Latest Entertainment News Headlines

INT: Francis Lawrence

Feb. 14, 2005by:

Comic book aesthetes have reason to rejoice this Friday with the long-awaited release of CONSTANTINE , starring Keanu Reeves and Rachel Weisz. Based on the popular underground title "Hellblazer", it chronicles the adventures of John Constantine, a sort of supernatural detective attempting to find his way back into the good graces of the Man Upstairs by battling various creatures of demonic origin.

Hellblazer fans were given pause when the film, originally slated for a Fall 2004 release, was pushed back to February 2005 not exactly an ideal slot for sci/fi event films. The move could prove a brilliant one if the film takes off, as it will have virtually no competition until Spring. It could be this years HELLBOY.

Constantine marks the feature film debut of director Francis Lawrence. Hailing from that chic film school known as MTV, Lawrence had never actually read Hellblazer prior to signing on to the film. Nevertheless, the prolific music video director impressed the producers with some bold ideas and a unique vision for the films atmosphere.

Lawrence stopped by the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills last week to talk about his experience crafting the world of Constantine . Check it out.

Back when we last spoke with you, you mentioned that you felt that you were really getting away with something with this movie, and that the studio had no idea what you were coming up with. What was their reaction when you first showed it to them?

They really embraced it. From the beginning, I think they never really understood the tone of this movie. I think they originally thought this movie should be like Ghostbusters or Men in Black or something like that, that kind of tongue-in-cheek kind of movie. And we always fought against that. But I have to say, to their credit, we showed themwe put together this 25 minute little package of clips that we showed to get them excited about it, and they got excited about it and they completely supported the movie, which is great. We got our R rating and they wanted a PG-13 and they didnt make us change it. And so they were really really supportive. I have to give them credit.

What about the pushback in release? Was that your decision?

No, actually. It was their decision because theyd thought this was a small film that they were gonna release in September. What they realized is that they wanted to make this one of their tent pole movies. And they had too many because they had Troy and Oceans 12 and Phantom of the Opera and this and that and so they made this their first tent pole of 05. Its their first big movie of the year in the first quarter. So they really could focus their attention and their marketing and all this kind of stuff on it. It was because of the excitement of showing them the footage that made them do it.

Can you tell us what this movie is about?

Sure. Theres a few things that Ill talk about. On the surface, to me its this really simple story about this guy whos dying of cancer and he knows hes going to Hell and hes trying to prevent it. Hes this great antihero; he doesnt want to be doing what hes doing, but he has to. Hes doing what hes doing for selfish reasons. I mean, I love that story simply on its own. Beneath that theres some really interesting ideas with this movie, I think. And its really this of idea of sort of blurring the lines between good and evil and peoples perceptions of good and evil. One of the best instances I can talk about is a scene at the end which might give things away but theres a certain character who could be portrayed as evil but thinks theyre really good. And I think its kind of fitting for these times when were sort of in a world where were being told what is evil when it might not really be evil. And I just think its really important for people to really sort of sit down and think about what is evil.

Were told that when you first pitched the movie, you had a number of ideas that caught the producers offguard. What were some of them?

One of them was the casting choice of Tilda (Swinton) as Gabriel. She was my only choice from the very beginning. So I think that was one of the casting choices. I think another thing was this idea of Hell. In the script originally, it was just kind of this void. This black void. And I just thought, whatever version I come up with is always going to be a void, and Ive seen that before. So I came up with this idea that I thought could sort of in a weird way work logically with some of the other ideas in the movie, and that was that wherever you exist in any given time, theres sort of the Hell version of where you are and Heaven version of where you are. It worked nicely, because it just gave us a geography. It sort of grounded it a little bit; it made it more tangible. It let us play with time in an interesting way. So when you cross over in sort of present time in the real world, starts where time stops because Hell is eternal. It was just kind of a fun thing to play with and it was kind of interesting.

So you already had an idea of what Hell was going to look like?

Yeah, because of that idea, Hell would sort of be based on the geography of whats around us now.

Who came up with the visual idea of Hell?

That was actually a combination of me and the visual effects supervisor and the production designer sitting down and sort of coming up with the biological growth thats growing all over the cars and what that looks like and the color palette. And we started to look at the nuclear test films from the 1940s of the nuclear blasts and just decided that it would be great if the landscape was not only violent with these creatures, but also the atmosphere. So we decided that it was kind of an eternal nuclear blast except nothing ever really gets obliterated because its eternal and its constantly going.

Its rumored that you actually shot a scene where Constantine has sex with a demon. Is that true?

We didnt actually shoot a scene where he had sex with a demon, but we did have a character in the film that will hopefully be in the deleted scenes on the DVD. This great actress we had, Michelle Monaghan, who played this character Ellie who is this half-breed demon. And there was a scene right after he found out his cancer was terminal where we cut to him and hes like sitting on the edge of the bed having just had sex with her and hes smoking a cigarette and shes giving him shit and laughing at the fact that hes dying cancer.

