In attendance at the European press conference for the original sci-fi family endeavour were director Brad Bird, producer Jeff Jensen, writer Damon Lindelof, and stars George Clooney, Britt Robertson and Raffey Cassidy.
George, I wondered how important is to make socially conscious films that appeal to my generation?
Clooney: Well that’s a good question, actually, that’s a very good question.I think it’s important to do that, I don’t know you always set out to do those films, I’ve done several films that probably weren’t very inspirational to a fifteen year old. But, this one, I thought, I liked the message. I thought the idea of when I was growing up, when I was your age. I had grown up in a period of time where the idea was that, your voice, not the famous person’s voice on the phone but the individual voice could change the world. Could, as we see saw it happen, we saw Rosa Parks on a bus, we saw, we saw things change and we believed, when I was growing up, that we had the ability to do that. I think over time, we’ve lost sight of that, a little bit. And I think it’s always good and I think it’s really important to make a film like this because it’s to say, you know, your individual voice, the future is not inevitable and what seems very dark and gloomy, doesn’t necessarily have to be. We created it, we can change it. And it doesn’t have to just be people with the greatest amount of power, it could be, you know, a fifteen year old young reporter. So, I think it’s important to make them, but I’m glad you got to ask that question.
In what ways does Tomorrowland: A World Beyond stay very true to Walt Disney’s vision and to his values?
Bird: I think he had a, Walt Disney as an individual, had a view of the future that it was undecided but exciting, it was something that could be fun, it was something that where science wasn’t the enemy, it was actually just another thing to play with, to be inspired by. So I think that, in the loosest sense, we were trying to try to make a film that kinda come from that camp. It’s not a film about the section of Disneyland that is called Tomorrowland, its more about the idea of what tomorrow could be.
Lindelof: I think there is also a big part of Disney and, and what Walt’s vision for what that word would come to mean that was sorta associated with magic. And for us, you know, we didn’t want to make a movie that had any magic in it, we didn’t want to ground it in reality, but, but that is very much a part of what a Disney film is; that idea when I first saw Mary Poppins being able to jump into the sidewalk, and so, I think we tried to take, those, the idea that Brad was just talking about and marry it to something that was a little more fun, a little more adventurous.
Bird: The movie used to open with George jumping into a sidewalk, we thought it was kinda repetitive.
Lindelof: We cut that part, he did his own stunt, yeah.
Clooney: Chim-chiminey, chim-chiminey… we use the same good British accent.
Jensen: Just to add to that, researching Disney history was a huge part of our brainstorming process of finding ideas, finding inspiration in things like Walt’s original plan for EPCOT, as a place that would be an actual living laboratory, where scientists and industrialists, and artists coming together to find ideas to make the world a better place or something very inspiring and idealistic about the that, that inspired a lot of things that are evident in the film.
And if we could just go to our cast now, George you said the optimism appealed to you and so much about the film was on the script and on the page, but to also to Britt and to Raffey, what about the scale of the film and stuff, George, you’ve been a lot of film sets in your time, I mean, how did this compare?
Clooney: Oh this little independent film that we just did?
Clooney: Oh it was big, It was big. The fun part for us is, often when you work on a film of a large scale, it’s all just green screen, and I mean, you guys have been on sets like that before, you don’t get any idea of the scope and we were in places, we were either in places you can actually see or we were in Valencia in that insane building, I’ve never seen anything like it. It was also very much a dreamer who built that. I think all of us, the fun part was, you got to see some of the scope, as opposed to having it put in later in CGI.
Robertson: I think there were so many scenes that I had just by myself, you know, sometimes with green screen, and I haven’t done a lot of that at all. But, uh, sometimes at least you have actors to work off, I oftentimes would just be doing scenes by myself, whether wheat fields or what have you, and it was so helpful to have someone whose planted all of this wheat for miles and miles, which you then fly over and react to because I really do think it elevated the film and the performances. But yeah just being a part of it was really incredible.
I wondered if you could just tell us a little bit about your background in animation, and how it informed your live action films.
