WonderCon: Warner Bros. Previews Its Summer Slate

The second day of WonderCon 2014 launched Saturday morning in Anaheim, California with Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures taking the Arena stage to showcase their summer slate, previewing Doug Liman’s Edge of Tomorrow, Steven Quale’s Into the Storm and Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla.

Star Bill Paxton was onstage to represent Edge of Tomorrow, which debuted an extended version of the recent trailer.

“[It looked like] ancient Rome meets Cecil B. DeMille,” said Paxton of why he wanted to be involved with the sci-fi actioner, “and it’s got its DNA in ‘Aliens.’ I figured that was why WB called me up. They needed someone to say, ‘Game over, man!’”

Set in a world where mysterious, time-shifting aliens — called Mimics — are in the process of taking over the planet, Edge of Tomorrow follows Tom Cruise’s Lieutenant Colonel Bill Cage, an officer who, somehow, gains the Mimics’ ability to restart his day every time he dies.

Paxton met Cruise for the first time on the project when the latter was trying on mech-suits on the studio lot in England.

“Paxton, you been working out?” Paxton recalls Cruise as having said. “This thing weighs 75 pounds!”

Paxton also spoke about a number of other projects, including a bit about his recent arc on “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”

“I was wondering when I was going to get my invitation to the Marvel party,” Paxton said, “and it finally came… Hail Hydra!”

When asked if he might have a role in longtime collaborator James Cameron’s upcoming Avatar sequels, Paxton said he’s still waiting for his phone to ring.

“Come on, Jim!” he laughed.

Paxton also said that he has two projects in the works that he plans to direct. The first, The Bottoms, is based on the novel by Joe R. Landsdale and he hopes to begin production as early as this fall. There’s also Seven Holes for Air, a screenplay-turned-graphic novel that Paxton hopes to bring to the big screen as director soon.

Next up, Into the Storm welcomed to the stage stars Richard Armitage, Max Deacon, Jeremy Sumpter and Arlen Escarpeta alongside Quale himself.

As with Edge of Tomorrow, Into the Storm launched its panel with an extended look at the recent trailer. As was the case with the CinemaCon footage, the extended trailer offers quite a few impressive scenes of destruction, delivered most notably by a fire tornado, based on an actual phenomenon wherein the air within a twister can actually ignite.

The entire cast lamented the practicality of much of the production, explaining that a lot of their acting had to be done in front of a 100 mph wind machine with people on the other side spraying freezing cold water at them whilst they were pelted with dirt, branches and other tornado debris.

“We sobered up pretty quickly every morning,” Armitage laughed.

Quale describes the style of Into the Storm as being a “handheld camera approach,” but eschews the term “found footage,” suggesting that the look of the final film is largely stylistic rather than anything tied too closely to the narrative. Still, some of the actors that played cameramen have actual shots they recorded in character during production featured in the final film.

Armitage stopped filming on The Hobbit just three days before beginning production on Into the Storm. He says that he bases the heroism of his character — who is tasked with finding his son in the middle of the worst tornado disaster in history — on the heroes he saw saving survivors from buildings destroyed during the Christchurch earthquake.

Into the Storm already has the approval of one strong voice in Hollywood. Quale said that he showed a near-complete cut to James Cameron who, though he loved it, offered a crucial change to the film’s ending. He wouldn’t say what the suggestion was, exactly, but noted that it was a “little prop.” Appropriately enough, Quale — who has worked quite a bit with Cameron — was the one who suggested that Rose throw away her diamond alone at the end of Titanic.

“All things lead back to Bill Paxton,” he laughed.

The King of Monsters closed things out with writer/director Gareth Edwards offering another glimpse at the Godzilla footage shown last month at SXSW.

Edwards went on to recall how hard it was to decide on Godzilla’s final look, explaining that everyone had slightly different ideas as to what the proper take should be. He felt that it was important that Godzilla be wholly recognizable by the beast’s silhouette, so a completely black 3D model was made and adjusted until so that that silhouette came first.

“It’s not as easy as a rubix cube,” Edwards joked, “because you can’t just pull off the stickers.”

Edwards also added that the process of making Godzilla taught him more about the monster than he thought he could ever learn.

“You don’t really create anything,” he said. “You just discover it.”

To that end, Edwards was also tasked with creating something for Godzilla to fight. He wanted to lightly pay homage to some of the classic Toho Kaiju, ultimately deciding on an opponent directly tied to Godzilla’s particular origin.

“It’s like trying to find the last car parking space in Disneyland,” he said, of the challenge in building a new monster. “…Whatever it is, it’s very much related to the life cycle of Godzilla.”

Having previously made his big debut with the similarly-themed Monsters, Edwards explains that the fear of Godzilla is something that exists within us all on a level of man versus nature. Thousands of years ago, he says, we were scared of literal monsters — tigers, bears, wolves — and so we built cities to keep them away. The sense of fear we have and the nightmare fulfillment that something like Godzilla offers is that those monsters might one day return and tear down the cities.

One fan asked Edwards who he would rather see face off against Godzilla: Bryan Cranston’s Walter White from “Breaking Bad” or Bryan Cranston’s Hal from “Malcolm in the Middle.” Edwards, with a big smile, said that Hal would be a lot more fun and related a hilarious anecdote about the Fox sitcom. Edwards, he explains, was under the mistaken impression that the Hal character was meant to be a closeted gay man and took his assumption for granted so much so that he mentioned it in passing to Cranston himself and was rather embarrassed when Cranston had no idea what he was talking about.

“You should never thank me for doing this film,” Edwards finally deadpanned to the audience as he stepped off stage, “It was a completely selfless act. I would have done it whether you guys see it or not!”

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