Book of Eli- Comic-Con 2009

One of the many press conferences we attended at Comic-Con was for the Book of Eli with Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis, and Directors Albert and Allen Hughes. Sadly, it’s very hard when transcribing which brother is which. In fact, even when watching the videos it’s hard to tell which twin is which, unless I look at the signs in front of them. Can’t one of them choose a different facial hair style or something?. I did my best, but some of the below might be swapped. You can also check out videos from The Book of Eli panel or their recently released trailer.

Check out the interview below…

Can I have a question for the actors please, you guys can talk about the characters you play in this, I guess it could be described as post-Apocalyptic western, who do you play and the natures of your characters?

Denzel Washington: You know, Allen and Albert, no for real, everyone says post-Apocalyptic Western so you are the filmmakers, is that, what do you…

Albert Hughes: The thing is, almost, somebody said it once and it caught on. Studios are scared of Westerns, don’t say that but at the same time some of the influences of the Eli character come from The Man With No Name, and some of those movies stylistically as far as what we researched but I wouldn’t call it a Western, it takes place in the West but this story could have easily taken place in the East coast.

Denzel: Yeah, now that’s another thing, what about the post-Apocalyptic part of it? Because everybody keeps saying that. Now I could answer your question too but I want to get it from the horse’s mouth, they are making the movie. I’m just, you know, we’re just a couple of slaves.

Gary Oldman: We’re just coming in and hitting the mark.

Denzel: That’s it. We just do what we’re told. But I’m serious though. I’ve been asked that question 50 times today. You know, and they say “Well, there are so many post-Apocalyptic movies coming out right” and I say well I don’t know if that’s what we really are. So are we?

Albert: I don’t like the word because it is such a genre word. We have such a great story here that is not about being post-Apocalyptic. It is 30 years in the future after an event but if you don’t have a good story and great characters, it doesn’t matter what genre it is.

Allen Hughes: You know, there’s 40 million cop movies coming out every year. There’s genres if you want to place genres on the movie. I think the post-Apocalyptic part is third or fourth-dary in the story, it’s more of a character then anything. It could have very easily have been on an island with just a 100 people.

Denzel: So speaking of characters like you were saying, go ‘head, go ‘head…

Gary: No, but I think when you’re looking for a sound-bite in a situation where you’re walking up the carpet and someone’s saying “Gary tell me” like that and you’re looking for, it is set in a post-Apocalyptic world and it has a vibe or echoes of a Western. So, I have been guilty of saying it because it’s a short hand to sort of wrap it up in a sort of…

Denzel: So, get in your car and keep moving. (Gary: Exactly) You started that.

Gary: I am guilty of that. That will be all over the internet. I’ve said a whole bunch of shit today. I’ve been a very naughty boy today.

Denzel: There is this book and there is a mission that my character is on and it is to take this book across the country. It is (phone makes sound) that wasn’t’ the book. Gary’s character is a man who also wants to use this book to influence and control the world. So, these two men collide and Salara. Mila can tell you about Salara.

Mila Kunis: What? I’m up. As Gary Oldman’s character plays my step-father, I guess in a sense of, and uses me to seduce Denzel’s character and in return I become infatuated by him and his belief and the man that he is because he is not abusive and is not the man of the world. And she decides to escape and follow him and I guess maybe becomes his pupil and just wants to follow him on his journey and be like him and be inspired by him and kind of, you know, escapes from the small town and goes with Eli.

Gary: You’re a hunk, in a way.

Mila: Yeah.

What were your inspirations for the movie?

Albert: Well, we usually start by just looking at, if people are like, let’s talk about post-Apocalyptic movies, the last movie we did was by Jack the Ripper so we researched those movies with what’s been done before, and try to flip the clichés a bit, use things that work. Then we go to comic book material, which is ironic for this one because it wasn’t based off of a comic book and we use a lot of those artists to help us with the look of the movie. One thing is trying to set it aside visually from the other movies that are out there, and finding colors that work, and hit your eye pretty quickly and you say, ok that doesn’t look like, let’s say the road or Mad Max, if Mad Max or the road had that color, let’s do that, it’s as simple as that sometimes and then the tip of the hat to the Westerns, I think, you know, we’re greatly influenced by Sergio Leone and the simplicity of his filmmaking but also the darkness of his imagery.

Allen: Well also, I remember, (6:33) was involved in this stage where we had stack of books that were from professors who studied in the 80’s, what would happen if there was a nuclear event, there’s like three definitive books on this and the environment, on humanity, on the animal kingdom and you know, so you can study with the clouds based in their research and we got really into, to really see what the reality was, and if it was a nuclear, if it was one of those 2012 things, it was a biological, it was a super volcano. They all, basically, the same thing will happen 30 years later, the atmosphere will look a certain way, there will be a certain color in the sky, there will be a certain decomposition of the landscape, so we put that coupled with what Albert’s talking about and that’s how we get the…

Albert: Yeah, because right now what’s in the teaser is not, when the normal trailer comes out you’ll see more of the world, you know, there’s no vegetation until the end of the movie.

