Get your glasses on. Grab a cup of coffee. Get ready to read.
The extended interview that’s posted below is with Producer Mike De Luca. If you don’t know Mike’s name…the first thing to do is look over his IMDB resume. Since it’s pretty extensive, I can’t even try to list what he’s produced. But a quick bit of info…he used to be the President of Production at New Line Cinema and while he was there, he helped to make some of the companies most memorable films.
Anyway, he’s produced a new movie and it’s called “21.” The film arrives in theaters this Friday (click here to watch some movie clips) and to help promote it, I was recently able to interview Mike. Actually, I was able to interview Mike twice.
The thing to know is, Sony held the “21” press junket in Las Vegas during ShoWest. So on a very busy day, I took an expensive taxi to the junket hotel and got about twenty minutes with Mike and we talked about a number of things. But after the twenty minutes was up…I still had a lot of questions to ask and due to Mike being incredibly nice, he agreed to continue talking when we were both back in Los Angeles. So about a week after the first interview, we talked on the phone for part 2. As you’re reading the interview you’ll get a red headline that let’s you know where the separation took place.
But the best part of continuing the interview was I was able to follow up on some "Metal Gear Solid" rumors. You see, at ShoWest Coming Soon reported that Kurt Wimmer might be involved with "Metal Gear Solid." So when I got more time with Mike, I followed up on the story and he said that Kurt is just one of many people that will come in and pitch his take on the material. What that means is…who knows if he’ll actually be on the project.
Since the interview is very long, I really need to wrap up this intro.
I will say that if you’re curious how movies get made or have always wondered about the inner workings of being a Producer…you’ll love this interview. Also, since Mike is involved with a number of upcoming projects like “Dracula Year Zero,” “Metal Gear Solid, “ Priest,” “Money Ball” and a few others…I got updates on where all the projects are.
Also, since Mike is a geek like a lot of us, we talked about everything from Comic-Con to “Star Trek.” Trust me, he’s one of us and we definitely geek out in part 2.
Of course a HUGE thank you needs to go to everyone at Sony who made the interview happen, as well as a thank you to Mike for agreeing to give me so much of his time. It’s much appreciated.
And since I always run images in interview articles…I’ll be posting images from “21” throughout the piece. And when we talk about other subjects, I’ll try and throw in some other images that belong....
Collider: So you’ve been in the industry—I believe you started at New Line when you were 19.
Mike De Luca: Yes.
Collider: So you’ve been in the industry for quite a while.
Mike De Luca: 23 years.
Collider: What is…you’ve been involved in tons and tons of movies, what’s your favorite film that you’ve produced, if you don’t mind?
Mike De Luca:Counting my time as an executive?
Collider: Yeah, in general, all the films you’ve been involved with, what’s the one you look back on and say, wow this is the one? Or do you have one?
Mike De Luca: Can I…well it’s a triumvirate. “Boogie Nights,” “Seven,” and “Austin Powers 2” are just my 3 top experiences.
Collider: What’s your reason for those?
Mike De Luca: It’s really personal, on “Boogie Nights” I became really close with Paul Thomas Anderson and we just had good chemistry as friends so you get excited that you’re doing something original and a little provocative but also you know every film is like a little family and you start…you get really close with the people you know when they’re being made and sometimes it’s a dysfunctional family and sometimes it becomes a close family and that was the case where we became a close family and Paul and I stayed friends so that movie will always have the memory for me of getting Paul in my life. “Seven” again, was just getting that script - it was in turnaround from a company called “Penta” and it was a hard piece of material to get initially off the ground because its so dark and Fincher was coming off “Alien 3” and he came in and it was one of the best experiences of my career. He came in and literally kind of pitched his version of the movie almost shot by shot and had a total vision for the film and it was just one of the most exciting meetings I’d ever been in because he’s such a detailed filmmaker and he could verbally express, articulate you know how the movie would look and who he wanted to be in the cast and I’d never really sat down with…up until that point I hadn’t sat down with a director of his caliber and just had him kind of articulate the movie from start to finish. Paul’s a writer/director so when you read his scripts you get that sense because he writes in kind of like the way it’s going to look and sound. David was coming in on someone else’s script so he was just kind of verbally articulating it and that was kind of a blast for me. And then watching that film come together and go for the ending it did without compromising was just kind of…it’s an unusual experience and it was a high point of my career, so I’ll always remember that fondly because it broke new ground for us at New Line. It was the first movie we made for over like $30 million, at a time where that was like a gigantic budget for us and we were sweating it so when that film, which was an unlikely hit, did over $100 domestically and I think over $250 internationally—or over $200 internationally we were like blown away, so that was like a very pleasant surprise and a lot of it most of the time in the movie business you get the unpleasant surprise of movies not working as well as you want just because of the law of averages. And then I love “Austin Powers I” but there was something about just the manic energy and the creative energy of “Austin Powers II” with Mini-Me and Will Ferrell kind of reprising his role from the first film as a kind of like a Indian henchman with the Fez. It just was full of like I think he just upped the ante from “Austin I” and I laughed my ass off in the editing room of that movie like every single time he showed me a new cut. It didn’t matter how many times I’d seen the jokes for some reason that movie—before that movie was “Dumb and Dumber” like I’d watched “Dumb and Dumber” through every cut and every test screening and laughed my ass off but “Austin II” was the most fun I’ve had watching a New Line movie while I was working there. So I guess those 3 stick out in my head. As far as my producing career goes, working with Jon Favreau was great on “Zathora” because he’s like a film buff and like a film student and he absorbs information like it’s going out of style and for that movie he kind of wanted like a 50’s aesthetic to the special effects and I could really talk to him you know about the art of Chelsea Bonestell who’s like a futurist illustrator from the 50’s and he was boning up on special effects and you could see that pay off in “Iron Man” now. I can’t wait to see that movie and that trailer looks amazing so I’ve been lucky working with people who keep turning me on creatively. That’s all you can hope for.
