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Sunday, 14 August 2011

"COWBOYS & ALIENS": THE LONDON PRESS CONFERENCE. PART TWO

Western heroes! Daniel Craig, Olivia Wilde, Harrison Ford and Jon Favreau get together for the London premiere of COWBOYS & ALIENS. Images: Tim Whitby/GETTY for PARAMOUNT PICTURES.

Here’s Part Deux of our COWBOYS & ALIENS London Press Conference transcript, which showed Messrs Craig and Ford, probably usually more happy to undergo Root Canal treatment than talk to the press, actually coming over as very relaxed and jovial in promoting the film, which they clearly enjoyed working on. A nice thing to see and be involved in.

PRESS: Harrison, you’re obviously well acquainted with the sci-fi genre, how as an actor has this process changed over the years and do you find it more, or less, a pleasurable experience working with special effects?

HF: Uh... Y’know for the actors it…special effects only require an active imagination and I don’t find it that much more difficult to believe there’s an alien scampering all over the rock towards me than I do ignoring the Grip that’s sitting in the truck that’s pulling me through romantic mountain country. You blank out what is there and put in there what isn’t there. And at all points you refer to the story. You’re primary obligation is to...uh… to help tell the story by whatever behaviours you require. So I don’t find it that much different.

Harrison and Olivia at the London O2 Arena premiere.

Obviously we have the ability to replace a man in an alien suite with a computer generated alien, and what I was pleased with in Jon and his groups creation of that alien is that it didn’t move like a man in an alien suit, that they created a movement for the aliens that wasn’t humanoid. That was interesting. But the danger of computer generated graphics is that there’s the temptation by many directors to replace, to generate more than they need and I think more than often-what I do see is that they tend to lose human scale so what you might…if you get too much of any one thing you begin to think about it. Those are my little thoughts on the subject. (Laugh)

PRESS: Miss Wilde, again. In the western, for every thousand saloon girls or school mams, there is a Belle Star or an Annie Oakley. You’re character clearly is in the minority. I wondered about the research, first of all, into the very few women who toted guns in the west, and also how you established the fact that you’re convinced you know what to do with a hand gun-the practice and all that sort of thing.
Olivia meets the British fans.

OW: Well, I loved doing research for this role and learning about the women of the Old West, which was really fascinating. And there’s a great museum in Los Angeles called The Autrey which I spent a lot of time at. They had a very helpful exhibit at the time called Women of the Old West, which was nice. And I loved how tough these women had to be. I mean, everyone had to be tough in order to be these pioneers and to settle into these border towns was not easy. I don’t know how long I would have lasted, but I did have some ancestors who did just that so it was really interesting to me to do this research. And in terms of looking at characters in films, I didn’t specifically look at female characters. I probably looked at a lot of the same guys we all would. I thought that Ella had a great kind of Clint thing to her as well. I was so excited when I realized I was going to literally step out of the shadows in the saloon to approach Daniel. I thought, how cool: to be the woman in the shadow and then come out. It was just one of those moments when you thought, this was really westerny right now. This is fun. So I think I was inspired by all those guys. When I grew up watching westerns I wanted to be Steve McQueen, I didn’t want to be the girl. So I liked –I had fun- being inspired by them as well. The gun- Daniel taught me how to shoot my gun. Yeah, which was cool. Because I can always say that James Bond taught me how to shoot my gun! The guns were really beautiful. I’m not a big gun person- I’m a pacifist, I don’t really love guns in generals-but I loved these antique guns-they were so interesting. And not easy to shoot. We did have a gun expert who was teaching me how to spin the gun, but I never got to spin the gun on camera. I think in some of the wide shots we’d all be spinning the guns hoping we could do it! (Laughs) Jon and you Guys, not all of you can spin your guns, so stop doing it…(Laughs)

JF: It was like a Busby Berkeley film.

OW: But I do know how (to use a gun), and now I have that skill. I have tremendous respect for all of our props. I think they were very cool. And that was another thing that made the whole experience so fun.

PRESS: Were your ancestors on a wagon train?

OW: Some of them, yeah. Some of them were on my mother’s side, they were the first to head west and took some great photos of it, luckily. So I have that. This was the first time that I really connected with that, so that was interesting.

RO: And if I might say, that when you have the finest actors in their price range (Audience laughs) these things are characters we created together. Everyone at this table was very active in creating their character and Olivia certainly pushed it in all of us, too. The research we did affected the script and how we pushed the character (of Ella), and it affected the level of action that we had.

CH: How much of the Steve McQueen technique of going through the script and ripping out the lines did you do, so you could say something with a look rather than a line of dialogue? That’s for Daniel, first…

HF: (Laughs) Hey, they ripped at each others line. “We didn’t need to say that!” (Audience laughs)

JF: “I already said that,” y’know… (Laughs)
The name's Craig...Daniel Craig.

DC: It was just a natural process. He (Lonergan) ended up being like that. I’m glad. As far as I was concerned, the less I had to say the better. The more the character talked about how he felt about things the less realistic. I think he’s a man of action.

RO: Makes it easier for a screenwriter. “You want less lines?”

OW: In the riverboat scene, I remember that was a page longer. The dialogue there, we realised, was much more interesting if we were saying less.

CH: And Harrison, did you attack the script with a black marker pen or did you leave it alone?

HF: Not much. As Bob said, we did… these filmmakers were very willing to be collaborative and for me it wasn’t so much a question of taking away more lines or adding lines. It was a question of sharpening the focus. But they were always willing to entertain suggestions or notions and work with it.

