IAR Press Conference Coverage: 'Green Lantern'

Friday, 17 June 2011 09:43 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR Press Conference Coverage: 'Green Lantern'

“In brightest day … in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight, let those who worship evil’s might, beware my power … Green Lantern’s light!"

While hardcore comic book fans already recognize that passage as the famous Green Lantern oath, the rest of the world may not be as familiar with the intergalactic police force as fan-boys are. That will all change on June 17th, as the ring-wielding comic book superhero finally makes his debut on the silver screen.

Green Lantern is based on the immensely popular DC Comics character that first appeared in All-American Comics issue #16 in 1940 and has remained popular for almost sixty years. While the character has gone through many changes over the years and several different people have worn the powerful ring, the film will tell the tale of Hal Jordan, the most prominent and popular of all the Lanterns. In the comics, Jordan was a test pilot before the death of Abin Sur, the Lantern assigned to protect Earth’s sector of the universe. Eventually, Sur’s ring chose Jordan as Earth’s new protector. Upon taking the Lantern’s oath, Jordan was propelled into a world of extra-terrestrial creatures, emerald power rings and outer-space adventures.

In the film, which is directed by Martin Campbell (Casino Royale), actor Ryan Reynolds (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) stars as Hal Jordan, and actress Blake Lively (Gossip Girl) plays Carol Ferris, the VP of Ferris Aircraft and Hal’s long-time love interest. After Abin Sur crashes on Earth and passes the ring to Jordan, Hal is whisked off to the Planet Oa where he begins his training. Jordan soon meets Tomar-Re (voiced by Oscar winner Geoffrey Rush) a bird-beaked Lantern who teaches Hal to use his new powers. Actor Michael Clarke Duncan (The Green Mile) voices Kilowog, the bulldog-faced member of the Corps who acts as a trainer to new recruits. Finally, he meets Sinestro (Mark Strong), the so-called greatest of the Green Lanterns who unites the Corps to stop a mysterious old enemy named Parallax. Meanwhile, Dr. Amanda Waller (the DC Universe’s version of Nick Fury) played by Angela Bassett enlists Dr. Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) to examine Abin Sur’s deceased body, which results in Hammond gaining new powers of his own. In the end, Hal must learn to use his newfound powers in order to stop Hammond and help the Corps defeat Parallax once and for all.

Along with several other members of the press, IRA recently had a chance to attend a press conference with some of the filmmakers and actors from the new movie. On hand were the film’s director Martin Campbell, producer Donald De Line (The Italian Job), writer Greg Berlanti (No Ordinary Family), and actors Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Mark Strong (Kick-Ass), and Peter Sarsgaard (An Education). Campbell began the discussion by talking about the challenges of directing a comic book movie. “The thing is I've never done a comic book movie before. Super heroes I guess yes, Bond is a kind of super hero and Zorro is obviously, but I've never done a superhero movie before and I wasn't even versed in the comic when it came through the door,” he explained. “These things are a huge team effort by everybody. It’s always sort of handed across to the director and I’m the guy on the floor certainly, but Donald my producer made a huge contribution as did the writer Greg, and the actors. Unlike a lot of movies these things are very much a team effort and in this case particularly so.”

Since Reynolds last big screen appearance was in the independent film Buried, the actor was asked if it was difficult going from such a small project to the set of a big budget special effects extravaganza like Green Lantern. “The two movies are more similar than not actually in the sense that you’re very involved in a lot of imagination. The people that I was talking to on the phone the entire time, they’re not on the phone with me,” he explained. “Going from a small wooden box to a large blue box didn’t feel too dissimilar either, but I never worked on a movie that required this much imagination. I mean really, I felt like I was a kid again. Everything you’re seeing in this world you have to imagine and granted we do have amazing people that are working behind the scenes. Grant Major, not the least of which who is our crack production designer created a lot of the worlds for The Lord of the Ring films. He would come down with visual references so I kind of had an idea what I was looking at. I have to imagine what that is and then express it through my eyes for the audience and that was a big challenge, but I was definitely happy to be able to get up and walk around even if I had to wear a crash test dummy suit for the most part.”

Both Strong and Sarsgaard had intricate prosthetics that they had to wear in the film and the two actors shared their war stories with each other about that process. “He had a much heavier burden than mine. It’s selfish to say they take a long time to put on, but they’re incredibly effective,” said Strong. “We share the same glue,” replied Sarsgaard. “When I finished he was starting and my passing comment to him was, you’re going to find that you have this thing about the glue. You dream about the glue, you want the glue again. It’s the smell, there’s something about it that’s like tang. I still think about it sometimes and it was kind of impossible to get off. You’d only kind of get it off. Didn’t you find that a couple days later you’d find a long strand somewhere? It’s a challenge, but also I think for me as an actor on it was like a gift,” he explained. “None of them looked like me, even the beginning doesn’t look like me. For one, I could tell where I was in the movie. A lot of times you’re in a movie and you’re like right, we’re in the part where what happens? I mean I had clear stages that told me where I was in the movie, which is nice.”

