Category Archives: Hollywood Insider

An Interview with David Koepp By Courtney Kenny

David who? Many people may not recognize the name David Koepp, but they certainly know his work. He’s the man behind such blockbusters as “”Mission Impossible,”” “”Jurassic Park,”” “”Carlito’s Way””, and more. Note – This is an old interview that we conducted with David, but now that Spiderman mania – which David also wrote, has taken hold of us, we felt that it’d be neat to take a trip down memory lane and re-run this.

David Koepp, 36, was born and raised in the small town of Pewaukee, Wisconsin. He moved to Los Angeles to attend film school at UCLA and lived there for several years. Koepp first tasted success when he co-wrote and produced, “”Apartment Zero,”” directed by Martin Donovan. He later went on to write some of the top box-office hits of all-time, including Steven Spielberg’s “”Jurassic Park”” in 1993, Brian de Palma’s “”Mission Impossible”” in 1996 and Spielberg’s “”The Lost World: Jurassic Park”” in 1997.He made his feature directorial debut in 1996 with “”The Trigger Effect”” after previously directing the short film, “”Suspicious,”” in 1995.In his latest film “”Stir of Echoes””, Koepp took on the difficult task of writing and directing a film based on the renowned book by Richard Matheson. “”Stir of Echoes””is the story of a husband/father whose life changes after he’s hypnotized at a party. The man, Tom Witzky (played by Kevin Bacon), crosses over into a world where he can see everything that is going on around him, including the otherworld He’s become a receiver. And, he’s not alone.The dead surround him, sending him messages that he can’t understand. Tom must find a way to cross back over. But, not before he finds out what he’s received. David Koepp joined us to talk about making “”Stir of Echoes””, working with Kevin Bacon, and

John Singleton, Older, Wiser, more Reflective Director. An Exclusive One on One

At the age of 24, the youngest individual and the first African American ever to be nominated for a Best Director Academy Award, John Singleton made movie history with Boyz ‘N the Hood, his astonishing 1991 directorial debut. An intensely personal portrait of life and death in South Central L.A. that was inspired by the director’s own experiences, the film earned Singleton comparisons to past wunderkind Orson Wells and heralded him as one of Hollywood’s most important new directors. John followed up his amazing success with “”Boyz ‘N The Hood””, with other personal films like Poetic Justice which featured the film debut of Janet Jackson and Tupac Shakur, Higher Learning, and Rosewood. Last year John went mainstream with the smash remake of “”Shaft”” which starred Samuel L. Jackson. With his latest film, Columbia Picture’s “”Baby Boy””, John returns to his “”Boyz N The Hood”” roots with this intensely personal drama about a black man’s struggle to find his way in life.

Over the years John has been credited with discovering new talents like Cuba Gooding, Jr., Omar Epps, Kristy Swanson, and igniting the careers of stars like Lawrence Fishburne and Ving Rhames. He hopes to have the same midis touch with his latest finds, R & B star Tyrese Gibson and Taraji Henson. We recently had the opportunity to sit down and talk with John and his newest prot

Baby Boy’s Taraji Henson, On The Cusp of Fame. By Michelle Alexandria

Actress Taraji Henson has done it all and seen it all. This hot young star grew up in “”the hood”” as she calls it. We Washingtonians like to think of it has plain old Southeast, Washington, DC. One of the roughest neighborhoods in the country, at one point known for having the highest number of murders per capita than any other neighborhood in the country. Not a pleasant distinction to have. Although she grew up around rough surroundings, her parents made sure that she got out and experienced life. She spent many summers in the country with her grandparents, and attended and graduated from Howard University. With her outstanding work in acclaimed director, John Singleton’s newest film, “”Baby Boy””, ready to break down the doors of Hollywood. One cannot help but get caught up in her unbridled enthusiam and optimism.

