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Green Lantern – Director Martin Campbell on his first superhero movie

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Green Lantern - Director Martin Campbell
Director Martin Campbell during the production © 2011 Warner Bros

 

A native of New Zealand, director Martin Campbell began his career in London as a TV cameraman, launching his directing career with the British police action series The Professionals. He moved into feature films with his Hollywood debut on the 1988 thriller Criminal Law, and went on to direct The Mask of Zorro, Beyond Borders, Defenseless and introduced two new actors to the role of James Bond with Pierce Brosnan in GoldenEye and Daniel Craig in Casino Royale.

His career now takes a new turn with his first superhero movie, Green Lantern, based on the DC Comic books. It tells the story of a mysterious and elite force that has existed for centuries. They are the Green Lantern Corps, the protectors of peace and justice.

When a unexpected enemy called Parallax threatens to destroy the balance of power in the universe, it is up to a new recruit, Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), the first human every selected, to save the world.

What attracted you to this superhero project?

Green Lantern - Geoffrey Rush and Ryan Reynolds
Tomar-Re (Geoffrey Rush) and Green Lantern (Ryan Reynolds) © 2011 Warner Bros

Out of all the superheroes, he was one of the most interesting, given that we go to another planet. We have an intergalactic police force that covers 3,600 sectors that protects the universe. It’s a pretty extraordinary scenario for a superhero. I think far greater say than Superman or Batman, which are very much earthbound in terms of their stories.

I was so thrilled to be bringing Green Lantern to the big screen at last, because to me he is one of the most exciting superheroes in all of comics. First off, he’s a human being, and has a lot of character flaws, so on that level he’s totally relatable.

Can you talk about including the oath that each Green Lantern takes?

The oath is extremely important. It has always been a part of Green Lantern lore and when we first hear it in the film, it’s a pivotal moment. Hal’s just been given the ring and the lantern, and he doesn’t know what either of them means, until they come together and draw the oath out of him, and his voyage of discovery begins.

Why was Ryan Reynolds right for the role of Hal Jordan?

Green Lantern - Ryan Reynolds and director Martin Campbell
Ryan Reynolds and director Martin Campbell during the production © 2011 Warner Bros

Ryan is a superb actor. He also physically looks the part, he’s funny, charming, and has a great sense of decency. I knew he could easily pull off both the undisciplined, shoot-from-the-hip maverick that is the Hal we first meet, and the fearless and focused fighter he’ll have to become if he’s to save the day. Ryan did it all; his performance really sets the tone for the movie.

What was harder, to deliver a film that would meet fans’ expectations, or the critics’ expectations and hopefully a wider audience.

First of all, you don’t even think about the critics’ expectations when you’re making a movie. I’ve got too much to worry about. Obviously you want the fans to like the movie, because God help you if they don’t.

Green Lantern - Ryan Reynolds and director Martin Campbell
Ryan Reynolds and director Martin Campbell during the production © 2011 Warner Bros

The thing is that we had the DC Comics’ people there with us just checking that we were getting everything right and that if there was something we were unsure about we would go to Jeff Johns who, as you know, is the guru of the latest comics. He was there to keep us on the straight and narrow.

It’s very difficult to totally find the correct balance in the movie, but these things are team efforts. Every department, both in writing and producing, really does become a team effort to try and get the balance of these superhero movies [right], particularly in our case to try and find the right balance between the drama, the humor and everything else.

What was it about Peter Sarsgaard that you thought he’d be right for the role of Hector, the villain in the piece?

Green Lantern - Tim Robbins, Angela Bassett and Peter Sarsgaard
Hammond (Tim Robbins), Doctor Waller (Angela Bassett) and Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) © 2011 Warner Bros

The great thing about Peter is he’s a chameleon. You can look at him in An Education and you can look at him in this movie, and you would never know it’s the same person.

 

He has such an extraordinary range, and to pull this part off, who by circumstance becomes the villain, and to maintain the sympathy for that character, is a terrific achievement. Not least of all to deal with all the prosthetics and all of the problems that that involves.

The truth is he’s a fantastic actor. He’s somebody who I think can quite frankly do anything.

There are a lot of science fiction movies coming out this summer, in your opinion why do you think that is?

Green Lantern - Ryan Reynolds and Mark Strong
Green Lantern (Ryan Reynolds) and Sinestro (Mark Strong) speak to a Guardian of the Green Lantern Corps © 2011 Warner Bros

There were a lot of comedies around during the depression, in the late 20s and the early 30s. I suppose the rule applies now. We’re in an economic depression and there have been a lot of these superhero movies. I think a lot of them hugely entertaining.

I think the other reason is now we have the technology to be able to create these fantasies and make them look fantastic. We have the tools at our disposal to be able to render these superhero movies to a very high degree. Comics provide such imagination to be able to do what you want and go where you want.

Certainly in the case of Green Lantern, the scope is so wide in terms of going to the center of the universe when you have 3,600 Green Lanterns, you have all these characters that you can call upon, and you also have the other characters that have come into the [franchise] since the 1940s.

What do you feel the movie offers to people who maybe don’t know the franchise well?

Green Lantern is a fantastic hero who was made to be seen in a way that’s larger than life. The story is involving and emotional, not to mention very funny.

It’s everything we wanted it to be, and we believe audiences will think so, too.