MOVIES: Jon Favreau Speaks On Creating Creatures For “Aliens And Cowboys”

How do you surprise someone who’s seen it all — aliens who snatch bodies and aliens with dreadlocks and aliens who bloodily birth themselves from your stomach and aliens who phone home and aliens who eat cat food and great big blue aliens with tails they use for sex?

Forget about the decades of classic extraterrestrial flicks that stream daily on TV, tablets and desktops. This year alone, movies like “Battle: Los Angeles,” “Super 8,” “Green Lantern” and “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” have hit the big screen, each trying to deliver not only eye-popping visuals but the post-credits comment between friends, “Damn, dude, have you ever seen something like that?”

The answer, all too often and quite understandably, is, “Yes, yes, I have.” That’s the challenge “Cowboys & Aliens” director Jon Favreau faced as he sought to bring alien baddies to the Old West for a genre mash-up that hit theaters Friday (July 29). Favreau, though, counts himself lucky that he was able to lean on some of the most-established sci-fi players in Hollywood for help. The cinematic result is a race of aliens that land in a down-on-its-luck mining town, start to kidnap residents and eventually reveal themselves as extraterrestrial superfreaks on par with anything we’ve seen at the theater in recent years.

Earlier this month in Montana, Favreau talked with MTV News about what makes a great big-screen alien, the special-effects decisions that helped his filmmaking process and the advice Steven Spielberg and Guillermo del Toro gave him along the way. (Beware of spoilers below.)

“When you set out to make a movie like ‘Cowboys & Aliens,’ if you just play it as one joke for the whole movie, you’re in trouble,” Favreau explained. “You run out of gas after about the length of an ‘SNL’ sketch. So we really wanted to find an approach that could bear out a whole story. Part of it was identifying what kind of alien movie to make and what kind of cowboy movie to make.”

The answer to the alien question was to reach back to classics of the ’70s and ’80s, before CG glam overtook practical effects as the preferred method of creating otherworldly creatures. “The alien movies I like the most are the ones I grew up with,” he said. “It was the pre-CG, almost verging on horror versions of alien films, like ‘Alien,’ ‘Aliens,’ ‘Predator’ and all the Spielberg stuff, and I include ‘Jaws’ in that, too. They were all the same kind of movie.

“It was before you had computer effects, so you had to, through lighting and mystery and music, slowly reveal the creature. That technique has some somewhat been lost now, thanks to CGI. Even though we have CGI creatures eventually, we do use animatronics and we do use lighting and all the old techniques to reveal them.”

The aliens in “Cowboys” have landed in an Arizona town to mine for gold — a metal as precious to humans as it is to these space travelers. What’s truly cool about them is their transformative quality: Their faces move and shift to expose layers below, and their bodies open up to unleash hidden, gooey hands. Gross and fascinating and scary, all at once. That’s exactly what Favreau was hoping to accomplish.

” ‘Predator’ and ‘Alien’: What was fun about those films is, as you saw the creatures, more and more layers were revealed, whether it was armor coming off with ‘Predator’ [and] weaponry, or in the case of ‘Alien,’ with the second set of teeth or the metamorphosis that it did from its egg state to the face-hugger to whatever that larval phase was when it busts out of your chest and finally into the big [creature],” he said. “It’s the shape-shifting quality of the aliens that I thought was really cool. We wanted to maintain some mystery and surprises with our creature.”

To create those surprises, Favreau not only depended on his team of artists and effects masters, but on Spielberg and del Toro. “[Spielberg] was very involved with certain aspects of it preproduction, and one of those aspects was the alien design, because he’s been involved with so many,” he said. “And now seeing ‘Falling Skies’ and seeing ‘Super 8,’ I see that he was not just involved with his own films, but other films and projects he’s been producing and overseeing. He had a lot of specific insight into what things were important.

“And Guillermo del Toro, I also know him, and he’s masterful,” Favreau added. “He always said you’ve got to get the silhouette right first and then you got to get the color right and then you got to get the detail right, in that order. He’s actually somebody who helped out and came in the editing room. I was showing him our animatronic work, because he’s very picky about that stuff, and when I knew it passed his muster, I felt very good.” -mtv news

Interview Below:

MOVIES: “THOR” Trailor! Comes out tomorrow.

MOVIES: ‘Battle: Los Angeles’ Tops Friday Box Office by Shawn Adler

Alien invasion flick bests ‘Red Riding Hood’ and ‘Rango’ to claim top spot, while animated ‘Mars Needs Moms’ tanks.

It showcases an epic battle between aliens and humans, but it turns out that the biggest winner of the weekend isn’t going to be Aaron Eckhart or the extra-terrestrials he faces in “Battle: Los Angeles,” but an entirely different, third combatant: the film itself.

Led by an all-star cast headlined by the “Thank You For Smoking” star, “Battle: Los Angeles” topped all comers at the Friday night box office with an estimated $13.5 million from 3,417 theaters. The story of a surprise war waged by aliens for control of Earth, the flick should eek out approximately $40 for the weekend and another number one opening for the star of “The Dark Knight” in his first return to big budget action.

The secret to the film’s success? Not treating an alien invasion movie like an alien invasion movie, director Jonathan Liebesman told MTV News.

“This is a more down and dirty alien movie,” Liebesman said. “This is like if ['Bourne Supremacy' director] Paul Greengrass got a camera, saw some aliens, and shot it from the point of view of a platoon. It’s literally like ‘Black Hawk Down,’ if there were aliens in there. Like Iraqi war footage, but with aliens running around.”

You’d be forgiven, meanwhile, for saying of the second place film, “My, what a big gross you have,” as the Brothers Grimm by way of Stephanie Meyer revisionist fairy tale “Red Riding Hood” scared up $5.7 million to claw its way near the top. The Catherine Hardwick directed and Amanda Seyfried starring film may seem to be similar to that little Kristen Stewart movie, but that doesn’t mean it’s just “Twilight” with a cape, Seyfried told MTV.

“It’s a bummer that that’s what’s happening,” Seyfried told us. “I mean, it does surround a girl coming of age in a love triangle, but that’s a lot of movies. The truth is, it’s an entirely different story.”

In third place, last weekend’s winner “Rango” managed a very healthy $5.5 million. The Johnny Depp starring flick about a chameleon who finds himself leading a small desert town as sheriff should bring its total to approximately $70 million by weekend’s close.

In fourth place, “The Adjustment Bureau” starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt managed a $3.4 million Friday.

The biggest disappointment of the week was “Mars Needs Moms,” the newest animated film from Disney. Using motion capture technology and based on a story from Pulitzer Prize winner Berkeley Breathed, the reportedly expensive film managed just $1.8 million Friday and a fifth place finish.

Among other films, “Beastly” scored $1.6 million for a sixth place finish, while “Just Go With It” managed an eighth place finish and $1.2 million. The Adam Sandler led comedy should pass $100 million sometime early next week.

Rounding out the rest of the top ten, “Hall Pass” earned $1.5 million to come in seventh, “The King’s Speech” grabbed $1 million to finish ninth, and “Unknown” ran away with $975,000 to land in tenth.




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