The Full and Unedited Interview with Producer Neal H. Moritz – Read or Listen Here
About two weeks ago, I sat down with producer Neal H. Moritz for an awesome interview where we talked about everything he has in development and how he got into making movies. Due to how long the interview was, I ran many articles under the headline “Seven Days With Neal Moritz”, and broke up each part by what movies we covered.
Due to how successful the articles were, I figured some of you might want to read the entire interview as it actually happened. Also, I’m a huge fan of listening to what people have to say and not reading it as a transcript, so besides the full interview, after the jump you can also get the audio.
During the interview we talked about 3D, R.I.P.D., the Highlander reboot, Fast and the Furious 5/6, Shane Black’s Doc Savage, his remake of Total Recall, Flash Gordon, Battle: Los Angeles, Green Hornet, Jack the Giant Killer, Preacher, S.W.A.T. 2, the remake of Escape From New York, Man-Witch, The Boys, Sinbad, and so much more. It’s an awesome interview and one I cannot recommend enough:
Again, below is the entire interview. If you’d like to listen, click here.
Collider: I always like asking people how you go into the industry…I know that you’re 3rd generation.
Luckily we had someone who wanted to buy the company. We sold the company. I went to graduate school-the Peter Stark program at USC the cinema program – the motion picture producer program – and the next thing I knew I was out of that school trying to get a job. There were no jobs available in the industry at that time. It was kind of a similar economic environment to what it is now. And I said luckily I have a little bit of money saved up. I can afford to kind of try and do this for a couple of years without having to worry about making too much money and I wasn’t married and I didn’t have kids. And I hung out my shingle and said let’s go for it. And my idea was I was going to try and match a very commercial ideas with young talented writers that either I knew or that I met through school or I would find later who I thought were good writers but weren’t writing the most commercial ideas. And I would form these joint ventures on each project where basically all monies that came in whether they were producing monies or writing monies, we just split. And that’s how I got started.
You’ve been in the business awhile now, how has it changed in last decade or two, especially now with the elimination of a lot of the minor studios. They’re sort of all…
Moritz: The biggest changes in the movie business since I’ve been in it have been within the last 18 months. There’s been a lot of studios eliminated. A lot of smaller studios or independents eliminated. There’s fewer movies being made and studios are driving much, much harder bargains on every movie. Two years ago or three years ago, Spider-Man 4 at any cost with Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire would have been made. Obviously it’s not being made with that combination now and a lot of it has to do with the economic environment that we’re in right now. And there’s a lot of other movies that I know that for some reason over the last year or so get cancelled that would not have got cancelled a while ago. Everybody, these companies are controlled by big corporations and they’re looked at very different than they were a short while ago.
Obviously the 3D revolution has hit full force. I was just at ShoWest. I have witnessed everything 3D. I’m curious for you what your thoughts are? A lot of people, myself included, think that 3D is phenomenal when it’s shot in 3D and this whole post-production process has not proven…
So what are your thoughts though because you’re obviously…you have some very big ticket movies on the horizon, do you want to shoot these movies in 3D or are you sort of thinking the footage you’ve seen for post is good enough that you can convert it?
Moritz: I think that if you’re creating an environment completely or…in my research, what I’ve learned is that if it’s a CG world or a lot of visual effects, you’re almost better doing that in post. If I’m shooting actually a live-action movie and I feel like I can get the shots that I need with the existing 3D cameras, then I see there is no reason to not use those-to not shoot it in 3D. But there are limitations to the 3D cameras in terms of the amount of them, in terms of the size of them, in terms of where you can actually shoot them. There are definitely limitations so you have to weigh the costs. And you have to weigh also what ultimately what creatively you want to get. We’re doing tests right now on Battle Los Angeles and we’re doing right now on Green Hornet about turning those movies into 3D movies. We’re going to look at the tests, see how they look and then make a decision.
I definitely want to jump into those-into Battle: Los Angeles, I was fortunate enough to visit the set of that film and it looked spectacular when I was there.
For people that are looking forward to the project, when do you think the first promotional stuff is going to be available like a teaser trailer or posters or…
Moritz: We’re going to have stuff available in summer.
So do you think this is one of those projects that’s going to be at Comic-Con with one of those things?
Moritz: I think we’ll definitely have stuff at Comic-Con.
Jumping into Green Hornet. Obviously what can you tell people about the status of that film?
