Directed by Ivan Reitman, the sports drama Draft Day, available on Blu-ray/DVD on September 2nd, shows just how much NFL Draft Day can change the lives of athletes and the fortunes of football teams. General Manager Sonny Weaver Jr. (Kevin Costner) is up against fan pressure, an ambitious owner (Frank Langella) and a hard-nosed coach (Denis Leary), who all think they know what’s best for the team, and he must decide whether to go with the consensus pick or trust his instincts and risk losing everything. The film also stars Jennifer Garner, Sam Elliott, Sean Combs, Terry Crews, Tom Welling, Ellen Burstyn and Chadwick Boseman.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, Reitman talked about wanting to make a sports movie that even people who don’t care about sports could enjoy, focusing on the human drama, what makes him want to direct a movie, that there were some major changes made between the original script and the final product, why he wanted to do this with Costner, how he feels about the bonus features on Blu-ray/DVD releases, and why it’s technically easier to make films now than it used to be. He also talked about where things are at with Ghostbusters III, why a female presence is important, the delay Bill Murray’s reluctance has caused, and the upcoming 30th anniversary Blu-ray for Ghostbusters I and II, out in September. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
IVAN REITMAN: Thank you. It’s one of the things that I loved about it when I first read it. I said, “Here’s a really good sports movie for people who don’t really care about sports.” Certainly, it’s fun, if you know a lot about it, and there’s lots of side stuff. I remember showing it to my wife, Geneviève, who doesn’t follow football and is totally bored by it, and I saw that she got totally caught up in the story. I guess that’s what good storytelling is. It was part of that script, and it really gets delivered, through Kevin Costner, in a wonderful way. I’m really happy that you responded the same way. We’ve been finding that a lot, in terms of how audiences took to the film.
What do you think was the key in making that happen, and allowing people who really have no interest in sports to still connect with this movie?
REITMAN: We watch movies about all sorts of things that we don’t know anything about, but we do get caught up in the human drama. If we understand the emotional stakes that are involved, whether they’re romantic, whether they’re plot-driven, or whether it involves a thriller or murder, even though we’ve never been in the situation, we certainly understand pressure on characters. We go through all kinds of pressures ourselves, so it’s easy for us to bring our own human experiences into the kind of experiences the main character in the storyline of Draft Day is going through. We like the idea that we don’t quite understand everything about the mechanics of something, and are learning something new, in a fresh way. Women, in a strange way, seem to like the film even more than men do. They respond like men do, in terms of the drama of it, but there’s a sense that they’re learning the secret world of the NFL, from the inside. That’s one of the fun things about Draft Day.
At this point in your career, what gets you to direct a movie? Is it a combination of the story that’s being told, the strength of the script and the actors that you’ll be working with, or is it just instinctual?
REITMAN: It’s a weird combination. I read this one in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep. I woke up and this was at the top of the pile to read, and I couldn’t put it down. By the time I got to the last few pages, I knew this was something that I wanted to direct. I can’t really tell you now why that was. I didn’t think it was necessarily going to be a big hit or be commercial, but I knew it was a good story. And as I was reading it, I could actually picture Kevin Costner’s voice and face in the proceedings. Fortunately, he liked it, as well, when I sent it to him, and I was able to get him in the movie. I’m a football fan. I’m a sports fan, in general, but it’s not like I was looking to make a movie about the NFL. It just moved me. I got emotionally involved. I didn’t know how it was going to end, as I was reading it, which is something that I really appreciate. Most of us seem to know where things are going too often in the storytelling, so that was a draw, as well.
Since you got this script early on and were able to spend some time thinking about it, were there any specific changes that you asked the writers to make, that we now see in the final product?
REITMAN: Oh, yeah, but that’s normal. There were some major changes. The biggest of which was to involve what happens in New York at Radio City Music Hall. We never actually went there in the original script. I just thought that it’s what most people identify with, as the draft, when really what the draft is, is what’s going on in these war rooms in 32 different cities. So, I involved that. There were a whole bunch of things that weren’t really important. What’s important is what’s there now.
When you’re making a sports movie with Kevin Costner, who’s the king of sports movies, are there any trappings that you want to avoid?
REITMAN: One of the things that makes him a wonderful actor is that he has the baggage of all those films, and not just the sports movies, but everything else that he’s done. Even if he’s unsympathetic in the storytelling initially, you know that somehow he’s going to be sympathetic in the end because, after all, he’s Kevin Costner, the guy from The Bodyguard and all of these other things that we’ve seen. I just wanted to make sure that everything he did was honest, both in what he said and how he moved, and that it didn’t feel cliched, in any manner.
REITMAN: It’s a little of both. We have our egos, so we like it when people are peeking in behind the scenes and seeing how hard we work and for how many hours and at least getting a sense for what’s involved. Some people just think that the actor did everything. But I do think, particularly with large-scale science fiction where they explain how the special effects get done, can have a negative effect on the magic of what going and watching a movie is about.
