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Tuesday, February 11, 2003


By Rob Allstetter / The Comics Continuum

PASADENA, Calif. - Continuing the The Continuum's series of reports from the Daredevil movie press junket, here's a roundtable interview with producers Avi Arad of Marvel Studios and Gary Foster.

QUESTION: Can you explain the Marvel process of working with different studios?

AVI ARAD: With the richness of material that we have, there's no one studio that can make all of these movies. We have 4,700 characters, so the best way to do it is to separate them among the studios so that each one can its share.

QUESTION: Should Kingpin be a Spider-Man villain?

AVI ARAD: No, Kingpin should stay in Daredevil and Elektra. There are a lot of villains. We have plenty.

QUESTION: Is it still exciting for you to see these characters on the big screen?

AVI ARAD: It gets more exciting. Every one of these movies is getting better and bigger. We now have the privilege of having all the talent we want - the best writers, the best actors, the best producers. It's getting more exciting.

QUESTION: What was your reaction to seeing the movie?

GARY FOSTER: We've lived this for the last year-and-a-half and last night was the first time I've seen the movie with a full audience. It was sort of an amazing experience on a number fronts. It's exciting.

You work in a bubble for so long and you try to make the best decisions. And then you finish it, and suddenly it's out there in the world. And in this particular case because we do this research with these properties because they're so fragile and so important. In some ways, it's scary because the first time you're together you get such an honest reaction. But it's exciting. People laughed and applauded. It was nice.

QUESTION: A lot was made because Daredevil is the first Marvel movie after Spider-Man. How much of the overall franchise is riding on this?

AVI ARAD: You know, we have so many characters, that personally I don't feel the pressure. The pressure is on me to make sure we have the right team, the right partners, to make a good movie. And if we make a good movie

There is one Spider-Man. There is one Star Wars. There are some properties out there where there is just one. Period. If Spider-Man movie was a lesser movie, it would have been a lesser movie, it would have still done huge business.

We don't look at it like that. To me, when Blade II came in opening weekend at $33 million, it was a huge victory. I didn't except the movie to go over a certain number, but it was a good movie, delivered what it had to deliver and we move on.

Every time we make a movie, the word Marvel is bringing people in. So it's no longer an obscure character, it's a Marvel character. Therefore, you know what, based on experience of the last four, I think I want to see this. To me, we're getting more mass market than when we started.

So, obviously we have the geek community coming in. But today there are many of us. Internet made it wide-spread. Publishing is doing a great job with the new books; people are reading again.

The pressure is just to make a great movie.

GARY FOSTER: The other factor for this particular film is with the cast. Top to bottom, you have five movie stars. That's a huge selling point that we can use to help this film reach a broader audience.

You're right. Daredevil is not as known a character. So having Ben Affleck and Jennifer (Garner) and Colin (Farrell) and Michael (Clarke Duncan) and all these people here to bring it to the mass audience gives us a huge leg up in introducing the franchise.

QUESTION: We've read that after Spider-Man was such a huge success, more money was poured into this. How did that work?

GARY FOSTER: Not that much more money. More pressure. More pressure to deliver at a certain level. But we had to make sure that expectations for what Daredevil was weren't out of line.

We did some things to help our visual effects area a little bit, our set pieces, but Avi and I had to really kind of link arms here that people didn't think this was this isn't Spider-Man. It's Daredevil. It's a different story. It's a different tone. It's a different style of movie, not only overall for what he's trying to achieve with Marvel, but, from our point of view, we didn't want to be the poor man's Spider-Man. We wanted to be Daredevil.

AVI ARAD: We are making a lot of movies now. Some of them are really smaller movies, medium-budget movies. These are intellectual properties. The only thing that connects them is the word Marvel.

They could have come from other sources. They could have been a novel written by someone or a short story. There are short stories by Stephen King that made giant movies. Tom Clancy novels have spawned franchises. We are literature that spins intellectual properties into entertainment. They are at all levels. They cannot all be large, they cannot all be small, and this versatility works.

