My first interactions with James Gunn were, to put it lightly, awkward thanks to the particularly strident way in which Harry Knowles took him to task over his work on "Scooby-Doo." I respect the way Gunn has built a career out of a a start in the Troma factory, not a given by any means, and he's been true to his voice as he's worked on larger and larger films, something else that isn't easy.
If I were asked to make a list of my favorite people, I'm sure Guillermo Del Toro would take up at least three or four spots on the list all by himself.
Sure, he's an amazing visual artist, with a rich and detailed imagination that seems to have no limits in scope or variety, and that is something you have to value in an age where we finally have technology that can keep up with him.
And, yes, I think he's got a wicked sense of humor that comes out only in the overtly comic moments in his movies but also in the way he plays things straight. He's not above playing around with the audience and the way they expect things to unfold. He'll tell you a story and he'll stick it to you with some violation of convention, and if you're onboard, you'll laugh, and if you're not, you'll wonder what kind of madman has control of the camera.
If there is any cast member in "Guardians Of The Galaxy" whose work can be categorized as a genuine surprise, it's Dave Bautista.
I've actually spoken to him before this film, when we talked about his work in "The Man With The Iron Fists," and he struck me there as a very thoughtful guy who has this warmth that may not be immediately apparent when his primary job is to beat the hell out of opponents in the wrestling ring.
Okay, I doubt Charles Bronson will be there, but if anyone could pull it off, Colin Geddes could.
There are few things I look forward to with more fervor each year than Toronto's Midnight Madness selection each year. Programmer Colin Geddes is not just a phenomenal ringleader, an instigator of a controlled cinema riot every single night of the festival, but he is also a tremendous friend, the sort of person who is a pleasure to bump into anywhere at any festival in the world.
It would give me enormous pleasure to report that Colin Firth, when the cameras were off, was a rude, unpleasant bag of garbage. It would delight me to no end to report that as he walked out onto the balcony where we did our interview about his upcoming film "Kingsman: The Secret Service," he punched an orphan and denied someone their basic human rights. I would love to be able to state, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he is a terrible person.
If you want to see what chaos looks like, try shooting something with both sound and video on the floor of the San Diego Comic-Con.
Now add in the variables of answering questions you're not prepared to answer with people you know walking by and anxious security guards trying to move you and last-day anxiety from everyone around you and it gets to be pure madness, but the kind that can be an enormous amount of fun if you let it.
"I just wanted to figure out how long I had to stay alive to shoot nine pictures."
I've done a lot of interviews at a lot of events over the years, and I have to give special credit to 20th Century Fox this year for staging one of the most orderly and relaxed afternoons I can remember. They had a place on top of the Hard Rock Cafe. Nothing major. A suite with a long balcony and a hot tub area. They had some tables set up on the balcony with food. They had some chairs. And they had an area where we were able to set up to talk to a group of people representing the slate they had that afternoon.
Samuel L. Jackson is an icon at this point. He has put his stamp on this era of cinema in a way few people ever could. The number of films he's been in, the range of films he's been in… it will be impossible to tell the story of mainstream filmmaking from 1990 - (let's hope ) 2030 or so without including Jackson and seeing his face constantly. That seems to delight him.
When I visited the set of "Guardians Of The Galaxy," one of the things that struck me about my conversation with Zoe Saldana was how concerned she was with Gamora's aesthetic impact. More specifically, she really wanted her to be pretty.
Seems, then, a natural place to start when discussing the finished film with the busiest woman in science-fiction. Saldana's been working for a while, but with "Avatar," "Star Trek," and now "Guardians," she's cornered the market on a certain kind of character. She can be violent and deadly and powerful, but she is also always deeply empathetic, able to open that up and really project a feeling of nurturing and understanding.
While I wouldn't exactly call it a shock, it is a thrill to see Legendary come out strong and stake their claim on "Godzilla 2." The real treat of them going back for a second film is going to be seeing how Toho lets them play with the other toys in the toy box.
One of the things that became clear as they showed their "secret" Monarch footage today is that they have big plans for the Godzilla series. Gareth Edwards has a very dry British wit, and that was on full display when he did his taped message for the audience from San Francisco where he's supposedly supervising the rebuilding of the city. He talked about how he needed to take a break from the pressure of working on high-profile properties that fanboys will have opinions about, a lovely nod to his impending "Star Wars" adventure, and then was interrupted by Godzilla, who was on Alcatraz island, unhappy to be caged in by the military.
"Will you follow me one last time?"
It was interesting how different my reaction to Saturday's panel for "The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies" was to the reaction Greg Ellwood had. I agree with him that Cate Blanchett was positively radiant and that Stephen Colbert couldn't have been funnier in his unbridled nerd enthusiasm for all things Tolkien. I think everyone on the panel was great. I love these people, no doubt about it. And as I've written, I think the "Hobbit" films so far are good at what they're doing and getting better, while still not as great as the work he did on "Lord Of The Rings."