ONE-ON-ONE WITH "JUMPER" DIRECTOR DOUG LIMAN
Fri, February 15th, 2008 at 12:00AM PST
Doug Liman has directed several different types of films. From his low-fi indie comedy debut "Swingers" to the moody spy thriller "The Bourne Identity" to the over-the-top action of "Mr. & Mrs. Smith," he's always trying something new, as he is again with his latest film "Jumper," in U.S. theatres today.
"Jumper" stars Hayden Christianson ("Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith") as David, a man who can do anything he wants because he has the ability to teleport. David's charmed life gets complicated when he realizes he's not the only person with this power; that he is in fact part of a group of people called Jumpers. Another group, called Paladins, hunt and kill Jumpers, and a Paladin called Roland (played by Samuel L. Jackson) chases after David.
CBR News had the chance to talk to Liman about his new film, his view on villains, and the new voice of KITT in his forthcoming revival of "Knight Rider."
To begin with, what attracted you to the "Jumper" script?
It was just really fun. I loved every character and I just thought I'd have a chance to show action in a way that I could let my imagination run totally wild. I read David Goyer's ("Batman Begins") script. That was the first thing I read. Then I went back and read the novel to see what else I could use and how much I could take. Then I sort of threw the whole thing in the shredder, par for the course in this process. Then we hired Simon Kinberg, who wrote "Mr. & Mrs. Smith," and redeveloped it.
I just think that for the most part people that we call villains are heroes of their own story. There are a lot of bona fide villains; there's people conducting genocide in Dafur. I can't imagine in what movie those guys would actually be the heroes. For the most part, the concept is behind it. People always call the enemy "terrorists." The Israelis call the Palestinians terrorists and the Palestinians call the Israelis terrorists. I for one don't even use that word because it is so loaded. It completely negates the possibility that the other person might have a point. Instead, it's just some crazy person who wants to destroy you, as opposed to [the idea that] they might actually be the heroes of their own story.
So, since I have that perspective on the world, it inevitability finds its way into my movies. It's not sort of a conscience thing, but this is now my third action movie in a row without adding a villain. It's not like I set out and said, "Oh, I'm not going to have a villain." It's just as we sat about crafting a mythology for "Jumper," exploring all the different possibilities for the film, the one that I fell in love with turned out to be the one where the villain is not a villain.
What was it like working with Hayden Christianson and Samuel L. Jackson?
With Hayden, I feel this movie marks his arrival as a true leading man. It's exciting to work with somebody at that point in their career. It felt like when I worked with Matt [Damon] on "The Bourne Identity." It's a vastly different experience working with Sam Jackson, who is so established. [Regarding Jackson, I'm] trying to take somebody who's been in so many movies and find a fresh take. It's not a first for me to do that. On "Mr. & Mrs. Smith," where both Brad [Pitt] and Angelina [Jolie] were very established, neither one of them had done a comedy like that before, so it was a completely new Brad and a completely new Angie. It's hard to find a genre Sam Jackson hasn't done. So it was exciting for me to work with him. He was amazing in terms of his collaboration to find a new flavor, starting with the white hair.
The film acts as an origin story for David and very nicely leaves the possibility for a sequel. Is that something you're planning to do?
You know, I really love the characters and I love the world. We just teased the possibilities of what can happen in a movie where the characters can teleport and it's done in a realistic manner. So yeah, I got a thousand ideas of where to go with this and I hope I have the opportunity to continue to explore it.
The Oni Press comic book "Jumper: Jumpscars" that was released this week tells the back-story of David's mother, played by Diane Lane in the film. How much were you involved with the production of the comic and the creating of her story?
I was very minimally involved in the comic book only because it was being done around the time that I was intensively working on "Jumper." I've never done a visual effects film before and I really underestimated how much work it was going to take in terms of finishing the effects. But Simon Kinberg, who wrote "Jumper," was very involved [with the comic] and he would involve me at critical decision moments.
The thing that I got real excited about exploring in "Jumper" is a line where Hayden Christianson says to Rachel Bilson, "Why don't we skip the boring parts." Let's cut them out of the movie so there aren't any "boring parts." And any kind of exposition, any kind of back-story goes straight through the drama and the action. It forces the audience to catch up and figure out all the back-story, but it ultimately leaves a lot of room for support material like a comic book to fill in the gaps for people and get them thinking. Having a comic book come out, having support material come out that talks about the larger world is helpful. I'm hoping that once people get into the mindset, they'll come out of the movie and start to fill in some of the gaps.
I knew it was going to be really fast paced, because if you're doing a film about people who can teleport, they themselves are editing out the boring parts of their lives. So it's going to move at a thousand miles an hour. And given how fast it is going to move, when the movie ends people can run it back for themselves and fill in all the things that I laced throughout because all the information is actually there. But having a comic book gets people in the right mindset.
Why do you think comic book fans will enjoy "Jumper?"
I think they'll enjoy it because it's not like any of those other [comic book movies]. It's a totally fresh take. It takes place in the real world and what if someone got this power? Not if someone lives in a world where you get a super power, you throw on a cape and put on little underwear like Superman does. Who do you know that would actually put on a cape if they got a super power? Nobody you know would do that.
You're the executive producer of the "Knight Rider" TV movie that airs this Sunday at 9pm on NBC. Last week, it was announced that Will Arnett ("Arrested Development"), who was going to be the voice of KITT, had to step down and Val Kilmer will be taking his place. Can you tell us anything about that?
Every time I have a [last minute] casting change on one of my movies, I've always benefited from that. The audience has always benefited from that and Val Kilmer is just incredible. They'll love it.