Producer Neal Moritz Talks R.I.P.D., How It Compares to the Comic, and Finding the Right Tone

by     Posted 1 year, 159 days ago

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While we’ve already seen some marketing materials and debut trailers for the majority of this summer’s offerings, we only recently got our first look at director Robert Schwentke’s supernatural actioner R.I.P.D.  The film is based on the Dark Horse comic of the same name and stars Ryan Reynolds as a newly deceased cop who joins a group of undead officers in the “Rest In Peace Department” to help combat a rising force of nefarious corpses.  The film’s debut trailer showcases a tone similar to that of Men in Black, as Reynolds and Jeff Bridges put a supernatural spin on the buddy cop format.

Steve recently sat down with producer Neal Moritz for an extended interview, and during their wide-ranging conversation Moritz talked a bit about R.I.P.D., speaking to the film’s tough development process, the difficulty in finding the right tone, and how the film compares to the comic source material.  Hit the jump to read on.

neal-moritz-ripdSpeaking with Steve, Moritz said that nailing down the right tone was the toughest part of R.I.P.D., but the film hinges on the chemistry between Reynolds and Bridges:

“I think…the hardest part of the movie was, ‘What is the exact tone of this movie?’  We’ve talked a lot about movies like Lethal Weapon meets Men In Black or a little bit of Beetlejuice thrown in there, a little bit of Ghostbusters.  But really the core of the movie is the relationship between Jeff and Ryan.  For me, buddy cop comedies are really almost my favorite genre and this is really aimed at that.  How do we make the relationship of the buddy cop movie fresh?  And I think the two of those guys are terrific in it and their relationship just sparkles – by far the best part of the movie, the part that I really look forward to watching every time I watch the movie.”

Speaking of which, the film went through a number of iterations before Reynolds and Bridges were set in the lead roles:

“It was incredibly hard [to get a greenlight].  It was one of these movies that came together and fell apart many, many times.  But I’ll never forget reading the script the first time.  The first time I read the script I was like, ‘I have to make this movie.’  I just loved the relationship between those guys so much and I just loved the concept of the police for the dead…We had a number of combinations of cast that wanted to do the movie together but it just never came together right.  When ultimately it started to get steam again, we got Jeff Bridges to play that role.  To me, out of all the combinations that potentially almost did this movie, there could not have been a better combination than Jeff and Ryan.  Jeff just embodies that character so much, it’s amazing.”

ripd-jeff-bridges-ryan-reynoldsWhile the story is indeed based on a comic book, Moritz says that R.I.P.D. is very much its own thing:

“I think there are [similar] concepts [to the comics], the characters are very similar.  We used it as a jumping off point and there’s a lot that’s similar in both and there’s a lot that’s different in both.  I like to think that these movies kind of stand on their own and whether you’ve read the comic book or not read the comic book, the movie is enjoyable to you either way.  I think that sometimes – especially a comic that has a beloved fanbase but it’s a small fanbase – if we don’t expand it a bit, it doesn’t become a movie for everybody.  When you’re making movies at such a high level budget, you really have to make movies that really are for more than just a small group of people.”

ripd-ryan-reynolds-mary-louise-parker-jeff-bridgesFinally, Moritz said that the biggest thing that they learned from test screenings was dialing in on the right tone, which mostly came in the post-production process:

“The fine line of the tone of the movie.  We knew going in that, that was going to be the toughest part and it is the toughest part.  There was a balance of humor, comedy, action, that we really had to finely distill – every time we added a little bit more of something or had to take a little bit back.  We didn’t want the movie to be broad, we wanted it to feel real but it’s got a supernatural concept, so it was just trying to mix all that and dial that together.  That was, by far, the toughest part of this movie.  Making the movie wasn’t tough – trying to get the movie made was extremely tough – but once the studio said, ‘Okay let’s go for it,’ making it wasn’t that hard.  We had so many different choices of what the movie ultimately could be in post, and it was just dialing it together for that right combination, that right tone.”

