Making the film was a process of discovery for Gondry, a director accustomed to helming smaller, more Avant-garde films. The Green Hornet propelled him head-first into the sometimes hyperbolic world of genre films, a world in which the fans have definitive opinions – and are not shy about sharing them.
For more on the fan response to The Green Hornet adaptation, see our interview with co-writer and executive producer Evan Goldberg.
As to our interview with Gondry: When you are walking in to meet a filmmaker that you respect and admire it’s encouraging when the conversation opens on common ground. So when Michel Gondry began our interview by telling me that he liked my jacket, my sense of optimism buoyed – and my faith in his aesthetic judgment was confirmed.
Michel Gondry: I like your orange jacket.
Screen Rant: Thank you!
MG: Orange is an underrated color, it’s the second most underrated color after yellow.
SR: I think I must have said that very same thing (about orange), roughly 500 times. Speaking of numerical overindulgence, I have to tell you, I am such a fan of Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind, I think I’ve seen it 31 times, so I have to ask – would you do another film with Charlie Kaufman?
MG: I asked him, and I think he felt [like] not right now – but definitely we are on good terms, and I like his work, and he likes my work. We are working now to sort of prove to people that we are capable on our own – which is not necessarily so obvious for some people. So, we keep trying and would love to work together again some day, there is no objection from either side.
Mr. Gondry needed to excuse himself in the early part of the day – in order to shoot a 3D introduction for a screening of The Green Hornet in Japan. He chose to direct the introduction himself because, according to Gondry, “the 3D people were too conservative.” He was looking for a “deeper” 3D experience than what they were initially creating. This brought us to the topic of 3D in The Green Hornet, which was mostly post-converted. As a filmmaker who typically utilizes practical, in-camera, effects, I wondered how Gondry felt about the decision to screen the film in a format that was primarily created in post.
SR: How did you feel about the 3D in The Green Hornet? The film wasn’t entirely shot in 3D, so what was your take on the decision to post-convert?
MG: It’s something I wanted to do. I mean, I’m not saying that I didn’t want to shoot it to start with in 3D, but now I have done both – because we shot some scenes with a 3D system and some scenes in film on 2D, and converted [it] afterward. I think both are complimentary – because you cannot do everything you want with the 3D camera, it’s too big, and the digital quality of those cameras is a little bit limiting. With film, you have a lot more subtly, like with highlights and color. On video, if we took the orange of your jacket, it would be all one color, one orange, on film your going to see all the different oranges. In terms of sharpness they (both formats) are very close; but in terms of nuance, of color and contrast, film is far superior. So by doing the conversion you have both worlds. I think some people feel that if you are going to have 3D, then you have to shoot in 3D, but they shoot 3D, so of course they’re going to say ‘my way of doing a film is better.’ I’m not telling anyone how they should do their film, so why should anyone tell me how I should do mine?
SR: In terms of the expectations on how this film should be done, you were quoted as calling the fan base “fascistic.” What has your experience with the fans been?
MG: I think that the imagery of the superhero could remind me of this area in politics. The problem is that bad journalism led to shortcuts, and some journalists were very happy to have these words come out of my mouth – but I was just commenting on the imagery. The imagery of the super strong hero with people looking up at him, like a statue, which is something that I don’t recommend that people do. I’m sorry if people felt that I was judging them.
Gondry goes on to say that fans of The Green Hornet were judging the film before there were any images available, or any way to accurately assess the work itself – and that if “they decide the film is going to suck before they even see it, well then that’s their problem.”
SR: This was a bit of a departure for you. What was it about this project that attracted you? Were you wanting to do a big action movie?
MG: Well when I saw The Matrix and other movies of this type, I wished I had been given the opportunity to express myself with all this technology and do something sort of big in scale, but the right material never really came my way. Also in the ’90s movies were so serious, and so stylistic and slick that I could not identify with them. When Seth and Evan sent me the script for The Green Hornet I really liked that it was character driven, and it’s about these two guys who are bound because they hate the same person, which is Britt’s father/Kato’s boss, and because of this, they become accidental heroes. Britt talked about being a hero, but really they start out like bad boys, like kids, and I could identify with that.
In the film, Britt and Kato initially bond over a mutual love of coffee, and dislike of Britt’s recently deceased father — a desire to one-up the old man inspires the prank that sends them on their journey to become heroes.
SR: Do you think you’ll move directly into another large action movie?
MG: No, not right now. I worked so hard on this one and I started another smaller project on the side that I will have to finish now, but I’m going to hopefully go back and forth between different sized projects.