Collider: So I’m curious, what is it like for you to get a film made? I think that’s something that a lot of people out in…who don’t understand the industry and myself sometimes included, how does it really work? So say you come to a project and let’s use “21” as an example, how did it get made? What exactly goes on behind the scenes to make a movie in Hollywood?
Mike De Luca: Well, first there’s the search for material like whatever it’s being done by and it’s being done by everybody. It’s being done by independent producers, the studio executives, agents, managers, I mean everybody looks for material that they think can get made or be commercial, so it starts with the front line is full of people that look for material. After something is found like for example on “21” Dana Bernetti had heard about this story of these M.I.T. students way before there was a book and was trying to pin down exactly what happened. He kind of heard it through a grapevine and thought it was an interesting story for a movie. Then he spotted an article by Ben Mezrich, I think in “Wired” magazine, and he Googled Ben Mezrich after finding the article and they got in touch with each other and Dana got on it before it became a book. Then once you have the material in-hand like once Dana had the material in-hand your job is to convince a financier whether its an independent financier like Relativity or Mandate, those kinds of companies, you can go that route or you bring it to a studio and try to set it up with a studio and hope that an executive at a studio thinks its as commercial as you do. So if you have a deal with a studio, you pitch it to your home studio first and if they pass you can go to other places, but once you find material that turns you on, you have to kind of be its advocate and go convince someone who can pay for the movie that is commercial and that it’s a worthy investment. After you get the thing set up, the studio or the financing entity kind of tells you what ingredients they’re going to need to feel good about making the investment to make the movie so that means who can we get to write this or adapt it that we think will result in a good screenplay, after that what’s the cast list in terms of who’s going to make it, again, more of a secure investment for the studio to green light. Once you get a screenplay you’re happy with, you get into trying to package it, you know meaning putting a director and cast into it while you’re on the way to budgeting it and kind of getting all the things in place to eventually get the studio to say yes. If you’ve cleared all those hurdles, and the stars align and all those puzzle pieces come together and you get a green light, then as a producer you kind of manage the production and try to be fiscally responsible for the studio but also kind of protect the creative vision of the artists involved in the movie—writer, director, and the actors. And then after you get through production, you get into putting the movie together editorially and you know you kind of see it through the phase we’re in now with marketing and distribution, but it all starts with that search for material.
Collider: That’s actually a very good explanation as to how that goes.
Mike De Luca: It’s kind of dynamic but those are the steps when it goes right, you know. You can get stalled out in any section there.
Collider: Yeah, it seems to me though when you explain it that way and then…I’ve heard that explanation before where it just seems it’s a miracle sometimes when certain movies get made with the material in question or it’s a miracle when you have, you know, someone gives you $200 million to go spend and make…so what is the difference between a producer and an executive producer?
Mike De Luca: Most of the time the producer credit is given to the people or person that is really physically producing the movie through all those stages. He’s kind of overseeing the development of the script and staying on through production and post-production and into marketing. Executive producer—there’s no set rule about that credit. It could mean a variety of things. Sometimes the line producer, who’s the person who is physically responsible for producing a movie in terms of all the moving parts and the physical production, they come under in pre-production and they leave after the film wraps, you know the line producer. Sometimes they get that credit as part of their deal if they’re a line producer with a lot of credits that’s been in business for a while. Sometimes it’s an actor’s manager who just insists as part of the actor’s deal, the manager will get an executive producer credit. Sometimes if there is a co-financing deal with a studio or if a film is independently financed, the financier will take an executive producer credit. Sometimes the actor will take an executive producer credit.
