September 06, 2011 9:59am EST
DreamWorks Pictures Real Steel has had its share of criticism since the first trailer hit the web. One particularly amusing comment was, “why should I care about robot boxing?” – this was coming from a guy who flocked to see Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. “It looks like such a cliché” – a statement which is itself a cliché these days. To me, all the advance negativity has made the film somewhat of an underdog in spite of its dream team of talent, including director Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum), producers Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis and star Hugh Jackman. This is, however, quite fitting as its rousing story follows three down-and-out characters fighting for their shot at greatness. It’s like the Rocky of robot movies, and it could be the sleeper hit of the fall season.
“[This movie] is way more in the sports movie paradigm than the science fiction paradigm,” said Levy on the Detroit, Michigan set of his pricey new production, and based on what I saw at the city’s famous Cobo Center, he wasn’t kidding. When I first walked into the arena, it looked like a major heavyweight fight had just ended. The place was mostly empty, with a few dozen spectators (who were really extras) lingering in the stands, trying to get a closer look at their champion before he left the ring. The filmmaker was actually shooting what I believe may be the final scene in the picture: the camera is set up behind Jackman, Dakota Goyo (who plays his estranged son) and Atom, the nearly obsolete sparring-bot that connects the two, and it’s slowly pulled upward to capture a rapturous crowd cheering as the trio embraces their World Robot Boxing league victory and one another. All this is set to a booming orchestral score that sounded a lot like the final notes from the original Rocky, which made it difficult for the lot of journalists (myself included) on set to keep nostalgic tears from running down our cheeks, but that’s the very emotional response that Levy and Jackman are hoping Real Steel will give audiences.
“When Spielberg called me up and asked if I’d do this movie, I said ‘yes, but I don’t want to do just another robot fetish movie.’ [I want to] do a movie that has robots in it, but make it unabashedly human,” the filmmaker told us after showing the group an FX-heavy sizzle reel and footage of Sugar Ray Leonard choreographing various fights. Though he was admittedly fascinated by the technology his visual effects team used to create the bot-bouts (including software developed for Avatar), Levy was adamant about the spectacle never overpowering the soul of the film: “The father-son story is not in Richard Matheson’s short story (from which John Gatins’ script is based), but it became the heart of the movie.”
It’s the unlikely bond between not only an absentee father and the son he never knew he had that’s at the center of Real Steel, but their connection to Atom as well, and the degree that the filmmakers can make you believe in this “love triangle” of sorts is the biggest challenge the movie faces. “The movie is really less boxing than you’d imagine. There are a few key fights, but really it’s just [about] relationships,” said Jackman when asked about whether it was the futuristic setting or the family drama that drew him to the project. “We have to always remember that the sport has to be relevant to the story so the story can work without the sport.” And so, if you removed robot boxing from the film entirely you’d be left with an endearing (if formulaic) narrative and some strong, conflicted characters; two elements of production that can make any film a winner.
For his part, Jackman seemed to be thrilled with getting to play former bruiser turned robo-promotor Charlie Kenton: “The thing about Charlie, and what I’ve really enjoyed about him, is that he’s desperate. He’s down and out, but he’s also a really charming character in a way. His actions are pretty reprehensible in the first part of the movie, but you don’t hate him. He’s trying for another chance, and because you understand where he’s coming from, you’re kind of [hopefully] on his side.” If the whole cast is as enthusiastic about their roles as Jackman, and if their performances are as multi-faceted as he says his is, it may not matter what any naysayers think about robot boxing.
, and she's someone who genuinely understands and knows this stuff. In fact, the kid kind of knows as much as Charlie. Charlie is good at what he needs to be. As we said, his passion is boxing. And so he's had to learn what he needs to know. And he's not very successful at it, by the way. When you meet him, he's really not doing great.
Do we get any shots of you from the past, in the ring?
HJ: Well, we decided that I'd be more out of shape. And so before that happened, we shot some sequences of me that are stills in the movie and you don't see any video or film flashback, but you get a sense of it from that. And there are scenes where he explains what he was like as a fighter. But then I put on a little weight so he could look like he could've fought, but is a little out of shape now. And I came to the first fitting and Shawn was like, "Okay, I think we need to back off a little bit" because I was sort of preparing for another movie too, so I was about 20 pounds heavier than I am now.
It sounds like you have a lot of creative input in the movie. Is there anything specific that you bring to it?
