16/04/08OUTLANDER: A Real Adventure In Indepdendent FIlmmaking
IGN catches up with producer Chris Roberts to discuss the viking/alien movie.
by Chris Tilly, IGN UK
April 21, 2009
Ever wanted to see a film in which Vikings square off against an alien? Well look no further than the forthcoming Outlander, a sci-fi action epic that stars Jim Caviezel, John Hurt and Ron Perlman. Directed by first-timer Howard McCain, the film tells the tale of a man from another world crash-landing on earth in 709A.D., with the deadly Moorwen alien in hot pursuit. IGN caught up with producer Chris Roberts (yes, he of 'Wing Commander' fame), to discuss the ridiculous brilliance of it all.
IGN: How did Outlander come to you?
Chris Roberts: John Schimmel (the President of Production for Ascendant Pictures) brought the script into Ascendant, I think in 2004.
IGN: What was the appeal of the script?
Roberts: Vikings vs. an Alien monster! What's there not to like? Seriously as you probably guessed from the video games I used to make before I moved into films full time I love sci-fi and fantasy worlds. I wanted Ascendant to be making films that allowed you to escape to fantastical settings and worlds. When I first read the script I was completely taken by the genre blend of a sci-fi horror/action movie set in a historical setting. I thought the combination was intriguing and completely cool and combined with a classic story inspired by Beowulf and some great characters, I thought it would make a incredibly fun movie, much in the mold of films like Alien and Predator, both of which are complete classics for me.
I've made some films at Ascendant that I'm proud of like Lord of War and Lucky Number Slevin but it's hard to find scripts that do what Outlander does. Genre movie scripts tend to be pretty bad most of the time, usually a great high concept but not much else. Outlander had both the concept and a great story. So there was no choice. It had to be made!
IGN: It's Howard's first feature film - were you ever worried about him taking on such a huge project as his debut?
Roberts:It's always a little worrying with any first time director but Howard was incredibly prepared. He and Dirk Blackman had written the script quite a while before it came to us and Howard had spent a lot of time thinking about the film he wanted to make. It also helped that Howard did have directing experience previously - he had made a couple of TV movies already (one for Disney, another for Cinemax) and his student thesis film won at Sundance. So Howard was really a director that wrote, rather than a writer wanting to direct, which can be a little more scary. I spent quite a bit of time with Howard before we committed, listening to what he wanted to do, how he would shoot the film, which helped me convince me that he had the chops to handle such an ambitious film.
IGN: With Jesus, Hellboy and The Elephant Man starring, the cast has got cult written all over it - how did you assemble such an ensemble for a genre pic?
Roberts: It was some work! It started with Jim Caveizel, who we thought had a great presence and look - Kainan, even though he looks human, needs to feel like he is otherworldly - Jim has a great intensity and these deep piercing eyes that really take you. And he's a great actor, which was important for us. We wanted the whole cast to be actors rather than movie stars which we thought would pull you out of the world. If you think of the great sci-fi films they almost exclusively had relatively unknown actors at the time - Harrison Ford wasn't a star when he made Star Wars, nor was John Hurt when he made Alien. As for Ron Perlman and John Hurt, Howard was a huge fan of both, who are both amazing actors first and foremost, and we were lucky they responded to the script and said yes. It was a fanboy's dream!
IGN: What was the inspiration for the Moorwen alien and how did the design come together?
Roberts: Howard wanted to try for a monster that wasn't your stock alien beast and he wanted to play with the whole sci-fi horror convention about how the creature usually attacks in the dark (in the past probably to hide the fact the creature may not look so good under daylight!) but give it a twist. He had seen a documentary about bioluminescent deep ocean predators and thought that would be a great hook for the creature - to make it bioluminescent and use its light to attract and scare prey. So the monster would still be mostly attacking at night, but this time you would see more of it (when the creature wanted you to) because it was its own light source! He took this concept to Patrick Tatopoulos, who is one of the top creature and effects makeup artists in Hollywood (as well as being a heavyweight production designer and more recently an up-and-coming director of films such as Underworld 3) and they worked out a great design together. I think the Moorwen is one of, if not the coolest element of Outlander.
IGN: Why has the film taken so long to reach cinema screens?
Roberts: Nothing is quick in Hollywood! They say the average time for a project to go from script to screen in ten years. You may not realize it but a lot of the big films that you see today have been in the works for years. Outlander was no exception, Howard and Dirk first wrote the script over ten years ago. I got involved back in 2004. It took us some time to get the financing and cast together and we began pre-production in August 2006. We finished shooting in mid January 2007 and then entered a long post-production process. The Moorwen, which is all digital and in quite a lot of the film, took longer to do than we originally thought so we ended up not fully completing the film until February 2008. Then it's been an issue of finding the right date to release the film and not get trodden on by the big $200m studio event films.
IGN: What are the chances of another Outlander, perhaps in another time period?
Roberts: I would love to do another (and I'm pretty sure Howard would too) but we'll need to see how it performs first!
IGN: What's up next for you?
Roberts: It's currently secret, but when I can talk IGN will be one of the first to know!