Director Francis Lawrence Discusses CONSTANTINE Fanboys & The I AM LEGEND Endings
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire director Francis Lawrence is no stranger to adapting written word to film as he previously directed Constantine which is based on DC Comics' Hellblazer and I Am Legend, which is based on Richard Matheson's novel.
John Constantine was first appeared in an issue of "Swamp Thing," created by legendary comic book writer Alan Moore. Several years later the character would garner his own comic book series "Hellblazer," written by Jamie Delano. It has proven to be quite popular as it is the longest running title under DC Comics' edgier venue, Vertigo.
When Francis Lawrence began working on his first feature film, 2005's Constantine he knew he was going to hear an earful from fans as he stripped away the character's blonde locks, British accent and switched the setting from London to Los Angeles. But hey he still had lung cancer and a trenchcoat.
Having Keanu Reeves fill the role of the renegade occultist certainly didn't befriend Lawrence to the fanboys either as the actor doesn't look anything like the singer, Sting, which the character is meant to resemble, nor has the actor's talents ever been confused with Sir Lawrence Olivier. But outside of diehard fans of the comic, most were able to overlook those superficial changes, and except Keanu in the role as Lawrence did an admirable job of conveying the character's darker qualities. His Constantine was still the chain smoking, self-destructive, cynical man with a surly attitude. Although I would say Lawrence's biggest achievement with the film was the overall gloomy look and the amount of meaningful violence that he was able to include in a PG-13 rated film.
Jack Giroux: All of your films so far have been adaptations. Do you just really enjoy having fans watch your every move?
Francis Lawrence: No, actually, I really don’t [Laughs]. I have to say, doing Water for Elephants, it was nice because it was out of the fanboy world. My first two movies were in that comic book, fanboy, sci-fi fantasy world, where you have all these guys who live on their computers watching your every move. It was nice with Water for Elephants, because the fans of the book were really supportive all the way through. Usually, it’s the other way around, dealing with every little thing. For Constantine, people said, “He’s not English or blond,” and the list goes on.
JG: Do you ever feel like saying, “It’s a movie,”?
FL: Yeah, all the time. By the way, it is an adaptation, so things have to change sometimes.
JG: How seriously do you take those reactions? I love what Matthew Vaughn once said, “You’ll read a negative reaction online, but it may be from a 10-year-old who knows nothing about making movies.”
FL: That’s absolutely true. Also, usually the people who feel so passionately about a certain comic, especially Hellblazer, which isn’t the biggest comic in the world, it’s a small slice of the moviegoing public.
He also talked to Movie Pilot about the two endings that were created for his and Will Smith's I Am Legend. Each ending can be viewed below, the first is the original ending (referred to as the "alternate ending") that was loathed at test screenings and replaced for what is now the theatrical/official version.
JG: Was it tough adapting the extremes of the novel?
FL: The book is pretty extremes at times, but this was a very loose adaptation of the book. It takes somethings from the book, The Omega Man, and some things we completely made up. The original novel is vampires and takes place in Compton, so it’s different. Our original ending is what the novella was about, though; the idea of being scared of these creatures we only know as legend, and then we realize they’re the norm; man is the monster. We had some of that in the first ending, not in the theatrical release.
JG: What ending do you prefer?
FL: I like both in different ways. I prefer the original one, because it’s the philosophical ending I enjoy; that what we perceive as the monster isn’t really the monster. I might skew that direction. In tests, people really, really hated it.
JG: I’ve heard filmmakers say that’s a major problem with test screenings, when it comes to dealing with ambitious endings; you’re asking for gut reactions.
FL: Yeah, the endings are always the biggest things with these test cards. I both hate them and like them. I think it’s the most nerve-wracking moment, doing those test screenings. You do learn from them, though; what’s confusing, slow, or too fast.
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