HJ: Yeah, Shawn and I got a script that is quite different than this. Structurally it's very similar and there was always a great concept and idea, but Shawn really took it to another level. He worked on it for seven months. And in the beginning, Shawn came to my room -- and the way he works, you just start ad-libbing -- and there are at least two or three big scenes that came out of the ad-libbing we did in my living room. I'm not saying they were my ideas, the credit goes to Shaun. Creatively, Shawn is very, very open and even Dakota, he's saying things and Shawn will listen and give it a try. And I suppose, maybe because of his comedy background, he's very loose.
Getting back to the flashbacks, I know you said there's a severed relationship with the mother character -- the ex-wife -- will we see any of that?
HJ: She's dead at the beginning of the movie. I mean, you hear a little about it but I don't want to give too much away. But you understand, you kind of get the sense of who she was. And the idea of the mother stays alive because you're invested in the son. It was a real relationship, but it wasn't like they were married for 15 years, you know what I mean, but it was obviously a genuine relationship. And the way that Charlie handles it, he regrets it. It was interesting talking with Sugar Ray because he was very open about his personal life with me. And i don't want to get into too many details without his permission, but he said he's remarried now, but when he was first fighting, he said that you're so into it as a fighter or boxer that I think you can neglect things. And because it's all encompassing -- that desire to reach the top of the mountain -- which is very lonely, you're by yourself reaching for that pinnacle, and Charlie sort of has that. It's all or nothing and he's going for it. And relationships, even the relationship he has with Evangeline's character, everything else suffers.
What's the overall tone of the movie? Is it a little more of a family film?
HJ: I will genuinely say that I would love to go see this movie. I think you guys will like this movie, my son will like this movie. When I read this script, I thought, wow this is like those great Spielberg movies. This reminds me of that. They're really genuine with complexity and characters and magic and it will have you jumping out of your seat. And Shaun is very funny, smart, he wears his heart on his sleeve. I mean, he's just all heart. You see it in his movies. They're positive. And there's a confidence and reassurance that goes with him and you see it in his movies. But I'll be surprised if this film doesn't bring a tear to your eye while make you jump out of your seat at the end.
What's it like to just see stuff like this on the set?
HJ: It's so much fun. We did one fight sequence when I was here for six days. And I said on X-Men, that would've taken a month. At least three weeks. And it would've been maybe two units. This is one unit. It's so specific and amazing because Shawn is in control of everything. He's not just handing over a canvas to a bunch of kids who are drawing the animation and then three months later, the director sees it. This way is so much better and so much more efficient and much better for storytelling.
How does it change for you? You're still acting with guys on stilts and with tennis balls.
HJ: Yeah, but I know exactly what it is. That's the difference. I know exactly what I'm seeing. Look, you see all the time in movies spots where an actor goes, "oooh," and he's just made it up. And then someone draws in a pterodactyl flying at his head and you can just feel it. And often, in close ups, I get to use the real robot, and have you seen the robot yet? You'll meet him and you'll get the feeling as soon as you're there and when they're operating it. He'll look at you and talk and he'll nod. That makes a big difference, being able to see makes a huge difference. I watch it just before we do the take.
August 30, 2011 5:50am EST
There's a certain kind of actor who can sell me on a movie about boxing robots. He has to be tough, but heartfelt. Slick, but genuine. Seemingly above the whole concept, but able to embrace it without cynicism.
That's Hugh Jackman to a T.
Real Steel director Shawn Levy found the perfect leading man for his futuristic, Rocky-style sports movie and it's encapsulated in this first poster, featuring Jackman throwing up fists in front of his robot sparring partner Adam. He looks like he's having fun—not the worst feeling when you're deciding whether or not a movie piques your interest.
Real Steel hits theaters October 7.
August 24, 2011 1:50pm EST
I would trust Shawn Levy with my life.
Perhaps not all of the director's big screen pursuits have been triumphs, but he has solidified his genius in my mind forever with the simple fact that he directed six episodes of the greatest live-action television series ever made: The Secret World of Alex Mack. A man so inspired as to deliver us a collective three hours of the most worthwhile character in modern fiction would naturally be a good choice to direct a film about another pretty decent literary figure: Frankenstein's monster.
Fox's Frankenstein film, written by Max Landis, is seeking a director. That director, reportedly, might very well be Levy. If there's one thing the man clearly understands, it is being an outsider. Someone who must hide his true identity, for fear of persecution. Someone struggling to understand his own purpose. Someone with a story to tell, but no one to whom to tell it.
If anyone in this movie turns into a puddle, my neurons will combust.