Collider: Do you ever have or have you had experiences where people get upset that certain people are getting an executive producer credit when they clearly just don’t deserve it?
Mike De Luca: Yeah, I’ve heard stories about that. I think the producer’s guild has been trying to regulate how credits are apportioned. At New Line, we and I think Miramax did this when the Weinstein’s were there; we used to give our executives executive producer credit as kind of a perk of working for a studio that paid less than other studios and I know it pissed off a lot of producers because traditionally there’s a line between studio executives and producers and a lot of people weren’t happy with us giving ourselves credits, but at New Line we looked at ourselves as more like producers than executives.
Collider: Actually that makes a lot of sense.
Mike De Luca: But yeah, it’s kind of a chaotic process. Sometimes you end up with people that are there or feel like they got the short end of the stick when it comes to credits. The last time I’ve read about a major problem like that happening was on “Crash” I guess Bob Yari who paid for the movie felt shortchanged when after whatever investigation they did in terms of who was on-set didn’t give him…didn’t allow him to either get the credit or be listed as a nominated producer when it got the Oscar nominations.
Collider: I heard there was like 8 producers and you only give 3 credits out or just to bull-shit like that which is pretty stupid because don’t you think that certain movies are going to have 8 producers?
Mike De Luca: It’s picture by picture, you know, you hope it doesn’t go that way because it means there’s a lot of people to please and a lot of moving parts but sometimes it just ends up that way depending on how movies are put together.
Collider: So, I know you’re a big comic book person.
Mike De Luca: Yes.
Collider: And you’re still a big comic book person.
Mike De Luca: Yeah, yeah I have my original collection from when I was a kid and I started a new collection when I was an adult and I moved out to L.A. but mostly the modern stuff and the graphic novels and whatnot.
Collider: So I would imagine that you being a producer and not being in front of the camera as much as talent can enjoy Comic-Con with some anonymity.
Mike De Luca: Yeah, and I go as a fan like I don’t go looking for properties per se because I don’t think…I mean actually I don’t think there are that many out there. All the big ones have been done already. I go as a fan and buy stuff and read stuff and just enjoy myself.
Collider: So do you ever go and have you overheard people just talking about a property say like a “Ghost Rider” or something you’ve been involved with and you’re just standing there just like I’m getting it, I’m hearing it, you know?
Mike De Luca: Well, “Ghost Rider” I was at ShoWest when we did an appearance and we showed kind of a sizzle reel, so it was before anybody had seen the movie so that was fun because people were just excited about the character. I usually…I have a habit after test screenings going to restroom and hearing people talk about the movie because I feel that’s…they’ve just seen it and they’re in there and they let loose and that could be either earth shatteringly bad or it could be kind of enthusiastically confidence building, but I get an immediate read from those kinds of situations.
Collider: That’s actually the truth because after…I go to some test screenings and it is true when you’re standing there and you can overhear everyone being like, “that movie sucked” or “that thing was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen”, and it’s an immediate…you’re totally right. You were attached to producing—maybe you still are—the book “The Game”. What is going on with that because to me that seems like a property that could be such a great movie?
Mike De Luca: For me personally Columbia ended up doing it with Spyglass as a financing partner and once Spyglass came on, Spyglass and I couldn’t agree on a deal for me so I’m off the project, but right now I think Spyglass and Columbia are either looking for a writer or they’ve got someone developing a first draft. So it’s in active development, I’m just not on it anymore.
Collider: I was going to say that…well that sucks. I’ll say that.
Mike De Luca: I was sad to see that one go.
Collider: So now let’s ask about…about a month or two it came out that you are involved with Metal Gear Solid.
Mike De Luca: Right.
Collider: So this is the question that every fan…I’m asking this for every fan…what are you going to do to finally make a kick-ass video game movie?