GARY FOSTER: I think what's important for the future is this is becoming a genre, like a Western or a comedy. It's not just a comic-book movie. To have a successful genre, you have to have different styles of films within the genre. And I think there's room for that.

QUESTION: Is it tough to make people realize that this is a different movie than Spider-Man?

AVI ARAD: Well, I think the marketing has been very good. The trailer, the commercials, have been very good in showing the differences. Showing the differences is carving out the point of view - the blind lawyer, the vigilante. I mean, it's very, very different from the other comics. It sets up the fact Matt Murdock is human. He's not a "super" hero. Therefore, he has the human frailties, the pain and the issues that come with it.

We are very pleased. This is a franchise all by itself. There will be more Daredevil, and Elektra now is going to break out on her own. I think people who got to know Jennifer and saw her in the movie, they want to know more about Elektra. They heard a little bit, "My mother gave me this before she died.." They want to know who is this character, how'd she learn to fight like that and what's her story.

We want the fans to be happy. And the reason the fans are happy is because the stories are good. If they weren't there, it wouldn't have worked. And the fact that some people like a comic-book format, makes them a comic-book geek basically, versus guys who says, "That's a great story but I'm not sure how to read this comic," here comes a movie. It's an easy system to follow.

And people, who once they come out of this movie, they'll understand who is Matt, who is Daredevil. And they'll want to know more and that's how a franchise grows.

QUESTION: Are you guys developing Elektra?

GARY FOSTER: Yeah, we're very close to putting a writer on to get that moving forward for summer '04.

QUESTION: Are you concerned with the body count in a comic book movie?

GARY FOSTER: He's a vigilante. That's what this story is.

AVI ARAD: You mean by Bullseye?

GARY FOSTER: Talking about people dying.

AVI ARAD: Well, did you see Saving Private Ryan? That was a body count.

QUESTION: But that wasn't based on a comic book.

AVI ARAD: That's the difference. I don't know if you saw the comic book. It's a live story, it's a real story. There are killers in this world. We are trying not to kill the right guys, and that's the whole idea of trying to do the right thing. It's a realistic movie about our cities, our world. People die every day. Thankfully, there are people out there who try to stop it. That's what this movie is all about.

You cannot have a killer like Bullseye not kill. That's what he does. Therefore, I think we were pretty happy to see him fly out the window at the church.

QUESTION: You've done a great job spinning these properties off into animated versions. Can we expect to see Daredevil on the small screen?

AVI ARAD: In animated form? Probably, yes. It will be something to look at.

QUESTION: What kind of guidelines did you have to have before you agreed on this character, where you say what you absolutely had to?

AVI ARAD: I had this conversation, first with myself, and then I met Mark (Steven Johnson, director), who had the same declarations.

To me, the toughest job, for me in this industry, is to find the partners, to find the Garys of the world, the Marks of the world, the Sam Raimis, the Bryan Singers. Who if, they got five offers for five movies - it doesn't matter what the budget is, what studio it is - they go for the material. They want the source material. Bryan Singer is a mutant, so it made sense for him to make X-Men. (laughs).

Mark just passionately chased this project. Chased it. It was unbelievable. There were issues why I couldn't even meet with him and he was just too nice of a guy for me to meet with him and say, "There's nothing we can do." But once we got together, it was clear that this was the man to make this.

When Sam Raimi walked into Spider-Man - a lot of you guys have met Sam - and you know there was something there. He is Peter Parker. Not only he is Peter Parker, but all his life he worked very hard to have the clout to come into this movie.

Between actors and directors and writers, we look for people who care about them. We have a guy, David Self, whose father is a marine biologist, so he's writing Sub-Mariner. A very big writer. Every job in town is offered to David Self. Why not? He's the biggest. They pick our projects. It's nice. We pick them, and they pick us.

So the rule is, find the people who respect the material. We understand that this is 2003 and some of these books were written in '62, '63, '64. The world has moved on. But what never changed in these years is the spirit of a man, the spirit of a hero. As long as we stick to the character points of it, we can change hairdos, music, the city everything is OK. But the aspiration, the commitment, the creative part of "Who are they?" and "What do they stand for?" - this has to stay firm.

