Oliver talks to Keanu Reeves and director Scott Derrickson about THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL...and BILL AND TED 3 "could happen"!

THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL which Oliver Pfeiffer attended this week, I had to drag up this newsworthy quote Keanu Reeves let slip about a potential third movie in the BILL & TED franchise...

"There would have to be a good reason to do another one" (Reeves explains). "Yeah I have spoken about it to Alex, (co-star Alex Winter aka 'Bill' to Reeves 'Ted') who is a good friend of mine and we came up with this idea of the characters in their forties and 'what if they didn't save the world?' kind of thing, and how they might ignore their children and wives as their adventures take over their lives and they become these really bad parents. But now that I am already in my mid forties (Keanu turned 44 in September), we might have to wait until we are in our fifties to do it... Still it could happen!
BACK TO THE PRESS CONFERENCE... In an inscrutable 20 year career Hollywood heartthrob Keanu Reeves has transformed himself from a floppy-haired comedy performer of cult kiddie favourites like BILL AND TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE/BOGUS JOURNEY and family friendly flicks like PARENTHOOD, to reinventing himself as a serious leading muscle man in movies like SPEED and CHAIN REACTION. Then he branched out in some rather intelligent, genre defying modern sci-fi epics such as THE MATRIX trilogy, CONSTANTINE and, to more psychedelic effect, the trippy Philip K Dick adaptation A SCANNER DARKLY. Along the way he has been humble enough to take the occasional supporting character part (see his atypical performances in both THE GIFT or SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE), while acting alongside the Oscar winning likes of Cate Blanchett and Jack Nicholson. His most recent film saw him co-star alongside another Academy Award winner: Forest Whitaker in the crime thriller STREET KINGS. Now he's staring in his first remake: the post-apocalyptic sci-fi flick THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, taking another risk with a potentially problematic role, (he plays the pivotal role of Klaatu, an alien visitor who journeys to earth in an attempt to save our planet) and is once again working alongside the Oscar friendly: this time his co-stars are Jennifer Connelly (as Helen Benson, the rebellious scientist he meets) and veteran Kathy Bates, (playing US secretary of defense Regina Jackson). Keanu Reeves was cool, calm and collective when he attended a press conference, along with his recent director Scott Derrickson, at Claridges hotel last week to promote his latest blockbuster. Mediated by Total Film ed-in-chief Aubrey Day, the event proved a good opportunity to grill the director of grisly 2005 courtroom horror THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE on the daunting task of remaking one of the most cherished sci-fi films of the 1950s:
"Being a huge fan of the original what attracted me to the idea of a reimagination was the fact that most of the public hadn't seen the original Robert Wise film. It was so interesting and progressive for its time- in the visual effects, in the way it commented on the Cold War tensions of the era, in the idea of seeing humanity from an outsider's perspective. And essentially it's a simple idea - of this alien outsider coming to our planet and assessing human nature, so I was compelled to update my film with the social issues of our modern times."
For Reeves the prospect of playing an alien proved too irresistible to turn down:
"I was attracted to the project through the story primarily, the earth being at this crisis point...and yeah I thought it would be fun to play an alien"
I asked the actor, already famous for playing super-human characters in THE MATRIX trilogy and CONSTANTINE, how he prepared for playing the role of an alien character:
"I tried to get underneath and understand the concepts of being human...then by separating these unique qualities from the body it led to the concept of the character. Klaatu is trapped inside this human shell and when he is looking out of it he is looking out from a different perspective, so you get this kind of objective quality from him and this sense of containment. The idea of this push-pull dynamic occurs in the opening sequence in the movie, (where Klaatu experiences strange sensations as he puts his arm through a movable portal device on earth) which sees my character enter this strange alien planet called Earth. Its very much from this perspective of seeing and looking out from within that I tried to encapsulate the sense and predicament of this character".
But after his previous success with the genre, the prospect of notching up yet another sci-fi movie credit to Keanu's ever expanding C.V doesn't appear to concern the actor:
