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Set Visit: Elektra (2/3)

07.12.2004

The second part of our day on the set of Elektra (read first part here) was spent interviewing the cast and filmmakers from the film. Jennifer Garner (Elektra), Terence Stamp (Stick), Goran Visnjic (Mark Miller), producer Gary Foster (DAREDEVIL, GHOST RIDER) and director Rob Bowman (X-FILES: FIGHT THE FUTURE, REIGN OF FIRE) all sat down together for the Q&A session. Jennifer, still wrapping up a scene, joined us about half way through (featured in the final part of our coverage).

Jen was the same pumped up sprite that we’d encountered a couple of hours earlier on set when she was filming. She really seems to have embraced this character and is taking her role even more seriously than she did in Daredevil. Physically, I was a little surprised at how “petite” she appeared in person. Not to mention, cute as hell! Stamp was pretty hard-as-nails, but seemed to come out of his shell more as the interview went on and after Jennifer joined us. Rob’s just the coolest son-of-a-bitch you would want to meet. He’s extremely confident and approachable and has a keen sense of humor. He’s the one I was most impressed with.

I’d say ELEKTRA is in good hands having him at the helm instead of some straight-out-of-music-video-school rookie director. Now if he would only clue me on the name of those sweet smelling cigars he was puffing on while on set. Anyway, for you ELEKTRA fanatics out there, I can confidently say that these misfits are more than devoted to the comic book Elektra - her true story, her true psyche and even her true crimson threads. Read on...

Goran Visnjic
 
Terence Stamp
 
Rob Bowman Gary Foster

Q: Goran, obviously comic book movies are a big thing now in Hollywood, Spider-Man, Superman, X-Men, Daredevil and now this, is this something you’ve been following, something you’ve been interested in?

GV: Yeah, this is definitely my first experience in comic books but I was a big sci-fi fan since I was a kid. Stargate was one of my favorite TV shows and when Elektra came by, I was auditioning for it and I was really, really happy when they called me and they said I got the part. European comic books are a little bit different, we have pretty much all the big guys like Daredevil, Spider-Man and Superman but Asterix and Obelix, if you’ve ever heard of the French comic books, and they’ve made the movies in Europe, that was like my favorite when I was growing up. 

Q: Gary, you know when you were making Daredevil, you mentioned the pressure to move away from the “comic-booky” feel a bit, what we saw today seemed very “comic-booky”. We’re hearing about tattoos coming to life from people and creatures and that sort of thing, are you finding the opposite is true with this movie, they want it to be more like the comic, they want some supernatural elements in it?

GF: Rob, you do your thing…

RB: Well, the supernatural elements only exist to me as the shape of the villain, movies are only about one thing, that’s people; the rest is just what you throw at ‘em. We have a very severe character in Elektra who in a two-hour movie will go through a very intense, painful self-discovery, while she’s in the middle of that emotional crisis we throw very exotic, very dangerous characters at her. And I’m always thinking in my mind, people have to leave their homes, drive to the theater, buy the ticket, the popcorn –it’s expensive. And so I have to give them reasons to come to the theater, many of which are driven by movie magic.

What can we do in the movies that they can’t afford in television, don’t have the time in television? And so to heighten it like that I think does echo what people expect from a comic book genre. Again I say the strength of this film lies not in, so much the special effects, it lies within the story of Elektra. And to me there is such gravity in her story that I think the balance will be just fine; we do have to be careful and show restraint when it comes to the kind of effects, but to me, my mind is in Elektra, the rest is the darts and the things that I’m throwing at her to make her journey more difficult.

GF: And I think it’s consistent with the tone that we set in Daredevil, which was, yes we wanted to make it real and gritty in Hell’s Kitchen and all that, and this movie is absolutely as grounded as that movie, probably even more so, I think that’s one of the lines of this series, is that we are not right out of the pages of the comic book, with two-dimensional color and bringing panels to the screen, even though we are certainly inspired by it and they’ll be things that remind people of panels within the comic book but this is a real world. I said on Daredevil too, it’s one of the reasons we all got interested and involved in the first place, because it’s not trying to make something of fantasy, it’s trying to make something heightened out of a world that is very emotional, very real, very human. And I know we’ve all worked very hard to try and keep that consistent as we transition into this movie.

Q: Goran, can you talk about what attracted you to the story itself, what you think the essence of this story is, about this young woman?