SR: What’s the smaller project that you’re working on?
MG: I’m doing a movie about kids going to and from school on the bus, and the dynamics that happen as there are fewer and fewer kids on the bus. You start with thirty and then see how intimate it gets when it is down to two. It’s not a documentary, it’s a narrative, but we are basing it on the people we are filming.
That film is currently shooting in the Bronx, New York.
SR: Other than the obvious financial reasons, what appeals to you about doing something like The Green Hornet vs. doing something more independent?
MG: Well, for instance, to know that your movie is going to be played on ten thousand screens at once is kind of crazy – and its going to be playing in 3D, which, I’ve loved 3D since I was a kid. I had a viewmaster, I could draw a woman in 3D by crossing my eyes – I would see some parts of their bodies popping out. So I love 3D a lot, I have a great interest in 3D, so if I am given the tools to do a project with 3D, it’s a dream for me. This, plus characters that I like is all I want. Now, it doesn’t make me want to do smaller movies or documentaries any less, because I think that they are all interesting. If I can find myself in all of those projects, which so far I do, then I’m fine. I like collaboration, I like to incorporate other people’s ideas [and] that’s what happens when you do a big movie. Unless you’re called Stanley Kubrick and you do an independent movie for like $200 million. I’m just thinking of 2001, which I think is the most expensive independent film ever made – which is great, someday I hope I will do one. But I know the parameters when I got onto this project – I have to take care of everyone, make sure that they are all on board, and this process interests me.
SR: Speaking of which, it seems that on a project this size, there are lots of cooks in the kitchen. What’s the most outlandish note that you received?
MG: ‘F*** you, that’s how we do things in Hollywood,’ from (producer) Neal Moritz.
SR: That’s incredible, what was it in reference to?
MG: I know your going to isolate that…
SR: Absolutely I will, it’s hilarious!
MG: But it’s not representative of his behavior all the time. He said that, and we looked at him, and he looked around as if to say ‘Did I really just say that?’ and we all started laughing.
In our interview with Evan Goldberg, the writer mentioned that the team would often spend hours yelling at each other as a part of their creative process; we can only imagine that this statement came out of one of those ‘brainstorming meetings.’
MG:The most outrageous fan stuff was from this guy, who said that anyone who thinks I am a genius should look at my other movies like Be Kind Rewind, and they will run after me and give me a well-deserved beating [Gondry actually said a 'well deserved beat me up,' which is absolutely endearing, but we are fairly sure he meant beating]. So he wanted people to beat me up. So, that’s my impression of some sort of fanboy and how they respond to me. I am coming from a comic book background, I did comic books, but in France we don’t worship the comic book hero character, we worship the everyday character.
SR: If you could say one thing to those that have been negative about the 3D and other elements of the film, what would you say?
MG: I would say that the 3D is awesome, and we did it in a creative way. So, first of all, you should look for yourself before you make a judgment. Number 2, the director does not direct the trailer, so you can’t judge a movie based on the trailer, and number 3, you can’t judge a movie based on nothing. So I would recommend that people see the movie and then make a judgment. I think they will like it, this movie was made for them as well as other people, and I think that there are a lot of ingredients in this movie that would surprise them. We aren’t mocking, this is not a spoof on the genre, it’s a very serious comedy, there is comedy in life, and I think it’s a lie to show a life without any humor. So I want to show characters with all of their humanity. Even if their stories are extraordinary, those are normal people, and I think that is my take on the superhero movie. I’m sorry if people don’t want to see that, but I think if they give it a chance, they will like it.
SR: Was there anything that was a point of contention in the production that you had to fight for? You mentioned that Seth had to fight for the length of the opening sequence with Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz).
Those who have seen the film likely remember the lengthy introduction to the Chudnofsky character in a Los Angeles night club – a scene that everyone involved in the production, other than Seth Rogen, felt needed trimming. Yet, when they tested the film, audiences had an overwhelmingly positive reaction to the exchange, and so the scene remained whole in the final cut.
MG: There were many scenes that we had differences of opinion on. At the end of the day we all liked what we decided, and we don’t even know who had what idea. The other day I heard Seth talking about how cutting the Black Beauty in half was his idea, and not only that but I was sort of against it. In fact, it was just the opposite. It was my idea and he was against it, but because we both like it now, we don’t know who came up with the idea. I think that’s how it works. With Charlie Kaufman it was the same thing – when we worked together, some ideas were from me but he didn’t remember and some ideas were from him and I didn’t remember. Memory is very subjective and selective, once you like something, you really don’t know which side you were fighting for.
The Green Hornet is in theaters now.