"These science-fiction films have a different slant to them and are not primarily science-fiction projects and this is what attracted me to them. With THE MATRIX films the Wachowski's brought this film noir quality to the visuals that was very distinctive, and with JOHNNY MNEMONIC it was more of an action-orientated movie. And then there have been others I have worked on that are more science-fiction adventure films. (Aubrey Day presses him about his work on A SCANNER DARKLY)...well with SCANNER, I don't know is it a sci-fi movie? Well I suppose it did have this sci-fi edge and mentality but it was also crazy and psychedelic and this ultimately made it more interesting to be a part of".
And what about working with British comedy legend John Cleese, (appearing with him in one brief but pivotal scene, as Physicist Professor Barnhardt)?
"Ah, he was great and I was very excited to work with him. He had such a tremendous charm and carried this intimidating intellect...he was a joy to work with." Derrickson butts in: "Sure he pranked around on set but as soon as the cameras started rolling he switched to serious mode and brought brilliant dignity to the role...which is what I knew he would bring, along with approaching the character from an unexpected and interesting angle".
Keanu was then asked to name his favourite movie remake.
"Favourite remake, urm a remake, I am not sure... I guess, (sensing his star struggling to come up with a title, Derrickson offers a suggestion): What about THE THING?" he quickly beams. "Yeah that was on a whole other plane than the original. What John Carpenter did with the story; taking it to another dimension and updating it through the use of state of the art special effects, but maintaining that chilling claustrophobic environment"
...and can Derrickson name any other laudable remakes?
"Well I would have to say INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, the 1978 version, (directed by Philip Kaufman and staring Donald Sutherland). Although the original was very good, the next film had this unnerving quality that was so much a product of its own time, coming after Watergate and Vietnam etc. The unease of the environment, closing in on the population...and science-fiction in itself is a genre that certainly allows for this social commentary to shine through, which is one of the reasons I wanted to make another updated version of THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL.
The film carries a strong eco-friendly message warning of the dangers of a crippling earth on the hinges of total collapse. Something that Derrickson was keen to enforce on set:
"We tried to use hybrid vehicles where possible and enforced an 'idle-free mandate' - if any of the crew found themselves sitting in their production vehicle for more than a few minutes, they had to turn the engine off."
Derrickson also insisted that he wanted (like Robert Wise's original film) to bring an authenticity to the Earth world that Klaatu inhabits, and where possible film for real, without the need for blue screens, thus minimising any reliance on CGI:
"I believe that when used, CGI should support not overwhelm the narrative and the effects should feel as real as possible."
But this is something which I have consequently found hard to fathom considering the CGI dominated results of the final product. One aspect that is just as overwhelming, however is the optimistic message that humanity will change for the better when pushed to the limit, something which Reeves is keen to reiterate:
"I think the film is really positive in its view of human nature...Once things get pretty dire, we tend to rally. And I think this picture shows some of the worst of ourselves, and then promotes the idea of how we can be the best of ourselves."
Whether the film helps to install hope in humanity remains to be seen, but you can judge for yourselves when THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL is released in the UK on 12th December.

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Oliver Pfeiffer is a freelance writer who trained at the British Film Institute. He joined OWF in 2007 and now contributes as a Features Writer. Since becoming Obsessed with Film he has interviewed such diverse talents as actors Keanu Reeves, Tobin Bell, Dave Prowse and Naomie Harris, new Hammer Studios Head Simon Oakes and Hollywood filmmakers James Mangold, Scott Derrickson and Uk director Justin Chadwick. Previously he contributed to dimsum.co.uk and has had other articles published in Empire, Hecklerspray, Se7en Magazine, Pop Matters, The Fulham & Hammersmith Chronicle and more recently SciFiNow Magazine and The Guardian. He loves anything directed by Cronenberg, Lynch, Weir, Haneke, Herzog, Kubrick and Hitchcock and always has time for Hammer horror films, Ealing comedies and those twisted Giallo movies. His blog is: http://sites.google.com/site/oliverpfeiffer102/