]. We did our research. Colin and I went down to Orlando and toured the Universal theme park down there and obviously the one here in LA but we really went down there to see the operations and how they kept track of where people were and what information was on the screen. And then we kind of expanded on it and see what we thought something would be like if you had an up and running dinosaur theme park.
When did you know that Colin was going to be the right guy for the job?
MARSHALL: I knew in the first production meeting. He was so confident and sure of the story that the wanted to tell with all the right elements, and he took charge in a very collaborative way with the whole team we had put around him which was very experienced. And I really felt confident in those first days when we were putting together the look and the previs, and the different elements that he would have to deal with that we had found the right guy.
It’s obviously risky to take someone who has never tackled a movie of this size and scope and you know give him the keys to the Ferrari. You guys did it with this, and Disney with Pete’s Dragon. They brought in David Lowery who had never really handled something of that size and scale. Was it that you guys had seen Safety Not Guaranteed, was it in those meetings?
MARSHALL: Well, it was a combination of those things. I got a little tip from my wife Kathy [Kathleen Kennedy] that in a meeting with Brad Bird, he had referred to Colin as someone who reminded him of himself. I’m a big fan of Brad’s, and I was obviously interested in somebody who he thought was like himself. So I went out and got Safety Not Guaranteed and I really realized he was the kind of storyteller we would’ve had in the old Amblin days. That’s when I called him up and chatted on the phone. I don’t know how it say other than I had a gut feeling about him being the right guy for the job, and then I brought him out to meet Steven [Spielberg] and then he handled himself very well there. And at the end, I think we’ve found the perfect combination of a very talented filmmaker and a fan of the movie.
One of the things that Colin said to me was that Steven had come up with some of the big beats of the movie, such as wanting to see a working park. How long had you guys been working on trying to really get this right and get it off the ground? Because there’s always been talk of another Jurassic Park, but I’m just curious how long was the development?
MARSHALL: I know that Steven and Kathy had been working for ten years on trying to pull this together. When Kathy went off to take over Lucasfilm, I kind of took the baton. There were a couple of scripts around, and those basic ideas were there of the theme park, and as we got to working with Colin and Derek [Connolly] on Jurassic World, which by the way that was Colin’s idea to change the title, Steven had ideas like when the Mosasaurus came out of the water, then the grandstands would lower underground to then watch it feed, like you would if you were at SeaWorld or something. So that was a cool concept and Steven came up with big ideas like this as Colin and Derek developed the story. I of course was horrified about how we were going to have a grandstand submerge under [laughs]. I was thinking about the cost of everything but as it turned out we figured it out and it all came out great.
It’s tracking massive, but it’s also a really fun movie and it’s going to be a huge hit. Are you already in the back of your brain knowing that Universal is going to call you on Saturday morning when the movie opens massive, and says ‘hey, when can we get Jurassic World 2’?
MARSHALL: [Laughs] Well I tell you what, it was quite a thrill Tuesday night to sit there with fifteen hundred of your closest friends and see the movie play like it did. That’s the greatest reward and satisfaction that I take as a filmmaker from our movies is being able to scream and laugh and giggle and just react to the movie. That was a thrill. And I’m sure that probably, maybe even Friday night I’m going to get that call about ‘okay, what’s next?’ I’m going to get through this one first and then we’ll talk about that.
Yeah, get ready for that call though. That’s 100%. I really love the last twenty minutes, it’s just a really great third act. How tricky was it to make all that happen? There’s a lot of VFX, and if it doesn’t look real, you’re not going to buy into it.
MARSHALL: I think that came from the team that we put together. Colin was very good about doing his previs, so everybody knew what he wanted to do. The way that these things work the best is if everyone knows what we’re trying to accomplish, so that’s our job is to get that vision that Colin had up onto the screen. There was a huge amount of meetings and discussions about how to accomplish that third act and it’s all about balance. You shoot a lot and you trim it down and you get the balance right, and certainly having Michael Giacchino come in to help then later on the musical side. All of those things add up to make that third act so great.
Yeah, that Giacchino guy, I think he has a career.
