The hot Russian director Timur Bekmambetov gives us his take on 9 and an exclusive sneak peek of his other projects, including the supernatural Moby Dick.
Russian director Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted, Night Watch, Day Watch), who helped shepherd Shane Acker's 9 by serving as a co-producer, has been very busy. He tells us about the influence that 9 is having on his own live-action projects, including Wanted 2 and Moby Dick. He also discusses 3-D and the latest feature by his favorite director, James Cameron: you know, Avatar.
Bill Desowitz: What was it like for you being involved with 9 and working with Shane Acker?
We just helped Shane to feel comfortable and give him the freedom to do what he wants.
BD: And what appealed to you about 9?
TB: The first time I saw the short was when Mike Simpson (who's my agent as well as Tim Burton's) gave me a copy on DVD, and it was so impressive and exciting that I wanted to see the rest of the world. And it's the kind of movie that I would like to do, where it's smart, very artistic and very grounded at the same time.
And what was unique about Shane's technique is that this is a 2-D movie with a 3-D look. He created very picturesque 2D backgrounds with 3D characters. And this combination creates the effect of watching a stereoscopic movie: you feel like the characters are real and you are watching 3-D objects. It's not only the technology but the compositions: he painted these 2D backgrounds, and the 3D objects up front the effect. And also it's the animation and how everything is happening in a 3D world with depth of field. But, of course, the main thing is that this is an animation movie with a mission and it's not just [fuzzy] animals.
BD: Well, it's good that we're progressing beyond that in the mainstream.
TB: And I like that Shane's language is very unique with his self-irony. He's talking about us as adults with huge problems.
BD: Would you like to direct an animated feature?
TB: Yes, of course, but it takes too long.
BD: Then what did you take away from this experience that is beneficial in your
TB: When I'm making live-action movies, I'm trying to have the same freedom and the same feeling like you're creating the world -- and I really like to create the world. And sometimes it's more important to me than to tell the story, but we need a story to create the world and make it all believable.
BD: What do you think of the stereoscopic trend?
TB: I don't think people know how to use it yet. Now it's an attraction, but I'm sure after James Cameron's Avatar, we will have a reference point.
BD: What's been your impression so far?
TB: I think it's a new film language and we will learn this language and it will develop. It's a whole new psychology because you are in the world. It doesn't provoke you to use your imagination like 2-D. You're not dreaming -- you are there. I think these 3-D projected movies have more interaction and have more freedom to create your own understanding of the world
BD: So, tell me what's going on with some of your projects: Wanted 2?
TB: We are waiting to begin. Everything is set up [at my studio in Moscow], including previsualization. All the action scenes are already prevised. Like the first movie, we use the previs as a writing tool, which is unique. We're prevising scenes before the script and then the screenwriter uses it to write the script. And this helps me to be a better filmmaker because I can be a filmmaker during the writing process.
BD: What can we expect from Wanted 2?
TB: I cannot tell you the whole story but it's about Wesley Gibson [James McAvoy] trying to figure out where this thing is coming from.
BD: And can you discuss some of your visual ideas?
TB: Shane's movie gave me an example of how these 2-D movies can use the experience of 3-D projection. I'm not saying that we will be trying to achieve the same effect of 9, but it will affect our filmmaking. And I'm not sure if this will be released stereoscopically, but the mythology of flying bullets is a perfect subject for 3-D.
BD: And let's discuss your supernatural take on Moby Dick?
TB: Yes, I think Moby Dick will be 3-D projection for sure because it's a movie using the game experience. We will make it a contemporary execution of an old story.
BD: What kind of look do you have in mind for the whale?
TB: It's a horrible creature like Frankenstein or an unstoppable machine like Jaws but the concept is [supernatural].
BD: And the whalers will need special powers to destroy him?
TB: Yes, the whalers will have supernatural abilities also.
BD: And what kind of visual look can we expect?
TB: It will be a fantasy world, very realistic and grounded, but a fantasy world that nobody has seen before with the ocean and the creature. It’s very difficult to explain in words.
BD: And when are you planning on making Moby Dick?
TB: I'm planning on making it right after Wanted 2. End of next year, I hope.
BD: And what's happening with Dusk Watch?
TB: Unfortunately, nothing, because I'm busy with these two movies and I'm producing two Russian movies.
BD: Black Lightning with Universal?
TB: Yes, it's about a young boy who finds a car created by Soviet scientists in the '60s with a unique engine that enables the car to fly. It will be released in Russia this coming December.
BD: And what about here?
TB: Who knows? There are 750 CG shots and my company did 60% of the shots and the rest of the 40% are done by our Russian friends and partners.
BD: And what is the second film you're producing?
TB: It's a Russian comedy about the children's soccer championship. They are homeless children who use their skills to play soccer. Right now it's called Kolotilov. And also we almost have a green light with New Regency called The Darkest Hour about the end of the days in Moscow. I hope we start producing next March.
Bill Desowitz is senior editor of AWN & VFXWorld.