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Our man on Mars

Director Andrew Stanton makes move into live action with the sci-fi adventure 'John Carter'



Director Andrew Stanton is best known for his Oscar-winning Pixar animation masterpieces "Wall-E" and "Finding Nemo". This week, with the release of "John Carter", Stanton proves that he's also a dab hand at directing a movie with real actors and lots of CGI.

Movie-goers who fell in love with the cute clown fish in "Finding Nemo" and the adventures of the loving janitor robot in "Wall-E" may be surprised that Stanton has chosen warlord John Carter and raging wars between the stars as the subject of his first non-animated feature.

Adapted from Edgar Rice Burroughs' series of "Barsoom" novels, written 100 years ago, it's the story of a Confederate captain from the US Civil War who flees the absurdity of the battlefield but fatefully ends up on Mars where he gains unusual physical strength and becomes the bravest and strongest fighter the planet ever sees. While creating chaos on Mars and trying to return to Earth, Carter rescues a princess and saves a kingdom.

There's nothing new in this simple story line - a hero lost, then redeemed and excelling in a strange and different world thanks to a hidden noble cause and a weak spot for an insanely beautiful warrior princess. But "John Carter" is very entertaining and has you glued to the screen for the entire 90 minutes thanks to the stunning sets, magnificent graphics, bizarre Martian freaks and exciting action sequences. All in all, a visually fulfilling adaptation of the book.

Playing the warlord is Taylor Kitsch, best known for his role on the "Friday Night Lights" TV series. Lynn Collins portrays Princess Dejah Thoris of Helium. Other cast members include Samantha Morton, Willem Dafoe, Ciaran Hinds, James Purefoy, Dominic West and Thomas Haden Church. Stanton directed and wrote the screenplay.

Stanton gave us an exclusive e-mail interview just before his film opened in Thailand.

What are you up to now?

I'm writing several different movie ideas. Whichever one works the best will be the one I make first.

Are you excited about the movie hitting the screens?

I'm always excited-nervous at this time in a movie's journey, hoping people will enjoy the movie-going experience as much as I did when I was a kid. It's a wonderful, romantic adventure that will hopefully transport you like the books did to me when I was a boy.

What inspired you to work on this film?

I read this book when I was 11, 36 years ago, and I've been wanting to see a movie of it on the screen my whole life. We tried to stay faithful to how it "feels" reading the book, not to every word that is written. For a novel to work well on the screen things have to be adapted.

Why did you choose Taylor Kitsch for the role of John Carter? What do you see in him?

I saw an incredibly magnetic personality, and an actor who could play a damaged person, hiding a heart of gold. I feel like the luckiest director in the world having him play Carter.

How did it feel to direct real actors?

There wasn't any difference. I don't really direct inanimate objects or computers; I've always directed people such as live actors, animators, cameramen, designers, composers and editors.

What was the most challenging part of making this film?

The physical stamina. I'm used to being indoors, working 9 to 5, five days a week. Suddenly I was working all day for 105 days straight in all types of conditions. It was very demanding.

How has your knowledge and expertise in animated films helped with "John Carter"?

"Carter" has more animated shots in it than "Finding Nemo". So I feel that I've made an animated picture combined with a live action picture. I had to use ALL my knowledge and then some more.

Do you have a favourite director?

David Lean.

Many people consider "Wall-E" the best animated film of all time. Would you consider making a sequel?

That is a wonderful compliment, but it takes so many years to make a film, and I have so many new characters and places I want to go to. I don't want to run out of time to see them.

What's your next project?

If I told you there would be no surprise in the coming years. You'll just have to be patient.

RED PLANET

"John Carter" opened in cinemas yesterday. It's playing in 2D and 3D, including Imax.


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