Moritz: I watched the first hour on Friday. We showed the first hour. We brought Sally Menke who edited Inglourious Basterds to come in and edit the movie. She showed us the first hour, myself and the studio on Friday. We’re thrilled at what we’re seeing. Obviously taking a combination of two genres action/comedy…super hero comedy and bringing them together. The hardest part of that is what is the tone of the movie? And I think we’re able to capture a really real good tone for the movie that also lends itself to the humor that Seth does but it’s really grounded real humor vs. broad silly humor. But with great action and with Gondry’s visual flair. I mean we saw a very early version of a fight scene that he’s doing where we do a thing called Kato Vision where Kato can kind of see things before it happens in fight scenes so he knows how to take people out. And it was amazing.
Listen, that’s an interesting thing. In Sherlock Holmes…
Moritz: Yes, it was very different.
I wanted to know the comparison.
Moritz: It’s a very different kind of thing because this is all told visually vs. in Sherlock Downey kind of talks his way through what happens, this is all very quick. And it basically what it does for the fight is Kato kind of sees it split seconds before in his head and knows how to actually….we see pieces of it. We don’t know how he’s going to put it together and then he puts it all together.
Just to clarify, it’s not like a supernatural thing?
Moritz: No, it’s not a supernatural thing. It’s a skill. He’s got skill.
I’m curious what exactly is bubbling right now for you?
Moritz: I mean the main next things for me obviously we’ve got post on Battle: Los Angeles and post in Green Hornet. We’re doing a DVD movie of S.W.A.T. 2 and…
Moritz: It probably will be. It probably will be.
Are there people coming back from the first film?
Moritz: No. No, there’s not.
Moritz: New cast.
Do you think shooting this year?
Moritz: We start shooting in like 12 weeks in Detroit.
Do you have a director?
Moritz: Benny Boom is directing it.
And do you have any cast yet?
Moritz: We’re in the middle of making deals right now.
Moritz: The next things for me, the next 3…well I’m making Fast and Furious 5 in June/July. We’re doing Jack the Giant Killer with Bryan Singer in July we start that. And then I’m doing The Change Up with David Dobkins directors with Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman for Universal. That’ll start in October. And the next kind of wave for me will be 21 Jump Street, hopefully The Boys, hopefully Escape from New York. Highlander for sure, I’m doing that with Justin Lin after we finish Fast and the Furious. There’s a submarine movie called Hunter Killer and then I’m going to do R.I.P.D. which is something that I’m really, really excited about. Sinbad hopefully and Preacher are kind of my next wave of stuff.
I definitely want to ask you with Fast and Furious there was a lot of talk that you guys might do the 5th and 6th movie together.
Moritz: We’re not going to actually shoot them together, but we’re already starting to prepare the 6th one as well. We have an idea of what we want it to be and we’re working on that. We’re not going to shoot them back-to-back but we’re going to hopefully shoot them close together.
Is it where you’re setting up the 5th film for like sort of cliffhanger to go right into the 6th?
Moritz: It’s not that we’re setting it up necessarily for a cliffhanger, but we have an idea that breaks off from the 5th that goes into the 6th.
Are Paul and Vin committed to doing both?
Moritz: Well, contractually committed? No, but we all want to do it.
I know that I believe Justin was in Brazil scouting.
So it’s world-wide.
Now are you incorporating the real locations you’re shooting at into the…is that part of the story?
Moritz: Yes, it is.
So it’s one of these they have to travel the world?
Moritz: Most of the movie is set in South America. They’re on the run.
I was going to ask you because a lot of talk has been they’re on the run from the law.
Moritz: They’re on the run and then something happens and they have to…and there’s going to be a lot of people from the previous Fast and Furious in the movie.
You’re getting to my next thing. Tyrese and some of the other people are they coming back?
Moritz: We’re talking…we’re trying to finalize the script right now but the goal is to bring touchstone’s characters from each of the movies back.
You mentioned earlier in our conversation that real life stuff shooting in 3D might be cool. A lot of people are wondering are you thinking about Fast and Furious…
Moritz: Fast and Furious will be a very hard movie to shoot in 3D because of the way we do the car stuff and because the movie has such quick cuts. So we have had many discussions about it. I don’t think we’ll actually shoot in 3D but there’s a good chance the movie will be in 3D.
I want to jump into Highlander. You mentioned Justin is going to probably direct it.
Are you guys…is it a clean slate or are you guys trying to incorporate anything from previous…?
I loved the first Highlander movie. Are you guys…is it a reboot or is it incorporating anything from the previous films?
Moritz: I wouldn’t necessarily call it…I guess it would be closer to a reboot than anything else but there’s a great history of Highlander that we’re staying with and it’s an origin story.
Are you even thinking about the Queen music and possibly doing…
Moritz: Maybe, maybe. We love the Queen music and we’ll see what happens.
