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Constantine - Francis Lawrence Q&A



Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q: Were you aware of the Hellblazer comics?
A:
No I was not aware of the comic books until I read the script. Then I researched them to put my pitch together for the studio.

Q: And are they as dark as the movie?
A:
I think they are probably a little darker. But they are of the same attitude and tone as the film.

Q: The comics are set in London?
A:
Actually they are set all over the place. The character in the comic is British and was made American for the film. There are stories in the comics when he travels all over the American Midwest and he is in New York and Africa. He’s all over the place. And he smokes and drinks a lot.

Q: Did you have to fight to keep the dark tone?
A:
I don’t think the studio really understood the movie we were making at first. Unbelievably, we never had to fight to keep the smoking or the drinking. It was the attitude of the movie that I don’t think they really understood.
They originally thought it was lighter, something like Ghostbusters or Men in Black. But that was never the way we saw it. Once we showed them some footage they got excited.

Q: How was the film developed?
A:
This project existed for six or seven years before I came on board. It went through a bunch of different versions. But the idea of John Constantine dying of lung cancer, knowing that he’s going to Hell and trying to prevent that happening, was taken a long time ago from one of the comic books. Other than that nothing else was taken from the comics, everything else was created to help that story.

Q: What about the idea that here on Earth we see Heaven and Hell?
A:
I wanted to give the film a twist while rooting it in reality. So I came up with the idea that no matter where you are on Earth, there is the Hell version and the Heaven version. That somehow made it more tangible.

Q: Was Keanu the first choice?
A:
Keanu was actually on it before I was. I think he is fantastic in this, partly because I think he shares some qualities with John Constantine. He is not as dark as Constantine but there is a darkness to him. He’s kind of haunted at times and he is a little mysterious and brooding. He smokes a lot. But he is not as sarcastic and cynical. I also think he has some feelings about the way that the universe works that tie in with Constantine.

Q: Do you think that’s because he has had tragedy in his life?
A:
I don’t why that is. I just know the way he carries himself and the way he is. Being around him for a year and half I see that there is some sadness there - even though he is a really genuine, generous, nice person. He just carries a weight with him that I think is similar.

Q: Did Tilda Swinton’s performance in Orlando lead you towards making Gabriel neither male nor female?
A:
Partially. I have been a huge fan of her work. That was one of those choices in twisting what an angel is. I also know she has such a unique take on things and so she brought originality to the character that we might not have had if someone else had played it.

 

Q: What might the Church think of this film?
A:
It has been interesting. In general, the religious community has embraced the film. Every once in a while there is something in it that offends somebody - whether it is the way Gabriel is portrayed or whatever.
In the film Gabriel says ‘fuck’ and for an angel to say that freaks them out. But others really embrace it because they see that the movie is about redemption and about people questioning and struggling with their faith. They really accept that. I was not aware of that until the religious community started to see the film. I thought they would have been much more offended than they are.

Q: Had you toned anything down?
A:
No I wanted to make the movie as it was and how I saw it. We did not want to tone it down to prevent anything. It was an honest surprise on my part that they have embraced it the way they have.

Q: Was there a weight in knowing the expectation of the comic book fans?
A:
Oh sure. Because I am not a huge comic book fan I did not realise at first the weight that they carry. Then I went on web sites to see what they thought. But I just wanted to make the best movie that I could.
There are some superficial changes that we made and those are going to annoy the rabid Hellblazer fans. But in general the comic book fans have embraced it.

Q: What is your idea of Heaven and Hell?
A:
I’m sort of a sceptic. I hope there is something but I don’t know. Hell on Earth would be anything horrible happening to my family. That would tear me apart.

Q: What about Satan?
A:
In the original script he was played the way you might imagine Satan to be. We developed his character over time.
It was the last character to be cast when we were well into production. We were struggling to figure out how we would portray him. We decided that we had seen Satan as a woman, a child, a beast, the well dressed man.
We hadn’t seen Satan as so insouciant that he never gets angry; he has a sense of human and looks as though he wants to have sex with everyone. He could ravage anyone at any time. Yet he could be the guy who passes you on the street and you don’t think twice about him.
When we cast Peter Stormare I started to think about Fagin in Oliver Twist. He actually ad-libbed some of his lines.

Q: Why did you cast Gavin Rossdale?
A:
I come from the music video world and I was a fan of his band Bush. He came in and auditioned and he was great. He captured what I wanted.

Q: What’s your take on Keanu?
A:
I was surprised at first at how hard he works. For our first meeting he arrived alone on his motor bike and we talked for hours. He was so devoted to the movie, his character and the story. He has a great work ethic. He wants to work and he is a perfectionist.
When he is on set the work is all he is thinking about. There is no goofing around. He gives 150 per cent.

Q: What are the chances of a sequel?
A:
It would be great if we could make a sequel; there are a million stories to tell.

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