And hes asking her for information if she knows whats going on because something weirds been happening. And she was sort of brought in throughout. She was there at Club Midnites and shes there in the end at the hospital, and she comes back. Because we cut her hotel room scene out, which was mainly for reasons because one of the key elements of this movie is Constantines loneliness. If youre a guy who can go and sleep with a pretty hot girl demon or not youre not that lonely. And so it just didnt work as well with the scenes in. And its sad because it was one of my favorite scenes that wed shot in the movie. I just really liked it, the feel of that scene. And so we ended up cutting her out from most of the movie.

Did you and Keanu work together in developing this character?

Yeah, we worked really closely for a while. Once I came on board, we were probably working on the film for I dont know, nine months or a year before. We worked with Akiva Goldsman, who was one of the producers of the movie. He did the last draft. And the three of us worked really hard together, working on the script, working on the character, and just sort of creating a language we could talk about Constantine with. Hes a very dedicated actor.

How much of the effects were done in-camera? How many of things that you wanted to do were you unable to do?

Its hard to remember now, but there was a time during pre-production where we were budgeting and it was like we were over-budget. And the studios do these great things called scene/cost analysis, which is like they break things down by scenes and how much this scene costs and how much that scene costs. And certain scenes had to be changed because of that. One of the positives that came out of that was: we used to have a big car chase sequence that was really expensive and timely, that was in place of Angela getting ripped through the walls. Because we had to come up with something else for that because it was too expensive, we came up with something which I think was really, really cool and I dont think Ive seen something like that before. And we were able to do that.

But there were other scenes where things got kind of whittled down. The scene with Hennessey where he sort of drinks and drowns himself in alcohol was something else. I think this actually fits the story better. The other one might have been a bit more spectacular in terms of effects. In terms of not being able to do certain things, it was really for budgetary reasons from the beginning. I tried to do as much as we could in-camera as possible. Even when we were in Hell, we built a huge stretch of freeway and a soundstage. Some of the creatures are prosthetic, some of them are CG. So we did mostly sort of set extensions of the atmosphere and things like that. A lot of Angela getting ripped through the walls were real things, sort of put together as opposed to just CG. We had a plate of her on this hydraulic rig and then a plate of our real set getting ripped apart by cables and sort of mixed the two together as much as possible.

In this film, evil is really evil, but we dont see a lot of the other side. We dont see a lot of Angels doing stuff.

First of all, its part of the story. Its an interesting question. First of all, let me go back to an earlier part of your question. I dont necessarily think that the demons are really bad. Certain ones Balthazar yes. Some of those demons though, if youve noticed, they have no brains. And it actually came from an idea that I had, trying to find a new way to portray demons, because theyre usually like these big fangs and theyre all muscular, theyll have horns and theyre really evil. And I wanted to do something else and think that these demons were once people.

So theyre a little more tortured. Theyre skinny; their stomachs are bloated. Theyre all twisted up. But they have no brains. And I rememberIm a scuba diver and I went cage-diving with sharks once. And I remember they were feeding these sharks and theres these blue sharks swimming around and theyre man-eaters and I remember looking at these things, thinking, These things arent evil creatures. Its just all they know how to do. And you just look at them and theyre kind of dumb. And thats what I thought of these guys. These guys are just liketheyre just programmed to eat and feed. They just sniff the stuff out and go and eat it, you know? And so its not this sort ofthey dont have this hatred or this sort of evil propulsion to go and attack. Its just what they do. And Satan I think is actually kind of fun, in a weird way.

Did the studio want a whole rock soundtrack?

No. I was sort of prepared for that in the beginning. And I thought they were really gonna want that, that they were gonna want a lot of songs in the movie and things. From the beginning, I was always sort of pitching not to and they never went that way. I dont think they ever really saw the movie in that way.

What about sequels? Are you signed on for any?

If people like the movie and embrace the movie, I think theres always a possibility for that because you could tell tons of stories with Constantine.

But youre not developing anything or talking about what youd like to see?

No. Ive thought about it, but I dont think anythings solid yet until we see what happens.

Are you and the cast obligated to sequels?

No, Im not obligated. But I would do one in second. I dont know if the cast is or not; I dont know what their deals are.

Do you have any other features in development?

No. I have some possibilities, but nothing locked in yet.

Do you still think youll do music videos?

Oh, yes. Definitely. I did some while I was finishing the movie, because we had a fair amount of time in post and so I had some wiggle room. I did a Gwen Stefani video and a Black Eyed Peas video.

Which Gwen Stefani song?

What You Waiting For?

Questions? Comments? Manifestos? Send them to me at thomasleupp@joblo.com.

Source: JoBlo.com

MORE FUN FROM AROUND THE WEB

Strikeback
Not registered? Sign-up!
Or

View All Comments

Latest Entertainment News Headlines


Top
Loading...
JoBlo's T-Shirt Shoppe | support our site... Wear Our Gear!