Doing Superman Justice Page 2

Were you tempted to digitally add to the images the way George Lucas did with the rerelease of Star Wars? No. This is history for me, this is a part of my life that was laying back there since 1978, and I'm going to leave it as pure as I possibly can.

Would you like to make a new Superman or other superhero picture using solely computer-generated images (CGI)? I would love to do Superman in 2002. What's open to us now is extraordinary. What we could do today! But it still has to be an emotional film with people and characters, and the schizophrenic life of a man -- Clark Kent/Superman.

Do you like CGI-heavy epics like Gladiator? I admire them tremendously. I'm really impressed by what they can do. Myself, I wouldn't go to that extreme in a movie. I'm still a little bit old school, and I'm not much of a prestidigitator. I mean, I don't want to dazzle with footwork if I can give it to you solid, strong, and real. My next picture is Timelined, from Michael Crichton's book on time travel. I'm desperately trying to do it so the general public will look at it and think it's real. It's very visceral. It's not: "Oh, wow! Look at that! They had to create that!" That takes me out of the sense of reality. For some things, I guess it's wonderful. I thought that it was great in . . . oh shit . . . ?

Gladiator? Yeah, Gladiator.

Or, say, The Matrix? Well, The Matrix, for me, was a picture without a story. It was visual. I think The Matrix is ingenious in its use of what computers and time-lapse cameras can do today. It's as innovative a piece of film as I've ever seen. And I think that's what its intent was. It's dazzling, and when you get something that's as dazzling as that, how dare you go back and analyze it. Years ago there was a wonderful picture by Antonioni called Blow-Up. In the very last two shots of the picture the young lead, David Hemmings, is walking in the park, and there are people playing tennis without a ball, and they supposedly hit it over the fence so it lands at his feet. They're all gesturing for him to pick it up, and there's a straight-down shot where he picks up this tennis ball that doesn't exist and throws it back to them. And Antonioni holds the frame and then pops him out of the frame, so that all you see is lawn. And you go, "Whoa! Back up, wait a minute." You start to think about the whole picture, Blow-Up, and what you saw in the bushes and the frames, and that last frame, and you ask, "What's he saying? Was there a picture at all? What existed, and what have I seen?" I think it's the most thought-provoking movie I've ever seen in my life -- and that was his intent. But that's a rarity, a total rarity. In The Matrix, though, I was mesmerized by the visuals, by the visual sense of the Wachowski brothers [who wrote and directed it] -- mesmerized.

But you prefer the script the Wachowskis did of Assassins, which you directed? I thought that was a wonderful script. Sly Stallone's performance was as controlled as any I've seen in his career -- understated, gentle, and interesting, almost empathetic. And I thought he and Antonio Banderas were great together. I thought there were some wonderful things in the movie. The general public didn't. Banderas had a picture that had just come out and died. And Stallone had a picture out that was still running, Judge Dredd. I begged [Warner Bros.], "Just hold onto Assassins until both these pictures disappear, then maybe this will have its own life." But they didn't. Anyway, I liked it. I'm proud of it. I talk about it.

Your career in film and television goes back to the '50s and wonderful series like The Rifleman. Yehhhhh.

Do you think audiences were very different then? Basically? Well, I think the audiences are the same, but they want different things now. We've fed them different food, and that's what they're hungry for now. And I don't think they're hungry for things like The Rifleman anymore. They're the same people, just going through evolution. I'm not a great fan of television, but there are some great things on -- West Wing, and Felicity and The Sopranos. There's also a lot of shit. But most TV series back in the old days were pretty shitty. It was the same show week after week after week. Some were unique. A lot of The Twilight Zone was unique, and some comedies -- Get Smart. I loved doing [episodes for] those, cause they were crazy and wonderful and bizarre, and you could pull in pretty much anything that you wanted. But we're in a different world today, and if you don't go with the different world, they'll come and visit your stone.