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Wednesday, May 26, 2004


Denise Di Novi is back in the catseat. Twelve years after producing Batman Returns, with Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman, Di Novi is producing Catwoman, which stars Halle Berry and hits theaters on July 23.

The Continuum caught up with Di Novi on Tuesday to discuss the film.

The Continuum: Where does the movie stand right now?

Di Novi: We're just finishing it up. We're completing our director's cut, and a lot of the effects are coming in and are being cut in, which is really exciting. We're going to be releasing the movie on July 23, so we're putting the finishing touches on it right now.

We're going to do a reshoot for some little bits and pieces in a week, and then it'll be done.

We've had a tight schedule, but it's working out OK.

The Continuum: You've been involved with comic-book movies before with Batman. Have they changed? Are they more sophisticated?

Di Novi: You know, Catwoman is really unique in terms of a comic-book movie. There's always certain things that are very unique to comic-book movies in that they have a very avid fan base, they have a long history and I think you feel different pressures in bringing them to the screen.

I sort of use the same rule of thumb that I do with book adaptations because I've made movies that are based on beloved books. I'm very respectful of the original materials, but there are certain things that you have to do bring a movie to the screen and to make a good movie, rather than just a good adapation, a good version of a book or a comic book.

I think the most important thing is to be true to the essence of what makes the character or the world special. And that's what we've always tried to do.

In terms of Tim Burton, with Batman and Batman Returns, I think he took a lot of artistic license at that time. I guess, because in the last 10 years there have been a lot more comic-book movies made, the fan base has gotten more adamant or stronger in their opinions about what makes a good movie and what doesn't.

The Continuum: Maybe because there have been some good ones, too.

Di Novi: It always seem to be up to debate over which ones are good and which ones are bad. There seems to be a lot of scrutiny, let's put it that way.

The Continuum: Speaking of which, I think there was a lot scrutiny over Catwoman's costume...

Di Novi: Which completely mystified me. I have to say the funny thing about Catwoman is there have been 12 versions of Catwoman throughout history. It's not like Batman or Superman or X-Men that were conceived and they stayed consistent and have had a straight through-line and were essentially the same thing, with just updating.

The thing with Catwoman is there are 12 different versions where she had 12 different costumes which were really different. It wasn't like how Batman got updated or Superman got updated. They were dramatically different costumes. She wore a dress at one point. She's had capes. They were very, very different.

Also, her back story and her characterizations are very different. In one, she's a prostitute. One, she was a street runaway.

So when people say that you're not being true to the costume or the character, I kind of want to say, "Well, which one do you think I should be true to?"

What we tried to do was see what is consistent in all the Catwoman characters and how can we distill that into an essential Catwoman. And the thing with the costume is we did not want to do a catsuit per se, which means the entire body covered in a catsuit in fabric, for two reasons: 1) It would look somewhat similar to Halle's character in X-Men and I think we would have been criticized for that; and 2) Halle felt strongly, and I think she was right and has a very good point, if she was going to improve on the performance of being a Catwoman, she wanted to have the most flexibility and mobility she could and look the most cat-like, which meant she wanted us to see her muscles moving, her spine, the way you see a very sleek cat.

That's where we got the idea for the costume. Also, we have Halle Berry, and it would be a shame to cover every inch of her figure.

The Continuum: Sometimes when people first see these costumes, they go nuts, but then they get to seem them move on film...

Di Novi: That's a very good point. I remember when the X-Men costumes were so criticized and then the movie came out, and they changed the costumes in the comics. That's why I've taken this (criticism) with a grain of salt. I have never seen a costume that hasn't been criticized.

And when you see it in the context and you see it in movement, it's different. And some of the criticism was that it was too sexy, which is very puzzling to me because Catwoman is sexy. Who doesn't want to see Halle Berry in a sexy costume? I don't get it.

The Continuum:What did Halle bring to this role?

Di Novi: Halle is absolutely astounding in this role. People are going to be blown away by her. She was the only actress that I really could imagine that could play the dual character in such a believeable way. Both sides of the character are within her in a really tangible way.

When she plays Patience, the pre-Catwoman character, she's so vulnerable, so sensitive and you really fall in love with her. And Halle's totally believable with that.

And then when she's Catwoman, Halle has a feline sensuality, and she's very comfortable in her skin, like a cat is. And she's really able to play that kind of sensuality and empowerment in a way that doesn't seem salacious. It seems very real and comfortable.

And essentially there's three characters she plays because there's an interim period when she's kind of finding her way as Catwoman where she's not fully integrated. There's really three sort of phases with the character she had to play and the acting talent you've witnessed in Monster's Ball or Dorothy Dandridge and these other things she's done, she brings that same level of talent to this role. She took it just as seriously.

The Continuum: Now is Sharon Stone actually the villain or not?

Di Novi: She is. We thought we could keep it a secret, but we can't. She's too fabulous a villain to keep it a secret.

The Continuum: How did you wind up getting her for this movie?

Di Novi: She's not a traditional villain and there's a real surprise. Halle and Catwoman are such a vivid and strong character and we knew we needed a female opposite her that could her weight. Sharon Stone is larger than life, and she brings that to this role. And to have the two of them opposite each other is pretty fabulous.

The Continuum: Can you talk about the director, Pitof?

Di Novi: The director had made a film that has been an Internet cult favorite as well as a hit in Europe called Vidoq. It's pretty amazing. He's French and he did second unit and special effects for the Alien movies and he's very talented.

I wanted a director who wouldn't do just a straight-ahead version. I wanted somebody who bring a really fresh take and a fresh style to the movie. I wanted it to be as stylish and beautiful as any other movie. I didn't want it just to look like a regular summer popcorn movie. And I wanted it to be a little more sophisticated and have more style than that it. And when I saw Pitof's movie, Vidoq, I was really blown away by how original it was and what a visual stylist he was.

And I thought it would be interesting to have a foreign director, a French director, to do something so American. And he really had a reverance for it, and a sort of delight in the world and the material, that I think brought another level to it.

The Continuum: You mentioned special effects. Are there a lot in this movie?

Di Novi: There are a lot. I don't think it's special-effects driven. It's probably more a character movie that some other comic book adapations. It's really the story of this woman's transformation and journey. But there are some really fantastic special effects.

The thing that I think people will like is that it's not just regular fighting. We worked really hard to come up with movements and style of fighting that you've seen before. Most fighting, as you know, is mostly martial arts based, no matter what it is. And our fighting is based on this dance-fighting called Capuera and it's based on animal movement. It's incredibly difficult and challenging. Very few people in the world can do it. We are based our fighting on that. So Halle's fighting and the CGI movement are based on big cat movement and fighting, so it's really different than you've seen before.

The Continuum: Do you see this as a franchise? Are you looking for a Catwoman 2?

Di Novi: I definitely hope so. I love the character. I think it's important to have a female franchise character. I love the movie and I love the character.

The Continuum: Not to give away the movie's ending, but would it be Halle as Catwoman again?

Di Novi: Yes, it would be Halle. Halle loves the character and is eager to do it again.

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