McG Interview at TCA’s; Talks NIKITA, CHUCK, HUMAN TARGET, THIS MEANS WAR, 3D, and a Lot More

     July 29, 2010

At the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour earlier this afternoon, producer/director McG, there to promote the new version of Nikita for The CW, talked about some of the other projects on his vast slate of feature films and television series.  Along with Nikita, McG is also executive producer on Human Target, Supernatural and Chuck, the last of which has cast Terminator actress Linda Hamilton as Chuck’s mom, for the upcoming season. McG spoke about the reasons she was the perfect fit for the show, and how it will change things up for the storyline and characters.

McG will also be going into production on his next feature film as a director on September 13th, after having recently announced the addition of Tom Hardy to the cast of This Means War, which already includes Chris Pine and Reese Witherspoon, and tells the story of best friends who fall for the same girl. He spoke about the basic story and the reasons for casting Hardy.

In addition, McG shared some of his thoughts on 3-D as a storytelling device and said that, even though the process is not right for This Means War or the feature film version of the Broadway musical Spring Awakening, which he plans to go into production on next year, he does plan to use 3-D for another, still unnamed project that he plans to film next year as well.   Check out what he had to say after the jump:

Question: Can you talk about Linda Hamilton coming onto Chuck as his mom?

McG: Doesn’t that feel satisfying?

Yes. But, if he’s going to stop being a spy and go after her, how do you avoid making it be the same thing as before? How do you evolve that?

McG: I’ve been talking to Josh [Schwartz] and Chris [Fedak] about it, and I think it’s going to be the most refreshing season of the show yet and the most original season, largely because of just the fire power of Linda. And, mom-son dynamics are incredible fodder to play with, in a dramatic capacity, so we’ve never once spent a second worrying about the redundancy or what’s going into that. We just look forward to the season with more enthusiasm, frankly, than any season before. And, Chuck has always been the kind of show where we’ve got to go in there and talk to NBC and tell them why we’re so passion about it. We go in and talk to Angela Bromstad and [Jeff] Gaspin, and I saw Josh and Chris break down that show for this season, and you’ve just never seen two show-runners pour their hearts out like that. It was a complete, two-man vaudevillian show, they wanted it so badly. And, I think we’re all going to be the beneficiaries of the stories they have to tell.

How did you get Linda Hamilton? Wasn’t she retired for awhile?

McG: I don’t know. I know her a little bit from Terminator, and I talked to her 10 years ago, on the first Charlie’s Angels. She’s just a good spirit and a good soul, and she responds, like anybody would, to the material. I think Chuck is the kind of thing that you don’t need to bullshit around. You can just go, “Here it is.” You respond to it, or you don’t respond to it, and we all feel very, very good about it. You feel empowered, in that respect, when you can present talent with the material and go, “Here it is, and that’s exactly what we intend to do,” and you’ll take the response that you get.”

What was behind the decision to cast Olivia Munn on Chuck?

Olivia-Munn-imageMcG: I’m a huge fan of hers. I like Attack of the Show, and I think she’s an extraordinary girl. She’s doing a great thing, as a correspondent with The Daily Show. She’s the Queen of Comic-Con and it just felt like the right fit.

Why are you interested in making a film of Spring Awakening?

McG: Oh, it’s my passion. If it’s the last thing I do, I’ve got to do Spring Awakening.

Would you make it different?

McG: Yeah. I work with Steven Sater almost daily. I was at Focus yesterday, in a pre-production meeting. We intend to shoot it next year. I just love the idea that things that were issues in 19th century Germany – like child abuse, homosexuality, “I love her and she loves me but The Man is going to tear us apart,” abortion and all of these tough issues – are as prevalent today as they were then and as they were in the time of Pharaoh. I love the timelessness of it, and the manner in which Michael Mayer, Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater gave us that story on Broadway, and it swept the Tonys. It’s just a timeless, Romeo & Juliet love story.

Would you cast any of the original people?

McG: I don’t know. Look at Lea [Michele], going crazy on Glee. She’s the greatest. But, it’s important that the fundamental buy-in of that story is that the girl doesn’t know where babies come from, so there’s two sides to that. I’d love it if Lea did it, but by the same token, it’s hard to look at her and say that she doesn’t understand human sexuality. However, I would argue with Natalie Wood in West Side Story, playing the virginal Maria when she was god knows how old. So, who knows.

What’s the status of the Charlie’s Angels reboot for television?

McG: I think there’s energy going into that. It’s largely Drew [Barrymore] and Nancy [Juvonen], and Leonard Goldberg that are working on that. I’m buddies with all those guys. Leonard is doing Blue Bloods with Tom Selleck and Drew is getting ready to go do the movie, Everybody Loves Whales. They’re just cooking it up to see if the script comes together, and we’ll talk about it if the time is right.

