Elle Fanning, JJ Abrams, Kyle Chandler & Steven Speilberg ‘Super 8′ Interview – Out Today In The UK
Director and writer J.J. Abrams’ (Star Trek, Mission Impossible 3) thrilling adventure movie, Super 8, follows a group of friends (including Elle Fanning’s Alice) in the summer of 1979 in a small Ohio town as they witness a catastrophic train crash while making a super 8 movie, they soon suspect that it was not an accident. Shortly after unusual disappearances and inexplicable events begin to take place in town, and the local Deputy and father of one of the group of friends (Kyle Chandler), tries to uncover the truth – something more terrifying than any of them could have imagined. Super 8 is out in cinemas now in the UK. This interview is a compilation of interviews that were posted in full for the US release of the film, check them out individually via the following links: Steven Spielberg, J.J. Abrams, Elle Fanning and Kyle Chandler.
How did you get involved in the film?
Elle Fanning: I didn’t know anything about it when J.J. first called me. I think just seeing J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg you’re just automatically attracted to it (laughs). When I first met J.J. I didn’t know what it was about, he didn’t slip any secrets or anything, then when I finally got the script and found out I got the part that was a huge deal.
J.J. asked me to come and meet with him, that was the first time I had ever met him, I didn’t know what we were doing together then a few months went by and I auditioned with the boys, all of us as a group, I think he just wanted to see us all together. After that he called me and each one of the boys separately and told us we got the part. I remember when he called me it was a total surprise, my Mum just handed me the phone, I didn’t know who it was, so he said, “Hey it’s J.J.” I was thinking, “Oh god I bet I didn’t get it.” Then he said I got the part, I was trying to act cool but I totally freaked out (Laughs).
Kyle Chandler: First of all you know you are working with J.J. Abrams, so you know as you read the script, you sort of get a sense for the scope and scale, but also within the scope and scale you’ve got these characters that have this emotional through lines that you know an audience can grab onto. You’ve also got characters that are constantly developing throughout the movie. It’s just another reason to sit and wanna be with these people. Visually you know with Mr Fong doing his thing, it’s going to be beautiful, you know the special effects are going to be incredible, you know you’re in good hands with the director, you know you’re in good hands with the producers, you know you’re in good hands all the way around. Basically I got the feeling that this was a no-brainer. I’m very fortunate to be apart of these bunch of folks (laughs).
The kids are fantastic in the film, what was it like casting them?
J.J. Abrams: One of the challengers was that the cast of the movie has some adults and some kids. I wanted the kids in the movie to feel like genuine, real, soulful kids. Not entitled, actory kids, which is often what you get. The search was endless, it took months and months and months and months! It was pushing production because we couldn’t find people. But we had an amazing casting team, they were wonderful, they saw thousands and thousands of kids.
It was important that the main kid, in my mind, was not the bossy movie maker, but rather he’d be the kid that followed that bossy movie maker. So the main kid is Joe, we found Joel Courtney who we brought back in a dozen times to audition him, because the character of Joe needs to do a lot, he goes through every emotional extreme. He’s gotta be funny, terrified, heartbroken, love-sick, he’s gotta be furious, devastated, the range was so huge, could the kid also be brave, it was endless. We kept bringing him in to test him because I needed to know that this kid, who’d never been on the set of anything, wouldn’t fall apart when we suddenly threw a scene at him. At every stage and at every step he was just wonderful. All the kids were wonderful.
How did the idea come about for ‘Super 8’?
Steven Spielberg: J.J. and I have been fishing for ideas that we could do together as a producer/director team. We had spent, I dunno, maybe the better part of a year, just in our friendship, talking about the kind of films we love to see and the kind of films we’d love to make someday, and which of those films had a mutual appeal. The one thing that we did land on immediately was our mutual history in making 8mm films, in J.J.’s case super 8mm films because he’s a lot younger than me (laughs), in my case 8mm films when I was growing up, we had a very similar background.
I was telling him about all the adventures I had as a kid making little movies with my neighbourhood friends, he had the same experiences. So we thought wouldn’t it be cool to make a movie set in the 70’s about young people making movies, 14 year olds making 8mm movies. That’s how it all started.
Developing the project must have must have been fun going back to that?
Steven Spielberg: Definitely. Later on J.J. went off with this notion and came back to me and said, “What if we take the idea of making 8mm films, what if we blended it in with a larger time-worn genre, that they are making movies but something appears on their 8mm dailies that unlocks an entire mystery and crisis, event.” I loved that idea.
We weren’t quite sure how Sci-Fi the event was going to be as J.J. first starting pitching this idea to me, but it sounded really intriguing, it wasn’t just going to be a movie about the kind of 70’s movie making culture, but it was going to be what that leads to.
What was it like recreating 1979?
J.J. Abrams: The crazy thing about recreating 1979 was just how eerie it was to be in the world surrounded by people who looked just like the friends I had at that time I was going to Elementary School, wearing the same clothing. Being on the set and seeing magazines, just set dressing, that I would open up and realize I read that thing cover to cover. There were constant sense memories, which is very different to doing something like ‘Star Trek’ which is all extrapolating a future time, it’s all imagination. This was really a revisiting, which was an intent of the movie, but to actually be there day after day in that period was uncanny.
How was working with Steven Spielberg on this project?
J.J. Abrams: Working with Steven Spielberg on this was just the absolute greatest. He was deeply involved in the development of the story, the script, casting, editing the film. He was immediately interested in collaborating. During production he watched dailies and came to the set a few times, he was filming another movie but he still came by a few times, which was great. And in post he spent some hours in the edit room and was incredibly helpful with that because it was a real challenge to structure the thing. In post we had a bunch of second act things that we needed to figure out and he was really helpful in that. It was one of those things where I was amazed at how available he made himself to me and to this movie.
One of the fun things about working with him was always knowing that I could email him, or call him and ask him his advice on a scene we were going to shoot, or something that we’d cut together and get a response. There were times we were sitting in the editing room and he’d say, “You know what I would do?” and he’d give a suggestion. And I’d laugh inside because I can’t tell you how many times I was working at any stage and said, “What the hell would Steven Spielberg do?” So to have him just sitting there going, “You know what I would do?” was just unbelievable (laughs).
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