Shawn Levy: We made real robots for Real Steel
Canadian-American filmmaker Shawn Levy, who's made films like Cheaper By The Dozen and Date Night, is ready with his next film starring Hugh Jackman.
Based on the 1956 short story Steel by Richard Matheson, the makers went for real robots instead of relying on CGI effects. In an E-mail interview with Sonil Dedhia, the director talks about how the film came about, his leading man and the producers.
Where did the concept for Real Steel come from?
Steven Spielberg and Stacey Snider, who run DreamWorks, called and offered me the movie. From our very first meeting, I felt a real connection with Steven and Stacey about the movie we all wanted to make.
What made you cast Hugh Jackman in the film?
Hugh was already there on the project before I came on board. It was Steven's decision, which I think was more than perfect.
There have been a lot sci-fi robot movies in the past. How is Real Steel different?
It's different because it's not set in a too far away future like other sci-fi robotic movies. The story is set in 2020 and is about a father and his estranged son set against the backdrop of boxing robots.
Image: Shawn Levy with Hugh Jackman
'Sugar Ray Leonard trained Hugh Jackman for the film'
Can you elaborate on the robots that you created in the film. The robots shown in the film's trailer look similar to the ones used in Avatar. Are there any similarities?
No, they are no way similar to Avatar...in fact, there were no robots in Avatar, they were different species all together. We created real robots for the film which were eight feet tall.
They moved only from above the torso, so any scene where a robot is walking or boxing is CGI, but every other scene is a real robot. That's why those scenes between the boy and the robot feel almost magical and it seems like the boy really loves that robot.
How did you get boxer Sugar Ray Leonard to consult on the film?
Hugh's character in the film is shown to be a world champion in boxing in the past. To train him like a world champion, we had to rope in a real life world champion and who better than the champion Sugar ray Leonard himself?
Image: A still from Real Steel
'Unlike other robot films, this one's about humans'
Steven Spielberg is the executive producer of the film. How supportive was he on the film? How was the experience of working with him?
He was amazing to work with. Spielberg was active in the design of the robots; he was extremely involved, but I also have to credit him for giving me the chance to make the movie I wanted to make. I made it clear that I was going to make a movie that was going to be about the people, not the robots.
We've all seen a lot of movies that are about robots, but I don't know in live action that we've seen a lot of movies that are about the humanist story. And so it seemed like that was the way to make this movie not Transformers, not Terminator, not like all the other robot movies we've seen.
Steven, in that very first meeting, said, even though you can do everything digitally now, don't. And so we made all real robots.
Are you content with the way the film has shaped up?
Couldn't have been better.
Image: A still from Real Steel