GV: In Mark’s case (Mark Miller –his character), a good thing about it is, what makes it interesting for an actor to play it is - protecting his daughter, that’s my main objective and Mark’s only duty in the film. It’s protecting his daughter and trying to get Elektra on our side, to help us out, she’s the only one literally who can save us; in the case of an international mafia with villains with supernatural capabilities after you, you want to have someone like Elektra on your side. He’s one of the characters who helps with the storytelling also, it’s like Rob said, it’s one of the things you throw at Elektra on her journey which makes it really, really complicated because it’s one of the reasons why she’s turned from a serial killer into a good person again.

RB: Mark is an everyday guy who is thrown into extraordinary circumstances and has done a very noble job of keeping his daughter alive while being chased by the meanest, most cold-hearted villains on the planet who use black magic as a weapon. And as everyday, as the neighbor down the beach as he come across, he has kept themselves alive, extraordinarily. And I think the balance between being the common man and trying to keep a cool head and keep his daughter alive and being wary of Elektra upon first meeting her - Is she another person who wants to kill us? We don’t know. We say that she is so…I think that really was part of my selection of Goran was – Who is a man who looks like there is more than just what appears to be on the surface of the face? There are other things going on internally. And what does he do, what lengths will he go to protect his daughter? Any length.

Q: Terence, you played one of the great, iconic comic book villains years ago in the two Superman films, now you’re playing another character known to comic fans around the world, having playing General Zod, did that have any effect in your decision to do this or was it just an entirely separate thing?

TS: Oh, I didn’t want to do this (laughter). I didn’t want to push my luck. I got away with it with Zod, I don’t think I can get away with it again, you know?

RB: We begged a lot though.

TS: I just kept saying no, they just kept coming after me and…and then I kind of had to look at it, you know?

RB: We started sleeping on his front porch - he knew he would have to do the movie.

Q: Mr. Stamp, can you talk about some of the physical aspects of the role, your character, obviously very proficient in the martial arts.

TS: Yeah, I mean that’s one of the things that’s a bit harrowing, you know, is not necessarily being a good martial artist but being able to convey that you can do it. So my main difficulty was with the blindness, and my original idea was to do it with my eyes closed, so all the fight training I did with my eyes closed. So when it was kind of decided that that might look a bit odd, it made what I had learned a lot easier. I’ve done martial arts most of my adult life, I’ve never used an implement, I’ve never used a staff so that was kind of a new learning process for me.

Q: What sort of martial arts had you trained in?

TS: Tai Chi.

Q: Rob, one of the things I liked about Daredevil was its use of songs in the film, I was wondering if you consider the songs on the soundtrack at all while you’re filming, the genre of music you’re going to use, any bands in particular?

RB: Good question, all the while during the prep and the shooting I’m absorbing lots and lots of different music, in selection of a composer I got a stack of demos that I listen to and I’m looking for originality, a specific signature in each composer, because sometimes they start to sound alike, they sort of listen to each other’s music too much. But also I’m looking for the soul of the movie and you don’t know it until you hear it. Obviously, Elektra being very complicated and not soulless, but I’d say her soul is very hidden. So I’m looking for what is the sound that wakes up her soul and strikes me first, because I am the storyteller.

Once I find that composer, I play his music every single night and every morning when I’m doing my homework to get me into the music of the movie. In terms of, this might give away my age a bit, but in terms of needle-drops, um, they used to have records that were made of vinyl and you have a needle and you put it on it and you turn…(laughter) Now they just scratch them. (laughter) It’s looking for the band that expresses in the lyrical form, that soul of the music. There won’t be any music in this movie that doesn’t have something to do with saying something about what’s in there. I’m strongly opposed to just plopping in rock n’ roll for instance, for energy. You need energy and you need excitement and you need stuff that’ll bring people in the theater, but it’s all going to be based on the story. And the bands, you know I’ve got, again, ten CD’s full of rock bands that I’m going through, but I haven’t found ‘em yet. Evanescence I think, certainly is –

GF: Yes, since the music really started with Daredevil, and, in our opinion, really was the sound of Elektra, they will come up with an original piece for this movie as well.

RB: Beyond that, there are no selections yet.

Q: What are some of the changes that Elektra will suffer through in this film?

RB: Getting out of bed is suffering for Elektra, in the morning, going through a day…(looks at producer) How much do you want me to say? I’ll give you glimpses. I’ll say that Elektra could not sit in this room, idly. Sitting still without an assignment or a task that is not external is a problem for her because she starts to think about things that will upset her, cause her to feel anger. She’s extraordinarily haunted; existence is what she suffers through. The movie is about her coming to grips with what’s actually going on inside of her. One of our themes is that she has abilities and feelings that she’s unaware of until very late in the movie. Stick recognizes it earlier than she does, commends her for it, a compliment she does not accept. So it really is sort of an inside-out discovery. But in terms of suffering, it’s anything that’s not external.

