At this year’s CinemaCon, I was able to land an exclusive interview with Tom Rothman (Co-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Fox Filmed Entertainment). While we posted selected portions of the interview last week, after the jump you can read the entire conversation which covers a lot more than comic book movies. I love getting to speak with actors and directors, but if you really want to find out which projects are moving forward and why certain decisions were made, a studio head has all the answers.
During the wide-ranging conversation we talked about 48 frames per second, the shift towards higher quality films on Fox’s slate, Prometheus (and it’s rating), Daredevil, Fantastic Four, the Chronicle sequel, The Wolverine, the Rise of the Planet of the Apes sequel, a New Mutants movie, A Good Day to Die Hard (Die Hard 5), and more. Hit the jump to read what he had to say.
Tom Rothman: I haven’t. On that one, I’ll have to decline to comment only because I didn’t see it. I just got here last night, our presentation’s today, so I don’t know. I only heard what everybody said. What did you think?
I think that it looks like real life, and I think that for certain films—animated movies, concerts, possibly dramas—this is the future. I’m unsure about a fantasy movie where it looks like actors and not another world. I don’t know if I’m right or wrong, but visually it’s like being there.
Rothman: I don’t know. As I said, I didn’t see it so I can’t really comment. I just know this: Peter Jackson is an extremely talented man. I think he’s a talented visionary director and I would not bet against Peter Jackson.
We’re on the exact same page. A few years ago, I think a lot of fans and a lot of people, myself included, were not as happy with the Fox output in terms of quality. But in the last few years a lot of the stuff you guys have been putting out has been great. What’s the secret of this sort of turnaround in terms of fans loving the movies and the quality of the movies?
Rothman: Well, you know, it’s just like anything in life, you try harder and try to do better. I think that some of the criticism of some of those other movies was a little harsh. I think the X-Men movies really do stand the test of time, but certainly we’ve tried in the last [few] years to listen. First of all, the audience is the boss. That’s the truth. And if you don’t listen to the audience and try to do better, you’re being silly.
We do listen and I think we have made a big push in us. I can give you the general—I think the answer is that we’re trying very hard on two levels: 1. We try to work with really strong filmmakers—and that may be with established filmmakers like Matthew Vaughn or up-and-coming, emerging, exciting filmmakers like Josh Trank—and then we try to pair that with originality.
I think, if I had to give you one answer, it’s pushing the boundaries, trying to be original, even within franchise content. So, for example, the last X-Men movie: it was in the X-Men universe but it was very original. Planet of the Apes: well there have been lots of Planet of the Apes movies, but there hasn’t been one set in real world, near time where you really tried to use the technology to create a living, breathing, sentient animal protagonist. That had never been done, so the Planet of the Apes movie was very original and a very risky concept.
[For] Prometheus, it would have been very easy—in fact probably in Chapter One of the Executive Handbook, if I ever read such a thing, it would say, “Go ahead, make a straightforward prequel to Alien.” That would have been the easy thing to do. Prometheus is the more challenging thing to do. It’s bolder, it’s original, it’s in the universe, but it’s not a literal story-based prequel to [Alien], it’s a wholly new science-fiction entry from Ridley Scott, who hasn’t made a science-fiction film in 30 years. So I think what we tried to do in recent years is listen to the audience, believe in the audience, and don’t underestimate the audience. Believe that the audience wants to be challenged and try to push the boundaries, try to be original.
We’re gonna show some footage here today of a movie, I do think the geek side of you would love this movie, but Ang Lee’s Life of Pi. I’d love it if you would come over and look at the footage because you’ll see; it’s not like anything else. If you asked me the question, “Well what movie is it like?” I can’t give you an answer; I can just tell you that it’s new.
As someone who’s a huge Ang Lee fan, I will definitely be checking the footage out. Going back to Prometheus for a second, there’s been a lot of talk about PG-13 or R. So what do you think it’s gonna be?
