Pacific Rim Interview With Legendary Entertainment President Jon Jashni!

Legendary Pictures is behind some of the most exciting and engaging output to come from Hollywood in the last 8...

Oscar Harding

Contributor

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Legendary Pictures is behind some of the most exciting and engaging output to come from Hollywood in the last 8 years- from Christopher Nolan’s epic Dark Knight Trilogy and awards darlings like Inception and The Town, to off-the-wall projects like Where The Wild Things Are and The Hangover, right up to this summer’s smash hit Man of Steel, Legendary shows no signs of failing to dazzle and thrill audiences the world over.

Legendary’s next is not likely to buck that trend- for the film in question is Pacific Rim, arguably 2013’s most anticipated blockbuster. A portal underneath the ocean has let terrifying otherworldly creatures, Kaiju, onto our world to wreak havoc. But Humanity has far from given up- Earth is defender by Jaegers, giant robots controlled psychically by human pilots inside of them. As we face our darkest hour, the dedicated few will protect the many.

Go Big or Go Extinct.

Jon Jashni is the a veteran of the industry with 25 years worth of experience under his belt, as well as being President of Legendary Entertainment and its chief creative officer- so who better to provide insight into the inner workings of both Guillermo Del Toro and Legendary itself?

With Pacific Rim poised to dominate our screens this Friday, Jon was kind enough to discuss not only Pacific Rim and Legendary’s approach to working on such unique projects with visionaries like Del Toro, but also the company’s ventures in China, the progress on production of Godzilla and Get Smart!

 

How did you breaking into the industry, Jon? More importantly, what inspired you to get into the movie business?

I literally broke into the industry by sneaking off [of] the Universal Studios tour, inspired by Steven Spielberg [setting up his own office there when he was a young man]. I didn’t have any family in the business, therefore I had to do whatever I could to [find] a way in and make relationships… I became [something] of a mascot on different film crews, where I would hang out on film sets and was gradually able to work my way into getting a job as a producer, then into becoming a junior studio executive.

And 25 years later, here I am- I find myself being a bit of a hybrid, in that I love the producorial function but I also love the structured Executive function – Legendary is a great way for me personally to indulge my love for film, and [to balance] those two skillsets.

 

I believe your first credited Producer role was on Get Smart Again!, which is a guilty pleasure of mine…

I was a very young man… I love it, that truly is a guilty pleasure! I’m looking at the shoe phone in my office right now as we speak!

 

Despite having Guillermo Del Toro at the helm, were you initially nervous of taking such a big creative risk? On the surface, the film would seem to appeal to a niche audience…

We feel it’s a bigger creatively risk to not take risks- no risk, no reward. Audiences are demanding… fresh, original and bold entertainment. [To do] that often means giving them something new- sometimes there’s false comfort in that which seems familiar, and there’s a real opportunity in those things that haven’t been done before.

You can’t go wrong enabling distinctive visionaries like Guillermo, so if you’re taking something that [isn’t] so widely known and mainstreaming it, you’re certainly much better off doing that in the hands of someone like Guillermo, who understands it so [well] and is also himself a huge fan of populist entertainment.

 

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Did you have much input? Maybe you were asked for it, or did you leave Guillermo’s team to it?

Legendary produced this movie [in a very hands-on manner]. Guillermo was originally our producing partner- we enticed him onto it once we acquired the project and started developed it, and after he [had] stepped off [of] The Hobbit.

Then when At The Mountains of Madness didn’t come together on the schedule that he wanted on that time, we were able to intrigue him into directing it. So [it was very much a case of] Legendary and Guillermo produced it together.

 

The film is very rich and complex, but how would one sell it to audience members who only see it for being a big blockbuster without depth?

What we’ve tried to do over time, as the marketing campaign has evolved, is indicate that there are people inside these machines (The Jaeger robots that fight the Kaiju monsters). In order for these machines to function, the people inside them also need to function emotionally- [they need to] become one with each other. The ability to locomote these machines and have them do their job is entirely dependent on these characters communicating, letting down their guard and truly engaging as one.

We like to [think that] it’s like the fastest speed-dating of all time, as these pilots are in each other’s heads, and in the case of Raleigh and Mako (the lead protagonists) there aren’t any secrets between them, and that awkwardness that could come from having someone you’ve just met be so privy to all that you are obviously leads to a lot of drama and emotion.

