In May of 2008, when “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” was still being filmed, I went to Downey, California to see where Paramount was bringing the movie to life. While there, I got to interview some of the cast, see a lot of the ships and vehicles, and I was also able to walk around with producer Lorenzo De Bonaventura as he explained each area of production and what was going to happen in each location. If you’re looking forward to “G.I. Joe” and have been curious how and why certain decisions were made, this is a great interview.
But if you want to be spoiler free, I advise you not to read this till after you have seen the movie as Lorenzo reveals a lot of things that happen. While the plot of “G.I. Joe” isn’t the same as say a “Batman” movie, I always think the less you know the better. However, if you’re dying to learn as much as you can right now, after the jump you can read a very long transcript featuring Lorenzo talking about a number of the scenes. Take a look:
So here’s what you need to know:
I went to the set of “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” with a small group of online journalists. We were taken from set to set by producer Lorenzo De Bonaventura and he explained what we were looking at and what happened in each location/scene. To try and make it easy to follow, I’ve broken up what we did by location and listed where we were. I also try and explain the set.
One of the great sets we went to is the “doctor’s office”. This is where the experiments take place on both possible soldiers and other people. It’s where Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character creates the vipers. The set was almost 360 degrees – meaning the camera could be placed almost anywhere and have a great shot. Here’s what Lorenzo said about the location:
Doctor’s office – where the seat was where the doctor did his experiments
Lorenzo De Bonaventura: There are needles that come out of them and the subject lies here and gets injected from both sides of the table.
So what are they trying to do to the subject? Experimenting?
Lorenzo: Yeah, they’re doing these experiments about how to make somebody not afraid, how to make somebody have endurance, how to make somebody take orders, so it’s sort of a …
Lorenzo: Yeah, yeah, I mean they’re not super in that way, they’re enhanced, I guess. Enhanced soldiers is how we would say. They’re not…
Is this Doctor Mindbender?
Lorenzo: No, this is the doctor. This is not doctor Mindbender.
Who plays the doctor?
Lorenzo: Joseph Gordon-Levitt. And he’s a wild character and I think the fans…it’s a new character to the series and I think the fans are going to really, really take to the characters. It’s really in the spirit of the comic book.
So Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays multiple characters? Is that what you’re saying?
Lorenzo: Yeah. Everybody has a background. Everybody has a past. Not everybody’s the same person all the way through. There’s a lot to this movie. And what happens here is an obviously thing and this set is being taken down right now or getting ready to blow up one more time.
And the doctor works for Destro?
Lorenzo: The doctor works for McCullen, yes.
How significant is this operating chair in the movie?
Lorenzo: It’s a big moment in here.
While the G.I. Joe submarine is barely used in the movie, you’d never know it by the set they built. For a few moments I thought I was on the stage of “Crimson Tide 2” as the set looked so good and was so detailed. In total they had 10 chairs all around the sub for the different crew members and each location had different info on the computer screen. Trust me, this set could be reused on some future movie and be the entire focus of the movie it looked so good.
Interior of G.I. Joe submarine
Lorenzo: …again one of the differentiating factors just so you quickly realize utilize who’s vehicle, who’s side, whatever it is visually should be fairly instantaneous. (he’s talking about the color of the sub)
What’s the name of the sub?
Lorenzo: We’re actually being asked to change it so I don’t have a name for the sub right now. Our name didn’t originally clear so we have actually have to come up with a new name.
Cleared by Hasbro?
Lorenzo: Whatever the process you do in terms of clearing names for…they may have already had a toy sub with the same name.
This wasn’t one of the original toys, right? I mean, there wasn’t a sub. I don’t remember one.
Lorenzo: No. Not to my knowledge.
So this is green. So, basically, I think you were just saying that the G.I. Joe stuff, the good guys are…
Lorenzo: Sort of a green/brown, you know whereas you tend to have blue as the dominant color at the MARS Headquarters-a little bit of red thrown in.
How much of the movie takes place in the G.I. Joe sub?
Pretty nice set for 2 or 3 scenes.
Lorenzo: Yeah, I know. It’s a pretty important moment in the movie so they’re…yeah.
Who’s the captain of the sub?
Lorenzo: We don’t name him. We’re really looking at this scene as really through the eyes of the Joe’s. What they’re preparing to do, where they’re trying to discover McCullen’s lab where it’s located and they use the sub to get there.
Which Joe’s are on board the sub?
Lorenzo: Scarlett, Snake, Breaker, Heavy Duty. I may be missing one.
Do the Joe’s have their own equipment so this would be their sub, or do they work in tandem with, you know, military.
Lorenzo: We play it that they have their own equipment. You know, they have their own resources and it’s its own stand-alone unit.
Did you have any military advisors, as far as you know, for interiors?
Lorenzo: Yeah, yeah. As much as we could. It’s less about that but it’s more about getting the protocols right and doing those sorts of things so you don’t represent-…there’s some scenes in here…there’s a special forces scene that has nothing to do with the Joe’s. You know you want to get those things right.
…you want to show that they have military experience.
Lorenzo: You want to show that it feels military precision and has that sort of quality to it, yes.
Who do the Joe’s respond to?
Lorenzo: General Hawk. Hawk. Hawk is his own stand-alone unit. The way we play it is you’re not exactly sure where he’s gotten the authority but he has total authority.