Bird: I think it helps in just pre-visualising stuff, in animation you kinda have to know what you want, and it helps to be able to draw things to show people what you’re doing. In this film we’re dealing with a lot of things that partially were there and partially weren’t, the sequence where Britt touches the pin and spends several minutes with no cuts in Tomorrowland, all of that had to be planned and some of it was there and some of it wasn’t but we had to know everything that was there because the camera is constantly moving from something that’s there to something that’s not, and following something that’s not there, and that leads you to something that is there and animation helped with that greatly.
If you had a key that would show you anything or take you anywhere, where would you go and why would you go there?
Cassidy: I’d go to a forest that was filled with trees and wolves. Then I could become a wolf lady and then I think… oh with jetpacks! It would have to have jetpacks. Yeah.
Robertson: I mean, it’s not as good as Raff’s, but I’d love to go on a nice vacation to the Maldives! I would love to spend some time there and go diving. I think that’d be really cool.
Lindelof: I cannot come up with anything better than a wolf with a jetpack!
Clooney: A wolf is pretty good, but a wolf in a jetpack!
Bird: I wanna hear more about it. Do we give the jetpacks to the wolves, or what exactly is happening here?
Cassidy: I think that maybe we’d create an animal that was like a mixture of a jetpack and a wolf.
Bird: I surrender, man. You’re answering all my questions!
Clooney: That’s your new film!
Bird: Wolf Pack.
Clooney: That’s good! Very good!
Jensen: I’m not going to try and top Wolf Pack.
Britt, would you like to move into writing and directing, as well as acting like George?
Robertson: Well maybe… in like thirty years from now.
[Laughter, followed by George holding his hands up in mock offence]
Clooney: What am I, 70!?
Robertson: I’m just saying I’m not as advanced as you, my friend!
Clooney: Back it up, backin’ on up. Backtracking!
Robertson: There I go, scootin’ away! Yeah, it definitely interests me, but I feel like if I wanted to do it I would wanna do it well and I need more experience, and to work with more people like him and Brad, you know? Everyone who worked on this film is so amazing and I just want to do more films like this and gain some experience.
Brad, what is the secret to making family films that appeal to all ages?
Bird: If there is I wish I knew it, because I’m just like: “That seems like a good idea”, it’s not a very intellectual process. I mean movies are tough because you’re trying to connect to people whose lives are very different than yours and several years from now. If you think about it logically, there’s no way you’d ever try to do the job. The only way that’s ever made any sense to me is to make a film that I would want to see, and just hope that other people connect with that.
Is there a statement embedded in the film about the pessimistic, downbeat nature of modern blockbusters?
Lindelof: I don’t think that any of us set out to turn up our noses at those films. We actually love those films. I’m the first in line for The Hunger Games, and I’m going to see Mad Max tonight when we’re finished here. I love that stuff, but I also feel that we’re not seeing the alternative. So many of those films, while entertaining to watch, I don’t want to live in those realities. I don’t want robots trying to kill me, or zombies trying to eat me…
Bird: Nibble on you maybe?
Lindelof: Yeah, just a nibble! But I think that Walt lived in a time that was just as turbulent as the time we live in now, if not more so, and he was able to not just imagine, but believe in our ability as a species to transcend all that. I kinda feel that we were sort of sitting around complaining that that future didn’t exist on film. Sitting around complaining that it’s very hard to make an original film – not a sequel or a superhero movie – but we weren’t doing anything to make one. So those were all the ideas. This was about what we could do, as opposed to what everybody else was doing.
Bird: Yeah. I think there’s a line in the film where George’s character as a kid says, they say to him: “Why did you make this jetpack?”, and he says: “I got tired of waiting around for someone else to make it for me”. I think that’s kind of the deal. We ourselves loved these kinds of films that were looking up, and looking forward we were inspired by Close Encounters in a way. We discussed that a lot. Someone’s implanted with a vision and even though it feels scary at moments it’s actually leading toward enlightenment. We hoped to make a film like that.
Jensen: Some of my favourite films are dystopian and bleak! I think that some of those movies have a value in scaring us toward living differently, but we’ve seen so many of those films in our culture, and I loved the idea of making an original film that was like a marketplace correction on that and offering something different.
