Is Shazam! Too Light for Today's Moviegoer?
In a long interview, super-hero film producer Michael Uslan talked about bringing the Big Red Cheese to the silver screen, Catwoman coming back to Gotham and Keanu as Constantine.
Superhero Hype conducted a long interview with producer Michael Uslan who has been involved with many of most popular superhero movies of the past three decades, including the Batman movies.
Regarding the upcoming Shazam! movie, Superhero Hype asked Uslan: "Is it true that you're also involved with a 'Shazam!' movie? It's kind of a departure since you've set up this template for dark and serious comic book movies, and then you have Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family, who are bright and colorful and nice."
Uslan answered: "Well, you gotta take a look at the marketplace. I don't like to follow. I like to be called crazy and insane and ahead of time. I've heard it so much over my career that I kind of like it. So by going in a bit of a different direction, I think is great to be at the forefront of that. With 'Shazam!' we've got something very special in the works, and we're handling it with kid gloves and developing the script very, very slowly and making sure it's nailed. I think we're going to have some real exciting announcements later this year about that."
Uslan touched on many topics, including whether Catwoman could come back to the Batman franchise after being thoroughly trashed by Halle Berry's movie. "Just keep in mind that 'Batman Begins' is a reboot. That's the operative word. Whether it's the Batman, Joker, Two-Face. Whatever comes is a complete reboot," he told Superhero Hype.
Regarding the new Swamp Thing movie produced by Joel Silver (Uslan produced the 1982 original): "It's a tremendous character, and I would love to see it done right with actual money behind it. That's something that the character has never had. There's never been money behind the productions. It's a cult favorite, and I think that there's an opportunity to mine it and treat it the right way on the right and proper size.'
Regarding the way Hollywood views superhero movies now compared to the late 1970s when Uslan started: "There's been a sea change. The studios, after me and others were in the trenches battling for 25 years, they finally get it that comic book movies are not something that will be hot one summer and then cool the next. That it's not a genre. It's an ongoing source of stories and characters the same way screenplays and plays and novels are. So they finally get that. The second thing they finally get is that no longer in their minds do they equate comic book and superheroes. They finally understand, thanks to 'Road to Perdition', thanks to 'Men in Black', thanks to 'Constantine' and 'Sin City', that no matter what you're looking for—war, Western, humor, horror, fantasy—you can find it in the comic books. The third key change: For the first 20 years, you had that snobbery, that effete sense of looking down your nose at comic books. That generation is either gone or fast vanishing. The new generation of execs, agents and the talent pool are people who grew up with comics, they respect comics, they respect the artists and the writers and the editors, and as a result of that, not only do they embrace it, but the #1 talent pool for movies, TV and animation are coming out of the comic book field as well as the video field. And that is a tremendous change. I think we're in the Golden Age of comic book movies."
Regarding studio changes to comic book characters (e.g., changing Constantine from a blonde Brit to a brunette American): "Two key things here: #1 that was critical to us was to get the full support of Karen Berger, the editor of the Vertigo line. We wanted to make sure that in her heart, she could stand up and say that this captures the essence of Constantine, the characters, the stories and most of that movie was derivative from various storylines that are found in the comics. Tim Burton said something to me early on, which directly applies to "Constantine". At the time of the first "Batman" movie, when I had been dedicating my life to doing a serious dark version of Batman, I get a call one day asking what I thought of Michael Keaton playing Batman. So I laughed, because I thought it was a joke. 'Great. Mr. Mom as Batman.' It took him 20 minutes to convince me he was serious. I thought he was going to destroy everything I had been working towards. He told me that first, he was a serious actor, and they actually set up a screening of the rough cut of 'Clean and Sober' for me, but physically, he doesn't look anything like Batman. He's my height, he doesn't have the musculature and he doesn't have the square jaw. And Tim Burton said to me 'Michael, a square jaw does not a Batman make. In cinema, it's about the character and about creating a portrayal of an obsessed, driven to the point of nearly being psychotic Bruce Wayne, who I can get audiences to suspend their disbelief about, to buy into the fact that this is a guy who would get dressed up as a bat and fight crime in Gotham City.' He said 'You want to do it seriously? That's the only way I know we can do it without getting unintentional laughs from the audience. If I try to put Harrison Ford or Dennis Quaid or Kevin Costner, serious actors quote-unquote, in a Batman costume, I'm going to get unintentional laughs.' And as it turned out, he was exactly right. It was the greatest call and all of fandom, after me, learned that and then nobody wanted anyone else to play Batman.
"The same thing's true with Constantine. A British accent does not a John Constantine make. Blonde hair does not a John Constantine make. It is about the essence of that character and his personality, which is nailed in that movie, and I'm very proud of it."
He added that talks are for Keanu Reeves to return for a sequel. Finally, Uslan is most looking forward to bringing the late Will Eisner's Spirit character to film.
For the rest of the interview, click here.
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