The one guy who can whip the female (and select male) contingent of the Comic Con crowd into frenzied cheers without putting on a superhero hero costume is Neo himself, Keanu Reeves. And with genre hits like Dark City, Hulk, Labyrinth and Rocketeer to her credit, Jennifer Connelly’s fan base there is feverish as well. And with the two of them teaming up to show footage from their upcoming remake of a bona fide sci-fi classic, The Day the Earth Stood Still, well, very little was standing still in the Convention Center when they took the stage.
Hollywood.com quizzed the pair about re-imagining the beloved original – which was as much a parable for Cold War paranoia and mutually assured destruction as it was an alien invasion thriller – for contemporary times.
Hollywood.com: Can you talk about the difference in your interpretation of your character versus the original?
Yeah, Michael Rennie was more human than human in the first piece. He was not quite an Everyman but he was very human. In this version Klaatu is not. He is in a human body but he is not human. He doesn’t have the same kind of human empathetic qualities. In this one I’m a little more sinister. Michael Rennie kind of brings the stick at the end. I kind of bring the stick in the beginning.
HW: Did you try to avoid the original film before taking this on? How familiar were you?
In terms of looking for his performance, the films had different ways of telling the story. My take on being a slightly more sinister Klaatu was more about the structure of the film. It wasn’t about avoiding it, Rennie is fantastic.
HW: In what ways did the story resonate for you guys in a contemporary way? What did you see in that which made you say that this was something you wanted to do because the message still applies?
It had a great impact on me when I read the script. I thought that it was really powerful. I loved that it was a movie that was looking at how we treat each other, how we live on the earth, whether we do that responsibly. We have a tendency to be self-destructive. It just really struck me. I thought it was poignant and moving. It was a great combination of that in a film that was exciting, dramatic, thrilling, and suspenseful. And I like these guys, so I wanted to work with them.
HW: Thematically its as valid today as it was in 1951?
Absolutely. It’s still the human character. The same kind of violence.
HW: Both of you had considerable success in genre films, and in what some people call “serious” movies. Do you have to invest as much into the acting process when you do a blockbuster-style movie as opposed to more traditional films?
Absolutely, I don’t want to classify films into what is serious and what isn’t. In terms of the way that I work, I can’t say ‘Oh, I’m doing this one for whatever superficial reason.’ Everything I become involved in working on, I’m so committed. I’m so madly, compulsive, and obsessive about it. I approach it with the same seriousness, on everything.
HW: What is it like when you know that this audience is the fan base, moreso than you might encounter in L.A. or New York. These are the hard core fans. You want them to like it, so how hard is it to face all the devoted hard core fans?
It’s a lot of people there. I got a little bit nervous. I’m really critical of films and myself. I was really happy working on the movie. We worked really hard, it was long hours. I felt really good about doing it and to me that means a lot. I haven’t seen the whole thing but I’ve seen a bunch of things now. Even my husband [Paul Bettany] said “How does it look?” I said “It looks really good.” Even he was like “My God, she never says that!”
HW: So he hasn’t seen it yet?
No, neither of us has seen the whole thing. I feel comfortable and confident. I look forward to seeing the whole thing. I felt when we were making the film that Scott was doing a phenomenal job. I couldn’t imagine anyone doing better. I think that he made the best version of the film that could have been made. I think he’s smart. I think he understands the original film. I think he loved the original film. He loves filmmaking. He knows so much about film history, current film, and everything. He wanted it to be real. He wanted it to be dramatic. I just think he had all bases covered.
Great…I haven’t been on the floor yet. I know when I first came here, I guess it was a decade ago, it’s a little bigger. I think that is great and awesome.
HW: Did any fans in the big presentation surprise you with a zinger question?
We didn’t really have any questions from the floor this time. We had a lot of “We love you’s!”
JC: HE got that. Just go downstairs and go ‘Keanu’ and you’ll hear [screaming] ‘Ahhhhh!’.