August 18, 2011 4:01pm EST
Could the James Cameron-produced Fantastic Voyage be doomed never to leave port? THR reports that director Shawn Levy (Date Night, Real Steel) is considering exiting the big-budget remake of the 1966 sci-fi flick, as "momentum on the project has slowed a bit because finding the right cast has proven tough."
To be more precise, finding the money to find the right cast has proven tough. According to THR, Fox is reticent to shell out the cash necessary to attract a big name that would lend the project some star power. Nevertheless, Levy is readying a pitch for Will Smith, with whom he is set to meet "in the next couple weeks." Landing one of Hollywood's few truly bankable stars, THR suggests, could convince Fox to flinch on its no-stars stance.
Source: The Hollywood Reporter
Click in the image below to feast your eyes on our massive Will Smith gallery:
June 30, 2011 9:06am EST
Hollywood studios are planning to create their own Comic-Con style event in London. The unnamed British film festival has the support of Paramount Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox, Marvel Studios, Warner Bros. Pictures, Universal Pictures, Walt Disney Pictures, and more. Cowboys and Aliens, which stars British actor Daniel Craig, will kick off the August festival. Fright Night, with Irish Colin Farrell and Scottish David Tennant, will close it.
UK cinefiles attending the festival will have the chance to see Q+A sessions with directors, pick up swag, and watch sneak peeks of upcoming films like Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. The festival will also include screenings of upcoming films The Change-Up, Conan The Barbarian 3D, and The Help (which doesn’t strike me as a particularly Comic-Con-appropriate pick, but maybe the Brits have mainstream flick-lit cosplayers or something.) Comic book writer Mark Millar, creator of Kick-Ass, is confirmed as a guest, as well as Real Steel director Shawn Levy.
It seems like the festival will really highlight the unsung heroes of Hollywood, the Brits. Without British people, who would we get to play our sneering villains, our southern vampires, our cowboys? I think it’s about time that Hollywood gave something back to the UK, even if it is in the form of disposable Con swag.
Sources: THR, Wharf.co.uk
June 22, 2011 12:18pm EST
Real Steel doesn’t strike me as the sort of film that has fans scrambling for any bit of information that they can find. I mean, it’s not exactly the new Batman film, or The Hobbit, which garner fan rage or joy every time the role of Guy In Background #21 is cast. But if you’re a diehard Real Steel fan, keeping your metaphorical nose pressed to the internet in hopes of catching a glimpse of new information, then, congrats! The Japanese trailer recently hit the internet, and contains even more scenes of robo-boxing goodness.
Real Steel, directed by Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum), tells the story of a future in which robot-boxing is the next big thing. Washed-up boxer Charlie (Hugh Jackman) builds a boxing robot with his son, and probably learns a heartwarming lesson about family in the process.
Rock-em Sock-em Robots: The Movie is due out October 2, 2011
June 16, 2011 7:33am EST
Rob Huebel is a man of many talents. Well, actually, I don't know if he could juggle chainsaws (I bet he could), but the talents he does possess are being incredibly funny and popping in on just about every show you and your friends like. Right now he's starring in the absurdly hilarious Childrens Hospital so we chatted with the funny man about writing for the show, making out with classic television stars, and dogs chasing squirrels. Hard hitting stuff, indeed.
I absolutely love Childrens Hospital. It’s one of my favorite things on television right now.
Thanks. It’s one of my favorite things too.
How do you prepare for an episode of Childrens Hospital when everything is so bizarre and weird and so completely different from one episode to the next?
I think the trick to that show is to really treat it like it’s a real, serious medical drama. Hopefully we don’t ever look like we’re being silly, or goofy, or doing wacky shit. What we really want to do is take really absurd things really seriously. Hopefully that’s what makes it funny. I think that’s the trick with things like that. You don’t have to do anything different than a real show. Even though you’re saying crazy, crazy shit… like the most ridiculous things, you just have to deliver it really dramatically and really seriously.
So, it’s kind of like Airplane! and Naked Gun in that way. I remember reading that’s the way Priscilla Presley got through it: to not even think of it as a comedy line.
Well, I would love to be compared to that. I’m not sure that we are exactly on par. I look up so much to those movies, Airplane!, and Naked Gun. I think that stuff is so funny. I grew up just loving all that stuff, and sort of idolizing Leslie Nielsen. So I’m not sure that we’re exactly on par with that, but that’s a really nice comparison for sure.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever had to do for Childrens Hospital?