What was it that slowed it down?

McG: Everybody is just very protective of the idea. If it doesn’t all come together with a great many moving parts in the creative process, you just say, “Let’s wait and get it right.”

Would you keep the original theme song?

McG: I don’t know. That’s an excellent question. There’s fun to be had in that, but there’s fun to be had in going to a guy like Mark Ronson and asking him to have his way with it. Who knows. That’s a question I’d love to tackle when the time is right. I think we’re living in a renaissance period in television. There’s so much good television on right now that, if your show isn’t good, it’s going away. AMC is bringing great shows. HBO, naturally, has done great shows, for a long time. On the networks, I love House and I love the CSI franchise. I love television and I just think that it’s good for all of us that all of that quality is out there.

Is This Means War your next directing project?

McG: It looks like it, yeah. We’re prepping right now. We’ve got a September 13th start date. We just cast Tom Hardy, and Chris Pine is doing it and, of course, Reese [Witherspoon] is in the picture. We’re all set to go on September 13th, up in Vancouver and all over the world.

Why did you decide to cast Tom Hardy?

McG: I think he’s the most exciting young male star out there. I think he’s great in Inception. I loved him in Bronson. And, the fact that he’s from England is 10 extra bonus points. He’s been vetted out by Guy Ritchie and Matthew Vaughn.

What can you say about what the film is about?

McG: The film is effectively James Bond and Ethan Hunt both fall in love with Reese Witherspoon. They’re best friends and it naturally tests their friendship a great deal. And, who wins that fist fight, James Bond or Ethan Hunt? Who gets the girl, James Bond or Ethan Hunt? I don’t know. So, that’s the fun of the movie.

Avatar changed things and set the bar so high. As both a TV producer and a filmmaker, how did that change the way you approach things?

McG: I went down there and played with Jim [Cameron] and his digital field and the camera system they developed for that, and it blew my mind. It was one of those transformational experiences where you go, “Okay, nothing will ever be the same.”

Are you going to shoot with the system, at some point?

McG: I intend to. But, everything is being developed day-by-day. There’s new technology all the time.

What do you think all of that technology will mean, in the coming years?

McG: I think the victory is that of the audience. We have the privilege of saying, “If you don’t bring the most compelling visual material, we will watch something else.” If you look at what they’ve done with Tron, where they shot it in a stereoscopic capacity, and you look at those materials, you lose your mind. It looks like it’s going to be the greatest thing of all time. I just think it ups everybody’s need to improve and never get soft with the creative process. We’re all the collective victor of that. It’s just a great time to be watching movies and television.

Is it surprising then that there are people who don’t prefer 3-D?

McG: No. The biggest movie of the year is Inception, and [Christopher] Nolan will go on and on about watching films in 3-D nonetheless because of occlusion of vision. So, no. Storytelling is storytelling. Sometimes 3-D is in the service of enhancing the story, and sometimes it’s not, just like we all enjoy a good, old black and white picture from the ‘40s or ‘50s, as much as we might enjoy a visually stunning picture. It is what it is, and there’s room for everything. It’s the same thing in music. Sometimes you want a lo-fi experience, and sometimes you want a 110-piece symphony.

Are you currently set to make anything in 3-D?

McG: Yeah. The movie that I’m developing that may go next year, in conjunction with Spring Awakening, is going to be shot in 3-D, but I can’t talk about it yet. I don’t think This Means War is an appropriate picture to do in 3-D. It’s largely a comedy and I want to make sure that we service it. In tone, it’s an Ocean’s 11/Mr. & Mrs. Smith type of picture, so it didn’t seem like the picture for 3-D. But, I’ve been on top of those experimental systems and all the different camera systems and the idea of doing it in a post-production capacity and which one we like better. I’ve gone down to Real-D. It’s the power of the audience to give it a big thumbs up or thumbs down.

Have you sat in on Jeffrey Katzenberg’s tutorials on it?

McG: Many times. He and I have spoken, at great length, about 3-D. I credit him with slinging it over his shoulder and being the fundamental guy who willed it into the prominence we all have it today.

What was the point for you where TV became more cinematic, at times, than movies?

McG: I don’t know. Certainly, the Alias pilot was great and felt very movie like. I’m buddies with J.J. [Abrams]. I think he’s a stunning talent. I look at the Lost pilot, in that way. What was great was Smallville, in fact, with that opening meteor shower. I went, “Jeepers, I feel like I’m watching a movie.” It’s a good thing. It’s a high-class problem.