You can read the full transcript of Steve’s discussion with Moritz regarding R.I.P.D. below, and look for the complete conversation on Collider soon.  If you missed what Moritz had to say about Fast & Furious 6 and 7, click here, and if you missed what he said about 21 Jump Street 2, click here.

ripd-posterCollider: One of the things you premiered at CinemaCon, which I thought looked great was R.I.P.D.  I thought it was like a mixture of Men In Black, Beetlejuice.  It had a really cool tone.  Talk a little bit about deciding on what footage you were going to show to CinemaCon and how that was like the world premiere of any footage.

NEAL MORITZ:  We decided that we would use our trailer as basis and then make it a little more extended and that’s what we did.  We got a lot of other material that we’re going to be showing during the next couple months and we’re debuting our trailer this weekend with Oblivion. So, we felt like it was a good thing to use the trailer as a base and just kind of extend it – you know add a few more jokes and a little more action and stuff to it.  But really it’s really similar to what the trailer is that’s now playing in theaters. 

As I said, I saw the film as like a Men In Black-ish, kind of Beetlejuice tone.  Am I accurate about that?

MORITZ:  Yeah, I think that was the hardest part of the movie was, “what is the exact tone of this movie?”  We’ve talked a lot about movies like Lethal Weapon meets Men In Black or a little bit of Beetlejuice thrown in there, a little bit of Ghostbusters.  But really the core of the movie is the relationship between Jeff and Ryan.  For me, buddy cop comedies are really almost my favorite genre and this is really aimed at that.  How do we make the relationship of the buddy cop movie fresh?  And I think the two of those guys are terrific in it and their relationship just sparkles – by far the best part of the movie, the part that I really look forward to watching every time I watch the movie. 

There’s a lot of comic book fans of the property.  How does the film compare to the comic?

MORITZ:  I think there are concepts, the characters are very similar.  We used it as a jumping off point and there’s a lot that’s similar in both and there’s a lot that’s different in both.  I like to think that these movies kind of stand on their own and whether you’ve read the comic book or not read the comic book, the movie is enjoyable to you either way.  I think that sometimes – especially a comic that has a beloved fanbase but it’s a small fanbase – if we don’t expand it a bit, it doesn’t become a movie for everybody.  When you’re making movies at such a high level budget, you really have to make movies that really are for more than just a small group of people.

ripd-ryan-reynolds-jeff-bridgesMaking movies nowadays, is tougher and tougher.  How hard was it to get the green light on R.I.P.D.?

MORITZ:  It was incredibly hard.  It was one of these movies that came together and fell apart many, many times.  But I’ll never forget reading the script the first time.  The first time I read the script I was like, “I have to make this movie.”  I just loved the relationship between those guys so much and I just loved the concept of the police for the dead.  I just thought it was really interesting and unique.  Our test screenings are showing us that people are really interested, they really like that concept.  In fact, my 10-year-old son said to me the other day, “Dad, that’s such a simple concept.  How come nobody thought of that before?”  Honestly, I was thinking the same thing.  It’s just really a great concept, I’m surprised there hasn’t been a movie with that concept before.  That’s really what sparked me to it.  And then we had a number of combinations of cast that wanted to do the movie together but it just never came together right.  When ultimately it started to get steam again, we got Jeff Bridges to play that role.  To me, out of all the combinations that potentially almost did this movie, there could not have been a better combination than Jeff and Ryan.  Jeff just embodies that character so much, it’s amazing. 

ripd-ryan-reynoldsI’m sure you’ve done some test screenings or friends and family screenings.  What have you learned through that process that possibly has helped you to make the film better?

MORITZ:  The fine line of the tone of the movie.  We knew going in that, that was going to be the toughest part and it is the toughest part.  There was a balance of humor, comedy, action, that we really had to finely distill – every time we added a little bit more of something or had to take a little bit back.  We didn’t want the movie to be broad, we wanted it to feel real but it’s got a supernatural concept, so it was just trying to mix all that and dial that together.  That was, by far, the toughest part of this movie.  Making the movie wasn’t tough – trying to get the movie made was extremely tough – but once the studio said, “okay let’s go for it,” making it wasn’t that hard.  We had so many different choices of what the movie ultimately could be in post, and it was just dialing it together for that right combination, that right tone.  

Click here for all our previous R.I.P.D. coverage.




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