EMTaraji. How did you get involved in this project?TarajiI went in and auditioned for it just like everyone else did. Because John was looking for new faces, it was basically like a cattle call. I went and read for John and the casting director told me that he really liked my work. Right after that he went into production on “”Shaft””, so I didn’t here from him until a year later.EMDid you study acting or was working before you went in for this audition?TarajiYeah, I did a lot of television. I’m professionally trained and can do it all. I do Greek Tragedy, Comedy’s, Shakespeare, anything. You name it I can do it.EMHas this movie opened doors for you?TarajiThis town is all smoke and mirrors. It’s not really going to have an affect on my career until the movie actually comes out. There’s a really good buzz going on about me right now, but most people will wait until they see how well the movie does at the box office. Everything in Hollywood is about the bottom line, money. I mean they are impressed by the fact that I’m in a John Singleton film, but it boils down to the dollars. EMWhere did you get the emotional strength to do that character?Taraji [laughs]My past. I just lifted up that old carpet and looked at the dust that I had swept under there. EMSo you’ve had yourself a Jody?TarajiOh my god, more than I care to remember. No more though, I’m over the Jodys EMAs a filmgoer, you know we like things to be in black and white. One of the things I was trying to figure out during the film was – is Jodie a good guy, a bad guy who gets redeemed in the end, or what?TarajiHe’s just a guy, a guy who is trying to find his way. I think, my character A.J. said it best, “”Sometimes as people we always want answers in black or white, we don’t want to deal with the gray. That’s where we learn our lessons in life – in the gray and you have to be willing to live in the gray.”” You have to not know what the future brings. I can walk out of here today and get hit by a bus tomorrow, you have to start living your life now.EMDo you think that so many black women, and really women in general are single now, because we do not want to deal with the gray?TarajiI think that has a lot to do with it. A lot of problems in black relationships is that we like to point the finger at each other instead of taking personal responsibility for our own actions. If you know you are in a relationship with a mamma’s boy, why are you taking care of him? Why are being his mother?EMAs young girls we are told that you should watch how a man treats his mother, because that’s how he’ll treat you. Is there a fine line?TarajiMost definitely, I’ll tell you one thing my son will not be a mamma’s boy. I think a lot of times as women we are told so much that a man will be unfaithful to you, after hearing that so many times you start to accept it. I’m not buying that. I think that if I can be faithful – so can he.EMHow close are you to your character?TarajiI’m a spitfire. There’s no doubt about that, but I can communicate. If I say I hate you, then I hate you, there’s no two ways about it. I’m not saying that I love you or any of that stuff. EMDo you find that all of your different experiences help you bring more to your characters?TarajiThe more you live the more seasoned you are in life helps you bring your characters to life. Acting is nothing more than the experiences that make up your life.EMWhat has the experience been like working on this film?TarajiAmazing. At first I was so intimidated, running around like a scared chicken. I remember when John, first called me. I was so nervous, I mean John has accomplished so much and here he is calling me personally, I was so nervous that my hands were shaking and I kept accidentally hanging up the phone. EMNow that you have the cache of having worked with John Singleton, what projects are you working on now?TarajiNothing, I’m just waiting for the film to come out. When it blows up, I’m sure the phone will start ringing off the hook.

Final Fantasy Producer Extroadinare Chris Lee, By Michelle Alexandria

Final Fantasy Producer Chris Lee has been around the blocks of Hollywood several times. Much like the director of Final Fantasy (Hironobu Sakaguchi), many people have seen his work, but not to many know his name. As a matter of fact, I had no idea who he was when I first met Chris during a private press lunch (I will not complain about the food, I will hold my tongue, it’s taking every ounce of will power not to complain about the “”food””…) at the MPAA’s headquarters in Washington, DC a few months ago. At the time the PR Reps asked me if I wanted to see a 17-minute clip of Final Fantasy and participate in a group Q and A with Chris Lee after words. Well being a fan of the game, this movie is one of my top three movies that I want to see this summer (and don’t get me started on how disappointing the summer movies have been so far), so I said sure, but who the hell was Chris Lee? The PR Agent said he’s the Producer of Final Fantasy.

