Joe Dante!!

Which director made the best films, made the best visuals, or smelled the best? This is the forum to find out.

Re: Joe Dante!!

Postby TheButcher on Thu Jan 17, 2013 2:56 am

Alternate 1985: Gremlins '81
So I got to read two early drafts—the seventh (1983) and I think the first (1981)—of Gremlins, by Chris Columbus. And check this out (from the 1981 script):
INT. AIRPLANE

Rand is eating his airline dinner. He's looking out the window. Thinking. An Oriental stewardess walks up.

STEWARDESS
More coffee?

Rand nods. The stewardess fills his cup. Rand looks at her.

RAND
Ever heard of "Mogwai"?

She nods.

RAND
What does it mean?

She gives Rand his coffee.

STEWARDESS
Devil.*



Here's why I love this:

I remember that as a little kid I was fascinated by the mogwai–gremlin metamorphosis and got stuck on one big question, even wrote stories trying to answer it: If Gizmo ate something after midnight (I mean, he wouldn't, he didn't, but if he did somehow, like if you tricked him or forced him to), would the gremlin he turned into be evil like the others?—because all his offspring† are nasty even before they become gremlins. The difference between Gizmo and the gremlins isn't just that he never transforms, but that he's always sweet and nice and they're always mischievous and nasty...always, even before they go into their cocoons.

So is Gizmo just an anomalously gentle mogwai?—or is it somehow always true that the offspring are nastier than the parent? Are you not supposed to get them wet just because wetness leads to more mogwai and mogwai can be dangerous, or are you not supposed to make them wet because the reproductive process, like sound deterioration when copying tapes (remember copying tapes?), results in a kind of moral degradation...?

What's exciting about this (possibly) first draft of Gremlins is that it provides an answer—both an in-story answer and a kind of a meta-answer.

The "in-story answer":

Mogwai are just fucking bad news. Whether Gizmo's a freak or is just, like, the unique decent father of all mogwai goes unanswered, but we do know this: mogwai are little devils, and dangerous, and trouble, and the main difference between mogwai and gremlins isn't that mogwai are sweet and gremlins are evil, but that mogwai look cute and gremlins look evil.

That old draft of Gremlins is a much darker script than what wound up being filmed years later.‡ For one thing, the gremlins basically eat everything, people included. For example, instead of tying up Billy's dog with Christmas lights, they eat him—tear him to shreds—and this is when they're still mogwai!

In fact, that original Gremlins is maybe most notable for the fact that there is no Gizmo. Billy gets a mogwai from his dad, Billy hates the mogwai, the mogwai reproduces...and then there is no longer any effort to distinguish one from the others: no Stripe, no Gizmo, just a mess of mogwai who then become a mess of gremlins.

And this leads us to...

The "meta-answer":

Whence Gizmo? Whether this was an order from a studio or just a clever idea that Chris Columbus came up with on his own, the sweet mogwai is clearly a plot device added in later to achieve certain goals, including (presumably) the lightening-up of a super-dark story and the introduction of a sort of...plot...foothold? (Terminology: always a weakness for me.)

I'm reminded of that story about the original Transformers movie: how cynical corporate interests accidentally resulted in a sort of amazing plot choice. Gremlins would not be nearly so good if there weren't the contrast between Gizmo and the others; indeed, as I was just saying, half of my interest in the thing as a kid was speculation about what went wrong, where they went bad, whether Gizmo was corruptible, and so forth.

But so apparently the answer—I mean, the meta-answer—to my boyhood questions is: mogwai are evil, and the reason Gizmo isn't evil is that he got written in that way.

In other words—contrary to the chronology of the plot—gremlins came first; Gizmo came second.

Three other things

1. In both drafts, the creatures are called mogwai throughout—before and after their metamorphosis. The script refers to them as gremlins only implicitly, in the title. (Obviously this doesn't stop me from continuing to call the reptilian ones gremlins and the mammalian ones mogwai. I don't give a fuck.)

