Joel Silver remains one of Hollywood’s foremost producing icons, a man who revitalised the action genre from the Lethal Weapon movies, to the Matrix trilogy and beyond. His latest venture, Ghost Ship, hits the water running this week, and he talked to Paul Fischer.
Question: Are you really Hollywood’s last impresario as everyone says?
Answer: No, look, I’m just sitting with you talking about a movie. Look, we try to make these pictures that the audiences enjoy and like to go see. Bob and myself are very passionate about these Dark Castle movies. I love the horror genre and I love to do whatever I can in this genre and it’s just exciting every year we put one of these movies out and people seem to like them.
Question: What do you love about the genre?
Answer: Bob always says it’s the most cinematic of any movie genre. It’s really about the camera and about the images and about the sound, about getting the audience to think something’s happening one way and then scaring them or shocking them or jolting them. It’s all about just drawing them into an experience that affects them and makes them be uncomfortable, which they like. I think that if we do our job well, we don’t take ourselves seriously on these movies. This movie is a Halloween party and it’s meant to go to the theater and just have a good time. Laugh, be scared, be grossed out a little bit but enjoy it.
Question: Were you reticent to make a water movie?
Answer: This is the great thing about the movie. There’s no boat. There’s a line in The Matrix, there’s no spoon. In this movie there was no boat which is pretty remarkable. There was no Queen Mary, there’s no oceanliner, there’s no boat. It’s the magic of visual effects that allow us. I mean, there are some scenes they shot with the tugboat. But there is no ship.
Question: Given the controversy surrounding runaway productions, what are the advantages for you to work in Australia as you’ve done with Ghost Ship and all Matrix films?
Answer: There’s no way we could have made these movies if it wasn’t for the connection to Australia. First, we were drawn there by the economic situation which was very effective but since we’ve done that, I would like to make every movie there. It’s an incredible place to work, an incredible city. I love Sydney. We have great people. We have a great, great crew and an incredible art department and things we couldn’t even do here. I mean, there are things in the next Matrix movie that I don’t know how we would’ve done it locally. I mean, the size and the scale of the movie is just staggering and you just couldn’t do it. I mean, it would be so cost prohibitive that you wouldn’t even be able to think about it. But it just works incredibly well there.
Question: Does Ghost Ship reflect the Dark Castle tone?
Answer: We believe in this one set film theory with these kind of movies, that you start outside the location, have some wind and air and sun, and then go into a location and stay there until the end. From a standpoint of economics, it’s very important. This movie had a lot of sets, as opposed to one room, but it is all in one location, so all those sets are on one stage. It allows us to really maximize the money. Panic Room was the perfect Dark Castle movie. You open up, then you go inside and you stay there. I could have made five Dark Castle movies with what that movie cost, but that’s the notion. The business plan of Dark Castle is to make those kinds of movies that are affordable but to gear them into visual effects. The fact that we could create a boat like this without ever having a boat, without ever shooting a boat is pretty remarkable.