Michel Gondry on Green Hornet, the Secret to Directing Jim Carrey and Why He Makes 'Trash Movies'

michel_gondry_GHset_500.jpgMichel Gondry, best known for directing cerebral, handmade films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Science of Sleep, might at first seem peculiar as the director associated with the big-budget superhero movie The Green Hornet. Yet Gondry has been attached to The Green Hornet on and off since 1997, creating a long road for Gondry to complete what was supposed to be his first Hollywood film; stars including George Clooney, Jason Scott Lee, Greg Kinnear, Mark Wahlberg, Jet Li, Jake Gyllenhaal and Nicholas Cage were all at some point associated with The Green Hornet. Finally, it comes down to this weekend and Seth Rogen.

Hornet stars Seth Rogen as Britt Reid, a newspaper mogul's son who inherits a fortune and decides to use that fortune to fight crime in Los Angeles with his sidekick Kato (Jay Chou). Movieline spoke to Gondry about why he thought The Green Hornet could be converted into a comedy, the tricks he used to help the audience understand Chou's English, the secret to getting a good performance out of Jim Carrey, his love for Mr. Show and why he will never consciously try to make an Oscar movie.

Congratulations on finally getting this movie made after all of these years.

I know, that's an achievement, yes?

Did you ever think that it would actually ever happen?

The thing is you trick your brain into making it believe that's it's going to happen. It's one chance in a million with all the obstacles that we had. But if you had not tricked your brain, you would have given up a million times. So you have to keep tricking yourself.

Is The Green Hornet your Chinese Democracy?

Yeah, yeah... Well, maybe it's a good sign then? It's like when you see the making of Jaws. This movie was never going to see the light of day, maybe it's a good omen.

Considering a lot of your past work, it was still surprising to see you name attached when it was announced.

Well, but, you can think of it the other way around. I came into Hollywood trying to do this movie. Now I make a different type of movie, so now you define me by different types of movies. But, in reality, I want to do this movie because I was not successful in trying to do the more commercial type. I have nothing against each kind of film; you do movies for many, many reasons and it's hard to explain. Some of them are just rejected or being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Would your 1997 version of The Green Hornet differ a lot from this version?

Yes, very different.

In what ways?

It was much more futuristic and science fiction and crazy. I was very much influenced by movies like Chinese Ghost Story. This [current] movie is based very much on character: the relationship between the hero and the sidekick. And then I had this action sequence to show my technical skills. But, to me, the most important part was that it was character-driven, not plot- or effects-driven.

As a side note, I've never seen a movie where so many people were killed by something falling on them.

It's true! It's funny, I never really thought of that. We had so many people die, at the end we couldn't find anybody to be alive. So we would have to bring back some guys with a wig or a mustache to make them look different. Some people died three times in the movie.

Jack Black tried to make a comedy Green Lantern film but the idea was scraped after all of the backlash. Why do you feel this can work with The Green Hornet as opposed to other superheroes?

Well, the history of the Green Hornet is very complex and uniform: the radio show turned into a comic book, into a mini-movie series, into another comic book, into a TV series with Bruce Lee. So it's hard to say, "OK, don't touch my superhero." What should we not touch? This is hard to define. I don't think we are trying to spoof the genre; we're really making an action movie. An example would be '80s buddy movies, it was just before post-production started to define the film. The film had to exist and rely on the shooting and the stars, because you couldn't do all of the work in blue screen or green screen in post-production. So you had to have humor within the action. And I think this was a genre that was a little bit forgotten. We brought that back to life in some way because I didn't want to rely so heavily on post-production. Seth [Rogen] is a good comedian but he's a very sullen actor. He doesn't fake the sadness; he's just acting in a real way when he talks about how he f*cked up in the newspapers. There's no joke about that. So we didn't make fun of the character, but there are funny moments.

Wasn't Nicholas Cage at one point going to play the villain?

Not originally, but at some point he was attached to it. We were trying to attach him, but he never really was attached.

Is this one of those happy, lucky things to wind up getting Christoph Waltz instead?

It's always a happy thing because it's the thing that we do. And then we like what we do, so we always consider it better. But, to be perfectly honest, maybe if we had Nicholas Cage it would have been awesome. You never know. But we were really excited when Christoph came because he was like the ultimate villain we could dream of.

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