Q: Rob, how close did you work with Mark Steven Johnson, did you guys talk a lot about what’s going to happen with this?

RB: I haven’t had the opportunity to spend very much time with him; he came up for a few days. Just personally I don’t get to spend a lot of time with other film directors, which is a shame. To have another filmic storyteller to talk about images that express the story is a welcome relief and he offered many, many great ideas and insights into his experience, what he was looking for on Daredevil, offering visual metaphors for things I could do during the course of this movie. But I would say not enough time. I’m here because he started it so I’m grateful.

GF: Yeah, and I would say that when we were beginning the development, before Ron was involved with the project, Mark was there with us, leading the creative development at that point.

Q: It seems like in the comics the Elektra story is intimately tied to Daredevil, at least at the beginning. Is Daredevil even in this film, is he referenced, does he appear, why, if not, was that decision made?

RB: I’m not telling you that. (laughter)

GF: This is the Elektra story, you’ll have to see if he’s referenced, there is nothing in the script about Matt Murdock in this movie. We’re in a different place, a different time, this is years after the Daredevil story took place. And why? Because just as I said from the beginning, Daredevil had his movie, it was his origin, we understood him and we saw what he went through. Elektra, well, I wouldn’t say this is her origin but it is a story that really gets into the depth of who she is and her journey. We all made the decision not to interlock them at this point. Somewhere down the road that might occur, but right now this is a stand- alone journey of Elektra Natchios.

Q: That being said, have you talked about Daredevil already, or have you thought about him?

GF: Sure, I mean we have these conversations and others, there are ideas that are out there, but we’re so focused on this right now that it’s kind of hard to speculate. Rob’s making a heck of a movie, we’ve got a tremendous cast, everybody’s working hard and knock wood, if everything goes well on this, I’m sure they’ll be serious discussions about what happens next.

Q: It sounds like it will be a very intense movie, are there any moments of levity that you guys will be incorporating?

RB: You know, ironically, the very dark undertones of the movie create a great downbeat for even the slightest bit of levity, which will be noticed. Because it doesn’t take much to just bring a little light through the window. There’s a scene where Elektra is having trouble sleeping and she sees at the foot of the bed somebody that she’s killed recently. You know, she can’t sleep, she’s tortured, there’s a dead person in her bedroom, at least in her mind; there is nowhere to go but up. So we just chose to have a very non-reaction to it. As a matter of fact I asked Jennifer to play it sort of annoyed. And the way she gets out of bed is like – okay fine, if you’re going to keep haunting me, I’m just going to leave the room. And just the way she swings her feet out of the bed and her attitude, just that little bit of lightness goes a long way in this movie. We’ve looked at every avenue for places to bring some levity into it and it’s welcome, I mean it is a dark journey; there is no way around it. But it happens so often to her, that it’s a bit ho-hum. And so it gave me license to lighten a lot of the darkness.

Q: Is there much humor in Stick’s character?

TS: Black humor. He’s not the “uppest” kind of guy. But he understands that she’s repressed her conscience and at the time the movie starts I think he probably understands that the repression of her conscience is costing her more energy than the release of it. So that’s kind of one of the things he’s looking to do.

Q: Is the Stick character like a mentor to her, what’s his relationship to her?

TS: His relationship to her is that is that she comes to him looking for a guide. I mean in the East they say: “When the pitch of the cry of the pupil is right, the guru appears.” And I think that the sensei for her appears in the form of Stick. Having said that, he acknowledges that she’s potentially his most brilliant pupil, but that she is a…she’s a bad-ass. She won’t take any notice of him, so his handling of her has to show his superiority, really. So that’s kind of the loose trajectory of their relationship.

Q: Goran, what was easy and difficult about playing this character?

GV: Easy, was spending time with Jennifer on the set. Difficult was being the only one with no superhuman powers, so when we get attacked by wolves and people throwing like, shit at you, it’s sort of difficult to just take that, and seeing everybody do their magic stuff and you need to just be there and have Elektra help you out or trigger things…

Q: You’re making the transition gradually from television to movies, what have you noticed in a movie like Elektra that’s new for you as an actor?

GV: It would be like how many pages a day you shoot, which is pretty much the classical difference between television and film. But in this film it would be, what Rob mentioned before, you can give people and offer with this genre of comic book, is all these weird special and visual effects and you can really imagine certain things that maybe twenty years ago would be impossible to put on screen. Now, they can be done realistically. Talking about the animals, for example, you can mix a little bit of visual computer animation with real animals and it’s real difficult to guess that any trick was involved and it becomes very cool to be on set. We had, two days ago, we had 175-pound wolves on set, just to choose which one we would be using. I mean you don’t get wolves on ER.

