In his career, Brad Silberling has directed such eclectic movies as Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events with Jim Carrey and Meryl Streep, Moonlight Mile with Dustin Hoffman and Susan Sarandon, and City of Angels starring Meg Ryan and Nicholas Cage.
Last May I visited him on the set of his newest film, a big-screen version of the 1970s’ children’s Sci-Fi TV series, Land of the Lost, which stars Will Farrell as Dr Rick Marshall, and Anna Friel as his assistant Holly, who get sucked into a Space-Time vortex, taking them to a new and frightening world of dinosaurs and Sleestaks, a slow reptile-like creature who stalks them.
The original series is kind of cheesy, how have you had to change it?
What everyone loved about the original series was that there was a sense of adventure and there was a real Sci-Fi bent to it. A lot of those early writers were Star Trek writers, or went on to become well-known science-fiction novelists. But we look at it as cheesy now.
Of course, when I was a kid I took it lock, stock and barrel. The idea of just going off and making a straight-forward version of Land of the Lost didn’t seem terribly new territory to me.
But I’m a huge fan of Will Ferrell’s and the idea of being able to access this world via him and then via a couple of other really, very funny actors, that to me was like, “Okay, I’ll go through the war that is trying to create a big physical production, because I want to be in that world.”
How are you doing the Sleestaks?
The Sleestaks are not CG characters, there’s both a wink and an actual acknowledgement that there’s something incredibly cool about suit players. We could have completely souped them up.
The reason the Sleestaks move so slow is that when they shot at Warner Hollywood Studios in the ’70s, they had stages that were like 20 by 30. They had no room for the villains to chase the good guys. So they would have to move slowly around.
All I knew as a kid was how they freaked me out because they moved so slow. So the first scene, when our crew see the Sleestaks, they go, “Oh, my God. They’re really, really … slow.” And so we get to play and enjoy what were kind of key tenants of the series, but not make fun of them.
Was there anything that surprised you about working with Will?
He’s an unbelievable straight man. This movie has moments where he’s in that position. He’s just a really generous scene partner. And that comes from an improv background versus a standup background.
He’s not worried about [being the center of attention], and that’s huge. As well as just his enjoyment of the process, he’s always laughing, saying that he usually makes living room comedies. He hasn’t made a lot of movies that have a larger design, so he’s there on set all the time because he’s loving the process, which is fun to watch.
Are you aware that there are fans who are going to be scrutinizing this?
Well, here’s the thing. You have to venture bravely, if you venture at all, other than just literally putting the DVD back up on screen.
I was a really dedicated viewer, so I have my own emotional response to the thing, and I feel like I’m a good ambassador. But then what’s funny is, the other two writers of the movie have told me about some feedback that’s really funny, where basically people are like, “A comedy?I can’t believe that.” And somebody wrote back, “Did you ever see the original show?”
What I’m happy about is that [the movie] works for me, and I am one of those viewers. And I think it’ll certainly work for people who haven’t seen the original show, who are just coming in going, “What is this world?” It’s a really psychedelic movie.