WonderCon 2008: Day 2 – Part 2!


Anthony Baratta has sent us the second part of his report on the second day of WonderCon 2008 in San Francisco. You can check out pictures of the events at the WonderCon photo gallery here!

WonderCon 2008 – Saturday Part 2


Rachel Taylor
James Kyson Lee

“Shutter” is a horror-thriller based on a Thai film and is another in now a long line of remake movies coming from Asia. It’s about spirit photography – photos that contain ghosts or other unexplained artifacts. The moderator mentioned that a CNN poll stated 30% of the people polled believed in ghosts. As the participants and the trailer stated repeatedly, spirit photography has been around since the advent of the camera. Spirit photography is a big sub-culture in Asia with thriving books and magazines in the genre.

The film was shot mainly in Japan with a Japanese director who spoke no English, and none of the main actors spoke Japanese. Both Rachel and James thought the director was gifted and they had a lot of trust in his direction.

James and Rachel did a lot of background research before the film. James even worked at one of the spirit photography magazines for a while. Rachel was “creeped” out by her research.

Rachel was attracted to the role because she didn’t think that the horror-thriller genre had many strong women roles. She felt that this roll and the character’s journey in the movie was different from your typical thriller.

Both mentioned that is was difficult to work on scenes repeatedly, to get the correct “vibe” while knowing what was coming.

They showed the movie trailer, which discussed spirit photography and showed Rachel and Joshua Jackson discussing some weird photographs. Rachel works at a spirit photography magazine. Joshua kissing some ghostly long tongued woman. And other creepy quick cut scenes.

They also showed other parts of the movie. An extended look at Rachel’s visit to the spirit photography magazine where she discovers many of the photos are fakes – but James show her the “real photo room.”

The previous scene – Rachel said was very easy to get the mood. The whole scene was creepy in and of itself.

One aspect of the film, that the moderator mentioned before the final extra scene, was that in Eastern culture ghosts do not have to be violent to be dangerous.

The last extended scene was to show the power of a ghostly touch. Joshua is working in his photo lab (what no digital?) and a woman comes in humming, brushes his cheek with her hand. He thinks it’s Rachel and he apologizes in regards to a fight they had earlier. The phone rings he goes to get it apologizing that it might be his agent. Instead it’s Rachel calling from a pay phone, she was out shopping. He freaks and drops the phone, goes over to the photo lab and there is a woman in his chair – looking dead. The chair spins around to face Joshua and a bulge under the skin which moves around her face and finally releases a fly from under one of her eyes. He screams. Rachael drops phone and groceries and runs to apartment. She finds Joshua in destroyed photo room sitting in chair like ghost girl. She thinks he’s dead and touches his shoulder, he grabs her hand.

James mentioned that “Heroes” would begin filming soon. They only completed 11 of the 24 episodes from this season. And the expectation was that the villains would play larger roles in the upcoming storylines.

Joshua is currently working on a TV series with J.J. Abrams called “Fringe.”

Rachel does not know anything about “Transformers 2,” but mentioned she thought it would be a big hit because it was a fusion of Spielberg and Bay.

The X Files 2

Frank Spotnitz
Chris Carter
David Duchovny
Gillian Anderson

The tag for the day was “It’s here!”

Showed trailer for movie. Trailer didn’t show much. Overuse of quick cut scenes don’t tell you very much. Only saw Amanda Peet, Billy Connolly, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. The trailer opens up with line of FBI/Police with dogs and long sticks searching a large “snow covered meadow”. Billy Connolly is in front saying, “It’s here.” Repeatedly. Several quick cuts from other scenes, show other three actors, and it keeps coming back to Connolly’s character moving through the meadow saying “It’s here.” He gets progressively louder and more strident, and finally rushes over to a spot and starts to dig. They find a girl frozen in what looks like a block of ice under the snow.

While everyone was very close-mouthed about any aspects of the new movie, Chris Carter mentioned that Amada Peet’s character name was Dakota Whitney and FBI Special Agent. And Mark Snow will be doing the score.

One interesting aspect of the panel was the first row was taken up with a large group of “X Files’ groupies that have been trolling for information about the film. They were wearing t-shirts that said “Frankie and Larry,” which they found from the movie call sheets were the fake names for Gillian and David. Gillian noticed the shirts when she sat down, saying “How did you know that?!”