Well, we’ve had to do a lot. Last season I made out with Marion Ross from Happy Days. She was Mrs. C on Happy Days. You’re probably too young for that. She’s an older lady. I had to have a very graphic make out with her with my shirt off. And you know, our tongues were intertwined. That was interesting just because of our age difference. I’m walking my dog. My dog’s chasing a squirrel, here. There’s always a lot of crazy stuff. This season I get my foreskin reattached. That’s pretty crazy. There are a lot of porn stars on set this season. We shot an episode called “The Night Shift,” where we sort of reveal what happens at the hospital during the night. They completely change us over. It becomes this really dark place, and there are biker gangs in the emergency room. It’s like a really scary place at night. And there are a lot of porn stars there shooting. Henry Winkler’s character rented out the hospital to some porn crew so they could shoot a porno at Childrens Hospital at night.
That sounds awesome. How do you work in an environment like that where you’re surrounded by all these hilarious people and you’re basically goofing off, but at the same time you still have a job to do? I’m assuming you’re under deadlines. How do you strike that balance?
I wrote an episode this season, so I know a little about how it goes. The very first time you read this stuff, you shit your pants laughing. You love it, you can’t wait to do it. By the time you do it, you’ve reworked the script and reworked the script, and there’ve been a lot of meetings about it. When you’re actually in production, it’s like anything else. You have a certain amount of time in that you have to have this thing done. We try to shoot an episode in, basically, two days. There’s not a lot of time for screwing around, otherwise we wouldn’t have any type of show. We really have to work fast and you have to really focus up. Even though you’re saying and doing crazy things, you still have to do them in an organized way.
What really goes into writing an episode of Childrens Hospital?
What we do is, a group of us get together and sort of just pitch out ideas of things that we think would be funny for a specific cast member, or a funny thing for a lot of the cast to do. A thing that we did this season a lot was kind of take a break from the actual hospital thing and do something totally different. We’re really lucky that the show is only fifteen minutes long, so we can kind of do whatever we want. Most of the episodes are always dealing with hospital stuff. Crazy patients, crazy situations, just really absurd things in the hospital. But then we decided there should be a few episodes that are nothing like that. Completely different. We did one last year that was called "News Readers", sort of like 60 Minutes parody. There’s a guy that comes, and there’s a whole 60 Minutes piece on us. There’s one that’s like an old timey play. The whole episode is in black-and-white and it’s shot just like a play. Which is crazy, it’s completely bananas. If that’s the first episode of Childrens Hospital that you turn on to watch, you’re gunna be so fucking confused. But it’s really funny, and really cool. There’s another episode that’s all in the 70s. There’s another one where Jeff follows the ambulance driver, and we just follow this one character out of the hospital and see his whole life. It’s all about this sub-character, this ambulance driver Chet, played by Brian Huskey. And it’s really just following him around on his insane day. Picking up organs, delivering them, dealing with all the ambulance stuff. That was just sort of something that we thought would be kind of cool this year, to just break the form a little bit and get out of the hospital every now and then.
So you’re moving away from the medical, procedural tropes, to explore the universe a little?
Yeah. I think it’s just like, we know that we can always make fun of medical procedural dramas. That will always be our bread and butter. But we like to challenge ourselves every now and then to do something that’s totally different. To make it feel and look like a completely different show. Whether or not the audience goes for it remains to be seen. I think they will. At the end of the day, funny is funny. And all those episodes are really funny. Just because we’re not wearing scrubs, and we’re not under fluorescent lights in a hospital hallway, that doesn’t really matter.
What do you bring to the cast and writing to Childrens Hospital that no one else really does?
NOTHING. Absolutely nothing. And I’m trying so hard to hide that. The minute they sit down and have a budget meeting, and go, “Okay, we need to cut some costs. How much does everyone get paid? What? Huebel gets paid two million per episode? We gotta trim that shit.” I think that we all sort of bring our own attitudes to the show. We’re all sort of these sex-starved, insane and sort of vapid, stupid people that are really full of themselves, and probably horrible doctors. But I think we all do that in a different way. Malin is different from Ken, and Ken does it different from me. By the way, Ken does it the wrong way. I do it the right way. Whatever Ken is doing is wrong. I think we all just sort of do it in our own way. I tend to play super serious, or aggressively dumb, which is how I am in real life. Not too much of a stretch. On the writing side, we’ve all known each other for a long time, and we know these characters pretty well, so we know how to write for each other. I know how to write funny stuff for Corddry, I know how to write funny stuff for Megan. Once you have those funny characters, you know what they can’t do in that world, so it’s like trying to plug in funny situations for them.
What can you tell me about the upcoming Party Down episode?