Jumping into Preacher for a second, what is…there’s been a lot of talk about Preacher for a long time it seems…
Moritz: We now have a terrific script that John August wrote. We were originally talking with Sam Mendes about doing the movie. Sam Mendes is going to go off and do the Bond movie, so there’s another director that we’re talking to right now.
So do you envision that shooting hopefully next year?
Moritz: I hopefully will be shooting that movie next year.
Jumping into The Boys.
Moritz: The Boys is something…I have a meeting with a director that I would really like to do the movie with today. There’s a number of actors coming forward saying they want to do the movie. We’re not in a hurry to do it. We want to do it right and we got a really good faithful to the comic book script that Manfradian Hay wrote, who wrote Clash of the Titans and many other things for us including R.I.P.D. and other things. And we love what they’ve done with the script. And we’ve been very careful there’s been a number of people wanting to do the movie. We’re very careful how we’re going to put that movie together.
The Bryan Singer Jack the Giant Killer movie. You guys are shooting this summer?
Moritz: We’re shooting in the summer.
Are you shooting that one in 3D or are you doing that one in post?
What can people look forward to with the film? What can you tell people about it?
Moritz: I think it’s an amazing, amazing film that I don’t see any barriers to entering into this movie for anybody. It’s really a movie that takes the Jack and the Beanstalk legend and then the great idea of humans against giants and combining that and having basically a war between humans and giants. And I love the project. It’s like if I had to pick one movie to see today, that would be the movie I’d want to see. I so much want to see what that movie ultimately becomes. We did a huge presentation for Warner Brothers and New Line and I saw all the visuals, some test stuff that we did and really the visuals are so phenomenal. It feels like a Lord of the Rings epic type movie.
You mentioned…I want to jump back for a second…you mentioned Justin might be doing or is doing Highlander.
Does that mean that he’s not doing the 6thFast and Furious?
Moritz: No, maybe we’ll do 5 and then we’ll jump into Highlander and then come back to 6, or maybe he won’t do the 6th. We haven’t gone that far honestly. We just know we have a template for what we want 6 to be already. And we’re really working hard to see if we can make that happen quickly.
I looked…and you didn’t mention when you dropped some of the things you’re working on in the future like for example Luke Cage.
Moritz: I’m not involved with Luke Cage anymore.
Okay. You also didn’t mention Flash Gordon.
Moritz: Flash Gordon I’m just waiting on a script. I haven’t read the script yet. I’m about to read a script on that. I’m about to read a script on Doc Savage. I’m about to read a script on Total Recall. So these are all movies that I really want to make but I’ve got to read the scripts first.
I am a monstrous Shane Black fan.
Moritz: We have been trying to get Shane to do a movie with us for quite a while and we kept talking to him about many different things. He actually came and did a little work for us on Battle: Los Angeles We talked to him about Green Hornet. We talked to him about many things and then we came to him with Doc Savage, he’s like “that’s my favorite thing”. I have to do that. So he’s writing it now and with hopes to direct.
I believe that originally there was talk about someone else wrote Doc Savage and he was just going to direct it.
Moritz: No, no, no. He’s writing it with Chuck Mondry and Anthony Bagarozzi, who he’s written in the past before.
Collider: Assuming that script comes in, do you think that that…I mean is that like a “go” project if it…
Moritz: I think it’s a “go” project. I mean unfortunately I’m not the guy who has the final say if it’s a “go” project, but it’s something that fits all the needs of what Sony wants to have-big tentpole movies with a talented filmmaker who casts really wants to work with. And it feels like a movie if you do it right, you can have many of them.
Moritz: Yeah, Kurt Wimmer wrote Salt…I don’t know what they’re calling because it’s a woman now but Wimmer is writing the screenplay right now. Going back more to the book than to the movie.
I was going to ask you, what did you think of the Schwarzenegger version?
Moritz: I liked it a lot. I loved the idea. The wish fulfillment of being able to sit in a chair and become who you want to be. To me that was the thing that interested me the most about it. You know, in the last movie he goes to Mars and we’re not doing that.
There was a lot of action set pieces in the Schwarzenegger version. Do you see your version having those kind of action set pieces?
Moritz: Yes, but it’s going to be more real.
Jumping into other things, is Breck Eisner still attached to Flash?
Moritz: Yes, yes he is.
Moritz: Yes, very involved. I really loved what he did with The Crazies as well. I thought it was a good movie.
Totally. You also obviously you’ve been in rumors about another xXx.
Moritz: There’s definitely talk about it.
Is Vin still excited about it?
Moritz: Yes he is.
But is it on the drawing boards of soon or on the horizon?
Moritz: You know what? Joe Roth has really taken the lead on that so he’s the guy to talk to about that.
