UNTRACEABLE – Producer Tom Rosenberg Interview

     January 21, 2008

One of the reasons I love attending junkets where the producer will be answering questions is you get to find out a lot of info on all the other films the company is making.

So at the junket for the upcoming Diane Lane thriller “Untraceable,” Tom Rosenberg – the head of Lakeshore Entertainment -spoke at length about “Crank 2,” “Underworld 3,” “Game,” and a host of other films the company has in development.

So if you’re a fan of those franchises and are curious about what’s coming up, I think you’ll enjoy the roundtableinterview. As always, you can either read the transcript below or listen to the interview as an MP3.

“Untraceable” opens this Friday at theaters everywhere.

Question: So can you talk about just this concept of this in a world where we have like Saws and Seven and the serial killer genres mixing it up with technology and stuff too? What’s the genesis of it all?

Tom Rosenberg: I see it as much more of a thriller. I don’t see it having anything in common with Saw.

Question: I mentioned Seven also.

Tom: Seven—a little bit of the maybe the tone of Seven and sort of the pallet of it, but this film couldn’t have been done at that time. You know, what’s happened over the last several years on the internet has made this concept credible and I also…for me… I mean it starts with the traffic accident when Diane can’t get home early in the film with what’s called a gaper’s block. I don’t know if you—we’ve all experienced that when there’s no reason at all people stop to look. People stop to look and there’s two things going on. One is they don’t care about that they were in this entire line and it was all…they stopped to look. They don’t care about anybody else and they want to see the worse, the better. The more they could see the better. They’d even stop to watch somebody get a traffic ticket. They really will. I thought that that kind of sets it up. We’ve become a country of voyeurs. I mean this is what—people will watch almost anything at anytime and it has a consequence for the villain here—what occurred to him and his family. He wanted to basically…it’s revenge story from his point of view. He wanted to pay back and he also wanted to take the public’s head and have it stare at a mirror of what’s happening. So, I really don’t think it’s a serial killer and try to figure out who the serial killer is movie to me. It’s got a broader meaning for me it does.

Q: How technologically savvy are you?

Tom: I’m not. I’m a ludite. Really. About 10 years ago, I worked on a script with a writer and the script is basically just similar to the one on MSNBC where they catch predators who call in. I did that then about 10-12 years ago. I don’t have a computer. I do e-mail but I do not have a computer at all. So, I’m not technologically savvy but I’m aware of what’s going on and how this sort of overtaking people. I don’t believe it exposes just a dark side of nature, I think it creates the dark side of people. I think it actually does that. That’s my sort of bias. But in terms of the technology, we had terrific people with us especially FBI Cyber Crimes division and one of the agents left and became a consultant for us so I’m confident that we’re correct but I can’t tell you that I know that.

Q: Do you have any concerns when you make a film like this that it is too much in the here and now? That it speaks to 2008 and then a few years from now some of the things that are depicted in a film that is so wrapped up in the technology are going to seem out of date?

Tom: Well, I think that very well could happen though I don’t think that the…when you go back and look at some films that were done in the 70’s and 80’s and some shows, I still think they have their power. You’re able to…I mean I’m able to understand them, maybe if you’re only 20 at the time you can’t quite grasp a world without cell phones or without text messaging, you know? I mean really, I guess kids today think how can that be? That very well may happen because it’s changing so quickly.

Q: How about concerns about emulation?

Tom: No. I don’t have any concerns about somebody trying to…here’s what I would say is that something live on the internet of a violent act occur today and are likely to get more and more extreme regardless of this film. I don’t think this film causes anything like that.

Q: Switching gears for a second, I wanted to know what’s going on with Pathology? When that might actually be coming out?

Tom: Well, could I tell you that after? We’ve talked about that one other time, didn’t we on some other film?

Q: Back when it was scheduled for November.

Tom: It’s April 18th I think, but I’ll talk to you.

Q: It’s the problem though with talking to somebody who runs a production company is that there are so many things in the works that are of interest that one wants to know about.