Hold on just a second, my dog is going crazy on this squirrel. He’s gone up in these people’s yards who I don’t know. He’s terrorizing the squirrel. Wait! Wait, wait, wait! Sorry. German Shepherd. He hates squirrels.
Oh, the Party Down episode… I’ve been told by Rob Corddry’s law firm: Corddry, Corddry and Rosenstein, I am not allowed to talk about that episode. Corddry’s law firm are a bunch of leg-breakers. Literally. They’re so shady. They will fucking break your legs. They spray-painted the word “douchebag” on the front of my house to intimidate me.
I don’t want to get you in trouble.
Without giving it away, fans of Party Down will be very psyched to see that episode.
What can you tell me about The Descendants which is coming out later this year?
It was really an amazing experience. I got to go to Hawaii for three weeks and work with George Clooney, and one of my favorite directors, Alexander Payne. I have a very small part in the movie, but when you get the chance to go to Hawaii and hang out with those people—
You don’t really say no to that.
Yeah, you don’t turn it down. It was really great. Alexander Payne is one of those directors who is completely in charge and knows exactly what he wants, which is really fun. It’s fun when a director is very specific. He knows totally the tone that he’s going for. It makes it easier than if everyone’s just guessing and trying to figure it out. That’s no fun. It’s fun when the director knows what he wants. He’s that type of guy. George Clooney is exactly what you would expect. He’s annoyingly good looking, insanely funny and super smart. So you just feel really inferior around him all the time. You end up feeling really bad about yourself, but you walk away feeling really great about George Clooney.
You’ve appeared in pretty much every good comedy of the past few years. Is there everything you haven’t done yet that you really want to?
There’s a lot that I haven’t done. Thank you for saying that, but if you look hard, I’m the king of small parts on cool shows. And I’ll take that! I’m happy to do that, but I want to do bigger things and have bigger parts on those things. I’ve never been on a regular network show—I’ve been on a lot of network sitcoms like The Office.
You were just cast in Family Album, weren’t you?
Yeah. There still trying to figure out how that’s going to go. They shot that for the fall, and then they tried to retool it, and I think the plan is to maybe make it a midseason show. They’re still figuring that out. But that was great. The guy who directed that is Shawn Levy, who directed Night at the Museum and Date Night. His new movie is Real Steel. He’s amazing. Not to sound like I think every director is so great. He’s one of those guys where you’re like, “Yep! Whatever you want, dude. You tell me what to do and I’ll do it.” We were shooting this mark and I had to do this scene where I jump off of a motorboat into the Pacific Ocean. I don’t know where you live, but the Pacific Ocean in March is fucking freezing. But I was like, “Yep! Absolutely! No problem!” You wanna do a good job for these guys because you know they’re gunna make something cool. Sometimes when you shoot stuff, you never know how it’s gunna turn out. You don’t know the director. And you’re like, “I don’t know if this is going to be funny,” but you do it and hope for the best. But with Shawn, you know it’s going to be great. So that was really fun. It would be really cool if it became a show. It’s a totally different kind of thing. It was interesting going from Childrens Hospital to that, because that’s like a network sitcom. It’s like a family show, too, where you can’t say and do the crazy things you do on Adult Swim every night. But that said, my character is completely inappropriate. I’m like the uncle in the family, so I don’t have kids or responsibilities. I can just do and say whatever I want. So for me, that was really great and really fun.
Childrens Hospital airs Thursday nights at Midnight on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim.
May 31, 2011 6:20am EST
After not seeing much of DreamWorks' Real Steel for months following the December debut of its teaser trailer, May has brought Hugh Jackman fans an absolute smorgasbord of assets for his new film! Today, Disney released a new international poster for the film, and it sums up the story and tone way better than the first theatrical poster did. Check it out below, and stay tuned for our upcoming set visit preview for the Shawn Levy-directed film coming soon!
May 31, 2011 5:00am EST
"I'm told that he is aware that I have hijacked a large portion of his technical crew, but that we have his full blessing." Director Shawn Levy confesses he's hired several crew members who worked on James Cameron's blockbuster Avatar for his upcoming sci-fi movie Real Steel.
May 10, 2011 8:32am EST
The theatrical trailer for Real Steel just hit the web and, well, it looks exactly like what you'd imagine a Disney boxing movie with robots would be. Some dialogue is a little corny. The plot seems pretty cliched. But, hey, at least the robots look pretty bad-ass, right? The picture is directed by Shawn Levy and stars Hugh Jackman and hits theaters on October 7, just in case you end up not getting enough explosions on the big screen this summer. Anyway, check out the trailer below and tell us what you think!