Interview: Alex Proyas

SciFiNow interview’s the director of The Crow, Dark City, I, Robot and most recently Knowing.

knowingnewyorkpremiere0oxaytyvv5flAs Knowing hits DVD and Blu-ray SciFiNow caught up with its director, Alex Proyas, to discuss the movie and his fascinating body of work.

When did you first come across Knowing?
It was written as a script by a chap called Ryne Pearson, I believe it was his first script. I read it when it was first making the rounds of Hollywood, which was probably ten years ago. At that time I passed on it but then it came back to me about five years ago. When I re-read it something about it sparked in a way that it hadn’t before.

Describe your experience directing Knowing. Was it a positive experience?
Oh we had a great time, I loved making the movie and I was very happy with the finished result. It was a great experience all round.

How did the filming process differ from, say, I, Robot?
That was the absolute other end of the spectrum. I had a very miserable experience on that film because the studio was so interfering with what I was trying to do. There’s this basic equation in Hollywood where the bigger the budget is, the more people there are breathing down your neck. It was a very unpleasant experience, but Will Smith was a great guy to work with and I really enjoyed that part of the experience – but that was the only part I enjoyed. He was on my side fighting all the way and I think if I hadn’t had such a great leading man, I would have walked off that project. At the end of the day I’m not completely dissatisfied with the film, I think we did some really good things, but the price it took to get it even nearly that good was simply too much.

Many of your projects involve adapting from a source, be it novel or comic book. What would you say is the most important thing to consider when creating an adaptation?
I don’t think it should be slavishly adhering to the original. You’re making a film and it’s a different medium. I, Robot was criticised by some people as not being true to the original story. I, Robot is a series of short stories so it was virtually impossible to string them all together. So you can’t be too close I think.

The Crow has gone on to become a massive cult hit. What are your feelings on this film?
Well it’s obliviously all mixed in with my emotions of the tragedy that happened. I haven’t seen the movie since we finished it, so I can’t comment in terms of the film itself. It’s impossible to separate my emotions on making it to that of the end product. It’s a tough one to be analytical about, thinking back on it we tried to do something different. I think it’s important to try and do something different, and I remember what we were reacting against in those days is the only real comic movies around, which were things like Tim Burton’s Batman. So Brandon [Lee] and I together came up with the notion of this long, black leather trench coat. We thought, ‘what would a real comic book hero wear in a gritty kind of decrepit city?’ So that and the brutality of the violence were all things that we thought would be cool in a movie. We’d seen it in graphic novels but we hadn’t seen it on the big screen. I think since the film we are living in a very different world now, one where The Crow would be seen as being pretty tame. But in those days it was a fairly visceral departure by a movie in trying to be faithful to the spirit of James O’Barr’s graphic novel.

phmxurpsvwgmrs1It must please you to know the film has such a loyal fan base?
Yeah, I mean I finished it in honour of Brandon, that’s the only reason. I couldn’t care less at the time if we finished the movie because I was so devastated with what happened. But I finished it for him and I’m happy that I did. He’s remembered by that movie, and that’s hugely important to me.

You were reportedly not happy with The Crow being reinvented by Stephen Norrington? Now the dust has settled a little how are you feeling about this?
It’s not like I’m really unhappy with it, its just Hollywood these days keeps remaking stories so soon after the originals have been done. It just seems like we are just clutching at straws and original movies are becoming such rarities. You make an original movie and you’re almost punished by people for coming up with something original.

Are you making a version of The Tripods?
Well I’m hoping to. It’s proving to be a daunting task because even though it was a much-beloved series of books in England and also in Australia, where I grew up, it wasn’t so much in the US. Few people actually know about it in the US. So we are finding it a little bit difficult, but that’s not to say the project’s not going to happen; it’s just a bigger nut to crack when you’ve got something that people aren’t aware of. If it had been made into an NBC series as opposed to a BBC series I might be finding it a little bit easier right now, but unfortunately it wasn’t. We are still working on the scripts at the moment and talking about budget.

Are there any projects you wish you had directed?

I’m notoriously picky about the projects I get involved with and most of the projects I either work to death over a period of time, or I instigate them myself. So it’s hard to look back at a project and go “I’d like to have done that one”. The only one in the last few years that was offered to me at an early stage was Watchmen. I was a huge fan of the book and they offered it to me straight after I,Robot. After I finished I, Robot I was just really tired and the whole notion of jumping immediately into another big project was daunting for me, so I passed just on that basis. I am ashamed to say that I have yet to see Zack’s version of the movie. It looks gorgeous from the footage I’ve seen of it – it just looks absolutely beautiful. That would have been a fun one to do. It’s a challenging story to tell as a movie and I don’t know how I would have gone about telling that story. But from what I’ve seen it looks incredibly close to that of the book, which is not necessarily a bad thing but it’s a very complex, convoluted and multi-layered story and sometimes those stories are just really hard to tell in movies. With a comic book you can always go back a page or two if you miss something, in movies that is harder to do.

Alex Proyas’s Knowing is available to own on DVD and Blu-ray.