How do you follow a panel with Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson? You don’t do it with another blockbuster. Instead, you take some lesser known movies and attempt to boost their profile. And for film nerds, having Steven Sodebergh on hand certainly doesn’t hurt. Soderbergh has cast MMA fighter Gina Carano as the lead in his spy thriller Haywire and surrounded her with an outstanding cast that includes Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, and Michael Douglas.
Relativity has also brought James McTeigue’s The Raven starring John Cusack, Alice Eve, and Luke Evans. It’s an intriguing premise where Edgar Allan Poe (Cusack) and a detective (Evans) attempts to discover who is using his writing as the inspiration for a series of murders. Hit the jump to read about Relativity’s presentation for Haywire and The Raven.
We start off with the premiere of the trailer for Haywire. The movie should really be called “Gina Carano Beats the Shit out of Everyone”. The movie looks a standard spy/revenge thriller so I’m still curious to see how Soderbergh is going to leave his stamp on the picture. Judging solely by the trailer it looks like a spy thriller anyone could have made and I know that’s just not what Soderbergh does. You can check it out below:
Soderbergh, Carano, and Channing Tatum then come on stage. Soderbergh says Carano first came to his attention when he turned on the TV and saw Carano fighting in an MMA match. He wondered why someone didn’t build a movie around here. “You’ve never seen anyone perform like this…in a cage,” he remarks. He then says he called up Lem Dobbs (The Limey) and asked if he had any interest in writing a female-centric revenge film. Soderbergh thought it would be fun to watch a female action star who did all of her own fighting and there were no stunt doubles for Carano. Tatum says she actually knocked someone out in rehearsal. Carano replies that Tatum asked her to kick him harder so he only has himself to blame.
Carano says that starring in an action movie was a “crazy, adrenaline rush” and she preferred the physical scenes, but she did learn acting 101 by working on a Soderbergh film and she now has a greater appreciation of the craft. She then describes her character Mallory Kane as a special ops agent “who just gets the job done.” She’s former military who now works as a freelance contractor. She’s partially an idealist because she comes from a military family, but she’s also a cold professional.
The film kicks off with Carano beating up Tatum (always good) and then hijacking a car and kidnapping its passenger (Michael Angarano). Soderbergh says he loves spy movies but he was aiming for realism and the world of companies like Blackwater and how they operate. He also wanted all the fights to be real and that means they’re shorter because at a certain point, someone is going to get the drop on the other and then it’s over. He mentions that the pads Fassbender had to wear in his fight scene “weren’t a lot of help.” Tatum jokes that Carano killed Fassbender for real.
Now we’re about to see a clip. The scene has Carano and Fassbender pretending to be a couple to spy on a millionaire, but Fassbender doesn’t know that Carano knows he’s about to betray her. They enter a hotel room (Soderbergh said the scene rips off the Rod Taylor film Darker Than Amber) and the fight ain’t short. It goes on for three to four minutes, you feel every hit, the fight is well choreographed, and it’s a little unnerving to see a guy beat a woman and yet it’s a serious fight when she returns every hit and you can tell she isn’t a victim. The opponent is her victim and the audience cheered at the end of the fight.
During the Q&A, Carano says that each fight is different depending on her opponent. For example, her fight with McGregor is on the beach and it’s hard to get footing on sand. She then says she loved getting banged into a wall by Fassbender and then she realized what that sounded like to the audience and everyone cracked up including Carano.
The moderator asks about Soderbergh’s retirement. Soderbergh says Matt Damon is discreet as a 14-year-old girl and he explains that it was a drunken offhand comment and that it got blown out of proportion and “that’s Matt’s fault.”
A great wrap-up story is that during the hotel fight scene, Soderbergh told Fassbender to not look at the vase that Carano smashes in his face and of course on the day of the shoot he looked directly in the vase, got a face full of porcelain, and that’s the shot they ended up using. “He laughed about it a little,” says Soderbergh.
Now we move on to The Raven. McTeigue comes out to introduce the premiere of the trailer. He says the film takes place during the last five days of Poe’s life. The film looks like it has a great color palette, fantastic costumes, and as I said before, the premise is pretty cool. The trailer does show a bit much and takes us at least halfway through the film where we see that Poe’s girlfriend Emily Hamilton (played by Alice Eve) is kidnapped by the killer who wants to challenge the horror/mystery author to a battle of wits. Also, seeing The Pit and the Pendulum put on the big screen is pretty cool.
Cusack, Evans, and Eve join McTeigue on stage and Cusack talks about Poe’s life and how he was the “godfather of goth.” While the film is obviously a fictionalized account, McTeigue says that in real life Poe did go missing at the end of his life so that’s used as an inspiration point. The moderator comments that the movie reminds him a little of Misery because it has a fan that takes it way too far. McTeigue also brings up Seven because of how the murders are inspired by literature.
Eve says that because her character gets buried and she got a lot of dirt thrown in her face by McTeigue. McTeigue says it was “clean dirt” and Eve says she tasted it and she didn’t buy that oxymoron. She wraps up her story of being actually trapped in a coffin for the shoot as “method”. Cusack adds that Poe said, “There’s nothing more beautiful than a woman dying.”
Evans talks about his character, a young inspector who starts working the case. At first he suspects Poe. He then learns that he isn’t the murderer but he is a crazy alcoholic and the two go on a journey together where they develop a mutual respect for each other as they try to find the killer.
Commenting on how much fidelity the movie owes to the life of the real Poe, McTeigue explains that because of Poe’s addictions it was always going to be a dour story. However, when you weave his flaws into this story it really begins to click. Poe was ahead of his time in of sci-fi, horror, and mystery but he was also in the Zeitgeist. He also had an unusual relationship with women, not as a playboy, but Cusack explains that Poe didn’t like any man and loved being in the company of women. Poe held up women as muse-like and idealized relationships with women. Cusack speculates that’s because Poe lost his mother and his first wife to tuberculosis. But he was also a bit of a rock star. Women would swarm over him at salons and he was invited to the White House, got drunk and was kicked out. All of this sounds like a straight Poe biopic would be fascinating on its own. Poe: A Life Cut Short was a biography that helped to inform Cusack and McTeigue on the character.
Cusack, Evans, Eve, and McTeigue talk about their upcoming projects. Cusack says he’s working on The Paperboy with Lee Daniels. Eve says she just wrapped filming on Men in Black 3 and she also worked on Entourage. He also mentioned The Hobbit and laughs at how he could almost forget to mention it. McTeigue says he plans to do Message from the King which takes place in LA. Evans says he’s doing a psychological thriller where he plays a killer. At one point, he cuts someone up and climbs inside their body.
Cusack comments on the look of Poe and how they didn’t keep the moustache because they wanted to get away from the iconography and get to the essence of the character. He says it’s more like if he had a dream about Poe. During the Q&A he gets quizzed on his favorite Poe stories and he rattles them off and leads off with “Hop Frog”.
McTeigue explains the gothic look of it. Obviously, you can’t shoot it in Baltimore because it doesn’t look like it does in the 1840s so they took the production to Eastern Europe. Then the augmented it with Americana and “the goth thing is good.”
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