Kerry's World (Mania.com)

By:Scott Collura
Date: Friday, September 17, 2004


SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW debuts this weekend at theaters nationwide, and boy is it worth the wait. A truly spectacular retro sci-fi offering, the picture details the heroic exploits of Joe "Sky Captain" Sullivan (Jude Law), an ace pilot and the self-appointed protector of the human race circa 1939. Along with his ex-girlfriend, girl reporter Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow), Joe must attempt to solve the riddle of who is kidnapping the world's top scientistsand why giant robots are attacking Earth's greatest cities.


Shot entirely against blue screens, with almost all of the non-actor visuals composed on computer, SKY CAPTAIN offers one of the freshest and most amazing takes on the genre seen in some time. Creator-writer-director Kerry Conran recently took some time to sit down with Cinescape and discuss his debut feature.


Cinescape: How does the finished film compare to the original short you produced before getting involved with producer Jon Avnet?


Kerry Conran: I had shot with friends of mine

SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW.

who I went to school with. It's roughly the first 10 minutes or so [of the feature]. It's the zeppelin coming into New York and the robots in the city and Polly typing at her desk. And those shots are more or less verbatim [in the feature] from what I had made, except black and white versions. But the actors were, again, just friends. I had intended them for the version I was making at that time, so they got screwed!


C: How do you feel about your original vision actually making it to the big screen intact, despite the film having become a Hollywood production?


KC: It's absurd. I don't think there's enough time or distance in a way to appreciate any success that might come from it in that regard. I'm thrilled to have gotten through it and [to have] made the film, obviously. It's amazing to me as an experience. It's hard for me to even characterize it.


C: We hear you're a perfectionist. How close is the finished film to your idea, and will you make changes to it when it goes to DVD?


KC: There was that thought. I kept telling myself through the process, "I'll fix it in the DVD," and that let me kind of live with myself and go forward. But in truth we haven't really touched it since then. There are obviously things that I'd love to be able to fix that just kill me when I watch it, but I think to some extent that's the fate of every film that's made. You ultimately have to be able to stop at some point. Had I had the chance and the time that I wanted with it, I probably would have wanted six more months... or years with it.


C: Why set the film in 1939?


KC: There are a

Angelina Jolie is Captain Franky Cook in SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW.

number of reasons. The World's Fair played a little bit more of a role in this originally, and that's where the title The World of Tomorrow was taken from, and that was the theme: The World of Tomorrow. But it has to do a lot with the era of the things that influenced me on this film, the pulp science fiction comics of that era and the notion that there was a sense of whimsy to that era that doesn't exist today. And there's something interesting about pitting a P-40 Warhawk against a robot that's different than a modern airplane. It just doesn't seem interesting to me. So there were just aspects of it visually and aesthetically combined with the limitations of the technology of that era that were an amazing combination.


C: Is there a political or social commentary working as subtext in the film, some kind of comment about the events of today?


KC: I'm not that clever [laughs]. To some extent [the film] does consider today as well. Unfortunately, life always seems to have these horrific moments in history. That's the thing that was so incredibly unique about that era though. You did have the very, very heavy seriousness of impending war, but some of the most imaginative and na´ve and innocent forms of entertainment that existed [at the same time]. And there's just something about that combination that's very odd and very satisfying for some reason.


C: What was it like working with such big name actors as Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow?


KC: They secretly hate me! That aspect of it was probably the strangest. Once I

Gwyneth Paltrow is ace reporter Polly Perkins in SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW.

got beyond the fact that this wasn't just a big hoax, that these actors were really going to do the movie, then the idea of working with them... I never let myself think about it because otherwise I would have just been in the fetal position. So I just sort of went along stupidly but what they did was they were sensitive to the fact that I've never done this before. They went out of their way to make this process easier for me. It wasn't as if I was going to conduct an acting school for them. What I was able to do for them was provide a context. I'd known the film fairly well and had actually kind of made it three times before we shot a frame of film, so all I could do before we'd shoot something was tell them this is where you're at and this is what's happening, and then tonally if it felt right to me. And then they did the rest.


C: What were some of your cinematic influences on this film?


KC: Obviously, a lot of the early German cinema was a big influence, Fritz Lang's work and Murnau. And then certainly virtually any film from the '40s. I referenced tons of films there. One of the films for Gwyneth's character was To Have and Have Not, the Lauren Bacall character, which is just great.


C: What about Star Wars? Obviously that influenced you, but which film is your favorite?


KC: That's a serious question. You know, on the one hand it's obviously... Empire was sort of the great refine. But Star Wars, there would be no Empire without it. So you've got to give credit to Star Wars, but Empire was probably the better film. But I will never say anything bad about either one!



Questions? Comments? Let us know what you think at feedback@cinescape.com.