Mike De Luca: I mean, hopefully not screw it up. For me adapting a video game is just like adapting a book or a play or any other…whenever you’re adapting from another medium for film you try to take into account what you need to do to make it a movie. With books it’s how you compensate for not being inside a character’s head and with video games I think what you have to compensate for is the loss of interactivity, you know. What makes video games fun is that you get to be the character and you’re sitting there ruling the universe and it’s a really first person interactive experience. When you’re in your theatre seat, you’re stuck with these subjective versions of the story and the game from a director or the writer’s point of view. You can’t interact with what’s going on so whatever turns you on about the game, you’re immediately disadvantaged in the theatre because you’re not feeling anything which I think ups the ante for how good the story has to be and how good the movie has to be because we’re going in at a disadvantage that you’re not going to get the excitement or the adrenalin rush of doing it yourself, so we have to do it for you in a way that makes up for that. So I think the bar is higher and I think in the past, people haven’t realized that they set the bar low for video game movies thinking that oh, there’s a built in audience and we don’t need to go crazy with this movie. We just need to get it out there and people will just go see it anyway. I think that’s kind of a rip-off so…I tried with the first Mortal Combat movie to honor the…I mean that game is like pre-historic at this point but we tried to honor the Enter the Dragon type of storyline of those characters and not throw something out there that was total rip-off and on this one the kind of Cain and Able story between Solid Snake and Liquid Snake and their relationship with their father and the storyline of Metal Gear Solid 4 has the makings….there’s so much story in Metal Gear as opposed to other video games that I think it’s going to be a challenge but it’s an upscale problem to have some much thematic subtexts and story material to draw from so I think we have a leg up already in that it’s such a rich universe and Kojima is like George Lucas in terms of creating this universe so what it says about war by proxy in this kind of future where war has been outsourced to private companies I think can be almost very topical and also kind of satirical in like a “Robocop” kind of way, so I think if we can get a script that honors the storyline of all 4 games, but that also has a cinematic aesthetic you know the kind of aesthetic Verhoeven brought to “Robocop” or the kind of aesthetic the Wachowski’s brought to “The Matrix”. If there’s a cinematic identity to the piece that exists on its own, it doesn’t conflict with the DNA of the game, you know that’s our goal is to pull off those 2 things. Not mess with the DNA of the game but provide a movie that is an adaptation but that has it’s own cinematic identity so even if you don’t play the game you know, you’ll come out of that movie feeling like you did at the end of “The Matrix” or the end of “Robocop”. That’s our goal anyway.
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Collider: Well, I would like to think that Sony being…this is such an iconic character for the Playstation and Sony’s making it, that they really want this movie to work.
Mike De Luca: They do.
Collider: This could sell Playstations.
Mike De Luca: Right.
Collider: I mean it’s like one of the synergy kind of properties.
Mike De Luca: Yeah.
Collider: So that being said, are they very…is this one of these projects that they’re “we really want this to be right”?
Mike De Luca: Yeah, we all want it to be right because there’s a lot at stake.
Collider: I guess that being said, have you thought about…have you guys internally thought well this is a $100 million movie—this is a summer blockbuster or this is going to be one of these mid-range kind of things?
Mike De Luca: No, they know it’s big. I mean, we don’t want it to be crazy big but they know it’s big on the bigger side of things.
This is the end of the interview that was done in Las Vegas. About a week later we talked on the phone and here’s part 2.
Collider: So when we left off we were talking about Metal Gear. When you were at ShoWest, you mentioned to Coming Soon I believe Kurt Wimmer?
Mike De Luca: This writer Kurt Wimmer is one of the people we’re looking at to talk to about pitching on it.
Collider: Yeah, because a lot of people online—you know the way the Internet community gets. They hear one name and they immediately assume that’s the guy.
Mike De Luca: Not only do they do that but they assumed he was directing, too and it’s actually—Kurt is like one of many people we’re talking to about pitching us back a take on adapting the franchise. He hasn’t been hired or anything.
Collider: So it’s sort of like the way what happened with Universal with the “Wolfman” where they had a lot of people come in after…I forget the guy’s name…who dropped out. Where they had like 8 different filmmakers come in, pitch their ideas and they went to Joe Johnson.
Mike De Luca: Yeah. Well this is more…I mean there was a script already and they were looking for a director. This is more normal course of doing business like you have something that needs adaptation whether it’s a book or a play or a video game, and you take the initial property and you go out to a bunch of writers that you like and you see who comes back with a take on adapting the thing that turns you on.
Collider: So how does that work? That’s actually something that I think a lot of us who are are on the outside…what is it…do you know when you’re talking to a filmmaker you’re like, “wow, that’s the guy.” Is it almost like a casting session? Or do you guys…you know you have a few different filmmakers who all pitch you great ideas and then how exactly does that work?
Mike De Luca: It’s well put. It is like a casting session only you’re casting the writer instead of the actors, but you just…in this case Kojima and Sony and ourselves will hear how ever many takes from writers that we all think could do well with this property and we get to a point where we agree that there’s this one take that’s just the best out of the bunch and we’ll go with that writer.