Reynolds also talked about his research into the expansive mythology of the character from the comics and how he hopes to make this character different from some of the other super heroes that we have seen on screen lately. “A lot of the current iterations of superheroes are a little bit darker and a little bit more serious in tone. The thing I distilled from diving into that mythology and that universe is that there’s a tone that’s a little bit different. It’s a bit of a throw back in that sense, there’s a lot of fun with that character. He’s not a character that’s overly funny, but he’s witty,” explained Reynolds. “He’s sort of that guy who can throw a punch, tell a joke and kiss a girl. There’s something really iconic and fun about that guy, because anything’s possible with that guy. For me there wasn’t any particular narrative or storyline because we’re telling an origin story in this film. It was mostly just tone. It was mostly just finding out who Hal Jordan was and also distilling what it is that the fan-boys love about this character and making sure that can be found up on screen. Because if they love it there’s a good chance that broader audiences, who are being introduced to this character for the first time, are also going to love it.”

Berlanti talked about writing the screenplay, his love for the character, and why he wanted to keep the script true to its source material. “I wrote the initial draft with a couple other writers who I work with and we all shared a common love for the character. I think you’re trying to honor that, but you’re also just trying to tell a great story and you hope that your own love and respect for the character will ultimately just come through,” he said. “That’s just the first draft, which is very loose architecture for ultimately what ends up happening because it’s such a massive team effort when you’re building and constructing something like this. You end up feeling in a good way, a custodian of that character in some regards, but everyone’s building a much bigger ship.”

“From the very beginning when Donald and I were sort of hashing out the story, I was more the comic book geek,” Berlanti continued. “I would come in and dump all this stuff on the table and Don would come in and say wait, let’s go through this with me again. It was a great back and forth, but that’s also a cornerstone of what makes it so unique. Yes, it’s a superhero film and yes, it’s a comic book movie, but there’s a real core philosophy to it. It’s rare in these kinds of films when you’re dealing with heroes and things like that. There’s actually a philosophical undercurrent in this case of fear versus will. I think that’s an example as we sort of try to honor that stuff and just make it interesting and appealing to us. You’re your own first audience in that way and you just do things and write things that you think you would enjoy seeing and then they get bedded along the way.”

Reynolds has an admitted fear of flying so the actor talked about how he had to overcome that fear to do much of the wire-work that was required for the film. “I was initiated early on the third day. They basically fired me up two hundred feet in the air at sixty feet per second and that got me over it right quick. That kind of helped, but then after a while you’re playing on these wires and they’re so articulate. The technology just for that alone is amazing now. You’re moving left and right, up and down and all that stuff. I was actually getting, dare I say a little cocky with it by the end,” Reynolds confessed. “I was wondering if we could actually find some way to transport me back to my hotel each day all on the wires. But I loved it after a while, so the best way is to just do it. The fear of flying on a plane thing, that’s a whole separate issue. I’m being told to get on a commercial airline and trust a drunken pilot, and I don’t like that. I can’t see what’s in front of me, and there’s maybe some control issues there.”

The actor continued and discussed how he felt watching the finished version of the film for the first time. “For me it was incredible because I was shooting in a box for a good portion of the movie that was just blue screen. So to see these guys, these immensely talented artists who are world builders, create this universe around me that I’m interacting with in a very real way, it was just mind blowing. I’ve never been a part of anything like that. It was a feat of engineering unto itself and that was pretty spectacular. That first time I saw it in 3D as well, I was practically weeping,” Reynolds explained. “It was a very special experience for me because I got to watch this film as an audience member,” he continued. “I grew up always a fan of these comic films and I would come out wanting to fly and kick someone’s butt. Never have I seen a film that I’m in where I’m unable to watch it somewhat objectively. I was surprised throughout the film and cheering. It was a really cool experience to be on screen and to see the way that it came together because we saw all of the visual effects, all of the artwork and all the design, but it still seemed somehow impossible. It was such a big undertaking that it seemed impossible that this movie would actually come out. We’ve been living with this movie for a year and a half now. I can’t believe that it’s actually here and I’m so excited to share it with everyone because I think it is very special.”

Strong, who plays the purple colored Sinestro in the film, also discussed how he felt after watching the finished movie for the first time. “I’m glad I’m married because I’m not going to get any dates from this,” joked the actor. “The thing that amazes me the most is that when it comes right down to it, it all has to be in Martin’s head somehow. There are a lot of people doing different jobs, it’s incredibly collaborative and there’s people doing CG, but there’s a guy that has to make sure that all of those things come together. Like olive oil and garlic can turn into a third thing that is great, I’m just extraordinarily impressed that he managed to contain this in his mind in someway.”

