Exclusive: Director Shawn Levy is still two weeks away from the release of his robot boxing movie, “Real Steel,” but development work has already begun on a sequel. It’s a show of faith from DreamWorks and producer Steven Spielberg.
“Yes, well, the studio’s faith is very strong,” Levy told The Playlist during a recent interview in Los Angeles. “Even 'Night at the Museum' didn’t test like this. People were cheering in a movie theater. The last time I remember that happening was in 'Rocky III' with Clubber Lang or even against Drago in 'Rocky IV.' So we got that kind of visceral reaction from audiences and the studio not only took the bullish move of developing a sequel and asking me to sign on but then also didn’t deny it when it leaked in the press. That was a show of confidence that hopefully we will reward.”
Levy also confirmed to Playlist that he is signed on to direct the sequel and that the principal cast members will reprise their roles. “I will produce and direct again, yeah. Hugh’s definitely in and, certainly, I can’t give away too much, but Dakota [Goyo], Evangeline [Lilly] and Hugh [Jackman] are all a big part of the sequel. It is the same characters, the next chapter. It delves into the fallout of the new fame and money that the Kentons are going to have as a result of Zeus-Atom fight. It also delves into something I thought was a cool aspect of the movie that I didn’t have time to get into, which is the class warfare between the underground unsanctioned world of robot boxing and the monetized corporately funded league. The truth is, it’s not unlike the way boxing saw its popularity contested with the rise of a more violent, less rule-bound MMA.”
We asked Levy how quickly the studio would green light the sequel and whether it could jump ahead of previously announced projects “Frankenstein” and “Fantastic Voyage.” “I don’t think it can,” admits Levy. “I think 'Real Steel' will open strong, but I think it’s going to run stronger. There’s only so much you can tell about this movie in a commercial. The movie reveals itself as a whole. So, in the same way that 'Date Night' and 'Night at the Museum' did not open massive, it will be the legs. I’ve been lucky with the legs in my movies and I think 'Real Steel' can have that. So it wouldn’t be the Monday after opening weekend. It’s gonna be a month. It will be November before we know. But Hugh is on 'Les Miserables' at least into early summer and quite possibly right into 'Wolvy' after that. I need to wait and see what shakes out with Hugh’s schedule and mine. But we are both committed to the sequel if this movie is a hit.”
The rumored budget for the first movie was only $80 million, a surprisingly low number for this level of scope and visual effects. Levy expects that budget to rise for part two. “Generally that holds true,” Levy laughs. “I’m not complaining. I had enough this time, but I want to blow things out. The robot design in the sequel are less anthropomorphic and a little more trippy."
When asked about those other two rather large projects Levy is tied to, “Frankenstein” and “Fantastic Voyage,” the director seemed to steer the conversation towards the latter, which was surprising considering the recent rumors that he and 'Voyage' producer James Cameron disagreed on the necessity of an A-lister in the lead role. “That was an internet rumor. The truth is that it’s a very expensive movie. I have always felt that I want a certain heft to the casting of 'Fan Voyage.' Jim hasn’t really weighed in strongly for or against other than to say, ‘Whatever you want to make it work, that’s what we’re going to try to make happen.’ So no one ever said, ‘Let’s make it with nobody.’ It was me who said I want to make it with someone of note. Because I think it’s a familiar title and it’s certainly an unbelievably cool science fiction/action movie underwater in 3D. It’s got a lot going for it. There’s a few actors in my mind that are of the bigger star ilk and I’m leaning that way.”
“I love both movies. I’m pretty sure I’m going to make one of them this spring," Levy continued about what his next project will be. "I can’t tell you with certainty which. But I have awesome scripts on both, awesome collaborators on both. It’s a matter of the right actors being available in the right moment.”
“Real Steel” opens in theaters nationwide on October 7th.