Tuesday, July 8, 2008

IGN at AX: David Bowers Talks Astro Boy

Another interview with Astro Boy CGI movie director David Bowers has surfaced, this time with IGN. He goes into a bit of detail on his vision of the film, the casting, and how it's coming together. The intro text to the interview also mentions that Donald Sutherland is the voice of General Stone (though it also incorrectly says that Nicolas Cage is Dr. Elefun, when we know he actually is Dr. Tenma), and lists two cast members that had yet to be announced, comedians Ryan Stiles and David Alan Grier.

Pretty exciting to get such a big barrage of info over the past few days, and to see the elements of the film start to take shape. Read the interview yourself at IGN Movies or click the link below for the archived copy.

AX08: David Bowers Talks Astro Boy
The director on the upcoming manga-to-film.
by Scott Lowe

July 8, 2008 - During our visit to 2008's Anime Expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center, we were able to meet up with director David Bowers at the Imagi Animation Studios booth. Bowers, whose directorial debut was 2006's Flushed Away, is helming the upcoming CGI animated film adaptation of the popular anime/manga series Astro Boy. The film is slated for a Fall 2009 release and will feature the voices of Freddie Highmore as Astro Boy, Nicolas Cage as Dr. Elefun, and Donald Sutherland as General Stone. Other talents attached to the project include Bill Nighy, Nathan Lane, Eugene Levy, Ryan Stiles, and David Alan Grier.

IGN: We understand that you are about halfway to completing Astro Boy.

David Bowers: Yes. We are a year out. The whole movie is at some stage of production. But we've got our story nailed down, we've got most of our actors recorded. We have been doing a little re-recording, but we are pretty far in; far enough in to feel confident about the movie.

IGN: We were also told that the casting isn't entirely finalized at this point.

Bowers: It's still a work in progress. We have all of the big characters, but it's a bit of a journey movie. Astro Boy gets cast out and there's a long way to go in his development, and so there is a lot of characters he meets along the way. A lot of funny characters, some more serious than others, but we are still tying down the last few..

IGN: What was the casting process like? What drew you to Nicolas Cage?

Bowers: He has an extraordinary voice, its very idiosyncratic -- really unusual. He's such an unusual, surprising, and exciting actor. I encourage actors to go crazy with the script; it's a very collaborative process. For someone like Nic Cage, it's all about what he brings to a role. It's amazing, he sounds fantastic. He plays Astro Boy's father and he's really funny in the role, but really serious, dark, and emotional at the same time.

IGN: What about Freddie Highmore? Was he your first pick for the character of Astro Boy?

Bowers: Yes. I love Freddie. My goal is to get the best actors possible for every role, and I don't think there is any actor Freddie's age working today that is as diverse as he is. He's a chameleon; he can slip into any role. He's so likable and his voice is so charming. I mean, he's doing an American accent in this movie as well.

IGN: Like he did in The Spiderwick Chronicles.

Bowers: Yes, and August Rush as well.

IGN: Astro Boy is a bit of a retro manga/anime series, and of course Speed Racer was as well. Was there anything you learned from that film in terms of revitalizing more dated manga/anime?

Bowers: Not really, I think we are going in a different direction entirely. I liked a lot of things about Speed Racer, but it was almost too retro. With our movie, if you look at the old Astro Boy manga, it does look a little bit retro, a little bit stylized by the 1950s. But at the time, it was futuristic, cutting edge, and modern. We are reintroducing Astro Boy and our movie is futuristic, cutting edge, and modern as well. So it doesn't have that retro feel. The emotional story of Astro Boy, the story of a boy being cast out by his father is timeless. You could tell that as a medieval story, or as a caveman story, it could be anything. It's just a good emotional story, and we haven't really focused on paying any lip service to any one time or previous incarnation, although it is faithful.

IGN: You've obviously had a lengthy career in the animation field, having worked on Who Framed Roger Rabbit, An American Tail, and Shark Tale, but your directorial debut was Flushed Away. How does it feel to be back in the director's chair?

Bowers: I love it. I'm very fortunate. I've been able to work with some amazing actors and I've got an amazing crew. The production designers are exceptional, and I was fortunate enough to spend some time with the crew in Hong Kong. It's very hectic, you know. There is just so much to do. But at the same time it's nice, especially when it's a property you really believe in, something you really want to do. It's also very different from Flushed Away as well. For Flushed Away, for me, it was all about the jokes. We had an emotional story, but it was all about gag-after-gag. This is a more emotional story. Which isn't to say there aren't a lot of jokes and humor, but it's a different kind of movie.

IGN: By taking a property that has already been established, already conceptualized, the battle often becomes deciding whether to stay true to the original or make something new out of it. Which would you say you lean towards with Astro Boy?

Bowers: Before I came onto the movie, I pitched my vision of it to everyone at Imagi. I wanted to be sure that it was a movie that I would enjoy making, a movie that I felt invested in, and a movie that I wanted to make. And everyone loved it and was very supportive. But at the same time, if something is working the phrase "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" is true. We've updated the look slightly, but the story is timeless. I think people who love Astro Boy are going to be pleased.

IGN: What about the property really drove you to want to do this film?

Bowers: I like Astro Boy, he's not well known over here but he is fairly well known in England. The first movie I saw in a theater was Pinocchio and it had a profound effect on me, there are a lot of similarities between Astro Boy and Pinocchio and I couldn't really resist it.