"While speaking exclusively to Shawn Levy about his new comedy Date Night, which stars Steve Carell and Tina Fey, the director told ComingSoon.net about his next project, Real Steel, the futuristic action movie he's directing for DreamWorks, scheduled for release on November 2011.
Based on a short story by Richard Matheson (I Am Legend), it stars Hugh Jackman as an ex-fighter who becomes a promoter in a new form of Robot Boxing involving 2,000 pound cyborgs, but we haven't really learned too many other details for the look or feel of the movie. In our exclusive interview, we learned that the robots would be motion-captured, that boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard would be involved in the fight choreography and more.
ComingSoon.net: 'What's the vibe of the movie going to be? Will it be like the original Rollerball?'
Shawn Levy: It's like Rocky. It's basically a father/son drama set in the future. Hugh Jackman is a boxer, but in the 2020s, people have gotten bored with watching human fighters fight each other so they built robots to basically whale on each other for human spectacle. Hugh is a boxer. He can't do the only thing he was ever good at anymore. So he travels the United States buying and selling these robots looking for fights. Into his life comes the son he walked out on at birth. It's about a return to grace. It's about father, son and this robot they find in the junkyard getting a shot at redemption. It's my first non-comedy. It's big special effects. We're creating this pantheon of robots not based on toys, not based on comic books--based on nothing but our own animation. Steven Spielberg is executive producer, me directing and producing and it's really cool doing my first drama. It's very different. It's with Hugh Jackman who is an awesome guy.'
CS: 'Who else besides Hugh Jackman is in the film?'
Levy: 'Right now it's just Hugh and this kid we discovered out of Toronto named Dakota Goyo.'
CS: 'So the story is mostly centered on Hugh, Dakota and the robots?'
Levy: 'That's right. It's in the landscape of America and it's in the fight venues some of which are gritty underground robot fight clubs others are Madison Square Garden. It literally shows the journey from underground --no rules, everything is allowed vicious fights--and as they rise through the ranks they get a shot at a big time fight at a major venue.'
CS: 'Have you brought anyone in to consult or appear in the movie from the boxing world?'
Levy: 'Sugar Ray Leonard is our boxing consultant and he's done a lot with the choreography so I've been working a lot with Ray on these fights. It's been incredible because you work all day and then at lunch he tells you awesome stories of the glory years. Me and all the fighters are around the lunch table with our jaws on the table just listening to this legend share his stories.'
CS: 'What's the look of the movie going to be like?'
Levy: 'The look is gritty naturalistic. The robots are motion-captured, but the look of the movie is Training Day. It's gritty, natural, beautiful, but unvarnished.'
CS: 'You have such an extensive background in comedy so what's it like for you to transition into a movie like this?'
Levy: 'Honestly, I've kinda been loving it. I will be right back [in comedy]. I'm just stepping away from the table for a second. In all my movies, there's always a kind of heartfelt element, to be able to do a drama and to be able to spend more time in the emotional stuff with no pressure to get back to the funny that's very liberating for me. I'm also giving the movie a much grittier edgier look than I could ever give a comedy so I'm finding it really interesting. It's using muscles I haven't used ever as a professional. I'm finding it very, very stimulating.'
CS: 'Since Hugh Jackman is playing a boxer, does that mean he's getting into shape for the part?'
Levy: 'Yes, he's not in Wolverine shape because in the movie he hasn't boxed in 10 years. Hugh got super-shredded two months ago and we took a bunch of black and white vintage looking pictures of him fighting other fighters and those will be like vintage newspapers showing a sport that no longer exists. In the movie, he'll still be awesome looking and big, but not quite his Wolverine six pack and not quite in the shape he could be because this is a guy who lives out of his truck traveling the American landscape working out a living.'"