GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra - Stephen Sommers interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
STEPHEN Sommers talks about some of the challenges of directing GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra, getting to keep some of the props and reuniting with past co-stars such as Brendan Fraser…
Q. Do advances in CGI make the job easier or more difficult when it comes to directing a movie as big as this?
Stephen Sommers: It’s changed, because 10 years ago with The Mummy films, it was all about doing something that nobody had ever seen. But now, on this movie, you can do anything, and everybody’s doing anything, so the most important thing is to come up with great characters and a great story, and the CGI ends up supporting that. No one’s ever see the Eiffel Tower collapse, but I don’t go: “Oh, that CGI is so spectacular it’s never been done before.” We’ve seen New York flooded, and this and that. So for me, CGI frees us to do whatever we can think of we can do.
Q. The film boasts an international cast. Do you think audiences are more accepting of wider casts now?
Stephen Sommers: Well, my last movie had a bunch of Ozzies [Van Helsing]. I went to university in Spain and I spent a lot of my younger years travelling, so I feel half-European and half mid-Western. I never fit into LA very well. But my last three movies did better foreign than they did domestic, so I’m always thinking how do I capture the international audience? It’s very important to me. For this, we did the least amount of auditioning that I’ve ever done. We sit around and chat, I’ve had the same crew members with me since film school, and people suggest this actor or that actor, and we ended up with a fantastic cast. It’s a little sub-conscious, and a little conscious.
Q. Do you enjoy reuniting with past actors – Brendan Fraser and Arnold Vosloo both make appearances in this…
Stephen Sommmers: These movies are very big, they’re hard and they take a lot of time. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. So I like to have a fun set, and the most important thing is to have nice people first, then really talented second. I love working with people over and over again, and I think there at least five actors here who were in my previous movies, and a bunch of new friends.
Q. Were there a lot of on-set pranks?
Stephen Sommers: Rachel [Nichols] had to put up with a lot. For some reason on my sets, especially on this set, all the men turned back into 13-year-old boys.
Q. Can you talk to us about casting a non-Scot in a Scottish role [Christopher Ecclestone], and inventing Celtic words?
Stephen Sommers: After working with John Hannah [on The Mummy and its sequel] in so many movies I could never understand him, so I just thought I’m going to get somebody else to play Scottish. It’s all good fun – they just winged in. We always have [professional] people on board telling us how it’s really supposed to be said and done.
Q. Are there also a lot of little jokes that you make for yourself – it seems you can’t do a film without having a fleeting reference to ancient Egypt?
Stephen Sommers: Egypt’s been very good to me. Every movie with the Pyramids in makes a lot of money, so I had to throw the Pyramids in this one [laughs].
Q. Did you get to keep any props?
Stephen Sommers: I take all the good props, because I learnt on the first Mummy movie – they said, “You’ve got to put all the props in a warehouse” and then we went to make The Mummy Returns, and all the props were gone. So all the good props are in my house now.
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