Since Strong is playing a character that, as any comic book fan knows, will eventually become Hal Jordan’s greatest enemy, the actor talked about playing a character that he knows will eventually go over to the dark side. “If you know the comics, you know the direction that he goes in. It’s great to play him before he goes there, I’m not sure that’s always the case. Usually villains are just villains and these things are very straight forward so it’s nice to kind of have him as a hero in this one,” said Strong. “I couldn’t really imbue him with anything to do with where he goes after this movie. What I try to do is give him characteristics that would lend themselves to being believable should he decide to go to the dark or … the yellow side,” he joked. “I couldn’t think about where the stories go. The source material is so vast. There’s plenty to draw from, but I had to really just stick to the script as it was. If we do go somewhere else with it I do hope that he’s a believable character who would go that way if you know what I mean.”

Campbell and De Line also discussed casting the voice actors for the film, Geoffrey Rush, and Michael Clarke Duncan, who play Tomar-Re and Kilowog, respectively. “Well of course we had Geoffrey Rush and the interesting thing was he had never done something like this before,” explained Campbell. “Even the most talented actors sometimes don’t actually fit the body or the character, in this case the digital character that you’re creating. It’s sort of experimentation. What you do is you have to get people into tests and they might make a great performance, but somehow it doesn’t connect with the body of the character that you’ve created. Long story short, I think Geoffrey Rush was perfect for Tomar-Re as is Michael Clarke Duncan,” said Campbell.

“It was a fun process as we listened to hundreds of actors and what we would do is we would take an image, just a piece of artwork, and hold that up as we listened to the voice, explained De Line. “That’s all we had. We had no animation time so we would take an image, put it up on a monitor, and then we had somebody in the production office take voice clips from various actors that we thought were interesting for the characters. So then we would just listen to the voice clip over the image of either Tomar-Re or Kilowog just to kind of get the sense of how a voice, the quality, and the timbre all kind of matched up with the visual. We would crack up sometimes because we would be listening to things from Full Metal Jacket or Crazy Heart, all kinds of films. It was a lot of fun and it was a real discovery process. But then when that right voice gets there, it’s like an actor having a role, it just brought it to life. Geoffrey Rush, the first time we heard him as that character it was really thrilling.”

Since actress Blake Lively is best known for her role on Gossip Girl, a show predominately watched by females, she was asked if she thinks women will enjoy this film. “I’m always attracted to strong women and I think Carol is a character that I wish was portrayed more on film. It’s so nice to see a woman fighter pilot up there, flying this plane. I think that women will appreciate that because this is a very modern film. Now women are strong, they’ve always been standing behind the heroic man, but it’s just a new idea to see it more on film and I think that women will appreciate that,” she explained. “Anybody that goes to a theater, you want to sit down and you want to be transported to another world for two hours. This movie is appealing to everybody. It’s full of heart, it’s full of humor, it’s full of action and the fact that it takes place not just on planet Earth, but it also in an entire new galaxy. There’s tons of alien species on different planets. I don’t care who you are, it’s going to the cinema like you were as a child and just having your imagination blown open. Also Ryan is half naked in it.”

In the film, Lively’s character is not just the “damsel in distress,” but rather a strong, and honest three-dimensional person so the actress was asked if the role was written that way in the script or if she added some of her own personality to the part. “It was definitely written that way and what was so appealing about Carol in a lot of ways in this film was much more straightforward and honest,” she explained. “We talked earlier about the scene where I first see Hal as the Green Lantern. In every single superhero film, how on earth do they not see that this is the person that they’ve been intimate with for their whole life? You don’t recognize him because he has a four-inch mask on his face? This movie tackled those things. I think it’s a really refreshing take on such a big film full of fantasy to have those moments where you actually acknowledge what every other comic film doesn’t. That bled through to each of our characters. The fact that Hal is a superhero, he’s also very human, he’s flawed and he doesn’t know if he wants to be a superhero. I think that’s incredibly unique and that’s why I think this script is so special because it could really connect with the people at the heart of the story.”

Finally, since Green Lantern is not as well known a character as Superman or Batman, Martin Campbell was asked if he felt that there was a certain amount of risk taken in bringing this character to the big screen. “I don’t know if there’s a risk involved. The thing is that Superman’s been around a long time. Obviously the comic has been around a long time and so have the movies. They’ve done a lot of Superman movies as they have with Batman. You could say that Iron Man was a second tier character and it turned out very successfully. I simply think it’s down to the movie itself and whether people enjoy the movie. From that point of view I think the movie has to stand-alone. Whether or not the superhero is second tier or first tier I think is irrelevant.”

Green Lantern opens in theaters everywhere today!

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