MARSHALL: Yeah, he should expect that phone call this weekend too, probably.
Possibly. I’m very curious, looking back on your previous films, which the resume is insane. Are there a lot of deleted scenes from movies like whether it be Raiders of the Lost Ark, whether it be Back to the Future, so many of these classic films that have never seen the light of the day? Or with the advent of DVD and Blu-Ray, are most of those things out there now?
MARSHALL: Well I would say now that we have somewhere to put them, most of them are out there. Peter Bogdanovich said to me very, very early in my career and his career as well, there’s three movies you make: there’s the movie you write, the movie you shoot, and the movie you cut, and they’re all different. And if you knew what you knew from the phase before, you wouldn’t have done it. But it’s a discovery process as you go along and you fine-tune it until you get to that final product. Yes, there are things that we write that we don’t shoot, there are things that we shoot that we don’t put in the movie, but it’s all part of the process.
I don’t want to touch on too much of your future stuff, but I have to ask: what can you tease people about what you’re working on now?
MARSHALL: Well, there’s a couple of things, a lot of things actually are in the works. We’re in the development, pre-production of Bourne 5 with Paul Greengrass, we’re in the pre-production phase of Assassin’s Creed with Justin Kurzel, and I am thrilled to say we are in the pre-production phase with Clint Eastwood on our Sully Sullenberger story.
I was actually gonna ask you about that if you didn’t mind. Obviously landing Clint for anything at this point is a huge coup. What was it about that story that said ‘we need to tell it’?
MARSHALL:Allyn Stewart, who is my co-producer, and I bought this story over five years ago. I mean, first of all it’s an incredible story, and Sully had written a book which we purchased because I love these positive stories about heroes and the human spirit. Obviously, Alive [20 Years Later] and some of the other things I’ve been involved with, Seabiscuit, etc., I love these stories and I thought Sully’s story was extraordinary because there’s a whole part of the story you don’t know about. We all know he landed on the Hudson but that wasn’t the end of it. So that’s the story I think is gonna be the story that people are gonna respond to, and it is certainly the story that Clint responded to.
Congratulations getting him to do the movie.
MARSHALL: Thank you. That was a great phone call to get.
Yeah, I can’t even imagine. Especially because he’s riding a little wave right now.
MARSHALL: Yeah, he certainly is. And I think, obviously we’ve done a couple of pictures with him before but I’m really anxious to get started on this one and work with him again.
I was just at Licensing Expo and they had a ton of various versions of the same poster of Assassin’s Creed. What can you tease people in terms of how that’s going?
MARSHALL: Oh, it’s going great. Maybe I talked to the same Licensing people you saw, but the movie’s going to be different from the game but the same [laughs]. That’s about all I can say.
Can you at least tease when you’ll be filming?
MARSHALL: Yes, we’re starting this fall, probably September.
Are you filming at a location or studios?
MARSHALL: We’re all going to be in London. I’m going to be there for Bourne and Assassin’s and Kathy’s going to be there for Star Wars, so it’s going to be one big happy family in London this fall.
Did you coordinate that or that just magically came together?
MARSHALL: It just magically came together.
My last thing for you: I’m a huge fan of the Bourne franchise. I’m so looking forward to seeing Paul take on the material again. What can you tease people in terms of how the script’s going and how it’s going in pre-production?
MARSHALL: Well, it’s very exciting obviously. Working with Paul again and Matt [Damon] and getting the team back together is kind of a dream. We’re in pre-production, the script’s there, we’re going to start casting soon, we’re looking at locations, it’s all going very well.
I went to the press junket of the second or third movie, and at that press screening was the first time they were showing the movie, and they were all very nervous that it wasn’t exactly 100% but everyone loved it. And they talked about how it was a race to the finish line. Are you hoping to not repeat that experience?
MARSHALL: Yes, I would like to avoid that experience. That was actually number two and number three, so that’s why we have spent a long time on the script development and pre-production and that’s all going very well and we’re not gonna have a race to the finish line. It’s going to hopefully be a slow walk this time.
I completely understand. I will leave it there and say congratulations on everything.