Collider: Have you ever had when… I’m sure this has happened…you’ve worked with this kind of a situation in the past…have you ever 2 filmmakers come in and they both have such great takes that you almost try to combine their 2 ideas into 1?
Mike De Luca: No, I’m sure it’s happened but that never happened to me.
Collider: Well, moving off Metal Gear Solid because I’m very…well, when do you think…let me do my last question, when do you think that this project is going to be getting announced like more concrete stuff?
Mike De Luca: Probably…hopefully…well, let’s see, the writer’s strike just ended so we just started this interview…you know this process of hearing takes from writers. Best case I’m hoping 6 weeks from now.
Collider: Okay, cool. I’m now going to ask you about…you have a few other projects according to the always accurate IMDB. As you know that is really on the money. So, I figure what the hell let’s just put it out there. So you are attached to something called “The Hands of Shang-Chi”.
Mike De Luca: That’s old information and no longer accurate.
Mike De Luca: It was a project that I tried to acquire for development from Marvel while I was at DreamWorks as an executive and the deal never happened so it actually never even went into development at DreamWorks.
Collider: See, proving that IMDB has to be taken with a grain of salt.
Mike De Luca: Right.
Collider: Okay, let’s go to the next one. “Hammer Down”.
Mike De Luca: “Hammer Down” is another old and I believe inactive Dream Works development project.
Collider: Okay, let’s go to the next one. “Priest”
Mike De Luca: “Priest” is an active project of mine as a producer over at Screen Gems and my producing partner on that is Josh Donen who works with Sam Rami on those I think those “Ghost House” movies.
Collider: So can you tell us what the film is going to be about?
Mike De Luca: “Priest” is a genre-blending movie. It’s kind of like a sci-fi horror film about a group of specially trained priests that hunt down vampires in kind of a post-apocalyptic wasteland.
Collider: Is that like something that you’re…is that in a real fast-track kind of thing or that’s just one of the many project that you’re developing?
Mike De Luca: No, Screen Gems hopes it can be a franchise for them so it is fast-track to the extent that we’d like to get a director on it sooner than later but it’s currently not out to anyone and we don’t have anybody on it.
Collider: The last question about future projects. Do you have anything else that you are…and I’m about to talk to you about “Love Guru” but is there anything else that you are working on that is not listed? Stuff that you are, you know, passionate about that is going on in the background.
Mike De Luca: Nothing is about to get “green lit”. Everything’s development projects but I think the ones…some of the ones we’re excited about in terms of getting to that next stage include “Dracula Year Zero” at Universal. “Money Ball” at Sony. “Metal Gear Solid” at Sony and we’re trying to get a writer on that.
Collider: So those are the 3?
Mike De Luca: “This Present Darkness” at Fox waiting for a new draft on that. It’s just one of my faves so I’m trying to get going.
Collider: Before we go any further, let me ask you about “Money Ball”. That’s based on the book.
Mike De Luca: Correct.
Collider: So what is going to be the take on the movie?
Mike De Luca: The take is basically a kind of dramatic depiction of that 2002 season. Just kind of you know its still going to be kind of a journalistic endeavor, the movie, but it’s condensed to really the beginning and end of that season that contained the 22 game winning streak.
Collider: I would imagine…you know it’s interesting they’ve done a lot a lot of sports movies, but they haven’t done a lot of really modern sports movies.
Mike De Luca: Yeah, I think there should be a mix of like a sports movie but also an anti-establishment triumph of the individual movie in terms of the way Billy Bean went up against conventional wisdom and the bureaucracy.
Collider: Yeah, a lot of people who don’t follow sports don’t know about Billy and his mentality for doing things.
Mike De Luca: Yeah but the good news is the theme in that book of individuality over the establishment and thinking outside the box, you know, I think one of the reasons…I think its universal and the book is handed out at all these corporate retreats for any business because what it has in its DNA is this strong advocating of not sticking to conventional wisdom.
Collider: Do you guys have an idea of like…have you asked Billy who’s going to be…you know how is that going to work?
Mike De Luca: No, we haven’t even gotten the casting yet. We’re still trying to see if we can find a time to make with a director we like.
Collider: Okay, let’s move on to if you don’t mind “Dracula Year Zero”. So what’s that about?
Mike De Luca: “Dracula Year Zero” is a origin story for kind of an origin story for Prince Vlad of Transylvania and how he came to be a vampire and what were the circumstances surrounding his transition from you know ruler of this modest country to King of the Undead.
Collider: Is Alex Proyas still doing it?
Mike De Luca: Yeah, we’re supposed to pick him up after his finishes the Nick Cage movie, “Knowing”.
Collider: I’m a big fan of Alex, was this one of those things where he came in a pitched you the way we just talked about, you know his take on the material or is this one of these things where you went after him?