2. The three rules—so central and iconic—seem to have come only at the very end. The 1981 draft has only one rule, about light, and by the seventh draft we've already got the eating-after-midnight rule (I may have read too carelessly, but I think originally they just plain metamorphosed: no rule-breaking or food connection at all!)—but the bit about water is just something Billy discovers on his own, not a rule!

3. By that seventh draft, Gremlins is pretty much Gremlins as we know and love it—except that at the end (I can barely bear to share this with you, it makes me so uncomfortable) Gizmo sprouts wings and flies off like a beautiful butterfly leaving behind a trail of fairy dust. I'M SERIOUS.§

In conclusion...

I still sort of want to know what Gizmo would be like as a gremlin. And that's one to grow on.

† Most of the gremlins in the movie are descended directly from Stripe (and presumably his own offspring) in the pool at the YMCA and start right out as gremlins, but the first batch of them start out as mogwai and pop out of Gizmo's wet back. Billy and his mom—mainly his mom—kill all Gizmo's original offspring except Stripe; when Billy's hunting Stripe, pre–swimming pool, there is another gremlin out there—the one from the school, Gizmo's grandkid—but presumably he winds up in the movie theater with the rest of them; no need to worry. (NOTE: In that 1981 draft, Billy's mom doesn't kill all those gremlins [in that amazing sequence with the blender, the microwave, etc.]. No: they kill her. And the dad. Then they throw their severed heads at Billy. True story!)

‡ Cates Kate's Christmas story makes a lot more sense in this first draft. Interestingly, in both the 1981 script and the 1983 script, the story belongs to someone other than Kate; the 1981 script gives it to Dorry, the owner of the bar, and the 1983 script gives it to Gerald, the Judge Reinhold character. It just kept getting moved around. (To be fair, it is a weirdly amazing story.)

§ You can almost read this as a super-cynical fuck-you gesture, satirizing the very concept of Gizmo: keeping in mind that Gizmo was added later, might Columbus have been saying, "Yeah, this angelic mogwai, mogwai meaning devil, remember...since he's here, he might as well transmogrify into some goddamned magical Disney character." (Interestingly, that 1981 draft describes the mogwai as being cuter than any Disney character...but that one ate dog instestines and laughed.)

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Re: Joe Dante vs Godzilla!!

Postby TheButcher on Fri Jan 03, 2014 11:25 am

10 Questions with Mike Schlesinger
dr film wrote:Q2. You’re a long-time Godzilla fan. Tell us about your involvement in Godzilla 2000.

Well, that’s not a short story, but I’ll try to make it so. Sony’s distribution chief Jeff Blake (whom I largely owe my career to) happened to be in Japan when G2K opened and was breaking records. Since the Emmerich version didn’t turn out to be the most-beloved film of its generation, the studio was unsure of how to proceed. Jeff felt that releasing G2K here would be at least a place-keeper and at best a make-good to the fans who felt let down by the Emmerich.

We had a screening, and there was considerable concern: the pace was slack and the dubbing was pretty dire. Jeff was having second thoughts. I assured him that with some judicious editing and a new dub it’d be right as rain. He said, “Okay, then you do it.” And just like that it was in my lap. He figured, I hope correctly, that I was the only one there who’d actually seen some Godzilla movies and would have the right handle on it. So with a release date breathing down our necks, I dove right in.

Jimmy Honore, then Sony’s post-production czar, provided me with an editor and a sound man. Toho’s local guy, Masaharu Ina, was also involved, as every single change had to be approved by Tokyo. I wrote a new script, hired a swell bunch of Asian-American actors to reloop, and worked with the editor to sweat nine minutes of studly out of the film (over 130 individual cuts) and restructuring scenes to increase the tension. We rebuilt the soundtrack from scratch, adding some new music cues (including a couple of classic Ifukube themes) and creating foley for scenes that had been played in total background silence. I even did directional dialogue in some scenes. The sound guys were brilliant and completely supportive, and very complimentary whenever I came up with a suggestion that worked. Happily, Toho (albeit a bit grudgingly at first) admitted that our version was a big improvement; so much so that they even re-released it subtitled in Tokyo, as well as a few other countries, like India. The reviews here were mostly positive (if sometimes patronizing). It made money. And best of all, I got a six-week crash course in post-production that has served me very well. Even I was surprised at how quickly I picked it up. And I have the unique honor of being the first person to put a line of Yiddish in a Godzilla movie.

