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Jekyll Today's Date:

The Jekyll Journals:
Walking In The Shadows

Continuing our behind-the-scenes look...

Shooting starts on Monday. Before diving headfirst into the experience, director Scott Zakarin wanted to talk a bit about the legacy he feels he's shouldering.

Before the cameras roll, Scott has also been spending this past week working with the actors in some pretty intensive rehearsal. There are much bigger films that have not paid this much attention to the craft of acting, and it should pay off.

While he preps that, another arm of Creative Light Entertainment readies for the release of Comic Book: The Movie, which has split a few focuses.

Here's Scott...

Derek McCaw: What's going on right now?

Scott Zakarin: Well, we're in the middle of rehearsal. We had a rehearsal this morning, and it went pretty well.

DM: You have a full week of rehearsal, right?

SZ: Yes. We have rehearsals, tech scouts, storyboards finishing. This week is just about everything you can imagine. It's like building a house and preparing a wedding. Put those things together and you can imagine what it's like to get ready.

DM: Everything's going all right so far?

SZ: I'm giddy. I'm seeing some wonderful actors bringing my lines to life. It's exciting.

There's one thing I'd like to talk about. I watched the Fredric March version of Jekyll and Hyde again, and I've been re-reading the novella, and finding it to be quite an interesting experience walking in the shadow of these amazing things.

Clearly, the most influential version on Scott...
DM: We've only brushed against this concept when talking about your inspiration. Do you feel a weight on your shoulders about doing Jekyll?

SZ: There have been a lot of versions of Jekyll and Hyde. There's been everything from Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde. There's been so many liberties taken with it.

My goal has been to be really faithful to the novella and all the more meaningful works that came out of that, before this. As I've mentioned before, my favorite version is the Fredric March one, directed by Rouben Mamoulian. It's just a beautiful, wonderful version, so far ahead of its time that really, everyone who reads this article should go right out and rent that movie.

DM: It was just re-released on a DVD as a double feature with the Spencer Tracy version.

SZ: And Bugs Bunny. They've got the Bugs Bunny Jekyll and Hyde in there. So I'm going to run out and buy lots of copies to show all my actors. It's so great, though I'm not so crazy about the Spencer Tracy version. I thought it was overly wordy.

The first time I thought of doing a modern day Jekyll and Hyde update was after seeing the Broadway show about three years ago. I was trying to see the show Fosse or something, but that was sold out.

So I ended up seeing Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and I thought the show was pretty good. But what I really felt was wow, what a great story. Every version I've ever seen has been set in Robert Louis Stevenson's intended time.

Ultimately, I thought, what a story of addiction.

When I was watching the movie yesterday I was thinking, wow, this movie was made seventy-two years ago. Everybody in this movie is dead. And yet everyone went out there, and made this. And I do feel in the shadow of that. I do feel that Robert Louis Stevenson is somewhere looking over my shoulder.

And then you wonder if the guy making Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde was thinking the same thing.

So it's hard to take yourself too seriously, but you know that at the same time that you're treading on very serious work. For me, it's a very important special film. As I work with my actors, I can see that it's becoming a part of them.

Especially my lead actor, who has been studying, doing research, getting into all of the nuances and wanting to be there for every second of rehearsal that he can.

I see that there's something magical about taking something that has endured for this long and trying to give it a fresher look.

Exclusive first look at Mark Teague's
design for Hyde...
DM: Not only are you working in the shadow of something so big, you're hoping that this will make an impact. Do you feel that you're working on something that will last, or in this age of disposable pop culture, is that almost too silly to think?

SZ: When I'm making this thing, I think I'm doing something special the whole way. When I look at any scene, no scene is a throwaway. Everything has to be meaningful. How often do you get the opportunity to shoot a scene of a movie? You might as well do everything you can to find what's special about it, or how it fits into the project.

So I guess I feel that if all the pieces of it fit together and make a wonderful whole, of course it's going to last. I certainly have the cast to do it. I have the great production design of Mark Teague. I'm working with my friend and longtime collaborative producer Eric Mittleman.

Part of me feels like we're doing something special. Part of you has to feel that way. But no, I'm not daunted.

Okay, I'm daunted a little bit that we're trying to do this on a modest budget. I want to make sure that we get everything we're imagining.

But I feel strength from having the crutch of Stevenson's masterful beginning. I know that at the very least, we'll reach a certain level because of that. But from here on in, it's up to us to take it further. I'd like to think that he'd like this version. I do feel a connection to the past.

DM: Do you feel that the cast is sharing your awe?

SZ: Certainly my lead actor is totally gung ho. And actually, a lot of the actors are in awe of each other. We've assembled a wonderful cast. I get the sense that they feel that they're on something special.

A closer view of Hyde...
Some of them who are busy working actors came in thinking it was a job between shooting an episode of Law and Order and a commercial. But now they're here, they're giving it the respect, and I just hope we can keep the momentum up.

