‘The Cloverfield Paradox': J.J. Abrams on How the Film Evolved and That Surprise Netflix Debut

Netflix and Bad Robot pulled off quite the marketing coup with The Cloverfield Paradox, which blew past conventional release schedules by debuting the title, poster, and first trailer during the Super Bowl, just hours before the movie dropped on Netflix across the globe. That also means there hasn’t been a lot of interviews about the film, but producer J.J. Abrams, director Julius Onah, and cast members Roger Davies and David Oyelowo just took the stage for a 20-minute Q&A, and offered some insight into how the sci-fi space opera became a Cloverfield movie and how that surprise Netflix debut happened.

While the conversation was spoiler-free, Abrams snuffed out a pretty fun fan theory that had been making the rounds. Turns out that if you sync Cloverfield and The Cloverfield Paradox, two possibly-related events align perfectly (I’ll keep it spoiler-free, but you can read the details here) at the 18:20 mark. “It’s a bizarre coincidence,” Abrams said.

Image via Netflix

Turns out fans weren’t the only ones taken by surprise when the Netflix announced the post-Super Bowl, the cast didn’t learn about it until earlier that same day. “I’m amazed by how many people saw it almost instantaneously,” said Oyelowo. “I’ve never done a movie, certainly not in my career, whereby within nearly 24 hours pretty much everyone I knew had seen it.

From the top brass perspective, Abrams added some insight into how the historical Netflix deal came about, and it came together fast.

“We were talking to Paramount and the truth is we were trying to figure out what was the most fun way to release the movie, and it literally just came out of that conversation. Because people sort of knew this movie was coming and they knew it was a Cloverfield movie, and the series had always been so much about surprise, we were literally talking about what was the most fun way we could surprise people with this…We started taking about how, when, and could we do it in time. In like, six to eight weeks, this went from “I wonder if we could do this” to “We’re doing it, it’s on.”

Image via Netflix

Abrams also spoke at length about how the film evolved from its original incarnation as a Sci-fi thriller called “God Particle,” into the latest installment in the Cloverfield franchise. We heard a bit about the process from screenwriter Oren Uziel, but Abrams offers a lot more insight into how the film continued to evolve throughout production.

“Originally it was written by Oren Uziel, who wrote a draft that was its own thing. That was around for a while, then Bad Robot got ahold of the script and we started to think what are way s that this might fit into the world? But when we started shooting the movie, it was still something we were thinking about. Because the idea for the Cloverfield series was not so much tha it be the sort of narrative throughline but more that they be these really fun thrill rides. If you imagine an amusement park, that’s a Cloverfield amusement park and every ride has a different purpose, but they all kind of connect in some way or another. A bit like the Twilight Zone, which is my favorite TV show, or Black Mirror now.

 

The idea of this episode of the series was a new genre for it and we started working on what that would be, and it was while we were shooting that we were making adjustments. The thing, I got to hand it to Julius because this was a movie that went through many iterations as it went along and there are some studios that do that as a practice and we really hadn’t before. It was one of those things where people were starting to say, when we would show it to people, they were like “What’s happening on Earth? I need to know what that is.” Literally, the idea of expanding the story literally became because people were saying “we want to see more.” So we started to explore that and we ended up writing and shooting that sequence too. It was this kind of iterative process that Paramount, the studio that was behind it, allowed us to do.”

As for what kind of Cloverfield movie they’d like to see next, a Cloverfield romantic comedy was a popular choice, but Abrams through a curveball: “I think a Western would be fun,” he told the audience. We don’t know when the next Cloverfield movie is going to arrive, and odds are when we do find out, it’s going to be one heck of a surprise.

For more on The Cloverfield Paradox, watch the full video and click the links below.

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