Now, here’s the important question. How many times do they say “Yo, Joe” throughout the movie?
Lorenzo: Ah, at least…there’s probably no way…at least 3 or 4 times.
Screaming it as they go into battle?
Lorenzo: They do that. Well, there’s sort of…there’s moments where they’re about to go do something where that’s an appropriate thing, yeah.
Are you guys already thinking as you’re filming of doing anything for the DVD? Are you doing like a “making of” doc as you’re shooting?
Lorenzo: Yeah, we have somebody on board who’s been doing it since the beginning of the movie. Shooting everything. So we should have hours and hours and hours and hours of footage.
Is there any example you have of like a toy or a character that you look at and then you just go “that’s completely unrealistic. That would not work in real life. We just need to change it”?
Lorenzo: Well, look, the idea of “Snake Eyes” is not really all that realistic, I mean the idea of the guy that goes through life, doesn’t say a word and wears this sort of battle armor-that’s what we call it sort of battle armor, you know? It’s a fairly uncomfortable way of going about life. I don’t think this is about realism per say. The whole series has some really extraordinary aspects to these characters, so I wouldn’t say this is real.
Would you say it’s about the same level as “Transformers” like about the same level of realism vs. fantasy or more so or less so?
Lorenzo: Maybe a little bit more…well that’s a hard question to answer because what’s different about this than “Transformers” is “Transformers” has all these robots, okay, and so that’s the fantasy if you would. But we have all these characters-humans-but they’re not really real in that sense. Some of them have real attitudes, they have real relationships and real…but, like I said, you’ve got Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes that run around wanting to kill each other-a lifelong-I mean how realistic is that?
Lorenzo: I love it but and I think the fans will love it but I think the people who don’t know it…its been very interesting because we had-hopefully this is a harbinger of good things for us-we’ve had more requests for people’s kids to come to the set than any movie I’ve ever worked on. I mean, it’s staggering how many kids wanted to come here and I can’t quite figure it out because they didn’t grow up with the TV series and the comic book. It’s not there, but what we found out was a lot of dads have really handed down the toys and stuff to their kids, so these kids that come in-6, 7 years old-they know it better than we know it. They know it inside and out and they’re constantly analyzing, “is Storm Shadow going to fight Snake Eyes? How many times?” “Who wins?” It’s like they are really into it, so I’m hoping that’s a good sign, but literally I’ve never had so many requests for people to bring their kids down or crew members bringing their kids down. It’s constantly been a flow of children coming through here, which I think is probably a great sign for us.
Are you constantly fielding questions about is Firefly in it? Is Dusty and Serpentor in it?
Lorenzo: We’re asked a lot of those questions, you know, at some point dramatically it’s very hard to handle the number of characters that we’ve already handled. If you go much further than that you don’t really get to know anybody, so we’ve really sort of said, “you know what? We can deal with this many in this movie” and we made the same decision in “Transformers”. X-number of Decepticons, X-number of Autobots. If we tried to tell more than that, you won’t get to know them.
But you do make it…you kind of know there’s a bigger world of Joe’s right? We know there is a bigger group of Joe’s or is it that this group of Joe’s is only 10 people big?
Lorenzo: No, no, no. When you see….I’ll show you the Urban Combat Level momentarily, which is only one level of the pit, there’s no doubt in your mind that it’s a gigantic organization, so you have….we don’t spend any time in the movie saying, “okay there’s these guys off doing another mission” or that kind of stuff. We just sort of treat it as inherently obvious. It’s a big organization. There’s a lot people in it,. You wouldn’t build it…you’ll see this one level it’s a little bit beat up because we had an attack on the pit and its gotten…taken some serious damage, but you get a sense on the scale of it there’s 7 floors of the pit.
So in the movie…I don’t want to know now…but in the movie they’ll reveal where the pit is located?
Lorenzo: You will know relatively speaking where the pit is located. You won’t know exactly. You’ll see it found and you’ll enter it. Yeah.
I have to ask. There were some pictures….
Lorenzo: The pit, as you know, is moved around a bit in the comic book so we’ve taken advantage of that a little bit too.
Now there were some pictures that were leaked recently and they showed Storm Shadow without a mask. Is that something we’re going to explore? We’re going to see both a masked and unmasked Storm Shadow?
Mask and un-mask Snake Eyes?
Lorenzo: Nope. Nope. You know what… we asked Larry that question actually and it’s clear that Snake Eyes can’t ever been seen but it’s not from the comic book that Storm Shadow can’t be. He’s like “no you can see him”. So we’re like, “Okay, great.” So you’ll see both.
Did he have a gun strapped inside?
Lorenzo: He has a gun, he has 2 swords.
Like Snake Eyes.
Lorenzo: Snake Eyes has a sword.
A sword. Snake Eyes uses guns too, right? Doesn’t he?
Lorenzo: Yeah. Yeah.
I just remember that giant backpack he had with all that…
Lorenzo: What’s a Ninja without a gun? I mean….
You have to have a Ninja and a gun.
Lorenzo: Yeah, you gotta have that.
Absolutely. I agree.
Lorenzo: I mean that’s the reality. You wouldn’t run out with just a sword. You’d have a gun and a sword.
I agree, fully agree.
Lorenzo: There you go. You can just strap it on your back.