That’s a spoiler.

Denzel: Oh, God damn-it. (laughter)

I’m fascinated by how people survive in these sort of disastrous environment, will we get to see some scenes of like scavenging for supplies and finding stuff in the rubble?

Gary: Most people are scavengers. A lot of people that you see in this film.

Denzel: What do I say, “People…” what’s the line, “People…”

Albert: …kill

Denzel: Kill now for things that people used to…

Mila: …take for granted?

Denzel: …we used to throw away or something like that.

Albert: Yeah, yeah. People kill now. And this character Eli says, “We kill people for what we throw away, for things we should throw away.” It was a beautiful mindset.

Allen: And you know it’s more of a peripheral too, this story, this story is about a group of characters, a group of three or four, basically, the world is more peripheral in a way. So you’re not going to see, we’re not focusing on…

Albert: But you do see all throughout, you see survival in the whole movie, there is, it is about humans, and whether it is Gary’s or Mila’s character, or Denzel’s character, they all are survivors, period. They are surviving.

That is a great line you mentioned, so will we see a great dramatic scene where you have to kill for something that we take for granted these days?

Denzel: Well, there are a few meat sandwiches… (laughter)

Allen: Oh, I forgot about that.

Mila: Oh Yeah.

Denzel: …there’s some meat sandwiches that are eaten in the film.

You devouring those, do you?

Denzel: I didn’t say I devoured them, the meat sandwiches.

Gary: Well you know, it’s this, for survival. I mean, for instance, Carnegie has a source of water, of fresh water, which is really the currency which is the commodity, I mean, it kind of is anyway, because it’s more expensive than gasoline, this stuff. But, it’s become more so. He rules because he knows where that well is, and he is, and that’s the King’s ransom right there, but people have taken, people have been pushed to extremes.

Denzel: How long have we been paying for water now?

Albert: It seems like 20 years at least.

Denzel: Has it been 20 years?

For the Hughes Brothers, it’s been awhile since your last movie, is it hard to get a movie deal together for awhile or were you sort of waiting to develop a different project?

Allen: I thing it’s hard to find great material, one. Two, the climate has changed a lot, I didn’t realize that, few people know, the longer a filmmaker stays away from filmmaking, the more the industry, you’re not bonded. They don’t know, can we work with them, are they sane? Each year that goes by there’s no gage as to where our heads are and we’re being very picky about the material and we finally found some material. We shot a lot of ads, we’ve been working a lot, but it’s really tough to find something that important to you and important to them at the same time. And then finding important actors to make it happen.

Albert: It was really part of the conscious choice. When you get something and you read the first ten pages and go “Oh, shit!” After you get like ten of those, you’re like, you almost give up sometimes until someone says there’s a pretty good one right here and you read that and you’re like “Oh damn” and then there’s a battle to get that made. It’s a battle to get any movie made. Denzel really helped us with this one though if it wasn’t for him, I think this thing would not be made.

What battle did you have to fight to get your vision…?

Albert: Yeah, you have to fight to get things made and there was this one instance in our career, when we made our second movie where there was no battle to make the movie made, and when there’s no battle there’s no fight, you have nothing to fight for and sometimes the movie suffers for that. But when you have the studio or a producer or somebody fighting against you or someone saying, well you got to make it for this number or don’t make it at all or go get that star or whatever and then once it’s up and running you have more battles to take care of but he really helped us with that.

What are your feelings about humans in this depressing survival mode and actors portraying this area where people are very desperate and were you aware of The Road as far as you can see that you guys are similar since they are another Western?

Albert: I could answer The Road part. I purposely avoided reading or even looking at The Road. I think it’s a more serious and dramatic movie than from what I heard, it’s very impressive so I think it’s different. I’ve seen some stuff lately, it’s a very different movie, as far as the acting is concerned.

Allen: I think the bottom line is, that’s why the Western comes up because when you take it back to more primitive times, true characters starts to show through and you put people in that element you start to see, the conflict is there a lot more, so it’s a hot-bed for drama. Our piece is very dramatic, it may appear just an action but it starts that character in that conflict and all that drama.

Gary: I think it feels very present too. It feels, you walk around feeling like it can happen, like it’s going to happen. Since we made this movie, career shooting missiles in the air. We’re in a very strange time.

For the actors, in what way did you feel like this stretched your abilities? Is there something new that you got out of this that was challenging that you really haven’t experienced before or haven’t gotten a lot of in previous roles in other films?

Denzel: For me, it was the physical work. I’ve done physical films but that’s that adventure, to be able to step into other people’s shoes, in this case, have the opportunity to work with some really brilliant martial artists, Jeff Imada and Dan Inosanto, who is a contemporary of Bruce Lee so just to be able to, for six or eight months, to be able to work out with them and learn from them.