 

Legendary work with directors like Todd Phillips, Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan time and time again- and now it seems that with Crimson Peak you can add Guillermo Del Toro to that roster. Is this to maintain a strong working relationship with the auteurs themselves, or because you understand the potential that their projects will have?

Talent is a rare and precious thing, and when you find it and you’re able to relate with it and to it, you hope to repeat that. There’s an efficiency and a shorthand that comes from working with people you’ve worked with before and [if] you’ve enjoyed creative success together.

To us, as a company, we are incredibly proud that these filmmakers who could chose to work anywhere would choose to have repeat business with us.

 

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Legendary’s take on Godzilla is released next year- many people have argued that it seems similar to Pacific Rim, despite not having seen a single frame of Godzilla. Can you comment on Godzilla, and how it’s different to Pacific Rim in the most basic terms- we don’t want to give anything away yet!

Every visionary filmmaker brings their own stamp, [their own] imprint and [their own] approach to anything they undertake. We obviously wouldn’t be making both movies if we thought that they were duplicative in anyway, and Gareth’s palette for his film is wholly distinct from Guillermo’s palette for his in terms of tone, and nuance… they’re just completely different approaches.

As more is shown over time of Godzilla and more of the movie comes to together- we’re still shooting at the moment in Hawai’i and we’ll be wrapping in the next few weeks- as the material starts to be revealed, maybe even as soon as comic-con, I think that people will see how this approach to Godzilla is completely different to Guillermo’s approach to Pacific Rim.

 

I’m interested in any developments there may be with Legendary East- whose idea was it to develop that arm of the company? Have there been any movements on Edward Zwick’s The Great Wall?

We are continuing to develop The Great Wall- Ed Zwick’s no longer attached, we took it in a different creative direction and [we] also wanted to get the budget down a bit from what the original incarnation of the movie was going to cost.

We’ve taken our time in China, which is a very prudent thing to do when trying to enter a market that one is not expert in, and recently we partnered with the china film group in a ground-breaking deal- that should indicate that there’s some activity to come.

 

As a high-ranking executive in a huge Hollywood production company, I’d love to know your views on the current State of cinema. Many opinions are negative, stating that everything being produced is reliant on starting franchises; that creative decisions are being made based on the reactions from foreign markets; that the interesting stuff is on television and being distributed via the internet, since smaller adult stuff isn’t getting a look-in elsewhere. What are your thoughts on the matter, as someone currently working on a particular side of ‘the scale’, as it were?

Our (Legendary’s) answer to those worries and those realties are the work that we help enable and create. On the one hand you can ask whether Pacific Rim is a bold undertaking, and [you can ask] how fresh and original [is it]… but on the other hand, I guess the answer to that question is that Pacific Rim and movies like it are our answer to [your original] question.

 

Jon Jashni (left), Thomas Tull (Legendary's CEO and Founder, right) and 'friend'

Jon Jashni (left), Thomas Tull (Legendary’s CEO and Founder, right) and ‘Friend’

 

What advice, if any, would you give to aspiring filmmakers looking to break into the industry?

It’s all about the work- it’s not about the angles, it’s not about breastbeating, it’s not about the politics and it’s not about the flash, just the work.

 

Is there anything you can tell us about Legendary’s upcoming projects? There’s 300: Rise of an Empire and The Seventh Son, of course, but can you discuss Michael Mann’s Cyber or World of Warcraft? Can we ever expect sequels to Hellboy and Wrath of The Titans?

The Hellboy thing was a passing remark in jest that then got picked up on as something real- we don’t control the rights to Hellboy, it’s obviously something that Ron (Perlman) and Guillermo have a long-standing history with. It’s nothing we’re involved with at present- never say never, but there’s no news to talk about in regards to Hellboy 3.

I’m not sure there’ll be another Titans films in the near future- we’re not developing one at present. [We’re working on] Michael Mann’s project, and the Dowdles (directors of Devil and The Poughkeepsie Tapes) are producing and directing a project for us in Paris based in the Catacombs… we have a lot of things in development, like Hot Wheels and Mass Effect… we re-optioned a wonderful book by Marcus Sakey called Brilliance that David Koepp is adapting for us and Joe Roth is producing. So there are a lot of things coming down the line.

 

Pacific Rim is out in cinemas this Friday. You can read our review of the film HERE