The good thing about momentum is that you keep going, but the bad thing is that you may have a ledge to fall off of. That's what makes it so much fun…

Some of the things that intrigue me lie in updating the characters. For example, in the original novella, you have the Utterson character. My Utterson is a woman. Every other version either didn't have Utterson or combined him with the Lanyon character, making him more menacing.

One of the things I was doing in rehearsal today was focusing on the actor who plays Carew. The character was killed in the original novella, then in one of the movie versions he became the father of Jekyll's fiancée, and then in every version from that, including the musical, he's continued to have that father/daughter dynamic.

DM: And you've left that in the update.

SZ: I've left that in the update. What I did was show the actors the history of it. Each one treats it a different way. My update may take it into today's age and have today's sensibilities, but ultimately the relationship still is the same. It's an issue of control, it's an issue of "this is the way it's supposed to be" towards the daughter.

The biggest thing I'm screwing with is how he takes the potion. That's the most modern-day aspect to it.

DM: Which has to be. You're tapping into modern fears.

SZ: The fear that we're becoming cyber. Even when I was talking to the actors about it, they're concerned about being replaced by something virtual.

My answer to that is that I don't know. But my feeling is that it's just going to take away the thirty-five million dollar prima donna actors. At that price, you can afford to create an actor who is wonderful and a better performer.

Generally, an artist is an artist. You need a person.

Is it a fear? I don't know. I think it's just evolution. They even say that in one of the versions. I think it's the Fredric March version.

"If somebody didn't dream about these lights that need gasoline all the time, instead of just wax they have kerosene. And you'll see - one day they'll have luminants. You'll see the way the city lights up, and you'll be awe of that."

It is the dreamers of the world that make it go forward.

DM: And now, almost as if Stevenson predicted it, we do take chemicals to alter our personalities.

SZ: Absolutely. Well, not alter - we take them to cure our personalities. Unless you're talking about recreational drugs.

DM: I'm talking about curing the personality then. If you'd like to talk about recreational drugs, we can, but that's a different conversation.

SZ: No, we can talk about that here. I do think Jekyll is an addict. The goal is to create prozac, but in the end he basically creates acid.

DM: Along those lines, you've done something interesting with Jekyll in his fascination with Hyde as a pure innocent. He refuses to believe that Hyde can commit any meaningful violence, and yet that's juxtaposed with Hyde being basically a videogame character whose very existence serves just to destroy things online.

SZ: Right. Even when he's playing him, it's not a big deal, because when you're playing your videogame and you're slashing and killing and burning, it doesn't mean anything.

Ultimately, he programmed that into Jekyll. Very astute of you to pick that up. We may be giving away a little too much plot, but I don't mind.

DM: It's an interesting subtext for the conflict there. Are you meaning to say anything about the video age?

SZ: No, not really. In my mind, the video age is a good thing. It's part of evolution. It's natural.

What is interesting to me is how things get more and more efficient. By becoming more and more efficient, you start to realize that power is infinite, too. And what does that mean? What does it mean for all the evil that it can do as well as all the good it can do?

In Fredric March's version he says, if evil could be taken care of, then good could truly be left to find its purpose.

My Jekyll and Hyde are not necessarily good and evil.

DM: It's a grayer line between the two.

SZ: It's accountability versus non-accountability.

What makes us civilized, that's responsibility. Jekyll has responsibility, Hyde has none. Hyde is responsible only to his own pleasures and impulses.

DM: In your role as producer on this, are you essentially done with Comic Book: The Movie, and free to focus on Jekyll, or is it an extra stress to be dealing with the impending release of the DVD?

SZ: Most of the work on Comic Book: The Movie has been done. Actually, Jekyll has taken my mind off the stress of releasing Comic Book. We had a screening, which I looked forward to.

But they're such different projects. The nice thing is that they're both targeted to genre fans. Clearly, though, one is a satirical comedy and the other is a classic tragedy.

DM: You've mentioned the storyboards a bit - you're feeling confident they'll be done?

The evil rabbit finally comes to life...
SZ: As long as you have a good shot list, you don't really need a storyboard, in my opinion. But storyboarding key scenes, complicated scenes does really help the different departments keep it together. They're working out the effects. Teague is busy building props like crazy.

DM: How close a reign do you keep over the storyboarding?

SZ: Well, it's the first time you're visualizing a movie. You take the movie from script, which in this case I wrote, but you take that and visualize, then you start to rehearse. You do blocking, and sometimes you redo the storyboard.

It's a lot like doing a painting. You start with the pencil drawing on the page. Then you go into your underpainting, your blacks and your greys. Then maybe you do another layer, until you reach your top layer. And that's your movie.

That's what this is, only it's finished when you do your final mix, your final color correction, and you're ready to show.

DM: So are you ready to shoot on Monday?

SZ: We may shoot Tuesday. Only because one of the locations may make us do a shoot on Saturday.

Do I feel ready? Yeah. I'm ready to rock and roll.

Previous discussions with Scott on the Making of Jekyll:




Further discussions with Scott Zakarin on the Making of Jekyll:




Derek McCaw

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