Peter's Principles:  Q&A WITH PETER BERG

"Hancock" helmer Berg doesn't shy from political themes

There's arguably not a busier hyphenate than Peter Berg. In the past four years, he's directed three features, starred in three other films, continued to executive produce NBC's critical darling "Friday Night Lights" and is attached to exec produce Fox's buzzed-about pilot "Virtuality." He's also found time to make sci-fi geeks — and David Lynch skeptics — happy by signing on to helm a "Dune" remake. Last weekend, his "Hancock" — helped just a little by leading man Will Smith — stormed the boxoffice by earning $141 million worldwide in its first week. THR caught up with Berg about the dangers of political films, the business approach of Ben Silverman and what David Lynch overlooked.

Peter Berg: After doing "Kingdom" and having to kick my young son out of the editing room every seven minutes, I decided I wanted to do something he could watch. So I came up with this.

I'm always looking for a slight gray area. I got to a certain point and I didn't want it to be what you expect from a movie like this. At the beginning, it's funny, and then it aspires to a kind of drama.

Berg: You know, people think "Lions" was a political movie. It's a mistake. I know (writer Matthew Michael) Carnahan, and he's not some great liberal. It didn't have a liberal or conservative point of view. Its point was very simple — just think. And the fact that audiences rejected it lines up perfectly with the message of the film.

Berg: We've always felt there was an audience that was not reflected in the Nielsen numbers. You go to Vegas, and you look at these big buildings and the fact that they exist is proof that it's working. It's the same with "Friday Night Lights." Ben (Silverman) is my buddy. But he wouldn't keep it on the air if it wasn't working.

Berg: The truth is f***ing ugly. The housing market is collapsing. The environment is collapsing. I actually think we're running out of oil. But I don't think every movie has to dwell on that. (partialdiff)