Mike De Luca: No, I went after him and he did come back and pitch a take on the material that was great.
Collider: And is this one of these…and pardon me because I don’t really know much about the story…but does this take place in modern times?
Mike De Luca: No, it’s almost a mix of historical fact and supernatural fiction. It takes place during the time of the original Price Vlad.
Collider: Okay, again it’s…there’s going to be a Dracula fan who reads this who’s just going to be angry with me for not knowing enough about the history.
Mike De Luca: I’m just blanking on what century it was. I want to say the 12th century, I could be wrong, but it’s in there. It’s in that zone. Hold on one second.
Mike De Luca: It’s 13th century, I just looked it up. Vlad was born in 1390, so it’s the 14th century.
Collider: So what was it about the script that pulled you into this….to wanting to make this movie?
Mike De Luca: The script was an ingenious blend of “Braveheart” and a horror film. Prince Vlad is positioned as a young ruler who to protect his kingdom from the tyranny of the invading Turk army allows himself to become a vampire and in doing so ends up defeating the invading Turks but is now stuck being Dracula for the rest of his undead life.
Collider: So I’m very curious how Alex is going to approach this material. Like what kind of style because Dracula has been done many times.
Mike De Luca: It’s Dracula as a warrior prince so it’s Dracula as Gladiator or Dracula as Braveheart.
Collider: That actually sounds very interesting. I’m curious if he’s going to go very dark, if it’s going to be you know a bright kind of thing, but I mean these are questions for once he actually gets on the project.
Mike De Luca: Yeah, I can’t imagine it being bright.
Collider: Neither can I. I can’t imagine a “Braveheart” look, you know with the bright sun.
Mike De Luca: No, it’s just about…it’s about what kind of devil’s bargain would you agree to to protect your people.
Collider: So will the film go and follow him like through for hundreds of years?
Mike De Luca: If we’re lucky. If people enjoy the first film you could take the story all the way up to the time period of Bram Stroker’s Dracula.
Collider: What was the 3rd thing you said?
Mike De Luca: Oh, that adaptation of Frank Peretti’s novel, “This Present Darkness” at Fox. We’re waiting for a draft on that.
Collider: And how is it as a producer to be balancing this many projects or does it end up working out that while you have all these projects in development it’s never 3 at the same time?
Mike De Luca: I guess ‘cos so few films get made out of the films that are in development you try to develop enough where you have a good shot at some of them kind of popping, but I don’t overdo it, like I don’t load us up with 20 or 30 projects. We try to keep it small and really try to work on things we think have a chance of getting made.
Collider: How has it been through…because you have a very long career and you’ve been at many different companies, is it pretty much the same at all the different companies with the way things actually get made that you know how things get green lit?
Mike De Luca: Well, it’s different because the personalities at each studio are different but the machine in place and the principles are the same, you know, in terms of balancing your creative passion for something with what you think will be a financial return on investment.
Collider: So, we talked earlier and I don’t remember the exact conversation during our part one of the interview about you being a big comic book guy.
Mike De Luca: Yes.
Collider: So is there anything out there right now that you’re reading and saying, “wow this could make a really great movie”?
Mike De Luca: No, you know, most of the stuff I read now is graphic novels or limited series in any of the Marvel or DC Cannon. I really enjoyed the Civil War mini-series at Marvel. I really enjoyed “Last Frontier” at DC, you know this kind of take on the “Justice League”. I read them just for fun obviously. Not only are they owned by other people, but they’re not necessarily good movies so almost all of my comic book reading in the last 5 years has been for fun.
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Collider: And so, and I ask this to a lot of people, are you one of these people…have you ever gone through the eBay addiction phase?
Mike De Luca: No, I’ve gone through…for comic books I go to this site Comic Link which is an auction web site and I’ve bought some stuff off there, but I haven’t gone through eBay.
Collider: I’ve spoken to a number of people who have gone through the 3 or 6 month addiction.
Mike De Luca: Right.
Collider: So it’s always interesting. So getting on to as a producer, I often ask about test screenings. How do you view test screenings and do you get nervous about with the way the Internet is with how everything gets out there the minute you show it, how do you balance that?
