In an exclusive interview with MTV News, “WALL-E” writer/director Andrew Stanton dished the most details yet about the progress of his next feature, “John Carter of Mars,” an adaptation of a nearly hundred-year-old serialized novel about a Civil War vet mysteriously transported to the Red Planet, where he encounters all manner of alien adventures.
“It’s real,” Stanton assured us. “We’re full bore on it right now. We’re over the hump of the writing phase, and we’re certainly far from rewrites.”
Before he could even get to that point, Stanton had to solve a problem that had stymied filmmakers for eighty years: How do you turn the six separate installments of the novel into a coherent whole?
“I don’t want to be dissing it,” he said, “but it almost had an absence of a story for a feature film because it was very episodic. In its day it was a comic book. I mean, this book was written in 1912. It was the comic book you got in the time before there was such thing as comic books. So, it was really just about the next fight, the next adventure, the next romance.”
“The key was putting a story into it and creating characters that had to grow and real basic stuff that we all know a movie needs,” he explained.
Messing with a classic of the fantasy genre is always risky, but Stanton believes the passage of time is on his side. “Fortunately it’s an old enough story,” he said. “There isn’t such huge allegiance to it that people won’t mind that we muck with it a bit to hopefully amplify the essence of what made me interested in it as a young kid and hopefully will keep me interested in it as an adult.”
Another vital realization, Stanton told us, was that “John Carter of Mars” could not be a strictly computer animated feature like past creations “Finding Nemo” and “Monsters, Inc.” “There’s so much in it that can’t be real,” he said. “It’s the perfect definition of a hybrid movie,” utilizing both live actors and computer-based animation.
With the script in good shape, work has now begun on preproduction, production and casting. The question of who will play the title character is still up in the air. “I know everybody wanted Hugh Jackman forever,” admitted Stanton. “But he’s only getting older and more exposed now, so it’s a tough call. I’m your typical filmmaker, I want to find the next best unknown.”
Are you a fan of “John Carter of Mars”? How do you feel about Andrew Stanton taking liberties with the story? And if not Hugh Jackman, who should play the title character?