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MANIA INTERVIEW: Keanu Reeves and Scott Derrickson on The Day The Earth Stood Still
Lead star and director open up.
By Robert T. Trate
December 10, 2008
The Day The Earth Stood Still is a fairytale, a fable from another era that delivered a message of peace and understanding that at the time was wishful if not hopeful thinking. In this modern era where it seems Hollywood is either turning out re-makes, sequels, prequels or turning TV shows into big budget extravaganzas one would think that no one would touch this film. It is, after all, perfect. On Friday December 12th in theaters and on IMAX Klaatu and Gort will walk the Earth once again. In a crowded room filled with pop culture reporters and tabloid journalists (who were interested more about what Keanu Reeves was doing with his time off) I found the chance to ask three questions of the film’s director and star.
Mania: Why re-make the The Day The Earth Stood Still? (find out the answer on Mania.com)
Scott Derrickson (Director): You have to have a reason to do this. The first film is a product of its time. Times have changed and updating that particular story for today, thematically had resonance for me. I think for me the larger reason, unlike other classic films, is that this is a movie that a lot of people haven’t seen. Retelling that story for a modern audience is something that I think it deserves, because the story is so good.
Mania: Keanu, can you tell us the difference between your Klaatu and Michael Rennie’s?
Keanu Reeves: Michael Rennie, in the first piece, was more human than human and was not quite an everyman but he was very human. In this version Klaatu is not. He’s in a human body but he doesn’t have the same kind of human empathic qualities. I am a little more sinister. Michael Rennie kind of brings the stick in the end. I bring the stick in the beginning.
Mania: Today audiences need more than a single spaceship and robot. How will you balance the spectacle and story for a modern audience?
Scott Derrickson: That’s one of things that is exciting about doing this. I think the original film struck a perfect balance, especially at its time that was a massive, thrilling, never before seen, exciting, and strange, even scary, event movie. It was an experience for people who saw it. It was coming out of a smaller science fiction genre but it affected people in the ways you think great genre films should affect people. Yet, it had very quiet moments and intimate characters. We want to have both, spectacle and thrill mixed with original special effects that people believe and feel as if they are really happening. At the same time never let the audience be overpowered by those things to the degree that they are not with the story. That’s why we went with Jennifer [Connelly] and Keanu [Reeves]. Because of the way they played these characters they wrapped them around reality. It feels like its real; like it is really happening.
On December 12 we will see if the words “Klaatu Barada Nikto” will have any meaning for a new generation of filmgoers. Can Hollywood improve on a classic? Can the reinterpretation of a 50’s science fiction film deliver the same message of fear and hope for a more modern audience? The verdict will soon be out.