Mike De Luca: I don’t sweat the Internet, you know it’s still something I enjoy as a movie geek myself to get on and like look at all the websites, however when it comes to marketing a movie the Internet is still not the thing that gets people to the theatre. It’s still—maybe it will change in the future—but it’s still TV spots or whatever, so I think even though nobody wants bad buzz I think it’s always something you try to avoid but if it happens on the Internet—I’ve seen movies survive it. You know, “Batman & Robin” probably had some of the worst advance buzz on the Internet but still opened to $42 million for that weekend. So I don’t sweat it too much but it’s nice when you have something that can get good buzz on the Internet and you can build from it as opposed to having to downplay something. I think the worst thing you can do on the Internet is try to spin anything because then it’s like a double-story like you made a crappy movie and they’re trying to spin it and lie about it and then it becomes a story that feeds itself until you open and then I think that’s worse than just dealing with honest bad buzz if that’s truly what it is.
Collider: So do you, but getting back to the test screenings, do you believe in the test screening process?
Mike De Luca: I do for certain kinds of pictures. For straight down the middle movies I think they can be instructional. For curve ball movies or movies that disturb you, I don’t think they serve a big purpose. You know, shocking people or disturbing people and handing out a pencil to fill out a form 10 minutes after the lights come up…. I don’t think its going to do you a lot of good, so I don’t think they’re good for art films, specialized films, anything truly disturbing, but for down the middle mainstream movies you know where you’re seeking a mainstream audience I think they can help you kind of see where the movie spikes with people or where the movie has some values. You know, they’re really good for comedies, they can be good for action films, you know they can be good for mainstream thrillers or even mainstream dramas but once you get into more of an artsy area or a specialized film area or curve ball movies or you know truly disturbing films, to chase numbers on movies like that is silly.
Collider: Okay, so now I’m going to ask you the big question. The most important thing ever. You were involved in an episode of “Star Trek Voyager”. So, how did the come about?
Mike De Luca: Well, I’m a huge Trekie and Brannon Braga and Ron Moore took pity on me. Really Brannon Braga who’s become a friend of mine, but they took pity on me that I was such a unrequited Trekie and they let me go into “Voyager” and pitch ideas and I think I came up with one that they kind of liked: this idea of what happens when you go warp 11 and it sounds really geeky.
Collider: No, no, no. Believe me, I can geek out with you on Trek.
Mike De Luca: I think my pitch was if you break the warp 10 barrier you…at warp 11 you’re in touch with every molecule in the universe at the same time and it has a bad effect on that character on the show that played the test pilot. I think it was Lt. Paris or something. So, they bought the story and I got to have my name on that episode of the Star Trek series and it made me really happy.
Collider: Let’s geek out a little bit over the new J.J. movie then.
Mike De Luca: Right.
Collider: So are you like as a fan are you just incredibly excited.
Mike De Luca: Not only am I incredibly excited, I actually asked Kurtzman and Orci who were writing to see if I could come on set and be an extra and wear the outfit, but I was away shooting so I missed my window of opportunity.
Collider: That I would not have been happy. Not at all.
Mike De Luca: Right.
Collider: So I ask since you’re a Trekie and if you don’t mind doing it, a favorite of the 4 or 5 shows. How do you rank them?
Mike De Luca: You know it’s a tough one. I’d have rank the original first just because it’s the original and the “Next Generation” and then “Voyager” and then “Enterprise”.
Collider: So where do you put “Deep Space Nine”?
Mike De Luca: Sorry, sorry. I forgot about “Deep Space Nine”. I’d have to go “Next Generation”, “Deep Space Nine”, “Voyager”, “Enterprise”.
Collider: So, okay now I’m really going to geek out with you and the people who are reading this are going to if you’re a big fan of “Trek” you’re going to probably just want to forward down a little bit—I mean not a fan of “Trek”, you’re going to want to forward down. Do you think that “Enterprise” got a bad rap because the 3rd and 4th season really kicked it up? But the first 2 were not that good.
Mike De Luca: I think it didn’t get a chance to get into its groove. I do agree with you there. And I’m not…if I was producing the show and I am a fan of this actor but there was something un-Treklike about Scott Bakula just for me personally.
Collider: Did you enjoy the way the storyline though in the 3rd and 4th season they way they pulled all the episodes together for one long story?
Mike De Luca: I did enjoy that.
Collider: Because I gave them a lot of credit for that. It was unfortunate that it…
Mike De Luca: It was an ambitious arc and I did enjoy that. I enjoyed the last 2 seasons quite a bit and the last one especially.
Collider: We’re on the same page. I also re-watched “Deep Space Nine” not too long ago and was really blown away by the quality of that show from day one.
Mike De Luca: Yeah, that’s a lot…I think that has a lot to do with Michael Piller—I forget how you pronounce his last name—Michael Pilar.
Collider: Yeah, its also unfortunate that he’s passed on.
Mike De Luca: Yeah. Yeah, but “Deep Space Nine” kind of reminds me… “Deep Space Nine” I feel had a little bit of the social relevance that “Battlestar Galactica” does now with such excellence.
