Last weekend I sat down with producer Neal Moritz to talk about his latest movie The Green Hornet (which is a lot of fun). Since we covered so many of his projects during the interview, I decided to break up the conversation by movie. I started with the Total Recall news (Colin Farrell is starring, films in Toronto, not in 3D), then we covered Bryan Singer’s Jack the Giant Killer, Ryan Reynolds R.I.P.D., and Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum’s 21 Jump Street, and yesterday’s installment was about Fast Five and future sequels. Now, with The Green Hornet getting released, it’s time for the last part of the interview and covers The Green Hornet, Battle: Los Angeles, and his thoughts on Comic-Con.
The main thing I wanted to ask him about were his thoughts on all the buzz on his film. Because if you’ve been reading cyberspace, you know Green Hornet has been the subject of a lot of speculation. Moritz told me that the most frustrating part was that no one had seen the film, so everyone was wondering where the buzz was coming from. In addition, we also talked about what Sally Menke did for the film before she died and how Battle: Los Angeles has been going. We ended the interview talking about Comic-Con. Specifically, does doing great at Comic-Con mean anything at the box office. Hit the jump for the interview:
Neal Moritz: I’ve seen almost everything except for King’s Speech, which I haven’t seen yet. That’s the only one I haven’t seen. I mean I took my kids to a bunch of stuff. I saw The Fighter which I really liked, I saw Kids Are All Right which I really liked.
Do you enjoy this time of year where you’re getting like 50 screeners and you sort of catch up with everything?
Moritz: Yeah, but I really do see almost everything. So I see at least two or three movies a week as it is. I try and stay pretty current. But yeah it was nice to be able to catch up on the number of things I hadn’t seen—oh I saw Love and Other Drugs the other day.
It’s interesting you haven’t see King’s Speech, that’s one of my favorites of the year.
Moritz: Yeah I’m gonna watch it, I just didn’t wanna watch it on a little computer. I’ve got a big screen at the house so I figured I’d watch it there like in the next day or two.
I definitely wanna jump into The Green Hornet. I’ve seen the movie, it’s great. What has this been like for you?
Moritz: It was the toughest experience because of just the—what really kind of pissed me off is there was all this negative talk about the movie about how it was troubled and this and that—people hadn’t seen anything! They hadn’t seen one thing, nobody had any information to be making any judgment on it at all. And we would sit there and laugh and scratch our heads like, “Where are these things coming from when nobody has seen the movie?” So what I said in that press conference is for me, ultimately, the most satisfying night of my professional career to this date was the night for the first time where we showed the movie to a real audience for the first time in Long Beach a few months ago, and we scored a 92, 93 and an 83 definite recommend to an audience that had heard a lot of this negative buzz and this and that. They saw the movie and they just flipped for it, they loved it. And so for me, the fact that Michel and Evan and Seth and myself, had really stuck together kinda through all this negativeness and really just decided that we weren’t gonna be influenced by that stuff, we were just gonna go make the movie that we wanted to make and the movie we set out to make, and we were gonna sink or fail based on that. And so for us to do actually what we really wanted to do and to have the audience react like that, it was just incredible, it was an incredible feeling. And we’ve been lucky that in the last like 2, 3, 4 weeks, things have started to turn, the word has started to turn. I was just on Twitter and I was looking and it’s literally amazing how many people just keep writing “Can’t wait to see Green Hornet this weekend! Can’t wait to see it! Love this ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ commercial that’s on.” And so, I just don’t know where this stuff starts a lot of the time and so it drives me crazy.
There was some bad buzz online. Was there any sort of nervousness on the studio side or did you guys just as group together say, “We’re gonna release our movie?”
Moritz: Well we were all nervous in the fact that where was this all coming from and why was there this just sort of vitriol hatred for this movie that nobody knew about? It was just a weird thing, it was like “Okay, Green Hornet’s the movie that we’re gonna pick on now.” And there was all this innuendo about how we’d had all these bad screenings—we hadn’t even had a screening! And how we were reshooting a third of the film—we shot one day. So it was just weird had this stuff starts and just spirals. And maybe it had to do with some of our early material, maybe our early teaser wasn’t the greatest teaser. But I think what it’s told me is that the general general audiences are very different than the very very genre specific audience and fanbase, and ultimately I take away and I go, “God, look at the movies [that have been] hits at Comic-Con the last few years and their financial box office has not been that good” So I’m not sure what it tells them. I’m not sure what’s going on, there seems to be somewhat of a disconnect.
Moritz: It’s just such a sad thing. I mean I’ve known Sally for, God, 25 years, and I really respect her and I really like her and I really like her husband and their family. It’s just one of the saddest things I’ve heard, I mean I couldn’t believe it. What Sally was able to help us with was really helping us figure out the balance between comedy and action. And I’m saddened that she’s not with us to kind of see the result.
Was there maybe one scene or one edit or one thing that you remember her saying “You should do this” and that ended up being in the film?
