Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Troubled Western 'Jane Got a Gun' Rescued as Relativity Files for Bankruptcy (Updated) Troubled Western 'Jane Got a Gun' Rescued as Relativity Files for Bankruptcy (Updated) 'The Witch' Won't Open Until 2016, But Its Sundance-Winning Director Has a New Film 'The Witch' Won't Open Until 2016, But Its Sundance-Winning Director Has a New Film Charles Aidikoff Screening Room Shutters: End of an Era for LA Critics? Charles Aidikoff Screening Room Shutters: End of an Era for LA Critics? How HBO's 'Ballers' Fails Sports Fans How HBO's 'Ballers' Fails Sports Fans Michael Moore Reveals Stealth NSA Project 'Where to Invade Next' on Periscope Michael Moore Reveals Stealth NSA Project 'Where to Invade Next' on Periscope Showtime Chief on David Lynch's 'Twin Peaks' Revival: "It's His Show" Showtime Chief on David Lynch's 'Twin Peaks' Revival: "It's His Show" Toronto Film Festival Lineup: What Did They Get? Toronto Film Festival Lineup: What Did They Get? Discover the Brothers Quay, Identical Twin Animators Who Inspired Christopher Nolan Discover the Brothers Quay, Identical Twin Animators Who Inspired Christopher Nolan Richard Linklater's Untitled New Film Pushed to 2016, Might Direct Jennifer Lawrence Movie Richard Linklater's Untitled New Film Pushed to 2016, Might Direct Jennifer Lawrence Movie Jill Soloway Says "There Is an All Out-Attack" on Female Filmmakers Jill Soloway Says "There Is an All Out-Attack" on Female Filmmakers 'Steve Jobs' Joins Fall Festival Contenders as NYFF Centerpiece Gala: What's Coming Up and What's Not (UPDATED) 'Steve Jobs' Joins Fall Festival Contenders as NYFF Centerpiece Gala: What's Coming Up and What's Not (UPDATED) Top 10 Takeaways: Holdover 'Ant-Man' Tops Blah Week, Summer Slot for 'Southpaw' Pays Off Top 10 Takeaways: Holdover 'Ant-Man' Tops Blah Week, Summer Slot for 'Southpaw' Pays Off Arthouse Audit: Is 'Phoenix' This Year's 'Ida'? 'Mr. Holmes' Stays Strong Arthouse Audit: Is 'Phoenix' This Year's 'Ida'? 'Mr. Holmes' Stays Strong Friday Box Office: Sandler's 'Pixels' Gets Mixed Response, 'Paper Towns,' 'Southpaw' Not Far Behind Friday Box Office: Sandler's 'Pixels' Gets Mixed Response, 'Paper Towns,' 'Southpaw' Not Far Behind Scott Foundas Explains Why He's Leaving Film Criticism--Again--for Amazon Studios Scott Foundas Explains Why He's Leaving Film Criticism--Again--for Amazon Studios Congrats to Monica Bellucci: She's Making History Congrats to Monica Bellucci: She's Making History Watch: The Secret Ingredient to David Lynch's Disorienting Cinema Watch: The Secret Ingredient to David Lynch's Disorienting Cinema First Look: 'No' Director Pablo Larraín Channels 'Neruda' with Gael García Bernal First Look: 'No' Director Pablo Larraín Channels 'Neruda' with Gael García Bernal Why Kevin Costner Paid for 'Black or White' (New Trailer, Sneak Preview Q & A) Why Kevin Costner Paid for 'Black or White' (New Trailer, Sneak Preview Q & A) Gabriel García Márquez and Akira Kurosawa Talk Film, Writing and 'Rhapsody in August' in 1991 Gabriel García Márquez and Akira Kurosawa Talk Film, Writing and 'Rhapsody in August' in 1991

Immersed in Movies: Screenwriter John August Talks Burton's 'Frankenweenie,' 'Big Fish' Musical, and Industry Frustration

Thompson on Hollywood By Bill Desowitz | Thompson on Hollywood October 11, 2012 at 3:44PM

"Frankenweenie" scribe John August was willing to concede industry frustration when we spoke even before the lackluster opening for Tim Burton's critically praised stop-motion animated feature (which was even outgunned by animated rival "Hotel Transylvania"). It's increasingly difficult to get quality features produced, let alone commercially embraced.
1

Frankenweenie
Even more important, August came up with the kindly science teacher, Mr. Rzykruski, (voiced by Martin Landau), who Burton designed as a tribute to his boyhood idol, Vincent Price. "I had a fifth grade teacher that the kids loved but the parents couldn't stand because he didn't treat them like kids. I wanted an adult to be on Victor's side and who really understood what he was doing and could provide the logic behind why Victor bringing Sparky back to life was good and why these other kids' pets turned out to be monsters: science as tool for good or evil. This is science being pushed to the edge and the rogue scientist who saves the town, which learns to appreciate science and helps brings Sparky back to life by getting over their prejudices."


Since "Frankenweenie," August has sought creative satisfaction with the "Big Fish" musical, which has expanded the Southern yarn- spinning tale and father-son conflict with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa ("The Addams Family").They are joined by director Susan Stroman ("The Producers") and two-time Tony Award winner Norbert Leo Butz ("Catch Me If You Can") in the lead role.


"Things that were really hard to do in the movie version are simpler to do when characters sing about their frustration," August continues. "You don't have close-ups so you give up the camera control. A character can take two steps to the left, though, and be in a new scene, or you can be in multiple time periods at once, and the audience uses its imagination to see a character as two things at once, which is terrific. It was good to have the movie to draw on when there was a question about a moment not working and realizing that the answer was there."


August isn't sure if "Chosen" will be picked up (he's collaborating with Josh Friedman, who developed "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles"), but the development of this teen romance and conspiracy tale has been more fulfilling than most recent feature projects that have been committee-driven (his adaptation of the graphic novel, "Preacher," which he originally developed for Sam Mendes, is likely DOA). Although he'd like to direct again someday, it'll probably be something bigger and more ambitious than micro-budget drama "The Nines." In the meantime, he's learning a lot about the confluence of technology and creativity working with VFX folks on his screenwriting apps. If only some Silicon Valley money would trickle down and save Hollywood, he fantasizes.


"It's a frustrating time and also an exciting time. While the gear seems stuck in certain places, a lot of people are able to do an end around and make the movies they want to make. I love big screens and the experience of watching a movie with an audience in a dark room. And I think we'll have multiple platforms and always have theaters if for no other reason that teenagers need to get away from their parents. I loved seeing 'The Master' in 70mm. There was nothing committee about it whatsoever. There isn't one right way or wrong way to shoot a movie. We need to embrace digital and embrace film and whatever way people want to tell their stories. And that includes stop-motion as an antidote to CG. If we get so calcified, we're going to lose art forms and lose ways of telling stories in different ways."

"Big Fish" opens a five-week run at Chicago's Oriental Theater, starting April 2, 2013.

This article is related to: Immersed In Movies, Interviews, John August


E-Mail Updates








Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.