Collider: And speaking of “Battlestar”, so as a fan because you really do come across as someone who like belongs…you’re a geek like all of us online. You know, and pardon me for saying that, but you know, so what are you as a fan what do you watch? What are you most excited by? Do you watch “Lost”?
Mike De Luca: I watch “Lost”, “The Wire” which is now gone unfortunately. I was a huge “Sopranos” fan obviously. I miss “Deadwood” but I watch “Lost”. I watch “Terminator—Sarah Connor Chronicles”. I watch…
Collider: Are you a “Heroes” fan?
Mike De Luca: I’m a “Heroes” fan and I’m actually a big fan of “In Treatment”, HBO’s new drama series.
Collider: Yeah, I haven’t seen that yet.
Mike De Luca: You know I’ve probably watched all the genre stuff that you would imagine I would watch. I’m a huge “Battlestar Galactica” fanatic I would say.
Collider: So you’re just as excited as us for April 4th?
Mike De Luca: Yes.
Collider: Okay, so I’ll also ask you, we’re nearing the end of our time together, I wanted to know—so you’re cutting “Love Guru” as we speak.
Mike De Luca: Yeah with Mike Myers and the director Marco Schnabel in New York. Mike lives in New York so we do post production in New York.
Collider: So what is that like working on a comedy in the editing room like that? How does that go?
Mike De Luca: It’s great because we shot alternate jokes for almost every scene so in the editing room Mike mines for comedy and we go looking for jokes and we get to try out like 6 or 7 different versions of the scene with all kinds of different jokes and stuff and then pare it down and choose what’s going to be in a test screening.
Collider: And so have you guys tested the movie yet?
Mike De Luca: No, the first test is coming up.
Collider: And so is that always, you know, for a comedy like that where you do have so many other takes is it constantly trying to figure out which one is the best one?
Mike De Luca: Yeah, I think you test screen comedies more than other genres because you get to audition different jokes, but we had a fantastic time making it and you know, it feels really funny. It feels good. It feels like when I kind of …when he immersed me in the “Austin Powers” world, so I can’t wait to get this in front of a test audience.
Collider: And last question: 3D filmmaking. It was the big thing at Show West and it really seems to be coming a huge part of the industry. How are you as a producer—are you looking forward to doing 3D filmmaking and do you see it on any of your immediate future projects?
Mike De Luca: I don’t see it on any of my immediate future projects. I don’t know enough about it but as a film-goer, I’m excited about going to see more films done in that format, especially in the IMAX format.
Collider: Do you think, because what I’ve had a big debate with many people about is you see a movie like “Beowulf” which in IMAX 3D is jaw dropping.
Mike De Luca: Right.
Collider: But then you try to reproduce that at home on DVD and it’s just not the same movie at all. Do you think there is an inherent danger because Hollywood makes so much money from home video and to produce these 3D movies when a lot of the jokes or some of the visuals can’t be reproduced at home?
Mike De Luca: Well I think the bigger the event it is theatrically the more units it pushes on home video and DVD so it still has a life. Some things are just not going to be replicatable at home but if the story is good enough I think people will still want the home version and then maybe someday they’re be a way for them to figure out how to reproduce the 3D at home.
Collider: Yeah, I’m very curious how this is all…
Mike De Luca: It’s all new like we’re all in new territory so we’ll see.
Collider: And which movie—if you had a choice between “Iron Man” and “Incredible Hulk” the new films that are coming out this summer, just those 2, which one would you see.
Mike De Luca: Oh, “Iron Man”.
Collider: Not even a debate?
Mike De Luca: No, because I first of all I had “Iron Man” in development at New Line way back when. I love the character. I love Robert Downey Jr. I worked with Jon Favreau on “Zathura”, so and the trailer just blew me away so I’ve only seen the “Hulk” trailer online. I haven’t seen it in a theatre, but I’m just like a huge Iron Man fan, so I’m really excited about “Iron Man”. And I’m very curious about “The Hulk” like I’m an Edward Norton fan, too, so I’m really curious to see “The Hulk” but “Iron Man” is the one for me.
Collider: Yeah, I think you’re echoing the sentiment of many people online. Personally I think the “Iron Man” stuff looks just incredible.
Mike De Luca: Also, like if there’s ever a character tailor-made for CGI it’s “Iron Man” because you can do metal so photo real, you know the Hulk still has to look human…not human but inhuman in an organic way. “Iron Man” is tailor-made for CGI because you can do metallic surface so easy so it’s going to…it’s probably just unleashed Favreau’s imagination on screen which will be awesome.