You mentioned Sinbad earlier. Can you tell people about that?
Moritz: We finally have a really good script that we’re very excited about. Adam Shankman is attached as the director on that script. The studio’s very excited about it. Amy Pascal is reading the script now. So that’ll determine what happens. It’s a project we’ve had on the boards for quite a while and it’s something that I’d really like to make. It’s called The 8th Voyage of Sinbad. It feels like it’s a movie that I’d want to see and that’s the only way I get ultimately judge what I want to make is what I want to see.
When does it take place?
Moritz: It takes place in China. I can’t remember what year.
Moritz: Yeah, whenever the original Sinbad took place. But I’ll get you an answer to that. I can’t remember the exact date.
You also mentioned Escape from New York.
Obviously there are a tremendous amount of fans on this franchise. How much do you judge what fans are wanting vs. what’s good for the movie?
Moritz: Well, you know I have fond memories of a lot of movies and then I go back and watch them and I’m not sure exactly what my biggest fond memories of those movies are. I have a huge affinity for the character of Snake Plissken and I have huge affinity for the central idea of that movie Escape from New York and there’s a lot of characters and a lot of things that I like. We wouldn’t be going off to try and remake it unless we really liked that movie. But we’re also inventing some new things along the way.
There was talk I believe of Gerard Butler.
Moritz: Gerard was really interested in playing it. He hasn’t read the new script yet, so we’ll probably have a conversation with him once we get a director on board.
With a project like that, do you envision that a PG-13 or an R?
Moritz: Probably an R, but see I don’t like to get R-ratings for language. R-rating for violence is okay to me but I think just because somebody says fuck or shit or this or that doesn’t make it a cool movie.
Moritz: So it’s not…and I don’t think it’s that hard to make movies PG-13 anymore. I mean all Fast and Furious have been PG-13 movies and I don’t think there’s anything we would have done differently that if we could have made it an R. I mean, I don’t know. I don’t really…the R, PG-13 isn’t as big a deal to me as you would think.
There was a lot of talk for awhile about you guys doing Man-Witch.
Moritz: We have a script. We’re hiring another director on it right now. That’s a movie that’s come together, fallen apart many different times. I think we’re finally on the right track right now. We have a very good director who’s interested in doing it. The hardest part of the movie is going to be who can play that role.
What’s, and I could be wrong about this, but wasn’t Zach (Galifianakis) attached?
Moritz: When Todd Phillips was going to direct it, it was going to be Zach. It was going to be Jack Black at one point when Todd was going to direct it, so it’s been through a couple of different combinations right now and I think either of them would be really good for the part.
Moritz: We’ve got a great script. John August wrote a script that I think is terrific. The hardest thing was with all the books-the Preacher books-was how to distill it down. And what he made the smart decision instead of trying to cram everything into one, there’s plenty of room for 2 or 3 movies. So that’s what he’s done and he’s done a really faithful adaption but made it probably more accessible to a broader audience right now. That movie’s definitely R-rated and it’s an amazing central character.
I’m a big fan of John August as a director, is there any chance he could get behind the camera?
Moritz: You know it’s interesting you say that. I had a meeting with him recently and we started talking about directors and we were talking about some really, you know, lofty directors. And he said you know if you don’t get one of those I’d be interested in it. I said we’ll talk about it.
I really loved his movie The Nines.
Moritz: Yeah, I did too.
And a really underrated film.
Moritz: Yeah, I thought Ryan was really good in that too.
Absolutely. And also which goes back to what I was also going to go to, Ryan Reynolds.
Moritz: Yes, we love him. We’re going to do two movies with him. We’re doing The Change-Up with him and we’re doing R.I.P.D. with him.
What was the 2nd one you just mentioned…RI….?
Moritz: R.I.P.D. Rest in peace department. A terrific script by Manfredi & Hay at Universal that we hopefully going to make at the beginning of next year.
What exactly, I’m not familiar with this project.
Moritz: It’s terrific based on the graphic novel. It’s about two cops, one recently dead and a gunslinger who’s been dead for hundreds of years who work on the Rest in Peace department which is the police department of the dead. And they basically…it takes place on a normal day and it’s about trying to keep the dead quiet.
That’s a very interesting premise.
Moritz: Terrific script. Great buddy comedy. Buddy Action/Comedy.
So is that an R-rated movie?
And so it’s Ryan Reynolds and you’re still figuring out who the…
Moritz: Yes, he’ll be teamed with somebody but it’s a fantastic relationship between a cop who’s recently died who would do anything to get back to his wife. And a gunslinger who died hundreds of years ago who has seen it all and is jaded by it all and it’s the two of these guys together and it’s the relationship between these two guys that is absolutely fantastic.