Bird: Marketplace correction?
Clooney: That was the original title.
Bird: That’s what it’s called internally, Marketplace Correction!
You obviously had stunt men to do the dangerous stuff but what did each of you find most scary that you were asked to undertake?
Robertson: Well Raff had all the challenging stuff. I just had to roll around and react to things being shot at me! There was one where I had to climb up onto a platform with a time bomb and I had to get hoisted onto this platform then stand up. I trained for it, for like a month, but I was still worried that I wouldn’t be able to make it up onto the platform. That was such a lame answer…
Cassidty: I trained for quite a while on martial arts, but I was quite lucky to be able to do a lot with an amazing stunt team, but I never found it scary because they always made sure I was comfortable with whatever I was doing.
Clooney: I trained for minutes because I had to fight another old TV doctor [Hugh Laurie] and just got beaten with a cane!
I’ve gotten to the point in my career… It is funny, because when I was in my mid-thirties I was the guy who’d punch somebody, and then walk away with like explosions behind me now I just get the hell beaten out of me! They smash me in the face and I fall down and cry. So, no, I didn’t have to do a whole lot, just get beaten up a lot, which was actually kind of fun for me. I enjoyed it.
George, how strange was it to see the younger actor who plays you?
Clooney: Uh, just so as you know, I actually played that part too. That’s how good I was. I was very convincing.
Lindelof: Mo cap.
Clooney: Yeah. He was great. I was blonde when I was his age, strangely, and now I’m getting blonde again [laughs]. That’s good fun, but he was terrific. I didn’t get to work with him obviously, because then I would have been working with myself so I didn’t get to see any of it until I saw the movie. It was fun to see what impersonations of me he was doing!
George, what kind of message would you like cinemagoers to take away when they’ve seen it?
Clooney: I think that might be a better question for Brad. For me, the one element, particularly when you’re acting in film, films are designed as an entertainment. You’re supposed to get two hours of relief or something else other than what you’re doing in your life. So for me what you wanna take away is two hours of enjoyment and fun and something to talk about. If along the way you’re taking your kids and you get to walk out and have conversations about other issues then that’s a bonus –
Bird: Yeah, it’s not supposed to be sort of a horse-sized multi-Vitamin that will solve all of your problems, it’s supposed to be a good time at the movies. But some of my favourite movies are ones that stay with me after I left the theater.
Clooney: Reservoir Dogs.
Bird: Lotta dystopian films, yeah! It’s just, that’s what I love about cinema is it almost feels like a dream you had that was particularly vivid. And it is a dream that you can go back and revisit and find other sides to, so if we made that kind of movie, that would be great for me.
This is a question for George, I wanted to ask [what] does your Tomorrowland look like?
It’s interesting, I don’t know, because when I was growing up the future seemed like it would have been like flying cars, which that didn’t happen, but on the other hand we never would have thought of these things either. The future is – what you think of it being – never really is but always surprises you in better and more interesting ways. I would hope that as we get older and get used to some of our new technologies that we get away from them a little bit.
Question for the girls, what was it like to drive George Clooney? And for George, how was it being driven by a girl?
Clooney: A girl?! Or a twelve year old? Because there is a difference. I have been driven by women before. Crazy, actually. But it was a little odd when I saw Raffey get behind the wheel, a little nerve-wracking, but she’s actually thirty-six years old. Raffey, did you enjoy the driving?
Cassidy: Yeah! I didn’t get to do it too much, but I had driving lessons. I remember one time when we were going downhill and I had to stop just before we got to the kerb and Britt went [squeals] “Stop!”
Robertson: We were on camera at the time, and I was like trying not to talk, because we were on camera, but I really needed her to stop.
Roberteson: If it was any other twelve year old I would have been really afraid, I’m not gonna lie, but it was Raffey. She’s very capable, she had the lessons, so it was fine. It was great.
Clooney: Yeah, more twelve year olds should drive.
Bird: If there’s one thing to be gleaned from this film…
Clooney: …It’s that twelve year olds should be driving. In rubber cars.
Tomorrowland: A World Beyond is out now.