Tom: I’m happy to talk to you about anything really; I’m here so I’m yours.

Q: Perhaps I’ll ask you another question. A lot of people really like the movie Crank, you guys have talked about doing Crank II?

Tom: We are doing a Crank II.

Q: Obviously with the writers strike things have been affected…

Tom: We have a script.

Q: Oh, you do?

Tom: We have a script and we are starting it right about April 1st.

Q: Crank was such a stylistic piece based on his condition, now that they’ve changed the hook—now that it’s an electric heart how does that change the style.

Tom: It’s…the last time I mentioned a little bit about it the writers and directors almost went nuts that I said something because it got on the internet but it doesn’t affect the style. It’s actually similar and more extreme, so what propels Jason is even more extreme than the drug that he took.

Q: With the success of the first film—it was a very popular film—you guys…is it a similar kind of budget? Are you guys spending more on it?

Tom: It’s actually similar. We had to pay Jason more and the director’s more and so forth, but it’s not…. we generally don’t do that where the sequel becomes so much bigger and less likely to be successful. No, the style will be the same, the shooting schedule is within 2-3 days of the other one.

Q: Are you thinking more in terms of trilogy and future sequels now that it’s established?

Tom: We’ll see… it leaves off where that’s possible. If the public embraces it—I think it’s going to be bigger than the first one.

Q: It’s interesting you talking about trilogies and at what point did you decide to go with straight to videos as opposed to theatrical releases. You’ve got Underworld 3 for instance coming out, is that a theatrical release and how do you go about…?

Tom: It’s a theatrical release definitely. I feel great about that. I think it’s the strongest story that we’ve put together of the three. I think it’s really terrific. I think it leads to a 4th. When we did the 1st Underworld, we imagined three–the 1st one, a sequel and then a prequel. The 3rd is a prequel, so the 4th would carry on where Kate and Scott Speedman left off after 2, so I think this is going to be terrific really this one.

Q: So what’s it been like working on Game, or how has that been shaping up?

Tom: It’s wild, that’s wild. It’s the wildest film I’ve ever been involved in. It makes Crank look tame. It’s insane. I mean, it’s insane. This could be a different movie where it’s qualitatively a different experience for the audience. It really could be.

Q: And with the actors strike coming up possibly on June 1st and all this chaos…

Tom: June 30th

Q: And the chaos in the air could you tell us what is your company working on in ’08 that will be made between now and June? Do you have other things that are green lit?

Tom: Yes, we’re making the Ugly Truth starring Katherine Heigl directed by Robert Luketic. That starts the end of March, beginning of April, in Portland Oregon.

Q: Can you tell us what that film’s about?

Tom: “Ugly Truth” is a romantic comedy. It’s basically a 2 hander and in the next couple weeks we’ll cast the male.

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Q: What’s the hook on this romantic comedy?

Tom: The hook on this romantic comedy is Katherine Heigl is a mid-market like Portand producer of a local news outlet and she’s a very uptight controlling person—a single person, good executive. Parallel to that there is a man who’s very profane almost misogynist who’s on a local cable channel and he has a show called The Ugly Truth, and she can’t stand the show. New people buy the station, they want ratings to come up, they want her to produce this guy—take him over from cable and he becomes a huge thing. Then he becomes like a national figure and it’s their relationship.

Q: So she works for the same station as the guy who gets killed in this film?

Tom: Different station, but that would be interesting, to tie 2 films together…you could.

Q: I understand the “Underworld” prequel focuses on Michael Sheen’s character. Can you talk about…

Tom: And Bill Nye.

Q: And Bill Nye. Can you talk about giving these characters like leading storylines for a 3rd film?

Tom: Well, this is really…remember in the first one Michael Sheen’s wife Sonia was killed by Bill Nye—by Victor and that was his daughter. That was the back-story for Michael Sheen. Obviously this is how they meet and Michael Sheen becomes the leader of the werewolves. This is told from the werewolf’s perspective, not the vampire’s. It’s their story and their battle with Victor.

