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Stanley Kubrick

Talking Pictures #16: Jan de Bont, Director of TWISTER

Filmmaker Jan de Bont became famous as one of the most creative and exciting cinematographers of the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. He started out in the Netherlands where he worked on Wim Verstappen’s controversial film BLUE MOVIE and quickly became known for his collaborations with director Paul Verhoeven on movies like TURKISH DELIGHT, KEETJE TIPPEL and THE FOURTH MAN. He continued working with Verhoeven in America on FLESH & BLOOD and BASIC INSTINCT and became a sought-after DP for blockbusters like DIE HARD, THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER, LETHAL WEAPON 3 and FLATLINERS.

But Jan de Bont is also a very talented and unique director in his own right. He made his 1994 directorial debut with the wonderfully tense action thriller SPEED, which he quickly followed up with the amazing adventure/disaster movie TWISTER, which was written by Michael Crichton and his wife and produced by Steven Spielberg. He also made the much-maligned sequel SPEED 2, which is actually a very fun action thriller if taken on its own terms; he directed the Spielberg-produced horror movie THE HAUNTING, which features one of the greatest horror houses in recent horror history, and the video game movie TOMB RAIDER 2 which features numerous inventive action sequences.

I spoke with Jan de Bont about the making of TWISTER and his philosophies of creating realism on screen. Our conversation took place in connection with a video featurette I produced for a 25th anniversary re-release of TWISTER for the German label Turbine who created a beautiful mediabook issue of the film with a new Dolby Atmos & Auro 3D soundtrack. More info on the release can be found here, my interview featurette is called STORM CHASERS – JAN DE BONT ON TWISTER.

We also talked about Jan’s casting choices, his admiration of Stanley Kubrick’s movies, and much more. Please forgive a couple of moments where the sound quality isn’t ideal, but I feel the conversation is definitely insightful and also entertaining enough to ignore a few background noises.

If you speak German, make sure to also listen to our companion podcast Lichtspielplatz and check out episode #50, which features an in-depth discussion of TWISTER in German.

So with no further ado, here’s Talking Pictures with maestro Jan de Bont!

The mp3 file can be downloaded HERE.

Photo of Jan de Bont conversation (C) Ghost Light Productions/Turbine Medien GmbH.
Portrait of Jan de Bont courtesy of Jan de Bont & Trish de Bont.
Thanks to Dr. Wily, my Lichtspielplatz podcasting partner for audio editing. The music was created by Clark Kent.

Talking Pictures #13: Zak Penn, Screenwriter of READY PLAYER ONE

Today’s guest is Zak Penn, best known as a screenwriter on several big-budget superhero movies like X-MEN 2, X-MEN: THE LAST STAND, THE INCREDIBLE HULK and THE AVENGERS. Zak also wrote the 1993 comedy LAST ACTION HERO starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, and he directed a wonderful mockumentary called INCIDENT AT LOCH NESS, in which he, together with German director Werner Herzog, ventures out to find the Loch Ness monster.

My conversation with Zak focuses on his work on Steven Spielberg’s 2018 sci-fi movie READY PLAYER ONE, which Zak adapted from Ernest Cline’s novel by the same name. The story is set in 2045 and revolves around a virtual reality world called the Oasis, which is largely based on the pop culture of the 1980’s, recreating early video games, cult movies and the pop music of the decade. The story follows a teenager named Parzival and his friends and their quest to find and solve a series of hidden clues and puzzles, so-called “Easter Eggs”, hidden within the Oasis by its late creator, a Steve-Jobs-like figure by the name of Jim Halliday who promised that whoever solves his game will gain complete control over the Oasis. Along the way, Parzival falls in love with a girl he meets in the Oasis named Art3mis, receives a little help from Halliday’s former business partner Ogden Morrow, and he fights the so-called “Sixers”, an army of treasure hunters led by the evil Nolan Sorrento, whose company IOI seeks control over the Oasis for commercial gain.

In our interview, Zak discusses how he adapted Ernie Cline’s book and how certain choices and changes were made to make the story more cinematic. He talks about the characters and the pop culture that informs the story, and he discusses how one of the movie’s best scenes came about – a segment where the characters enter a recreation of Stanley Kubrick’s THE SHINING in order to solve a puzzle. Zak also talks about his 2014 documentary ATARI: GAME OVER, which was in many ways a precursor to his work on READY PLAYER ONE – it’s the story of digging up the infamous Atari 2600 game E.T., which was buried in a landfill in New Mexico, and it features not only several themes which are connected to READY PLAER ONE, but it also stars Ernie Cline as one of the protagonists.

The interview with Zak Penn was conducted in connection with our German-language podcast Lichtspielplatz, so if you speak German, you’ll find an in-depth discussion of READY PLAYER ONE in episode #46.

So here’s Talking Pictures with Zak Penn!

The mp3 file can be downloaded HERE.

Photo: (C) Zak Penn
Special thanks to Dr. Wily, my Lichtspielplatz podcasting partner for audio editing. The music was created by Clark Kent.

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