You’re also releasing a 30th anniversary Blu-ray for Ghostbusters I and II in September, and that’s supposed to be loaded with exclusive bonus materials. What do you think fans will be most excited to see with that, and what was it like to revisit that 30 years later, knowing that fans still love the films so much?
REITMAN: Well, it certainly makes me feel wonderful about that. To me, the most important thing about this is that I think the transfers are wonderful and the mixes are being played in a very faithful way. You’ll get an excellent transfer of the film. Danny Aykroyd and I did a new behind-the-scenes interview, and that was interesting, between us. Looking back at it, after many years, and just talking about it, might be interesting for some people. What’s fabulous is the realization that people still seem to really love it, and they pass it on to their children. That it’s had this multi-generational appreciation is certainly something that makes me very warm in my heart and very happy.
Since the possibility of Ghostbusters III was brought up, there’s been this list of possible directors for the project, including yourself, but the film still hasn’t gone into production. And now, the latest possibility being talked about is a female-led Ghostbusters, directed by Paul Feig. Is that something you’d like to see happen?
REITMAN: On the drafts that I’ve been supervising, there’s always been a very important female presence. It’s nice to know that Paul is interested in the same thing. I met with him because I’ll be producers whatever the new Ghostbusters is. The studio is very interested in it, and certainly Aykroyd and I, and the late Harold Ramis until he passed away. We’ll see. I don’t like talking about it because this thing has been in such flux for so long that people, particularly online, are annoyed about it, and that’s not anybody’s desire or hidden plan. I think we were initially slowed down by Bill Murray’s reluctance to be involved. Not that that’s all that surprising. He’s somewhat reluctant about most things. I think that affected the timing of things, to a great extent. We all wanted him back, at the center of it, as well. But I think there’s still a great story in Ghostbusters and a great conceit about it that has held true, for all these years. And I think there’s a great movie to be made, with a new cast, as well.
REITMAN: I’m still trying to figure that out, and I’m working with a bunch of writers on different things. Our company is producing a movie called Bastards, that we’re going to do in the new year, that’s a comedy. Hopefully, we’ll find something that I can get started on in the new year, as well.
What is it that makes you decide to sign on as a producer for something, but then doesn’t make you decide to take that step further, as a director?
REITMAN: Just a really good, cool idea that I think would work, that audiences would want to see, and that’s a little different than things before, but that I don’t necessarily have to do, as a director. That’s finally what led me to back away from doing another Ghostbusters. I had done two others, and it would have been without Bill or Harold. I certainly would have done it with the original cast version. That’s the script that I was working on. But it was clear that I didn’t have half the cast anymore, so I thought, “Well, I’ll produce this next one and make sure that the spirit is true to the originals. But, I’ll let somebody bring some fresh ideas to it.” That’s what it’s going to need.
You talked about how when you read Draft Day, you immediately saw Kevin Costner in the role and you were able to collaborate with him, throughout the movie. Is there another actor that you’d like to develop something with, in that way?
REITMAN: There are a ton of guys who are so talented, and the group keeps growing because there are always fresh generations of wonderful new people that would be great to work with. I’d love to work with some of the young women who are just so great, like Jennifer Lawrence or Anne Hathaway. I think they have such skill. I’d love to find some way to do a different kind of comedy with them.
REITMAN: It’s actually easier to make films, technically. Both the production process and the post-production process are a lot easier and faster and lighter. It’s possible to be much more nimble now. There is much less lighting required. You don’t have to spend all day lighting a scene. You can spend all day shooting a scene, which is much more satisfying to a director and to the performers. I like the new stuff. I love digital technology. I love the fact that you can keep the camera rolling for really long periods without reloading, and that you can shoot at really low light levels. With every new technology, there are also negatives that you have to guard against, but generally, the positives far outweigh it. And with post-production, it’s easier to edit and do different versions and hold onto what you did. In the old days, if you made a cut and you wanted to make changes, you had a work print to work with and you had to undo the splices, which takes a long time, and then you’d re-cut that. You’d have to think, “Where was the performance really better?,” as you did it. There are all sorts of things like that, in post-production, that are a big help to the filmmaking process. And then, finally, in the actual exhibition, I like digital projection. I like the fact that every print is exactly the same and the way you intended it, and it’s not scratched. And every time its shown is exactly like the first time. The problem with the old 35mm prints is that, after showing it, in just 10 or 15 times, it would get scratched up, cut off and frames would be missing. I don’t really see the advantage of that, as beautiful as film projection is. So many of my prints turned out to be green or too red, or whatever, and it made me nuts to work on it and try to get the color right. The level of control is much finer and better now, with this new stuff.
Draft Day is available on Blu-ray/DVD on September 2nd.