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Neil Marshall introduces a new version of John Constantine to the world Friday.
The director says he took on directing duties for the NBC pilot in part because he wanted to get things right. (Die-hard Constantine fans have complained about Keanu Reeves‘ 2005 version being American, among other things.)
“I felt like a wrong needed to be righted. This a comic character who his origins are he’s meant to be British, he’s meant to be blond, he’s meant to be a bit of a rogue,” he tells The Hollywood Reporter.
Thanks to projects like Game of Thrones, which recently earned him an Emmy nomination, and films like Dog Soldiers (2002), The Descent (2005) and Doomsday (2008), Marshall has more than enough cred with genre fans that even a hint of him being attached to a project is enough to send the Internet into a frenzy.
That’s happened twice in recent weeks. Earlier this month, a false report had him attached to direct Legendary’s King Kong project Skull Island (not true, he says), and weeks earlier a comment from Marshall about wanting to direct a Black Widow movie for Marvel set the fanboy community ablaze.
“That was kind of hilarious, people picking up on a random comment,” Marshall says. “The quote was like ‘I want to do a Black Widow movie.’ Sure, I want to do the next movie that makes $200 million. Sure I want to do that. I’m not saying I’m going to.”
Read THR’s full conversation with Marshall below, where he also discusses producing his wife Axelle Carolyn‘s directorial debut, Soulmate, which is on DVD in the U.S. next week.
What attracted you to direct the pilot for Constantine?
I felt like a wrong needed to be righted. This a comic character who his origins are he’s meant to be British, he’s meant to be blond, he’s meant to be a bit of a rogue — and I hadn’t really heard of him that much until the film came out. Suddenly there was this uproar. That got me into finding out who this guy was, and why the fans were unhappy with the movie. When I spoke to [executive producers] David Goyer and Daniel Cerone about it, they wanted to go back to the roots.
The pilot looks very cinematic like your Game of Thrones episodes. How does Constantine …
I approach TV as cinematically as possible. I watch movies on my television, so I want my television to look like movies. Many people I know have big, wide screen TVs. There’s no reason to shoot television like its the 70s anymore. I shoot TV exactly like I would shoot a movie. There’s slightly less time, but that’s fine — you work fast and put as much on the screen as possible. It’s about utilizing what you have and getting maximum production value out of it.
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What was your biggest challenge with Constantine?
Getting the character right. It all hangs on him. Anything else is gravy around it. We had some big action sequences, some big stunts, and are trying to make things as scary as possible for a TV format. There are all of those elements, but it’s about making his character compelling and making the series as scary as we can make it. The intention was to make a really scary TV show, to harken back to the days of The X-Files and things like that.
Matt Ryan seems to have nailed the character.
He’s such a great character and I just cannot see anybody else in that role now. He owns it.
Game of Thrones has some of the best directors on TV. What was it like that you got an Emmy nomination for your episode?
I got very lucky in being chosen to direct that episode. I seem to have fallen into this position as being the resident epic battle director in Game of Thrones. That’s a good position to be in. For then to have the episode to represent the series was pretty amazing. I didn’t win for the series, but you know — whatever. Just to get nominated was a privilege enough. To be in the company of all those other directors who were nominated was astonishing company to be in.
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Will you go back to Thrones? I imagine they’ll call you in for the next epic battle.
If they have another set piece I’d be honored to do it for them. They are amazing, creative people to work with. They are very collaborative. They want the directors to come in and collaborate with them.
You have Soulmate, which you executive produced, coming out on DVD in the U.S. soon. What was working with that like?
My wife, Axelle, directed it. She’s a natural director, so she didn’t need me around on set much. I was around to advise when needed. I’m very happy to have my name on it. It’s a great little story. It’s scary. It’s romantic. It’s thoughtful. It’s a beautiful movie. It was 90 percent women on the crew, who were all awesome. It was a pretty unique shoot to be on, and everybody was just fantastic.
The Internet blew up when you said you wanted to make a Black Widow movie. Should we take that comment seriously?
That was kind of hilarious, people picking up on a random comment.
The quote was like “I want to do a Black Widow movie.” Sure, I want to do the next movie that makes $200 million. Sure I want to do that. I’m not saying I’m going to. It’s kind of funny.
So it wasn’t out of context, it’s just you would be open to any of those types of movies.
I just keep an open mind about all that good stuff and see what comes along. It could be a really fun project to do if it ever happens — we’ll just have to wait and see.
The Internet also went nuts when a false report came out that you would direct the King Kong movie Skull Island. To confirm — you really aren’t directing that?
That’s a bit of a confused mess. I wrote a spec script called Skull Island a couple years ago. That got passed on by the studios — and this one emerged and everybody assumed it was the same one, even though at no point was my named mentioned in any announcements. So the two things are unrelated — obviously the same title and same context — but different scripts, different stories. Different everything else. I’m afraid it’s not my project, and has nothing to do with me.
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