And it's really easy. We don't have to protect it because we walking into it knowing why we are doing it. We have a story and we keep to it. And the studios have been great. Sometimes, it's difficult for them because we speak in a language - unless you are one of us - we talk about them like they're alive. We know where some of them have a beauty mark.

And after a while, they hook into it. They trust it. And so far, so good.

QUESTION: Who's the next director who has the passion?

AVI ARAD: Well, X-Men 2 is coming in. I tell you, it's a tribute to our movies, to our relationships, that people like Bryan is doing a sequel. Sam Raimi is doing a sequel. So it was a good experience. It tells me not only do they love it to begin with, but they are caught within it and want to protect it as their own now.

We have Hulk coming, we have Fantastic Four coming. Peyton Reed is just finishing another movie for Fox, and you'll meet him very soon. He's one of the Fantastic Four, when you get to meet him.

QUESTION: Will Colin Farrell be coming back as Bullseye?

GARY FOSTER: We would love him to do a sequel. In his particular situation, Colin's first movie was Tigerland. And New Regency that film and they signed him to a series of options. And this particular opportunity was the first one that he wanted to do that allowed him to use that option - which was great for everybody.

So we used that and it precluded us from starting a new deal for an ongoing. As we move forward in this franchise and Bullseye returns, we'll have to start from scratch, which is good for Colin. It was a legal issue.

I also want to say something about your question about declarations and rules. I think there was a reason why these movies over the past few years and ongoing with Marvel work is because there is somebody who protects the brand, who protects the property and cares about it.

And I think that's the reason why Marvel may be more successful than, say DC. Yes, Warner Bros. owns DC, but who at Warner Bros. protects that? I don't know. I don't know the name of anybody.

At least at Marvel, you know who you're dealing with and there is a point of view and a caring about each property. And I think that matters.

QUESTION: How do producers stay away from infringing on a director's creativity?

GARY FOSTER: I think what you do is have the conversations early and talk about it quietly in a room without pressure. And you agree on what vision and the specifics of the movie are. We then say to the director, "What do you need to deliver that?" You get them that material and you get them those resources and then you turn to back on the director and you go like this (gestures) and you defy anybody to get past you.

Now, we're not always successful. There are times when the studio says, "No, you have to do it."

But if you haven't had those conversations up front and you're doing it on the set while the clock is ticking, you're in for a lot of trouble. We spent a lot of time before we even set a foot on the set.

QUESTION: The director's such a young guy. He looks like he's right out of college.

AVI ARAD: Don't forget that this young guy is a writer. Movies are a writer's medium. If it's not on the page, it's not on the stage. If a guy like that can deliver a great script, you're well on your way.

Besides, this guy has made a movie. See, this is where we look at movies differently than the studios. Our principles are different.

If you look at Simon Birch, you can see that this guy got the performance and got the emotion. See, it's easy to make action movies. There are specialists for that. The toughest thin go doing a movie is to get the performance, get emotions, get tears, get the laugher.

That takes very special people. That's the directors we look for, that care about the inner soul, that go inside. Simon Birch, to me, was a great school to say, "You know what? This guy's going to get the juice out of character." That's what we care about. That's how you make people love the character.

QUESTION: You mentioned Elektra for summer '04. Would that happen before a Daredevil 2?

GARY FOSTER: Don't know. Assuming Alias continues to run, that would be the first opportunity to make Elektra. And if Daredevil 2 happens before that, I don't know. We've got to get the scripts in shape.

X-Men: The Next Dimension (PS2) X-Men: The Next Dimension (PS2)

Bastion and his prime sentinels have devised a way to destroy the mutants once and for all. They've kidnapped Forge to help create the ultimate weapon. Now it's up to the X-Men to smash the scheme before they bite the dust, even if it means teaming with their arch-enemy, The Brotherhood. Features:Destroy your environment as you fight, and use nearby objects to fend off foes. Bring 24 of your favorite X-Men characters to life with incredible graphics and smooth animation. Battle through expansive 3D levels that imitate epic comic and film superhero battles. Enjoy 21 mind-bending, dynamic environments.Experience large-scale close-up combat.

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