Comic-Con - Day 4

Saturday used to be the one big day for film release presentations and it’s still the biggest and best. Warner Bros kicked off the day with a frankly astounding 300 panel. Director Zack Snyder (Dawn Of The Dead) brought out comics legend Frank “Sin City” Miller and the producers for a talk, along with stars David Wenham and Gerard Butler. But the real star was the footage Snyder had edited together. Even in its early form, the film looks like it’ll give Sin City a run for its money as it adapts Miller’s tale of the legendary Spartans’ last battle. It’s brutal, graphic, sexual and you’d barely guess it was filmed in the all-blue screen style of Sin City. But it’s also hyper-stylised and had the audience exploding with excitement. It was played again – twice - due to demands from the crowd.

After the chats with the various 300 cast and crewmembers were complete, we actually had a novelty – a whole hour to ourselves. What to do? TF eventually wandered along to a panel run by a friend and editor whose day job is being senior editor of Creative Screenwriting magazine in LA. He was hosting writers such as Simon Kinberg, A History Of Violence’s Josh Olsen and Brian Nelson, who penned Hard Candy and is hard at work on the adaptation of 30 Days Of Night with Candy helmer David Slade. Plenty was discussed, including what has been added to 30 Days and what Olsen is working on for TV (he’s writing an episode of the new anthology show Masters Of Sci Fi with SF legend Harlan Ellison). Expect more on that on a later date.

Three questions for…
Zack Snyder, Co-writer/Director

Were you worried it wouldn’t work when you’re filming with blue screen?
I was more worried before that stage, when you’re trying to convince people that it will work. Once you’ve got the ball rolling and people are in loincloths fighting others, you’re pretty much in the moment.

What did you change from the graphic novel?
There’s only one major change and that’s the Gorgo character played by Lena Headey. It gives her a slightly sensitive thing, but she ends up being pretty tough like everyone else!

Why make the movie exactly like the book?
My feeling is that you have adultish people who love these books and don’t want people messing with them. It’s a visual medium and the source material solves all your problems for you… Hollywood has ignored that for a long time.

The break complete, it was time to go back to work and the ultra-crowded “roundtables” for Ghost Rider and Spider-Man 3. What had been promised as roundtable interviews turned out to be a sprawling mess of journalists herded into one room and given 15 minutes with Ghost Rider director Mark Steven Johnson and stars Eva Mendes and Nic Cage. Cage was sporting big Elvis glasses and straggly hair and spent the time reaching out to the “Ghost Rider family”. Still, he seemed happy to be promoting the movie.

Three questions for…
Nic Cage
Ghost Rider

You’re a Ghost Rider fan since youth, apparently…
Oh yes… I loved the image of the skull on fire when I was a boy and the mythology of it. The Faust-like storyline was so original for a Marvel character that it made him stand out for me. It’s time for a new kind of superhero!

Is Ghost Rider the right choice for you?
Absolutely. You know I was attached to Superman years ago, but Ghost Rider is a much better match for me.

What did you add to the character?
He reads a lot, but he’s also a cowboy and he has a fetish for jellybeans. And Ghost Rider is a Karen Carpenter fan! Johnny Blaze is constantly trying to relax. So instead of drinking or smoking, he needs to calm down with Karen Carpenter…

They were ushered out and Sam Raimi, Kirsten Dunst and Tobey Maguire joined us for another 15 minutes, followed by Thomas Haden Church, Bryce Dallas Howard and Topher Grace. Raimi was his usual fun self, with Dunst seeming a little overwhelmed and detached, while Maguire was friendly but noncommittal. The highlights were definitely Topher Grace and Thomas Haden Church, who had everyone cracking up.

Three questions for…
Topher Grace
Spider-Man 3

How is it playing Venom?
He’s a great character to play. Unlike most bad guys, he truly loves being evil, so it’s so much fun to play. For the role, I went out and killed a hobo with a hammer. And it worked – I felt evil!

Were you aware of the comics?
I got into it in the late ‘80s, which is when Todd McFarlane got into it and fortunately when my character arrives. I hate these actors who go, “I’d never even seen Star Wars before!” Come on!

Who is Eddie Brock?
He’s a case study of a person who has the same type of job, style and taste in women as Peter Parker, but had a really bad upbringing. He has the powers but no control. I used to say to Sam it’s “with great power comes great fun…”

Raimi led his cast downstairs to Hall H for the two presentations and TF dashed to the hall by a different route, managing to get into the place just in time to catch the end of the Ghost Rider panel, where an impressive new trailer debuted. GR faces an uphill battle against the negative buzz, but the footage was damned impressive.

The Spider-Man 3 panel caused the biggest roar of the convention when Raimi teased us all by protesting that he had nothing to show. After a few minutes cajoling, he dimmed the lights and showed a rough-cut full trailer, which had people rising to their feet to applaud as we caught sight of Spidey battling Sandman and Venom unleashed in all his glory. This one will be hard to beat next summer… Raimi also revealed that he was still hard at work on the Evil Dead remake and that they’re looking for a director. And despite what she might look like in Lady In The Water, Bryce Dallas Howard is purty.

The evening was capped by the annual Con Masquerade, where overenthusiastic costume lovers subject themselves to ritual humiliation at the hands of a riotous crowd in the ballroom. Imagine the Mystery Science Theater 3000 TV show, but with dodgy costumes instead of bad films and several hundred wannabe comedians instead of a bloke and two robots. It’s occasionally life sucking, but always good for a chuckle.