Moritz: I don’t know of one thing. But just kind of an overall thing would be like the “roundup” montage where we start split-screening, I think that she really helped us kinda work on that.
I’m very excited for Battle: Los Angeles.
Moritz: Yeah me too. It might be the favorite movie I’ve ever made, just because I think it is so original and so unique and—you saw the original trailer right? The teaser?
Moritz: And then the new trailer is gonna be on Green Hornet which is fantastic. It kind of takes that teaser and takes it to the next level. It’s a terrific piece, and it has sparked such interest. It’s interesting how I think that that movie is gonna be really dependent on a viral campaign that we’re going to do and it’s really gonna be dependent on it getting out like that and spreading virally, whereas Green Hornet on the other hand is more of a conventional way of marketing a movie.
I’m curious with Battle: Los Angeles, I know you’ve done some test screenings. What has been the reaction?
Moritz: We’ve had universally great reactions to the movie. The movie’s completely done now. And the digital effects, from the first cut to where we ended up the visual effects just got so good. And I’ve always loved that idea from the first day I read that script and I think that what comes off so great in the movie is just one marine battalion’s point of view kind of cut off from communication from everybody else during an alien invasion is just a really really good smart idea that Jonathan Liebsman took a screenplay that I really really liked and just completely elevated it. All of the performances in the movie—whether it’s Michelle (Rodriguez) or Aaron Eckhart or Ne-Yo or Jim Parrack—the performances are fantastic. And besides the fact of it being a great action film, it’s just a really emotional movie, I mean there are places in the movie where you cry. It’s really an awesome movie. I’m as proud of it as anything that I’ve ever done, and I cannot believe that we were able to get onscreen what we got onscreen for that amount of money.
I saw part of the film and it looked fantastic.
Moritz: Yeah, it’s awesome. An awesome movie.
I know you guys are filming The Change-Up in Atlanta right now.
How has Change-Up been going?
Moritz: It’s been going great. It’s been one of the easiest movies, for me I’ve ever had to work on. Luckily I haven’t had to worry there really taking charge of that movie and it’s been going smooth. It’s really been going smooth. Obviously the key to that movie is the relationship between Ryan Reynolds’ character and Jason Bateman’s character and the body-swapping, and you know I saw some stuff cut together this weekend and I was very encouraged.
Moritz: I have a ton of fun, I mean luckily I’ve been balancing a ton of projects for a lot of years now, so it doesn’t feel that different to me, and I’m better when I’m busy and I just do my job in a way where I really totally compartmentalize. When I’m sitting here talking to you, this is what I’m dealing with, and then as soon as you leave, I’m gonna go do something else. I just kinda go from one thing to the next, it’s just whatever I’m on for 15 minutes, that’s what I think about and then I move on.
Obviously I’m mentioning a whole bunch of projects I know about, are there things circling or bubbling to the surface that fans might be excited to know?
Moritz: Well we always have things that we’re toying with, figuring out, seeing if we can get done, so on. So there’s projects in all kinds of different stages that might happen, might not happen, or you know. But we haven’t firmed any of them up yet, we’re just like playing with them at this point.
I’m a huge fan of TV right now because I think TV is doing stuff—it’s amazing what HBO, FX all these networks are doing. Is there in your development right now any thought of doing something on TV?
Moritz: Well I have a show on TV right now on Showtime that we got nominated for a Golden Globe for called The Big C with Laura Linney, so that’s one of the shows that we’re concentrating on. My only limit is the amount of time I have right now, so if something came across that I thought would be great for television I would do it in a second, but it’s not the thing that leads me every day.
One last question for you, you went to Comic-Con for Green Hornet, I really like what you guys did with the film. What’s your feelings on Comic-Con, do you enjoy going down there?
Moritz: Well I enjoy it. We had a fantastic reaction on Battle: LA, we didn’t have a great reaction on Green Hornet. I don’t know why we didn’t have a great reaction, but we didn’t. It was just one of those things where, I think for Battle it was really really important to get us on the map a little bit, and on Green Hornet, it didn’t help us and it didn’t hurt it. I don’t know. I don’t know what the true value of Comic-Con is to movies today or not, I really just don’t know. Cause like I said, Scott Pilgrim was the movie that came out of Comic-Con as the “hit hit hit, buzz buzz” factor, crazy this year. The year before, it was Jonah Hex had come out of that with all this positive spin. And then there was Watchmen. So I don’t know, I don’t know. I really don’t know.
Would this affect your decisions for future projects that you’re doing, which even like 21 Jump Street could have a fun Comic-Con thing. Does this mean that you’re less likely to wanna bring your projects down there?
Moritz: No, it’s not that I’m less likely. I’m just not sure ultimately in the end result, how much effect it really has or doesn’t have. I think that it gets you out there. Look for Green Hornet, one thing it did is it put us out in the light. Good or bad. So, and I guess there’s an old saying, “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.” So I don’t know. I think I’m indifferent about it right now.