I said “”Oh, ok””. So I went and looked him up in the IMDB. I didn’t see him there. I declined the one on one opportunity thinking that the group Q and A session would be good enough – not to mention it’s a lot less work, because I wouldn’t have to come up with all those brilliant, probing questions that I’m famous for. When am I going to learn not to turn down anyone? I still regret turning down the Blair Witch and South Park guys -who knew?Well during the original Q and A session (which I will post when the film opens) I found him to be a fascinating man, and quite the namedropper as well. He was so Hollywood, without being Hollywood. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that he was the former head of production at Columbia Pictures. Responsible for putting together such films as – “”As Good As It Gets””, “”Jerry Maguire””, “”Philadelphia””, “”My Best Friend’s Wedding””, “”Sleepless in Seattle””, “”Starship Troopers””, “”Zorro””, “”Godzilla””, and others. Ok, “”Godzilla”” was a dog of a movie, but you can’t complain about the others (well maybe “”Starship Troopers””, which I liked). But you can’t argue with the man’s track record. After “”Final Fantasy”” his next project is a “”hip”” spy movie with Antonio Banderas, and a movie adaptation of the hit television show “”S.W.A.T.”” Let’s hope they don’t screw up the theme song, like they did with “”Mission Impossible II””. Well after finding all of this background information about Chris, I told the PR Rep that I had to get him one on one. Not to seem shallow, I did want to talk with him some more after our initial encounter. It’s just that all of this “”new found”” information made him even more interesting than he already was. So recently we had a quickie little telephone chat with him, and again I found him fascinating, and he told me several things that is “”not for publication””. Let’s just say the Final Fantasy DVD will Kick Ass. EMWhen we met at the MPAA, I must be honest I had no clue who you were, other than being the producer of the movie “”Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within””. Imagine my surprise when I later found out that you were the head of production at Columbia Pictures. Tell us a little bit about your stint there, what projects you worked on. Just what the heck does the head of production do anyway?CL [laughs] Well my first job was at Tri-Star pictures, where I worked for about 13 years. At Tri-Star, I started as a freelance script reader and worked my way up to become the President of Production at Tri-Star. When I was there, I became Story Editor, Production Assistant, President of Creative Affairs, etc. When Tri-Star merged with Columbia Pictures, I ended up moving over there. Through these various roles I had a chance to work on many different projects. You bring relationships and people to the studios and hopefully they’ll do well. I’ve been lucky in that the films that I worked on all did fairly well.EMScript readers are the first door or hurdle that a movie producer has to go through to get a project made and is also among the lowest end of the Hollywood ladder. As a script reader how did you know which films were going to be successful? Not only that but successful enough for you to pass the script along up to the next level in the chain and to fight for that script to be read? What in a script moves you?CLWell filmmaking is such a long process. I originally bought Final Fantasy when I was the President of Production at Tri-Star. At the time it was based on a 12-page outline. It wasn’t so much the story that I cared about it was working with the Director, and being part of such an innovative project. “”The Legend Of The Fall”” took us ten years to make, it started as a novella, went through several rewrites, etc. Harrison Ford was originally going to star in it, and it ended up being Brad Pitt. In order to be in this business you have to have passion for what you are doing and a perseverance to see a project through to completion. The challenge is reading something and knowing that it is going to be right for the market.EMWith such a long production schedule is it really hard to predict what the market will want to see?CLIt’s like I said, with such a long schedule, you are often trying to predict the audience wants to see in the future, not what they want to see now. Music is a good barometer of what future trends will be, so I follow that industry quite a bit. As a producer you cannot afford to