Exclusive Interview: John Carter Director Andrew Stanton


Although we’re only two months into the year, one filmmaker is already facing one of the most difficult challenges of his career as Pixar Animation pioneer Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, WALL•E) attempts to bring Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “John Carter of Mars” sci-fi adventure series to the big screen in Disney’s John Carter, out March 9.

You’ve probably already heard some of the rumors about how much the movie cost, but there’s no one better to talk to about the genesis and evolution of the project than Stanton himself, and as we learned, most of the cast got involved merely because Stanton was directing it.

The director’s first step was to cast Taylor Kitsch, a relatively unknown actor best known for his stint on NBC’s show “Friday Night Lights” (and playing Gambit in X-Men Origins: Wolverine) as John Carter, a former Confederate soldier from Virginia who is transported to a mysterious place called “Barsoom” by its inhabitants. There, he encounters Dejah Thoris, the Princess of (what he learns to be) Mars, played by Lynn Collins, a well-regarded actress who also appeared in that Wolverine prequel, oddly enough. She has been caught in the middle of a brutal battle between the different races of Barsoom, all vying for the planet’s most valuable resources, her people the Heliums fighting with the warlike Zodangans, led by Sab Than (Dominic West), who will do whatever they can to dominate. Meanwhile, the planet’s most alien race, the nine-foot, four-armed green Tharks fight back with their primitive weaponry to keep their planet alive.

A couple of weeks ago, ComingSoon.net traveled to the Boulders Resort in the beautiful desert environment of Carefree, Arizona, which best captured the Martian landscape, and we had a few chances to speak with Stanton about his first attempt at directing a live action movie.

First, we went up to the top of a hill for a rather brief video interview in which we talked to Stanton about:

* What made him want to tackle a book adaptation after two successful original Pixar movies
* Whether a project needs a good amount of time to develop before making it
* Whether part of the joy of doing an adaptation is to get people to read the book
* The casting of Taylor and Lynn as John Carter and Dejah Thoris
* Doing previs animation for the action scenes and whether it limited what they could do

For the second half of our interview, we moved indoors to go a bit deeper into the making of the movie as well as speaking with Stanton a bit about the future of his most successful movie to date, the animated Finding Nemo, which will be re-released in 3D on September 14. As we learned, Stanton has a lot of energy and can get really spirited when talking about things that excite him, including Burroughs’ stories and characters.

ComingSoon.net: Why do you think it’s taken so long for someone to get a movie about John Carter made?
Andrew Stanton:
I don’t know. I think the biggest thing is just the technology. I think if you really want to come close to realizing the way the books are described, it’s such a fantastical environment and so many of your main characters are creatures that nobody knew how to do it and be able to afford to do it. I think that’s honestly been it.

CS: I’m really curious about the designs of the ships and the cities. Burroughs is fairly descriptive but not to that extent, so I wondered what you used for inspiration.
Because I wanted the film to be historical-feeling, I wanted you to feel like the movie is all in the past, both Mars and Earth, and I wanted it to have a sense of history, so I kept saying, “So what if we never knew Egypt existed? What if we never knew Machupichu in South America existed? What if we suddenly discovered that land?” There would be this hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years of history we didn’t know about, so we’d be trying to catch up and going “Whoa, what’s happened here? What’s all this stuff?” And we know what that would feel like in our world, so I said, “Well, can we make it feel like that on that world?” So it’s like screw the Martian part of it, screw the space part of it