Love him or hate him, writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson is a big name in the movie industry, delivering such action blockbusters as Resident Evil (and a few of its sequels), Mortal Kombat, The Three Musketeers and, most recently, Pompeii.
Starring Kit Harington and Emily Browning, the sandals and swords flick tells the story of Milo, a slave turned gladiator who must save the woman he loves from a corrupt Roman senator. As the title implies, the events take place against the backdrop of the infamous eruption of Mount Vesuvius, which puts Milo in a race against time as he watches his beloved city crumble around him.
To promote the film’s upcoming Blu-Ray release (May 20th), I sat down with the director for an exclusive interview. Among other things, we discussed where he found his influences for the project, why he chose Kit Harington for the lead role, the challenges of working in 3D, and much more.
Check it out below and enjoy!
WGTC: Looking at your filmography, I see a lot of films that I would call ‘fun,’ movies that you can just sit back and enjoy the heck out of. Is this an element that attracts you to certain projects, or is it something that develops naturally as you work on them?
Anderson: I grew up in England, and at the time, cinema was very heavy arthouse cinema, and there was no one making movies that were designed to be in multiplexes. Growing up, I wanted to make the kind of movies that would play in a multiplex, and those were the kinds of movies I ended up making. A pivotal moment for me as a filmmaker was when I saw Total Recall, the Arnold Schwarzenegger version, which was the first movie I saw in America.
I had come as a student to New York for the summer for a bit of work and experience, and I saw it play in Times Square, opening weekend. I had never seen a movie play with an American audience before. Times Square was the perfect place to see a movie like that. In England, when a movie finishes, you have no idea if they loved it or hated it, because the reaction to a film is always the same: people get up quietly and politely leave. That’s it.
Whereas, in America, if they like it, they tell you about it, and if they hate it, they also tell you about it. Total Recall was just amazing, because I had never been in an audience where people were standing up, screaming, dancing, and clapping, and cheering, and I was like ‘Man, that’s what I want to make.’ To illicit that kind of response from an audience, that’s the amazing thing, and that’s how I judge whether I’ve done my job correctly. When my movies play with a real multiplex audience, you can tell whether you have delivered somebody’s $15’s worth. You just know. That’s the important thing, just seeing how a movie plays.
WGTC: I can see where you’re coming from with that, because that’s another one of those movies that’s so much fun to watch. I’m a huge fan of it, too.
Anderson: It’s something about the communal experience, watching a movie like that, and hopefully the movies I make, where watching it with 300 people in a room… you know, where the action becomes more exciting, those moments where you want to cheer, you really do cheer. There’s a communal bond that builds between the 300 people in the audience, and when you want to laugh, everybody laughs. You feed off the energy of other people, and for me, that’s the cinema experience. Those are the kinds of movies I like to watch in the cinema.
Like others, I have a home movie set-up, and there are a bunch of movies I’d watch at home that you don’t need 100 other people sitting in your living room to really enjoy. That’s not to say you can’t enjoy Total Recall sitting at home. Of course you can, but I think that’s what makes them cinematic movies for me is delivering that entertainment value, and I would hope that while people could watch Resident Evil and Pompeii by themselves at home, they’re also fun movies to watch with a group of friends.