be behind trends, you have to stay ahead of them.EMDo you think Videogames are a good barometer of future trends?CLNot the entire market, but definitely a good indicator. Four years ago when I bought “”Final Fantasy”” I also had the chance to buy “”Tomb Raider””. Which is another gaming title that I thought would make a great film. “”Tomb Raider”” I would have done differently than “”Final Fantasy””. I would have made that as a live action film because it was essentially Indiana Jones.EMThere are several Video Game franchises that are in various stages of production. What would you say are the top two or three videogame franchises that deserve the big screen treatment?CLYou know what? I don’t even know what other projects are in the pipeline. I know that I’m not doing anymore myself. I can think of a few games that I’d like to see get made, but I’m not sure if they are in the pipeline or not. The question you have to ask yourself is would the game property be enhanced at all by creating a movie out of it.EMLike Super Mario Bros?CLThat was a movie where the producers didn’t know what they wanted to do, or even why it should be a movie. A game that I would love to see made is Metal Gear Solid.EMWell there’s an obvious difference between a title like “”Super Mario Bros”” or “”Metal Gear Solid.””CLWell Metal Gear Solid is a movie even the lead character’s name is “”Snake””. People really love that game because it is so true to life. That game is a great example of true convergence. EMHow far do you think this convergence will go?CLOne of the interesting things about Final Fantasy is that while we were making this game, we were also creating a version to play on the Playstation 2. It won’t be so much as a game, but you will be able to rearrange the movie into any format you want, in essence become your own director. The DVD movie will have it’s own separate features, like multiple angles, editing ability, and some other enhancements as well. Hollywood is always trying to figure out what the next ancillary market you can get out of a movie. It’s funny that this movie started as a game franchise, became a movie, and is going back to being a game.EMWhere you thinking of these markets as you were creating this movie?CLYes. When you are doing a film like this, it is only natural to think about what other mediums you can port it to. With a property like “”Jerry McGuire there is but so much you can do with it. When doing a big action movie or franchisable film like Final Fantasy you are always thinking about the next possibility. For instance Sakaguchi is thinking about taking Aki Ross [the lead character] and putting her in another film.EMHow exactly would that work? Put her in a totally different animated film? Or use a mix like “”Who Framed Roger Rabbit?””CLWell since this has never been done, we haven’t figure out exactly how that is going to work, but it’s really matter “”casting”” her in the right movie.EMWhat can you tell me about your latest project, the one with the cool theme song?CLWhat project?EMS.W.A.T.CLWell, we are waiting for the script it’ll be young, hip, and fun. Other than that there’s not much I can say about the project.EMWell what else are you working on?CLWell I’m working on a new action film, starring Antonio Banderas for Warner Brothers. It’s going to be a cool, hip, spy film, written by the same guy who did “”The Fast and Furious””. It’s called ECK X and it’s already becoming a video game.EMHow did you come up with such a goofy name?CLWell the writer did, it’s the name of the character.EMWhat’s it about?CLIt’s kind of a hip spy movie that is a cross between Desperado or “”The Professional”” but a little more high tech. It’s sort of a spy vs. spy situation until they find out that they have a common enemy. I was shocked when I looked at Next Gen [popular videogame mag] and saw that it was already being made into a videogame.EMWell there you go, you already have your very own MGS, your Solid Snake. What did you think of the Tomb Raider movie?CLI’ve been so busy working on Final Fantasy that I haven’t had time to go see it.EMWhere you disappointed to see the numbers it pulled?CLWhat did it pull?EMAbout $80 million.CL[laughs] Well $80 million dollars is a great number in my book.EMDo you think that mainstream critics will understand what this film is about? What has the critical and audience response been to the movie so far?CLIt’s been largely positive. I think it’ll appeal to a large audience