Q: Is it a similar style of action or has that changed up a little too?

Tom: No, it’s similar. Now we’re going back. It’s a prequel. It’s more like the flashback scenes in 2.

Q: And you mentioned the Katherine Heigl movie. Do you have anything else that’s shooting between now and June? Or any other projects?

Tom: We’re attempting to put one more together. I’m putting the Lincoln Lawyer together.

Q: What’s it called?

Tom: Lincoln Lawyer. It’s a best selling book by Michael Connolly. It’s not Abraham Lincoln type lawyer. It’s a book called Lincoln Lawyer. It was a fairly popular book. It takes place in North Hollywood. He’s a criminal lawyer in North Hollywood.

Q: I’m also curious…you’ve been working with Mark and Brian—the guys did Game and Crank pretty much non-stop. Do you have some sort of pact with them that they’re only going to make movies with you?

Tom: No, first of all they’re 2 smart, very eccentric people. So we get along but I think they understand that they wouldn’t get along with too many people. So they’re very smart that way. So whoever gets them after me or if we don’t keep on they’re in for a ride.

Q: Do they just do special requests or they just act a certain way? What’s a funny story about them?

Tom: No, they’re…I don’t want to tell a funny story about them because I have to deal with them, but I haven’t really…what saves them is they’re absolutely sincere and honest, so they’re not tricky that way, you know what I mean? They’re not manipulative, but they’re wild and very, very opinionated and counter-intuitive but at bottom they have really good hearts and they’re decent people so we get along. We’ve obviously had tremendous fights along the way but always we’re together. I just finished Mark Pellington’s 4th movie. He’s done all 4 movies with me. We premiered that one in Sundance. It’s called Henry Poole is Here. I have relationships with directors that continue and we’ll do Robert Benton’s 3rd movie with him. And I think that that’s…I like even in this film there’s 2 actors that we’ve done other films with. Chris Cousins and Mary Beth Hurt, I think it’s the 5th film with Mary Beth Hurt and 2nd or 3rd with Chris. We try to create this atmosphere where we work together and reciprocate along the way.

Q: How quickly did you snatch up Gerard Butler after “300”?

Tom: Before it was a success.

Q: Did you anticipate him blowing up like that or…?

Tom: No, I heard…I knew him before and he’s quite a character. I believed that it was going to happen and he liked the boys a lot too. See he had…I call them the Cranky boys and he liked them. So they were talking to him about this script that they were working on for him, so I don’t know it just came together.

Q: They actually wrote this for him?

Tom: Well they had him in mind. I wouldn’t go that far.

Q: As a producer I’d like to ask you candidly to talk about the strike I mean the current one and the upcoming one. What is the worst-case scenario you could see and do you think that’s going to happen?

Tom: Well the writer’s strike has not impacted Lakeshore. We prepared for it. We were ready with completed scripts that didn’t need anything so I’d have to say it really hasn’t impacted us. We’re doing a re-make of “Fame” and it’s stopped us from doing a re-write which we want to do, so that has impacted “Fame” and actually prevented it from going ahead before the strike. The SAG strike concerns me the most because then we really are stopped. Nothing. Nothing you can do without actors. So, my bias is I’m on the side of the unions. That’s my bias. The side I’m supposed to be on the other side I’ll probably get a letter or something but that’s where I’m at.

Q: I was going to ask as a producer are you involved in any of the negotiations?

Tom: No, no. We’re small fry compared to…I’m sure nobody would listen to us. But at a certain point I’d make our own deal with them.

Q: I was just going to ask, what are your chances of you guys doing a side deal?

Tom: We’re seriously considering it right now. I don’t know if we will or we won’t but we are.

Q: According to the always accurate IMDB, you’re attached to “American Pastoral” and “April 23rd”. Are they still….?

Tom: “Pastoral” will definitely be made because I’m obsessed with it. So that will be made. “April 23rd” I don’t know.

Q: So is “Pastoral” a project that as soon as the strike gets worked out it’s definitely…?

Tom: I’m definitely going to make that movie.

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