Yesterday afternoon we had the opportunity to sit down with director Shawn Levy to talk about his upcoming science-fiction/sports movie/family drama Real Steel. During the course of our conversation we were able to explore what he refers to as a “dream mentorship” with producer Steven Spielberg, the success of the stunning effects work in the film, and the three separate versions of Atom’s origin that he had created before he settled on one.
Stay tuned for the full interview in the coming weeks. In the interim, we have provided excerpts below from the portion of our dialog that dealt with the storyline we can expect to see in a Real Steel sequel, updates on Fantastic Voyager and Frankenstein, as well as a bit regarding the mystery surrounding the “action-film” that Levy is developing with Hugh Jackman and Lost’s Carlton Cuse.
SR: Will we see some of the open ended questions we are left with about Atom (the central robot protagonist) and his unique role in this universe explored in a sequel?
“In the sequel we do explore the origin story of Atom and we begin to sketch an answer (to the question), ‘Is there something special to this bot, and if so, why?’”
SR: Would that take place in flashbacks? This film isn’t being developed as an origin story is it?
“It’s future, it’s still linear, and I want to be the first to say that first we need to be a hit movie before we get to make a sequel. I don’t know if that will happen, I sincerely hope so because Hugh and I really love the movie. It’s the next chapter, it’s the fallout of the Zeus vs. Atom fight, and it’s the fallout of what happens with the kid’s custody (which technically is Aunt Debra’s), and it further explores the class warfare between the underworld fight-clubs and the sanctioned, monetized WRB, which is at work in this movie but is really a big part of the second. It’s not an origin story, but at one point in the movie Charlie (Hugh Jackman) needs to research where the hell this bot came from, and has to understand his inner workings more — for reasons I won’t go into. So, he seeks out Atom’s creator. So it’s not a flashback, but we learn about the history because we will meet Atom’s creator.”
SR: Let’s talk about this idea of the class warfare between the haves and the have-nots in the arena. There is (among other things) this idea of buying a victory. Is that something that you see mirrored in sports today? Moneyball is coming out this weekend…
“I think that we’ve seen the popularity of boxing usurped over the past fifteen years by MMA and UFC. Long before the UFC monetized MMA it was out there in a way, that, to many people felt like a more credible, legitimate, fighting format. So, it’s more a commentary on that, on boxing, MMA and the kind of relative popularity of those sports than anything else.”
SR: So, the underground robots would represent MMA fighters before they usurped boxing?
“Yes. The other thing in the sequel that I’m going to really explore is that the design of the robots is going to be more diverse. Our robots are extremely diverse, but they’re all anthropomorphic. They all look and fight more or less like humans, some of them have two heads, and one of them has a club for a right hand, but I think we can really blow out the design of the robots in the sequel — I’m exited about that.”
“I’m still the director on “Fantastic Voyage” and “Frankenstein” and I don’t know with certainty which will be next. But I love both scripts, I want to make both, I don’t know if its one-two, or two-one.”
SR: What are we going to see from this iteration of Frankenstein?
“A radical retelling. It is about a twenty-something Victor Frankenstein and his friend/assistant Igor. In the same way that with ‘Real Steel’ you go in thinking that it’s a robot boxing movie, but you come out knowing that it’s an underdog father/son movie, in ‘Frankenstein’ you go in thinking it’s a monster movie, and you come out knowing that it’s this story of friendship and betrayal against the backdrop of this ungodly creation.”
SR: In terms of Fantastic Voyage, will James Cameron’s schedule play a role in which movie comes first?
“Why do you say that? Because he’s going to use several of the same crew members?”
“That’s observant, and it’s possible. We share a lot of the same people. Look, I’m meeting actors on ‘Fantastic Voyage,’ and I’m meeting actors on ‘Frankenstein.’ I have producers on both movies who would very much like me to make their movie next. I’m meeting, as I said, with a lot of actors right now and I honestly can’t sit here and predict with certainty, which movie, is going to come first.”
SR: What about the amorphous action film with Hugh Jackman that we know you’re working on but aren’t talking about?
“I’ll leave you with this anecdote. I would love to tell you what it is. Hugh and I met with Carlton Cuse from “Lost”…”
SR: Oh, you don’t have to tell me about Lost, believe me. I (without thinking) wore an Oceanic tee-shirt on an Air New Zealand flight… the implications of which didn’t hit until take-off.
“That’s just tempting fate and believe me! Do you know how hard it was not to call Evangeline (Lilly) ‘Freckles’ every day [while working with her on "Real Steel]?”
SR: Did you eventually do it?
“Oh, eventually I did! Eventually I asked every f**king question in the world! So, Hugh, me and Carlton decide that we’re going to develop this movie together and I don’t even know what it’s been described as, so I don’t even want to name a genre. I get a call from Deadline Hollywood, Nikki Finke, and they’re like, ‘Okay! So, tell us about the movie.’ I’m literally about to share with them what the movie is about, just like I shared with you what ‘Frankenstein’ is about just now, and Carlton goes, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Don’t say anything. If I’ve learned one thing on ‘Lost,’ he tells me, ‘it’s keep your mouth shut, it’s a more effective approach.’ So, on that one project, I am fighting my typical blabbermouth nature and keeping my mouth shut. I will say though that it’s a really cool project, and whether it’s that or the sequel of ‘Real Steel,’ Hugh and I want to get back on a set together as soon as possible.”
SR: So perhaps a one-two-three?
Stay tuned for more on the robot right-left-right fight choreography that legendary boxer Sugar Ray Leonard brought to the movie, as well as more from our conversation with Levy as we continue our Real Steel coverage throughout the next couple of weeks.
Real Steel opens in theaters on October 7th.
Shawn Levy directs a cast that includes Hugh Jackman, Evangeline Lilly, Dakota Goyo, Kevin Durand, Anthony Mackie, Hope Davis and James Rebhorn with Steven Spielberg producing.
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