Final Fantasy Creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, by Michelle Alexandria

Many people outside of the gaming industry have never heard the name Hironobu Sakaguchi, but many have seen or played his stunning work. As the head of video game giant Squaresoft, he has sold more than 40-million units of computer game software worldwide. He is most known for his beloved creation Final Fantasy. By any measurement possible this game series has been a huge success, selling more than 33 million units and breaking sales records worldwide.In 1991, Sakaguchi was promoted to executive vice-president of Square, where he oversees the development of all of Square’s games as well as producing other film projects. His dream of building an advanced digital studio was fully realized several years ago when Square opened the doors to their advanced studio in Honolulu-Hawaii (and hey I’m still waiting for my invitation to come and tour the place.) The early result of his labor of love is the 60 million dollar, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. It took Sakaguchi, four year to research, develop, and create this movie. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Sakaguchi during a quick 15-minute telephone interview. It went a little something like this.

EMLet’s start by talking about the transition of Final Fantasy from the hit video game series to the theater. What made you want to do the movie?HSThe original motive wasn’t to do a film, but to build a brand new state of the art digital production studio that could push digital technology and the Final Fantasy game series to the next level. While working on new games for the next generation of gaming systems, I decided that there was no reason that we couldn’t use this new technology to make a new kind of film.EMWhen you first started thinking about this project, it was long before the Playstation 2, X-Box, etc. became known to the general public. Did you think that gaming platforms at that time [four years ago, circa 1997] were too limited for your vision?HSNo, it was actually the opposite. I was involved in all the original conversations regarding the development of the Playstation 2. The reason I wanted to build a new, more advanced digital studio was so that we could actually maximize the full potential of the new console.EMAre you using the Mya software [the software used to create the film] in any of your current games or just for film projects?HSOf course we are using Mya in several of our game properties. We used it in the last several installments of Final Fantasy, including Final Fantasy 10 and are using it again in some upcoming titles. EMThe Final Fantasy series has always been known and loved for its totally immersive game experience. The stories have been long and involved, while the game play itself has always been stellar. It takes the average gamer at least 40 hours (or months) to complete a typical installment of Final Fantasy. How do you translate such a deep and involving experience like this to the big screen, without disappointing the fans of the series?HS Yes, as a feature film, the story and experience will be much shorter than fans of the series are used to but I do not think fans of the game will have any problem getting involved in the storyline of the film. EM With a film like Final Fantasy, you have a built in audience base. When creating a film based on a franchise you have to create a film that will appeal to a broader audience, while maintaining your base. How difficult was it to translate the film to the big screen without loosing the essence that fans of the series love?HSWell actually, the Final Fantasy game series does reach a pretty broad audience already. We have done research, and have been surprised by the findings. When were doing this film we did it with our fan base in mind.EMFinal Fantasy VII is credited with reviving the Role-Playing Game genre and expanding the entire market. When Final Fantasy VII was released, it broke numerous sales records, and sold over 2 million units in the first week. The series has gone on to sell over 33 million units worldwide. How do you explain this amazing accomplishment?HS Well for starters the RPG genre was not dead. It was always hugely popular in Japan and other parts of the world. It was only in the US where RPG’s had a hard time selling. Why the breakthrough with Final Fantasy VII? I think there was a number of reasons, for starters, it was the first RPG to move away for the flat 2D image of the past. Final Fantasy VII was truly a cinematic experience, in story, game play, and in graphic quality. Also Sony did an excellent job of marketing the title.EMWhat other projects are you working on now?HSWe have a number of projects in the works now, including finishing up Final Fantasy X for the Playstation 2, and working on Final Fantasy XI, which will be completely online. For movie projects we are having several discussions about what to do next, everything from doing sequels, to taking several of the characters from the movie and putting them into other movies that are not Final Fantasy related.EMDo you think that the realism of these characters and the advancement in computer animation will ever make live action films and actors obsolete? HSNo, I don’t think animation will ever replace live actors. I think it can enhance live action films, but never replace them.

Anatomy of a Thriller – Behind The Others, by Tiffany N. D’Emidio

Acclaimed Spanish Director, Alejandro Amendabar’s “”The Others”” is a bone chilling, psychological thriller that takes you on a roller-coaster ride of emotions. The Director’s first American film is a strange tale of loss, fear, and psychological war far. The film features a talented ensemble cast which is headed by Hollywood, A-Lister, Nicole Kidman.

Kidman stars as Grace, a widow raising two ailing children who are suffering from a mysterious affliction to light. Kidman brings to the table an outstanding portrayal of a woman on the edge of sanity. Her character suffers from excruciating headaches which only subsides by forcing complete quiet through out the house at all times.

Not only did this talented Director write and direct the film, but he wrote all the music as well. We recently sat down with this hot director. Here