Two of 2013’s biggest movies in the superhero- and action-flick sphere are going to be served up as Blu-ray stocking stuffers over the next few weeks, and BAM! went behind the scenes on The Wolverine and Fast & Furious 6 in anticipation of the big scores from Santa.
Superhero World Builder
Francois Audouy has left his creative fingerprints on a startling array of seminal sci-fi and comic book-derived properties (along with more conventional movies), beginning by working in the art departments on films like Men in Black I and II, Spider-Man 1 and 2, Minority Report, I Am Legend and Avatar, then as art director for Transformers, Watchmen and Green Lantern, and ultimately as production designer on Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and The Wolverine.
For The Wolverine, Audouy came in as a bona fide fan of the mutant hero: “I'm kind of the same age as Wolverine, so I grew up with that character. In the '80s, I was really aware of his heyday and the golden age of the Wolverine comics,” he says, though he didn’t try to slavishly emulate the visual style of the classic 1982 miniseries by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller that provided inspiration for the film.
“I definitely looked at the Frank Miller comics, and I thought they were absolutely great,” says Audouy. “As art director on Watchmen, we basically used the comic book as a bible. We were extremely loyal in even trying to re-create every little Easter egg. This project wasn't really like that. We decided that the approach was going to be always go back to the narrative and the character arc. It wasn't necessarily like a frame-by-frame re-creation of the comic.”
Even more exciting to Audouy was his opportunity to work within the story’s Japanese locale. “It had been a dream of mine to do something with a Japanese setting because I was such a fan of Japanese culture and architecture, but I wasn't an expert,” he says. “Just as a design geek, it was something I was really interested in.”
The unique location of the story also allowed him to break free from any established X-Men aesthetic. “We didn't feel like we owed [the previous films] anything, so we set off to make a stand-alone film… a character piece that was true and didn't feel phony and was grounded and perhaps more gritty and realistic than what had come before.”
His next project, Dracula Untold, is an origin tale featuring Luke Evans as a prevampiric Vlad the Impaler that will be “a very unique and surprising movie because it's not really revisiting the genre type film that's come before,” he says. “It's a unique, epic, historical, sweeping drama, which is kind of surprising for a Dracula film. It's probably more a film that's like Gladiator than like Dark Shadows. So it was an incredible opportunity to create 15th century Transylvania with castles and whatnot, and it's really got a big, big canvas, which was a bit like an old-school MGM drama which was really quite an opportunity.”
Fast Take: Ludacris
I should note than when I spoke with rapper-actor Ludacris about Fast & Furious 6 and the follow-up seventh installment he and the team were filming, it was a few days before the shocking death of star Paul Walker. Thus Luda was still in a highly positive frame of mind regarding the franchise as a whole, his role in it and his enthusiasm for racing in general, so readers, please keep the pretragedy context in minds – with the film bowing on DVD this week I still wanted to get his excitement for the movie series across to its many fans.
“I'm already naturally already a fan of fast cars and an adrenaline junkie already, so to actually do something in a character that you love and this entire culture of cars worldwide is like a dream come true,” Ludacris said.
“The fans ask me a lot about the cars,” he added, noting that the fastest vehicle in his personal garage is a Ferrari 458. “We get so many exotic cars [for the films] and things that no one can find, like the Gurkha from Fast 5. Or the new concept car – the one that was flipping cars over. It's always like ‘What are we always going to do next?’ I think that's what actually makes it more interesting because we're able to see things that aren't even available to the average consumer sometimes.”
Ludacris expressed how eager the entire ensemble was to keep raising the bar with each film. “We are constantly thinking of how we can progress or how the hell we can top what we just did. We're so passionate about making it better and better. We work hard.”
Plans for the seventh movie are now on hold while the studio and creative team considers how to proceed. Here’s hoping the Fast team figures out a creative, respectful way to continue while still honoring Walker’s memory. As Ludacris noted, “To work with all of these different people, whether it be Vin, Paul, the Rock, Tyrese – everyone had something different to offer and a different talent, and I just think that we all make it work together. I love how all the fans can relate to each character in a different way.”