(laughter)

Q: Not yet anyway. Can you talk about some of the biggest stunts you’ve had to do so far?

GV: Like I said, my character is not superhuman, so I don’t have a lot to do in that matter. I’m mostly an observer. One sort of big action scene for me, when I’m fighting one of the bad guys, we’ll be shooting in about ten days. We’re still setting up choreography. It’s going to be interesting, it’s going to be compact, with a lot of nasty tricks because, well, I love Rob’s explanation of my character and how does he fight with all these other guys knowing martial arts, well, my character is basically picking up everything that’s not grounded on the floor and hits the guys with garbage cans and stuff. It’s sort of interesting to do something like that.

Q: Are any of Mary’s (Typhoid Mary) mental problems touched on?

(laughter)

GF: Mary’s mental!

RB: Yes! (laughter)

Q: Do The Hand ninjas stick around also, when they die?

GF: Well, you know what they do. They have some “smokes”, some green smoke. We were going to take it to the next level but we’ve stayed very loyal to that.

Q: When you were doing your Elektra research, were there any stories that stood out to you?

RB: The ones I particularly liked was when she was with Stick. You know, all the other circumstances it’s a matter of, it’s sort of like body count. You know, how many people does she kill in a bar, the creativity of the fights and what not but you can’t learn anything about her unless she’s around Stick, who sees right through her - and the character of McCabe, who’s based on Garrett. Those are the only two times, except what drips out of her pores by mistake or by accident, those are the only times we get to learn about or anticipate what she’s thinking or doing or has done, is when she’s with Stick or McCabe, but mostly with Stick. The comics seem to be richer to me, in the Stick pairings.

Q: So is the Stick blindness a metaphor for something larger?

RB: Well, the whole thing is that, and he even said today, that sight is overrated. And we do know, and I know Terence spent some time researching, is that as soon as you take away one of your senses, all the others are heightened – his ability to foresee, and anticipate. If I can speak for him, it’s almost a weakness being able to see because you tend not to develop the muscles of hearing and the mind’s eye and what not. Saying that it’s a metaphor? I don’t know…

TS: You know you’re born with your eyes open, and so you only really identify with what’s out there. And I think you have to be a real thinking person to be concerned about the intelligence that informs the eye; what it is that’s looking. And I think if you think that, if you think that somebody who is blind has no possibility of looking out, so maybe that would give more emphasis on what it is that’s looking rather than what is being looked at.

Q: Is the blindness another connection to the Daredevil character?

GF: Well, Stick is blind and Matt Murdock is, and I think it’s a thematic of this series, yes, for sure. As you know, Stick has been not only Elektra’s mentor, but Matt Murdock’s as well.

Q: Mr. Stamp, you had said earlier that you didn’t want to do this film and then you relented. What was it that changed your mind?

TS: I think that the only things I really regret in my life, or the decisions I regret in my life, vis-à-vis work, are films that I’ve passed on for the wrong reasons. And those were really just out of a personal fear of the project, fear of not being to do a good job. And with increasing age, I’ve learned to kind of become aware of the fear. And sometimes I choose to go against it and in this case, you know, I thought maybe it’s that. Maybe I don’t want to do it because I don’t want to fall flat on my face, again.

Q: Terence and Goran, if each one of you could have a superhero power, what would you choose and why?

TS: I wouldn’t mind Zod’s X-ray vision.

GV: I would be flying.

Q: Mr. Stamp, you’ve had the unique opportunity to revisit the Superman universe with Smallville. Can you talk about this new experience for you, are we ever going to get to see you, instead of just hear you?

TS: TV is too tough for an actor of my age. I’ve got enormous respect for actors who work in TV. When they asked if I’d play Superman’s dad, I wasn’t, you know – and they said, no, no, we know you were Zod but would you like to do it? I said yeah, like if you’re sure you want me. And when I got to Warner Bros. which was wonderful cause it was like a Sunday, cause I was busy and they all came in and I went into the empty lot and I saw, you know, here’s where they shot East of Eden. I mean it was just a wonderful entrée to Warner Bros., I’d never worked with them before. When I got into this sound studio, all the guys were there and I said do you want it like as Brando, you know, I do a very good Brando voice. And they said no, no, your voice of fine. So it’s a treat, really, it’s like a treat, because I get a lot of credit. Like the young porter at my building in London where I stay: “Oh, Mr. Stamp, I heard you were in Smallville!” So it’s like a connection with a whole new generation of viewers.

STAY TUNED FOR JENNIFER GARNER & THE FINAL PART OF OUR ELEKTRA VISIT LATER ON THIS WEEK...

Source: JoBlo.com

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