Q5. There’s a legend in the film world about your long-lost Godzilla script, which was almost shot by Joe Dante. Please, relate the whole story, down to why it didn’t get made. Is there any hope for it now?

Legend? Seriously? Wow. Anyway, it’s doubtful it’ll ever get made, what with the new Warners version coming out next year. It started, as so much of my life does, with a joke. I ran into my friend Jon Davison one day; he was at Sony producing The Sixth Day. I told him about what Toho was doing with my version of G2K (as related above), and he said, “Yeah, you’re really Mr. Godzilla now.” I laughed, “Yeah, and if these guys were smart, they’d get you, me and Joe to do the next American one.” He said, “Hey, we’re there.” Later in the day, I was pondering this and thought, “Well, why not? Who better to save the franchise?” So I called them both and asked if they were interested. They were, so I went in to the Columbia production head and pitched the idea of a “Wrath of Khan”-like sequel: a modestly-budgeted, man-in-suit picture, using Toho’s effects people, but set in America with English-speaking actors. I said we could do it for $20 million. He was intrigued, but said he really couldn’t authorize it. However, if I wanted to write it on spec, they would certainly consider it if it came out as good as I said it would. That was fine by me.

So I went home and got to work. I set it in Hawaii for various reasons, among them that I’d need no tortured explanation of how Godzilla got there, not to mention the unlikelihood of any actor turning down a feature being shot in Hawaii. (My suggested tagline: “Say aloha to your vacation plans.”) I decided to follow the Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein Rule–make the human scenes funny and play the monster stuff straight. I wrote it with genre favorites in mind for the cast: Bruce Campbell, Jamie Lee Curtis, Scott Bakula, Christopher Lee, Leonard Nimoy and of course Joe’s stock company. After jokingly giving it the temporary title of Godzilla—East of Java, I settled on Godzilla Reborn, which referred to not only the franchise but also the storyline, in which he’s killed and eventually resuscitated. Sid Ganis eventually came on board as a producer as well. Everybody adored the script. It shoulda been a no-brainer.

Unfortunately, by the time I finished it, Columbia had a new production head, and he wanted no part of it. Wouldn’t even read it. It takes balls to say that to Sid Ganis, who’s a former Academy president, but he did. And there ya go. Now everyone’s too old for their parts and Warners has the franchise. A damn shame; it would’ve been a monster hit. Pun intended.
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Re: Explorers

Postby TheButcher on Fri Mar 14, 2014 1:26 am

burlivesleftnut wrote:Oh fuck I forgot about Explorers. That movie rocked my nuts until they actually get on the ship... Although the dad alien was strangely hot.

Paramount to Remake 'Explorers' (Exclusive)
Geoff Moore and Dave Posamentier will write the remake, which will be produced by Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec ("Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol").
Borys Kit wrote:Explorers told the story of three teenaged boys who come together to create a homemade space ship. The movie marked the feature debuts of Ethan Hawke and River Phoenix -- the third kid was played by Jason Presson -- and was directed by Joe Dante, who made his name with Gremlins and The Howling.

With a release date moved up during production, the movie had a third act that was written on the fly and flopped at the box office when it hit theaters in summer 1985. However, Explorers had a second life when released on home video, and it now is considered an '80s classic. The movie is sometimes cited as being an Amblin film, though it wasn't produced by Steven Spielberg; Dante, however, is a Spielberg contemporary and worked with the iconic filmmaker on Gremlins and Innerspace, films that came before and after Explorers.
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