When director Joe Johnston was announced as the official selection by Marvel Studios to helm what may be the most important Marvel Studios solo character film in Captain America: The First Avenger, there was some concern and trepidation. Sure, Johnston brought us highly respected October Sky and worked on films like Raiders of the Lost Ark and Star Wars: The Empire Strike Back, but he also directed Jurassic Park 3 and more recently, The Wolfman.
The Wolfman was a critical and box office flop. It had a stellar cast and a well known film title, but despite that it was plagued with production issues and other delays, and when it eventually opened in theaters it was not able to earn its production budget back. If The Wolfman is why you may be worried about Captain America, don’t. Working with Marvel Studios was an entirely different experience and Johnston explains why below.
Comic Book Movie has the exclusive and posed one question for Captain America director: What are his feelings on the project?
Below is Johnston’s lengthy and detailed response which delves into the nightmarish mess that was The Wolfman. Fans of the Star-Spangled Avenger will be pleased to read:
“Captain America was a lot of things. Every picture has its highs and lows, its dreads and excited anticipations. To fully understand the Captain America experience, I have to keep reminding myself that I had just come off another film I shot in the UK, The Wolfman. The two experiences could not have been more different. In fact, in many ways (certainly not all) they were polar opposites. I had three weeks of prep on Wolfman, a ridiculously inadequate amount of time to try to bring together the fractured and scattered pieces of the production. I had taken the job mostly because I had a cash flow problem, the only time in my career I’ve ever let finances enter into the decision process. Money is always the wrong reason for doing something that requires passionate devotion. The production was a leaky, rudderless ship in a perfect storm suffering from bad decisions, infighting, reluctance of the powers-that-be to take responsibility, and too many under-qualified cooks in the kitchen. The good news and bad news about directing is that when the picture works you’re showered with all the credit and when it doesn’t work you’re dumped on with all the blame. Both scenarios are undeserved. I take full responsibility for The Wolfman not working because it goes with the territory. There were wonderful aspects of The Wolfman experience. I inherited a crew that was the best of my experience, including a first assistant director without whom I could not have made it through the first two weeks. I had the immense pleasure of working with a cast that was as diverse and multifaceted as it could be. I rediscovered all that I love about London and its environs and I made some lifelong friends, on and off the crew. “
It’s difficult to pass all of the blame of The Wolfman on its director, a director who joined the project at the last minute for financial reasons. We can appreciate that he takes responsibility for the film not meeting all expectations – and he should – but when it’s purely a job and not a creative venture, let alone a good experience, that cannot bode well for any major film project.
Johnston continued to express how fortunate he is to work on a project with so many things going for it, especially the talent involved at all levels of the production.
“I had thirty weeks of prep on Captain America. I have a small team of qualified, supportive, creative producers who are actually helping me achieve my vision of the film. I had a dream cast headed by Chris Evans. I had the best designers, artists, sculptors, craftspeople… a creative team that could design, build and photograph anything and have it look amazing and beautiful. We had unbelievable luck with the weather wherever we shot in England. The weather was so good we were compelled to make it rain for a couple of sequences just for some variety. At times I felt as if the gods were saying, ‘Ahem, sorry about that Wolfman thing…let us make it up to you.’ Captain America was probably the most universally positive experience I’ve had in this mad business.”
We can only hope that this translates into Marvel’s best film yet. Things are looking good and the buzz is highly positive for Thor, but Marvel needs their superhero leader to steal the show in order to drive their long term plans with sequels and certainly The Avengers. We should be seeing the first trailer for Captain America: The First Avenger soon, so stay tuned!
The First Avenger: Captain America hits July 22, 2011 and The Avengers is scheduled to debut May 4, 2012.
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