Rothman: I don’t know, but I do know this: it will be whatever is best for the film. So I can assure the fans—I’m very aware of their concern—absolutely they can take it that the film will not be compromised either way. So if that means that the film is R, then it’ll be an R. If it’s PG-13, then it’ll be a PG-13, but it will not be compromised. People can rest assured.
What’s going on with Daredevil?
Rothman: Josh Trank who did Chronicle, I think this has been reported, is gonna come on and work on a take or a vision that he has for it, so we’re very excited about that.
So is he gonna be directing it?
Rothman: Well, I think there’s a possibility of that. I mean he’s gonna develop it now, and then it depends on the script.
One of the things that Chronicle did so well is that you did it at a limited budget but it had great production value and it looked fantastic. Do you see any of the superhero films that you have coming in the future fitting in the model of Chronicle or do you envision these as more of the summer tentpole movies that require $150 million?
Rothman: It’s horse for courses. The answer is, I can’t answer that generally because it depends. We were able to do that with Chronicle because it fit the concept of it perfectly. You can’t do that with Prometheus or Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, so it depends.
Obviously you guys are gonna be filming The Wolverine in Australia…
Rothman: Partially in Australia, partially in Japan.
I wanted to ask, how is that going?
Rothman: It’s going very well, it’s going terrifically. Hugh Jackman is finishing Les Miserables in London, we’re gearing up and prepping now. We’ll shoot the stage work in Australia and the location work in Japan, and we’ll start casting in the next month or so. There’ll be a lot of local Japanese talent in it. This is also, again going back to what we talked about before, it’s a pretty original take. It’s based on a very successful run in the comics, but it’s a true Wolverine movie, I mean this is the true berserker, bad ass Wolverine.
I loved Rise of the Planet of the Apes. What’s the status of the sequel?
Rothman: That’s very much on the tracks. We’re developing a script. Rupert Wyatt, who directed the first one, will direct the second one. We’re pushing forward aggressively, so the script’s being written now.
Do you have an idea of a time frame you’d like to release it?
What’s going on with the Chronicle sequel?
Rothman: It’s in very active development. I think you’ll see that sooner rather than later.
I know you guys have like The New Mutants and a lot of characters in the X-Men universe. Obviously you guys are moving forward on an X-Men sequel, you’re moving forward on Wolverine, do you envision New Mutants or some of these other characters as franchises that the door can be open to? It does seem to me that the superhero genre is bigger than it’s ever been, and you guys have some of the crown jewels.
Rothman: (smiles) Yes.
When can fans expect an announcement on some of these other properties? Before Comic-Con, after Comic-Con, at Comic-Con?
Are you talking to filmmakers right now, is this something that’s going on behind the scenes and we’re waiting for an announcement?
Rothman: Let me just say this. All I have to say is, I agree with you in your assessment of the potential in a lot of these characters.
I’m very glad to hear what’s coming. You guys also have Die Hard coming up.
Rothman: Monday we started [filming].
Can you tell people what this one’s about and what you’re excited about for this one?
Rothman: I love this one. It’s called A Good Day to Die Hard, and two things make it new: 1. John McClane, the ultimate American hero, goes to Russia. So talk about a fish out of water, he’s completely out of water. And 2. It’s really a father-son story, which is that John McClane’s been a great cop his whole life but he’s been a pretty lousy father. He has a grown son who he’s not really been in much touch with, and McClane thinks the son’s a fuck up—that’s a technical term. So he goes to Russia, he thinks, to bail his son out of jail, and it turns out the son’s not a fuck up, he’s the antithesis of that. In fact, the apple has not fallen far from the tree; the apple has not fallen from the tree, which is that the son is a badder ass John McClane than John McClane. It comes to the point in the story where they’re basically the most wanted men in the entire Soviet Union, and it’s the two of them against all of the bad guys. I’ve just gotta say, it’s a classic, classic Die Hard.