Green Lantern opens this weekend, and the stars and creative team told us about the challenges of adapting an insanely complex mythology, how to play villains who aren't yet villains, and being forced to wear an impossibly huge prosthetic head.
We recently got a chance to interview the Green Lantern cast and crew, including stars Ryan Reynolds (Hal Jordan), Blake Lively (Carol Ferris), Mark Strong (Sinestro), and Peter Sarsgaard (Hector Hammond) alongside director Martin Campbell, producer Donald De Line, and cowriter Greg Berlanti.
Director Martin Campbell wasn't particularly aware of Green Lantern before being offered the movie, but said the project immediately appealed to him:
I've never done a superhero movie before. I wasn't even versed in the comic when it came through the door. Once having read [the script] and so forth, it just sort of fascinated me, the whole world of Green Lantern – going to another planet, going to the center of the universe. So that's really why I did it.
On why it's taken so long for a Green Lantern movie to happen, actor Mark Strong suggested that it's nothing to do with the character or the mythology, and all to do with finally having the technology to make it happen:
I don't think he's a greater or lesser superhero either than Superman or Batman, but I think as was said earlier, their problems are all earthbound. So they're much easier to film and do. Obviously, Green Lantern deals with space and I don't think up until now the technology has been able to catch up with the vision. So, I don't think he's a lesser character. I just think it's the way that it's been made over the years. It's much easier to make a Superman or a Batman than a Green Lantern.
Greg Berlanti explained that he and his fellow writers shared a common love for Green Lantern, and their main goal was just to remain true to what appealed to them in the first place while still telling a compelling story. He singled out what he sees as the philosophical underpinnings of the character - specifically the battle between fear vs. will - as something that sets Green Lantern apart. He also pointed to the character's more complicated premise, which includes a corps of 3,600 other Green Lanterns that patrol the entire universe and rings that run on willpower and can create any construct its wielder can imagine.
Star Ryan Reynolds said that the main thing he wanted to bring from the original comics was their tone, and that he actually thinks the best way to make a movie successful with wide audiences is to key into what the hardcore fans love. He explained:
It was mostly just finding out who Hal Jordan was, and also distilling what it is that the fanboys who love this character, what it is that they love about him and making sure that can be found up onscreen. If they love it there's a good chance that a broader audience is also going to love it as they're being introduced to this character for the first time.
Ryan Reynolds said that the tone of Hal Jordan really spoke to him:
A lot of the current iterations of superheroes are a little bit darker and a little bit more serious in tone. The thing that I distilled from diving into that mythology and that universe is that the tone is a little bit different. It's a bit of a throwback in that sense. There's a lot of fun with the character. He's not a character that's overly funny, but he's witty. I always say he's that guy that can throw a punch, tell a joke, and kiss a girl. There's something really iconic and fun about that guy because anything is possible with that guy.
For her part, Blake Lively enjoyed how strong a character Carol Ferris is, arguing that she's far from the damsel-in-distress that often pops up in male-driven action movies, not to mention the possibility of becoming the villain somewhere down the line:
I think that Carol is very unique in this genre. She's an incredibly powerful woman and she's also a fighter pilot along with Hal. She runs her father's aviation company and it's rare to see such strong women existing as equals amongst men in film, especially in this genre. I loved that if this franchise continued that she does become a villain [like in the comics]. That was also very, very appealing, that element.
As Sinestro, Mark Strong has one of the trickiest tasks in the movie. While Carol Ferris's eventual transformation into the villainous Star Sapphire isn't necessarily a fundamental part of her character - only a small percentage of Green Lantern comics really deal with it - Sinestro has been the main villain of the Green Lantern universe for nearly fifty years.
The fact that Sinestro hasn't yet begun his descent into villainy in this movie provided Strong a particular challenge, and he explained how he balanced out Sinestro's role in this particular story versus where he's headed in potential sequels:
If you know the comics you know the direction that he goes to. It's great to play him before he goes there. I'm not sure that's always the case. Usually villains are just villains in these things. They're very straightforward, and so it's nice to have him as a hero in this one. I couldn't really imbue him with anything to do with where he goes after this movie. But what I tried to do was give him characteristics that would lend themselves to being believable should he decide to go to the dark or the yellow side. I really couldn't think about where the stories go. The source material is so vast there's plenty to draw from, but I had to really just stick to the script as it was. If we do go somewhere else with it I hope that he's a believable character that would go that way
All I could do was use human characteristics, and it was very obvious to me that he's a kind of military commander type figure who's very weary of this new Lantern and feels like his priority is the Corps. If this guy is going to be the weak link in the Corps then he's going to have to do something about it. The way that he's drawn, such a muscular drawing and so you had to try and bring an element of that to the way that you play him. That's what I tried to do. As far as where we go from this film, no, no. That was never discussed. It's there in the source material, but this was the movie that we were making.
Mark Strong and particularly Peter Sarsgaard had to deal with some pretty heavy-duty makeup for the movie. Sarsgaard spoke lovingly - if somewhat tongue-in-cheek - about the glue that was used to hold his heavy prosthetic in place, and how the sense memory of the stuff still haunts him. Sarsgaard also joked that he was glad he was already married, because this role - which starts with him as a balding, disheveled loner and ends with his brain on the verge of popping out of his skull - would never get him any dates.
However, there were some advantages to such heavy makeup, as he explained:
I think for me as an actor on it, there were these different stages on it, right, and none of them looked like me. Even the beginning doesn't look like me. So, it was like a gift. For one, I could tell where I was in the movie. A lot of times you're in a movie and you're like, "Right. We're in the part where what happens?" I had clear stages that told me where I was in the movie, which was nice.
But perhaps most interest revelation was that the Hector Hammond we see in this movie is a restrained version of what they originally planned. As the panel explained, they wanted to create a super-sized cranium for Hector that resembled what was seen in the comics, but that simply wasn't physically possible:
DeLine: He was [originally] more extreme.
Campbell: He was actually more extreme. The head was actually the size of the room.
Sarsgaard: We had that one that was quite much.
Reynolds: Peter walked out of his trailer at a perfect right angle.
Sarsgaard: We tested one where I was like, 'This is…I can't.' I couldn't do it.
De Line: If you look at the comics his head was twice the size of his body, eventually.
Sarsgaard: He's a little guy also, and then there's the one's of Hector where he's like kind of a robust dude. There's the one with the big, thick mustache. There's a lot of different images. That head pushed down on my eyes and I couldn't open my eyes.
When pressed, De Line said there's a good chance the screen test for that oversized prosthetic will end up on the DVD. Green Lantern opens this Friday.