Compiled by: Jack Foley
Q. Mr Zemeckis, was it always obvious which way the movie
would be made or was it a topic of much discussion?
A: No, it wasn’t obvious. We realised that it shouldn’t…
as a matter of fact, one of the conditions Chris [Van Allsburg]
had on the sale is that he didn’t want it to be an animated
cartoon and, at the same time, I didn’t think it should
be done as a live action movie because all the charm and magic
of the beautiful illustrations that were in the book which I think
are so much the emotion of the story would be gone.
So, yes we had to decide how to ‘do’ the movie and
I basically presented the dilemma to Ken Rawlstein at Sony Imageworks
and said how do we get these Van Allsburg paintings to move and
how do we make them moving paintings and that’s where he
came up with this process of doing it ‘virtual’ using
Q. What would you like for Christmas?
A: I would like those Bose noise reducing headsets and
a riding mower.
Hanks: A riding mower?
Starkey: Are you gonna travel across the United
States on your riding mower?
Hanks: Yeah, let’s do that. Whose is this?
[Gestures to iPod] I’ve left you a secret message for later
Q. During the course of the film each of the main children
learns a valuable life lesson. I was wondering if you could tell
me what the most valuable lesson you learned making the film was?
A. I have to say when I make these movies it takes me
a couple of years to actually understand what I got out of the
process of making the movie.
I couldn’t answer that right now, all the pain and suffering
is just too close. Knowing what the themes of the movie were that
we intended to make I agree with these guys I know what we were
trying to do. How this has actually sort of affected me as a person
and as a filmmaker I really won’t know for three or four
Hanks: Make sure you get that quote: "The
Polar Express: Pain and Suffering." If you could put that
in the first paragraph of all your stories, that’s really
what we want [laughs].
Starkey: Now if you’ve been on other press
conferences with Bob Zemeckis then he probably said the same thing
at the end of every movie: "After I get over the pain and
suffering." [Audience laughter]
Hanks: Because this movie was about the Christmas
Spirit and believing I think the pain was a little bit more painful
and the suffering a little bit more insufferable.
Zemeckis: I don’t know whether anyone in
this room has asked me this question, I’ve had it asked
thousands of times, they say: "It must have been so much
fun making that movie."
And I know that their reaction was that the movie was fun to watch
so it must have been fun to make and I always have to go, 'No,
there was no fun, there was no fun making that movie' [laughs].
Q. Robert, pain and suffering apart you always give us
something in your movies that we haven’t seen before. Has,
in this film, technology finally caught up with your imagination?
A: It certainly has allowed me to basically create any
image that I could imagine.
The movie is only limited by my imagination because I was exactly
able to do that. If I said I think we should put a tree here,
there it was.
So it was a really fantastic experience in that regard and I think
it was the most relaxed and the least compromising I’ve
ever had to do on a movie because I could in fact get the camera
where I wanted it to be without being limited by the physical
Q. The film is very magical,
do you remember seeing any movies when you were younger that you
found very enchanting?
A. You mean a Christmas movie?
Q. From floor: Any movie really.
A. Well, yeah, you know when I saw The Blob. No seriously
that was one of my very first film going memories. And I loved
the fact that…
Hanks: …it sucked guys up and spat out
their skeletons? [laughs].
Zemeckis: And the fact that all the parents thought
all the kids in the neighbourhood were crazy and Steve McQueen
and they had to heroically break into the school to grab all the
fire extinguishers to finally freeze the blob. That was like very
Hanks: You were probably anticipating like The
Potemkin or Citizen Kane. But no, The Blob. B-L-O-B is the way
Q. You said the technology on this particular film takes
away all boundaries and everything for yourselves. Where does
it stop? Are you guys ever going to retire?
A: We’ll eventually be forced into retirement,
that’s not going to be a problem. I’m not quite sure…
where is it going to stop? Where does anything stop? Who knows?
We always seem to underestimate the future.
Q. Robert and Tom, before you retire have you got any
plans to work together again?
Zemeckis: I certainly hope so, but we don’t have
anything that’s anywhere near a movie anywhere.
Hanks: I haven’t caused Bob nearly enough
pain and suffering. I’m going to keep going at that given
Q. What is it between the two of you that really works?
Zemeckis: I think we love working together because our
sensibilities of what should be in the movie I think are very,
very similar. That’s how I look at it. In the three films
that we have done there hasn’t been a single situation where
we didn’t see eye to eye, not one.
Starkey: If you’re on the set with Bob
and Tom it’s amazing. Nothing is ever said. All they do
is they just go out and work.
Zemeckis: Here’s how it works. Tom’ll
be doing a scene and I’ll say cut and I’ll say, 'Tom
maybe you should'… and Tom says, 'yeah I’ll do that'.
That’s how we work together. Like an old married couple.
Hanks: We get to resemble each other after a
while which is quite scary. We were down in Cast Away and we had
this big three page scene, you know it was hot, it was miserable
and we were looking at it and I said: "Bob, you know can’t
I just achieve that by looking over there?"
And he said, 'well yeah'. So I said, 'why don’t we cut all
of this nonsense and I’ll look over there and we will have
saved three minutes?'.
"That’s great, let’s do it!" So we have
that kind of collaborative give and take.
Zemeckis: Yeah and it’s great. Trust me,
I do not have this experience with any other actors I work with
so there are these scenes with these lines and I’ll go into
Tom’s trailer and I’ll say, 'Well you know Tom, I
was thinking do we need this line here?', and he’ll say
'cut it out! Get rid of it!'.
"What about this line?"
"Get rid of it! I don’t want to say of this. As a matter
of fact Bob, I think we should cut this whole page out."
And we do.
Q. What does Christmas Spirit mean to you and do you
still believe in Santa?
A: Well, I think that you know, Santa is a symbol
of the Spirit of Christmas, and I think that it’s really
interesting that a large part of the world feels the necessity
to actually visit this holiday and want to feel those feelings
that the holiday brings each year.
So I think it’s an important thing that we do to reflect
at what’s been going on and out place in the universe. It’s
an important holiday.