PRESS: There seem to be lots of films out there that are very alien-centric. This summer alone we’ve had SUPER 8, ATTACK THE BLOCK, THE GREEN LANTERN… Particularly for Jon, what’s making the world go crazy for aliens all of a sudden?

JF: I think there are two main reasons for it. One is, there’s a whole group of people whose job is to figure out risk/reward for putting out a lot of money for an effects driven film, and they look at a list of movies which make money and which ones don’t. And AVATAR made money, to say the least. And typically that genre is one that tends to be a safe one. That seems to be the perspective of the financiers. I’ll also say that, for the first time, not for the first time but it’s a growing trend, is the world wide market is dictating what product Hollywood is putting out. I think the international market was responsible for seventy per cent of the revenue. It used to be that Hollywood was making movies for the States and then they would be sent off to overseas markets to collect money as well. Now it’s driving the entire industry. As different movies are green-lit, they always consider whether it will translate well to other cultures, in other societies, and when you deal with things that might be divisive like political themes or things that are more complex it becomes harder to handicap. But what’s nice about the alien movies is that its an enemy that everyone can agree is bad and it brings out the best in people because it tends to unify people who might otherwise be enemies. And I think the positive side of it is that its promoting harmony amongst different people and creates a sense that we’re all of one group and that there’s some external enemy. Ronald Regan said, “To end the Cold War it would rely on aliens to land on Earth.” He was wrong about that, thankfully, but it does show the sentiment of the common enemy as being a unifying factor. Hope that was a funny enough answer for you. (Audience laughs.)

When's INDY 5? Harrison Ford looks momentarily distracted as he meets his dedicated fans.

PRESS: Mister Ford, there’s a very funny clip of you on YOUTUBE being pitched the idea for AIR FORCE ONE 2 by your make-up person. I wonder if, over the years, people have floated you other ludicrous variations on things you’ve played before...

HF: What’s ludicrous about AIR FORCE ONE 2?! (Audience laughs) I’m in negotiations right now! (More laughs) I happen to think it’ll work. (Harrison gives the look!) I’m sorry what was the question? (Laughs)

Y’know, I’m starting to think if there was a sequel pitch that I didn’t go for (Ford thinks playfully. Audience laughs). I don’t think so! (Laughs). Don’t think so. Uh... when we did the Indy sequels my ambition was that we take advantage of the audience’s knowledge of the character and extend and communicate that knowledge. That led to bringing in Indiana’s father and then finally bringing in his son whom he never knew. Those kind of things. I wasn’t the only one who was ambitious for that, but it was something I felt very strongly about.

PRESS: About something Daniel said a few moments ago about the fewer words you have to say the better, can you expand upon that?

DC: One word? (Audience Laughs)

CH: (to Daniel) Just give them that look!

DC: Isn’t there a legend that Clint only has eleven lines in that movie (one of Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns)

JF: When they were dubbing them…

DC: The character of Lonergan was more verbose, but it was literally that thing of saying, “I don’t think the character was going to start talking about things.” This thing’s screaming and he was going to start shooting and then maybe talk about it afterwards. I mean I make a joke out of it but it literally was something that happened completely naturally as opposed to it being a conscious decision. Going through the script, sometimes we went, “I don’t need to say that…we've got that...its already been told by the actions I’m doing.” The fewer lines I had to say, really, the better…

RO: The western is not super verbose and Daniel is so proficient technically that there was so many things he could do with his face and his body language that it didn’t require a line. As a writer it’s hard to cut your line but we did because he could do it without the line and that’s an amazing partnership to have.

DC: It just lent itself to the western. It’s the kind of conversation we all had together. The fewer words the better...

JF: Trust me, when we all yelled “CUT!" there was a lot of talking going on!

Daniel, Olivia and Jon pose for the UK paparazzi.

PRESS: Question for Mister Favreau. In view of the films quite bloody opening, and what you said to need to appeal to the younger theatre audience, did you want to go further with the violence or did you have to approach it in a way that you could get a 12A rating?

JF: Well, I’m a parent also, so I have a pretty good sense of what I’m comfortable with for kids that I have of various ages, and I think that we definitely allowed ourselves to have more fun with the violence as it became more fantasy orientated- green blood- and that’s part of the appeal of both of these genres is they both have their bloody moments-it’s a visceral experience- and certainly the alien films we pointed to in the ones from the eighties verged on horror. ALIEN or PREDATOR, it (COWBOYS & ALIENS) was far less bloody than those films but we still wanted to feel that. But, as a dad, I wanted to share these films with my kids. I think the opening is as hard as it gets. Part of the reason we did this was because it was called COWBOYS & ALIENS and this is what you’re gonna get folks (Laughs). Here’s what’s in the Christmas present. So I think that it sets the table well for the rest of the film. By the same token I feel there’s a sense of responsibility, so I didn’t want to push it further. I know we’re working in the extended cut of going a little bit further for some of the effects stuff-for people who choose to see that-but we’re releasing it for a wider audience. I felt it was pushing it right up against the line for what was acceptable for that age group and I didn’t want to go beyond that. It wasn’t that I was told to cut things. We didn’t have to trim anything for the rating.

CH: Fantastic. And that is it, thank you for all your questions. But thanks most of all to Jon Favreau, Daniel Craig, Olivia Wilde, Harrison Ford and Roberto Orci.

With thanks to PARAMOUNT PICTURES and its dedicated publicity team for the invite to the Press Conference.

COWBOYS & ALIENS goes on general UK cinema release from August 17th.

For more info and stills on COWBOYS & ALIENS, head over to the UK FACEBOOK page:

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