Chris Carter has some fun taking photos of the crowds from the panel table.

Gillian mentioned her “Speed of Light” project and that it was very much a work in progress and that it was a “huge burden.”

Duchovny mentioned he’d love to write and direct more, like “House of D” – and was just looking for someone foolish enough to give him the money to do it.

The moderator mentioned that everyone had come straight from the set to be at WonderCon and Chris Carter himself said he was operating on 15 minutes sleep in the last 24 hours.

Everyone mentioned that they were working very hard to honor the fans with this film. They didn’t seem to sense the ironic nature of the movie information being locked down tighter than any conspiracy Fox and Scully ever uncovered.

Both David and Gillian mentioned that they were surprised how hard it was to get back into character for the movie. The first 48 hours was the worst.

Ed and Chris mentioned that writing this movie was very natural. They felt the time away from the characters helped in writing this film. They mentioned that this film should not be pigeon holed into a monster of the week movie. And that they both felt freer with this movie than the last one because it had to tie into the TV show so closely. (10 years since the last movie, and six years since the last TV show.)

Both Ed and Chris are very cognizant of the looming date 2012. And its affect on the “X Files” mythology. (December 12, 2012 is the end of the work date on the Mayan Calendar, and is mentioned by one of the characters in the last episode as the date for Colonization.)

Gillian spoke about her directing debut with the TV Show, and would love to do more directing work. It was thrilling / scary and a great challenge.

Favorite episodes:

Chris Carter – Modern Prometheus, Beyond the Sea
Ed – too many favorites because they were all so different
David – Black and White Episode and the Episode with Charles Nelson Reilly
Gillian – Bad Blood

There was a mention by Gillian that she saved her job in “Beyond the Sea.” Chris Carter immediately discounted that.

There was a cryptic mention when asked about who else is in the film, that no characters ever truly die in “X Files.”

There was some discussion about the first episode of the Lone Gun Man and how it paralleled Sept 11th. Ed was concerned they had given the idea to the terrorists and was relieve that the plot had been in planning for years.

When asked to compare “X Files” to the current crop of crime dramas, Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz mentioned they that they think “X Files” stands up better. They believe the “X Files” shows are better written. The battle between Fox and Dana’s viewpoints were critical to the show’s success. The show plots were driven by gut feelings and instincts being borne out by the science – versus the science driving the plot.

Lastly – Chris Carter mentioned that he saw the show as a search for God. And that the poster on Mulder’s wall in his office “I want to believe” said everything about the show.

Harold and Humar Escape from Guantanamo Bay

Jon Hurwitz
Hayden Schlossberg
John Cho

John didn’t mention anything new about “Star Trek.” He mentioned that he was honored to play Sulu, and was gratififed to have George Takei’s blessing. He did not work with George for any of his characterization of Sulu.

John mentioned that seeing Sulu’s character on TV, one of the few few Asian men on TV not wearing a conical hat or working on the railroad was an inspiration for him.

John spoke about how his family sees his character Harold, because they are pretty conservative (Dad is a retired preacher.) And John mentioned that his family is just happy to see him making a living acting.

Jon and Hayden discussed the development of the new movie and some throw backs to the first film. They wanted to portray Asians and Indians they grew up with, and get away from the stereotypes they had repeatedly seen on TV and movies.

For the second film they wanted more nudity and to ramp up the zaniness to another level. Also they wanted the sequel to tie directly into the first film, so they had Harold and Kumar going to Amsterdam but getting arrested at the airport instead. They changed the idea of a European theme because a few movies had come out with the same idea and they felt that would have been too derivative. So using the security changes because of Sept 11th as a backdrop they started on the whole arrest and chase plot.

John talked about his real friendship with Kal Penn and mentioned that before the first movie he and Kal hung out for quite awhile to build up a relationship so that the friendship between the characters would be believable. If that part of the movie didn’t work – then the whole movie would be flat.

Iron Man

Jon Favreau – Director

Jon discussed a wide range of themes about the movie and directing an action film.

He mentioned that he had spoken with Sharon Osborne about using Black Sabbath’s song “Iron Man,” and that it was approved (obviously since it’s used in one of the trailers).

