The Pacific Rim director gives us the scoop on his next project and answers 10 familiar questions.
Let’s start with Pacific Rim. Can you tell me a little bit about the movie?
It’s basically a world creation exercise into representing the world of Kaiju into an audience that may not be familiar with that whole genre. It’s a big adventure film because I wanted to make an adventure film for a young audience that doesn’t have to be a war movie. It doesn’t have to endorse a single ideology and a single army and a single country and a single way of viewing the world. I wanted to make it a movie that kids could go and see and dream either fighting a monster or riding a robot.
This is the first movie you’ve directed in some time. How did it feel to be back in the director's chair? Was it natural?
It’s pretty beautiful to fall right back in because you realize it’s not something that you forget or you get rusty at. Over those four years before shooting Pacific Rim, I prepped three gigantic movies, two Hobbits and Mountains of Madness. I had already gone through a lot of the logistic exercises of prepping giant movies, so the rest is actually second nature once you’ve done a few movies.
I’m going to have to be the 10,000th person to ask you about Hellboy 3. Would you like to do it? Do you feel like it’s practical?
Well, the rights would either have to go to Sony Pictures or Universal, or it will become very tangled, and I don’t think there is enough interest to have them finance a third one because it’s the biggest one and it’s the most expensive one. It’s also the one that has very dark subject matter. Hellboy becomes the beast of the apocalypse, so it’s not a surefire pitch.
Would it be something that you’d like to do if you could, logistically?
I would love to do it, but it would need to be done the right way. The first Hellboy was $62 million, and I wanted to make it look like it was a $90 million movie, the second Hellboy was $85 million, and I wanted to make it look like it was $150 million. And this one would be over $100, because the scale of this movie and I want to make it look like $300 million or more. It does require a hefty investment.
Can you tell me what draws you to monsters as a theme, other than the fact that monsters are awesome and great. But what about the mythology of monsters really draws you to that?
I think that they are absolutely amazing creatures, not only from a visual standpoint and the dark side of everything that makes us human, but they are also great mythologically and symbolically. Like in Pacific Rim the creatures are so huge; they are almost like forces of nature. They are unstoppable forces. Seeing a Jaeger clash against a monster - it’s like seeing a tornado fight a hurricane. The rest of the time monsters can be great at playing sides of our human nature. Frankenstein, to me, is the essence of what it is to be an outsider - the marginal character that is different types of everything. Ghosts can represent regret, guilt. They are incredibly rich symbolically.
You oversaw Pacific Rim: Tales from Year Zero, the graphic novel prequel. How did you find working on this project as opposed to different kinds of media?
Travis Beacham, the screenwriter, did a great job writing it. I asked to have approval on every step of the way, because I really wanted it to be a good comic. Most of the time, when you have a comic with movie tie-in, the comic is pretty deficient. Like with Blade 2, the tie-in comic that in my opinion was a complete disaster. So, I asked to approve every element: artists, coloring, lettering, layout, and I felt very good about it. This is basically my function in The Strain comics for Dark Horse - the “eye” oversees the comics that are produced related to my name being good. I’m very mindful of that. The Strain and Pacific Rim comics, I’m very, very proud of them.
What can you tell us about the comic book? How far back will it cover?
It is an origin story, but what is rare is that it comes from different points of view. Travis is really smart. Travis and I co-wrote the screenplay, and it was funny to see Travis cram in every story we took out from the original screenplay. He was putting them back in and I couldn’t help but smile at that, but at the same time we talked about a different point of view than the beginning, because in the movie on the opening three to four minutes we do a recap of what was the origin, but we do it from a world view perspective: news, found footage, documented attacks. Here we wanted to do it from a really personal point of view. I can say that all the stories in the comics are very, very personal to those characters. Characters that you’re going to encounter in the movie and you’ll know a little more about. I actually think the comic is a great tool to enhance the experience of Pacific Rim by a large degree. I think the comic is fabulous, and it does complement the movie in a beautiful way.
AND NOW: The Same 10 Questions We Always Ask Everyone!
What was the last thing you had to apologize for?
It’s been years! (Laughs) I actually don’t apologize that much; not because I don’t make mistakes but because I think carefully before doing anything. Last time I apologized it was to my youngest daughter, who was 11 or 10 at the time, because I got angry and I said “You were right, I shouldn’t have been angry - you had every right to not want to do what you don’t want to do with your homework,” and stuff like that. I became a parent. I nagged her a lot: ‘Do your homework right now because I told you so.’ And I realized how ugly being a parent can be. (Laughs)
What is your favorite curse word?
It’s in Spanish, ‘Cabron.’
What is the worst hangover you’ve ever had?
I don’t drink much, I think I’ve been hungover four times in 48 years, so I can just say the worst was the first one. I was very, very young, I was a teenager and I drank a lot of tequila, and my father noticed and made me work all day.
What was your first car?
My first car was a Nissan Datsun, and it was trickled down from my brother. It had an old paint job, but it was old pimped-out 1970s muscle car style. Sadly, when you try to make a muscle car out of a dad car, it’s not a very successful operation.
Do you have a scar that tells a story?
I have a scar across my forehead, which is very faint, and I called it my Frankenstein scar as a kid. It happened on Christmas morning. I was playing with my toys and I fell and slammed my head against a stone statue. My parents would not believe me that it was real blood and a real injury because I used to do make up effects as a kid. They dismissed me until I passed out from bleeding, then they took me to the hospital.
How old were you then?
I was very young, I was probably 10 or 11, but I have been making myself up since I was a really little kid. I would do stunts in the house and jump from the chimney and hide behind the cushions and come out bleeding supposedly. They were wary.
Do you have a party trick?
I used to do a very brutal trick called a Muppet. You can actually watch it on YouTube.
What’s the biggest thing you’ve ever put in your mouth?
There was a Mexican hamburger stand in my hometown. They made burgers the size of a small pizza, and there was a contest that whoever ate six burgers of that size would win a week of free food and I won.
Did you want free food after six hamburgers?
After leaving the stand I puked. But I did come back because I was a bachelor, and I was poor.
What’s the one thing to remember in a fist fight?
You have to warm up your fists before getting into it. Rub them against each other, because it’s very important to hurt the fists a little less. Fortunately that one I can answer.
Who was the last person to see you naked?
Sadly for her, my wife. I hope that only her and the forensics examiner get to see me.
Finish this sentence: if I ruled the world for the day I would…?
I would make a giant monster day. A holiday.
What would that holiday entail?
It would allow for the celebration and revelry in honor of all monsters of all history.
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