With Ryan and the fact that he has Green Lantern and also I believe they’re going to try and make a Deadpool or other things.
How hard is it to book his schedule at this point?
Moritz: Well, this is…luckily for me he’s going Change-Up for us in October and then R.I.P.D….R.I.P.D. is his favorite project. It’s the thing he wants to do more than anything and we’ve scheduled that for January.
With Change-Up, what can you tell people about it? I know that there’s been some log lines or one-liners.
Moritz: It’s Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds basically end up switching bodies. And it’s a really funny high concept comedy directed by David Dobkin obviously who did Wedding Crashers. And written by Lucas Moore who wrote Hangover.
That’s a pretty good pedigree.
Moritz: Yes, I think so too.
Okay. Is this another PG-13?
Moritz: R-rated. Definitely R-rated.
Well how has it changed obviously for you with The Hangover going to be such a huge success.
Moritz: I think there’s many examples where R-rated movies have done very, very well. I just think that if you’re going to make an R-rated movie, it has to be R-rated for a reason. Otherwise why…you don’t need….and this movie would suffer if it wasn’t R. And that’s why it’s R. I don’t think it should be R just to be R, but it’s what makes it a better movie and what’s inherent with the movie, then you make it R.
Have you gone to Comic-Con and have you walked around the floor?
Moritz: Yes, I have.
What do you geek out over when you’re walking around?
Well what’s interesting is…based on what you’re doing right now and what you have in the future, you’re turning into a real big comic book movie producer as you have a lot of projects there.
Moritz: We have a lot of projects that are from that world. And I just like that stuff. I just gravitate towards it. It’s the stuff that I want to go see opening on Friday night. It’s what I’m interested in going to see, but I’m not only interested in making things that are pre-branded on these properties. I mean, Battle: Los Angeles to me fits perfectly in the Comic-Con world, but it’s not based on a pre-branded type project.
Where I’m going with this is do you have certain comic book properties that are out there that you’ve seen that you’re like this would be great stuff… That’s something that I cannot wait to see made?
Moritz: Well, Green Hornet was one of those things for me. I had been a huge fan of the show for the show, the comics, the radio. Bruce Lee is my favorite so I’d been tracking the rights on that thing for quite a long time and then when they became available, I did the full, full, full core press to the people…the state and the family that controlled the rights and just showed them my passion for wanting to make it and I promised them I’d get the movie made after many, many failed attempts to get that movie made by other people, I’d promised I’d get that movie made and I was able to live up to my word.
Moritz: Well, we’re waiting on a script. They’re writing it now. We’re going to see it hopefully in the next 6 weeks.
Okay, that’s a project…obviously Danny…I’m a huge fan of this guy.
Moritz: I am too and I love the idea of assistants to superheroes. That, to me, is a terrific idea.
And also I looked on IMDB, you have Battle Royale, you have Skyscraper.
I’m not doing Battle Royale but Skyscraper we’re doing as well and we’re just waiting on a script on that one as well.
What’s the take on this thing?
Moritz: I can’t talk about that one.
Moritz: But we have a really good idea. It would be my version of a disaster movie.
When you have the title like Skyscraper like Lorenzo di Bonaventura said like when you have a title like Asteroids you have a huge movie.
You know? So it’s sort of…
Moritz: We look for things that tell us what the movie is instantaneously. You spend 90% of your money marketing a movie in the last 10 days before your movie comes out and then in 30 seconds or 15 seconds you have to distill down really quickly for an audience what your movie is about and why they need to see it.
I don’t think a lot of people understand the importance of a great title. And also the shorter the title, the one or two word title is, I mean that’s gold.
I definitely want to jump back into Fast and Furious for a second. Were you surprised…obviously a lot of us thought that the 4th movie was going to do really well. Were you surprised at the level of…
Moritz: Yes. But we made a really conscious decision that we were not…because there was a lot of cynicism about the fact that we were going to make another one, that we were bringing actors back that were working on other movies so we were actually going to do this movie and we decided we weren’t going to do the movie unless we came up with a great idea, we got everybody back and we make a really conscious decision that we weren’t going to show anything on that movie because of the amount of cynicism until we had a great piece of material. And I remember as soon as we released our first trailer for that movie-the teaser-everything changed. It was like everybody was very cynical about the movie, they saw that and it was like, wow. And it turned. It turned on a dime.
It’s interesting because that happens a lot when people show footage.
Moritz: Yes, yes.
How much do you pay attention to the online world? Do you read the movie sites?
Moritz: I read the movie sites, I look at the movie sites and I’ve watched every trailer and I see every movie and I go with my gut.