Jon talked about how they worked very hard to stay true to the original story line with “Iron Man” and while they needed to focus on the suit development, they were free to explore other twists and side plot developments. Marvel is a great company to work with. Because they are self-financed they do not feel they have to compromise on the plot and story.

He also discussed trying to get Robert Downey Jr. in the role of Tony Stark. He had to fight to get him cast. When the rumors started flowing about his casting and the fan base was extremely positive, that really helped sway the studio executives to hire Robert. John thinks Robert is a fantastic actor and person and was perfect for the role of Tony Stark.

Jon was very excited about the internet fan base and mentioned several times that the internet fans have guided and molded this project in subtle ways. He felt it was important to maintain a dialogue with the fans and listen to what they were saying. John is always checking out the fan sites and postings.

Jon was very knowledgeable about the “Iron Man” mythos and the multiple plot lines offered for a story by Marvel. One of his concerns was to stay true to the suit. The suit was the key to the movie. The costume/model designers (Stan Winston) crafted a very strong real life analog to the suit that was then enhanced with CG by ILM. He was amazed seeing some of the rendered scenes and was hard pressed to see the CG work that completed the suit’s features. He called it “seamless”.

Jon mentioned the effect that merchandising has on a movie. The toy companies are always looking for new things, and having 3 different suits of armor is key for them. Sequels are important to the merchandising effort. More types of armor – more toys.

One big difference between independent films and big budget films is re-use. Indie films try to re-use everything they can because of small budgets. Big budget films are not tied down like that, which leads to happy merchandisers.

Speaking of sequels, he is looking forward to making more “Iron Man” movies. Would like to deal with the war machine and demon in a bottle plot lines.

Loved working with the other cast members specifically spoke in glowing terms about Gwyneth Paltrow and Terrence Howard. Both were wonderful to work with.

He tried not to discuss the cross pollination with the other Marvel movies – would only mention that some of the rumors are true and others are not. Wanted to keep some more surprises in his bag for future use.

He showed several extended scenes from the movie. And the new 2.5-minute trailer that will be in front of “10,000 B.C.” A 90 second trailer will be shown with “Lost” next week.

The first extended scene was Tony Stark working on one of the boots. He’s talking to himself, or to the robot helping him, by holding a magnifying glass.

The second scene is Tony trying to fly with his new boots, and hand thrusters. First test throws him up and over equipment, and into a wall. He is then sprayed by one of his robots holding a fire extinguisher. (Note, the camera is held by one of his robots, and another robot is holding a fire extinguisher- he talks to them as if they are sentient.) Second test, before the test he dresses down the fire extinguisher robot about not spraying him. He is able to maneuver around the lab. Funny part as he goes over his car collection, the hoods get flamed by his thrusters. Finishes with the line from the trailer, “Yeah, I can fly.”

The third scene is Tony in a full test suit (Mark II?) and going through a diagnostic check, then – against Jarvis’s wishes he flies out into the open. Interestingly when we see Stark from inside, it’s his full face within the heads up display. We don’t get a view from inside the mask looking out. Shots of Iron Man flying through the city. Boot malfunctions and he crashes back into his house, through the floor and onto one of his classic cars. He is sprayed by the fire extinguisher robot.

The trailer shows Tony showing off a new weapon for the military. The test area is attacked and he is captured. Next scenes show Tony and Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) talking. Obadiah demands Tony manufacture him something. Tony works a piece of metal manually with fire hammer and tongs to create an Iron Man mask. Tony is rescued and returns home to create the Iron Man suit. Shots of creation and testing. Then shots of Obadiah with original drawn plans from Stark for suit and proceeds to build one. Next set of scenes show Iron Man battling Iron Monger. Ends with the scene where Iron Man dodges the tank round and shoots it back. Walks away from tank, with Black Sabbath’s Iron Man riff and tank explodes.

Jon talked about his full respect for action film directors in a CG world. They basically film a blank screen and fill in the rest with CG. He’s a proponent of using CG to do things they can’t do physically. And the want makes Iron Man work so well is that the suit is first and foremost a physical prop. The CG just enhances it.

Jon closed with that directors nowadays need a whole army of people to help them create a movie – so many things can go wrong – and he was grateful for all the fantastic people he had working on Iron Man.