Mike Medavoy and Brad Fischer's names may not be as well-known as Martin Scorsese's, but the two Shutter Island producers deserve props from anyone who values a solid thriller. As co-founder of the late lamented Orion Pictures, Medavoy played a role in bringing (among many other films) The Silence of the Lambs, The Terminator and Robocop to the screen. And his partnership with Fischer in Phoenix Pictures has resulted in David Fincher's Zodiac as well as Scorsese's latest. We'll have a lot more on that film in the next week, since we caught up with Fischer and Medavoy at the Shutter Island junket in New York this weekend (along with Scorsese himself). But while we were there, we made sure to ask the two about the many other thrillers and genre flicks they have in the works. Hit the jump now to get the latest on about a half dozen of the most intriguing-sounding movies of the new decade -- Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan, Mile Zero, Grudge director Takashi Shimizu's next fright flick, the Robocop remake, Simple Machines, and what sounds like the coolest project of all – The Last Voyage of the Demeter, a new look at a blood feast of Count Dracula that's only hinted at in Bram Stoker's classic vampire novel.
Can you talk a little bit about Black Swan? Can you talk about what stage of production you're at?
Fischer: It's shooting right now. It's in production, we're getting kind of toward the end of photography. It's shooting here in New York City. (I'll probably pop by the set – Mike and I are gonna go by before we head off to Europe.) It's going great. The dailies look amazing; it's Darren Aronofsky and Natalie Portman [both pictured above on set] and Mila Kunis.
What do you think it offers thriller fans?
Fischer: It takes a very kind of dark and disturbing journey – in this case Natalie plays a ballerina who has dreams of becoming a star. And she gets that opportunity, and there's a lot of elements that play out for her, where she starts to wonder if she's gonna be basically undercut by somebody else, by Mila Kunis's character in the film. So you're not sure how much of it is paranoia, how much of it is reality. She starts to work through some of that as the twists and turns start coming. It's a very cool piece.
Medavoy: Darren actually took it from what it was into the world of ballet, which I thought was a really interesting way to infuse it.
And something you might not expect from the director of The Wrestler.
Medavoy: Yeah, going from a wrestler to a dancer is pretty interesting. And examining that world with a psychological thriller set in that world.
Are you set for a fall release?
Fischer: I don't think Fox has set the release date yet, Fox Searchlight. But I would expect it'll be sometime in the fall.
Another film that sounds pretty interesting is your Takashi Shimizu project. Is the film still untitled?
Fischer: It's still untitled. We refer to it as "The Untitled Haunted Song Project". Yeah, it's about these two girls who move into an apartment in New York. They just graduated from college, and they have an internship at a New York Times type newspaper. They find these reel-to-reel tapes in the closet, that are old. They track down the source of them, and they realize that they are the original recordings made by the singer-songwriter who lived there previously, in the ‘80s, who was somewhat obscure but became kind of notorious because he wrote what many refer to as a suicide song; that was linked to the suicides of a lot of people who listened to it. On listening to it, something happened and they became extremely distraught.
This sounds like a classic J-horror premise.
Fischer: Yeah, it does. And there's a ghost story element to it, because there's a haunting that has to do with this place. This apartment building was once an old hotel. The investigation kind of brings them back to the same thing that was happening to this guy. It taps into that idea of inspiration, when artists kind of feel, all of the sudden, like a light bulb goes off – even writers, when you're just suddenly in the zone – it sort of suggests that maybe there's a supernatural component to that. It explores that theme a little bit, and it's pretty terrifying actually.
Will filming begin this year?
Fischer: We're still putting it together. We're casting it right now, so we'll see. I think Shimizu would like to make it his next movie, so we're working on it.
Can you talk about the present status of Robocop?
Fischer: It's on hold for now. There's really nothing else to really report about it.
Can you say how your take on the Robocop universe would differ from that of the original film?
Fischer: I think, because we're on hold with it, we have to see, once we all come back to the table. But it's gonna be huge.
Another project you have in the works is Mile Zero.
Fischer: Mile Zero is something we've been working on for quite a long time. Mila Jovovich is attached to it. It takes place at the origin of the Alaska pipeline, and it's tonally not dissimilar to The Shining in some ways. So that's something… Again, it takes a long time to get some of these films off the ground. Some move faster than others. Shutter Island actually was pretty quick as these things go. We were greenlit by Paramount, I think, within the original eighteen-month option on the book. But some movies take a lot longer than that – some take ten years and some never get done. So it's definitely always challenging.
Speaking of challenging, you guys are working on what could be the first serious high-profile attempt at a Dracula story in some time – The Last Voyage of the Demeter. How are you planning to elaborate on such a small slice of Stoker's novel?
Fischer: When I picked up the script, it just struck me as such a great idea. Because I'd always been a fan of the Stoker novel, and the Dracula mythology and lore. And that chapter, which -- if you go back and look at the Stoker novel -- is basically told through the captain's diary, from when he was on the boat. The boat was chartered to go from Varna to London, and there were these boxes of earth that were being put on it, and one of these boxes of earth was Nosferatu himself; and he was feeding off of the crew members as the boat made its journey. The captain's log – the way that it's structured in the book – it actually starts off with someone who was a journalist, who is among this group of people when the boat crashes into the rocks at Whitby. And he finds this water-soaked log book. Just by reading these entries, which grow – starting off with descriptions of an "unsettled feeling among the crew that there's a presence on the boat, someone who can't be accounted for" – into varying increasing degrees of paranoia. Crew members go missing; no one had actually dramatized what happened on the ship. And Bragi Schut, who wrote Season of the Witch – this was actually his first script that he wrote, before Season of the Witch – he came up with this idea to tell the story of what unfolded. It's told from the point of view of a guy who's just desperate to get to London. And he just gets on the wrong boat basically. [Laughs.]
What's the current timeline for both Demeter and Mile Zero?
Fischer: We're working very hard on both of them, to try to put them together. There's filmmakers that we're in discussions with. I'm hoping they'll come together soon. So fingers crossed – you can never predict. I always get surprised; a script comes in that you didn't expect to be terrific, and then all of the sudden you're off and running. And then the ones you expected were gonna go really quickly sometimes take longer.
Medavoy: [Regarding Demeter], I'm really excited about it. The question is getting some converts out there together with me. I just find the idea of telling a classic story from the point of view of something that happened out of the logs, and all of it taking it place on a shop, visually really interesting. And character-wise it's really interesting – the characters are on the boat, and the fact that you think all of them had died; and we don't tell whether somebody did survive or not… That intrigues me. I think Simple Machines, Troy Nixey's piece, does too.
Do you know Troy Nixey? Troy Nixey is a… I wouldn't use the word cartoonist, but he does drawings for books. And he's crafted a really fun story that's not a very expensive movie, but… It's the story of a little kid who grows up – his father was an inventor and he's an inventor, and he has this machine that he carries around that talks to him. He talks to the machine, and the machine is stolen. I won't go beyond that.
So it's an all-ages film?
Thank you very much for your time.
Medavoy: My pleasure.
Fischer: Any time!