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News Article

Exclusive: We 'Race to Witch Mountain' with Director Andy Fickman!!


Long before we knew what it was like a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.  Way before there were Close Encounters of the Third (or any) Kind.  Before E.T., before Indy, before… er, Magnum P.I.? – before any of these things there was Escape to Witch Mountain.  If you were a child growing up in the ‘70s or ‘80s you know exactly what I’m talking about.  But if you’re not too well acquainted with Witch Mountain (the movie that once had, for a kid, the Coolest Title Ever), then you’re about to be.  I just had the chance to speak with the director of the upcoming follow-up chapter Race to Witch Mountain, Andy Fickman, who talked about why his take on the original film is darker, faster and higher octane, but fueled by his love for the original, and he even gave us clues as to a few Easter eggs hidden in the film.  See what Mr. Fickman had to say below…  (And be sure to check out part two of our interview where Andy talks about stepping into the shoes of the legendary Val Lewton on a four-flick deal with Twisted Pictures!!)

I want to talk about Race to Witch Mountain a little bit. As a kid, I watched the original (Escape to Witch Mountain), like, a bajillion times…

You and me both.  [Laughs.] 

So I’m wondering, is this a re-imagining of the original or another chapter in the Witch Mountain lexicon?

You know, I think it’s another chapter in the Witch Mountain lexicon.  Like you I think my first big crush was Kim Richards and I had seen the movie about a thousand times and the sequel about a thousand times, whenever I could see it.  As a kid I read the book – which was actually a lot darker.  And when I was finishing The Game Plan, they came to me and said “Would you ever consider doing a remake of this old movie Escape to Witch Mountain?”  The notion of a remake didn’t hit me – it’s always a movie-by-movie project.  But Escape to Witch Mountain was something that I loved so much I was like “I’ve got such great memories of Escape, I’m not sure you’d want to remake it.”  But we started talking about what the world was – what the Witch Mountain legacy was.  What the original book had been about.  And there was something interesting in re-exploring it, imagining it with what our world is like now, and what a different journey would be like.  The more we started talking about it with Disney, the more we kept coming up with the fact that our Witch Mountain was going to be much darker.   

I thought, initially, the studio would just pass, because we wanted it to be much more of a dark conspiracy – much more of a ‘70s action movie.  And in ’75 – before Star Wars, before Close Encounters, before any of those movies – there was Escape to Witch Mountain.  So if you look at all the Disney movies of the ‘70s, like Watcher in the Woods and what not, they really were trying.  For Disney, they were trying to go darker and more action packed.  So for me it felt like “Alright, we should go darker.”  And the studio completely backed it.  We kind of wanted to kick it up a notch in terms of the action, and so from the very beginning I brought in the team who had done the Spider-Man films and the Bourne movies.  We literally said, “How would you do it as a ‘70s action-thriller?”  We brought in Dwayne Johnson, who, after The Game Plan, was talking about wanting to do another big action movie; but most of the action scripts he was getting were probably feeling a little too much like things he had done before and he was trying to look for something that was interesting.  It turned out he remembered loving the original movie and that opened up the door.  So once he and I started talking, and once we started talking to the stunt guys and getting that vision in place, it was kind of all guns ahead.  What was huge for me was that I wanted to track down Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann, because I wanted them to be in the movie.  Y’know it’s always hard – that movie is thirty years old, so it’s hard with the generation gap.  My ten year old son, he’s never seen the original.  But I tracked down Kim and Ike – Ike was living in Florida, Kim was living here – and these were great, strong memories for them, and I don’t think either was really anxious to jump in.  They were like “Why jump in now when we have such great memories from before?”  Once they heard what I wanted to do with the story and how their characters would relate to it – they both signed on and they became a real big part of the family.  I think we just got lucky in a lot of ways, and I think people are going to be very surprised going into it.  I think people are wary when they see “From the Director of The Game Plan and She’s the Man, Walt Disney Presents…” – you know, you might as well call it ‘Alf: The Movie’.  [Laughs.]

I don’t know.  I think a lot of people would love to see Alf: The Movie. [Laughs.] 

Watch – you’ll look in the trades tomorrow and you’ll see I’m directing Alf: The Movie.  [Laughs.]  But as we sat down and starting conceiving this, it was kind of like, “How dark can we go?”  I’m a huge paranormal nut.  I was born in Roswell, New Mexico so I’ve lived the whole UFO legacy my entire life.  [When] we started going, I wanted people like Whitley Streiber from Communion in my film.  I wanted people like Bill Burns, UFO Hunters, I wanted the real UFO community involved, which meant I had to track these people down and individually have this conversation with them about my belief in UFOs, my desire to make a cool UFO conspiracy movie that did not poke fun at what the UFO world is, but would poke fun at what people’s view of the UFO world is.  And to have Whitley on screen and to have Doctor Leir on screen and to have Bill Burns on screen, and to have these people not just say “Yes” to helping but to actually get involved – that was a huge plus.  So yeah, I look at the original movie with a great deal of respect and then I look at this movie as feeling like it’s kind of something new.  It’s in no way a remake – you can’t even really call it a sequel – it’s just kind of another chapter.

That’s totally cool, man.  Any chance we’re gonna see Winky the Cat again?

[Laughs.] There are three things people always ask me about:  they ask me about Winky the Cat, they ask me if that harmonica is gonna come out, and they ask me if the coat rack was gonna attack somebody – and they always throw in something about the Winnebago.  I’m like, “I’ll give you the Winnebago, because the Winnebago’s cool, but I can’t imagine having a coat rack attack anyone again.”  The harmonica we got rid of before we ever started, but with Winky the Cat – I think the idea of the cat, just the cat’s name, made us laugh too much.  There were certainly things, watching the original, that we definitely needed to reevaluate, but there was – and by the time we get to the DVD we’ll point ‘em out – for real fans of the original movie in almost every scene an Easter egg.  Something – either a poster I put on the wall or the name of a character or an actor we put in our movie or a location name.  It’s just full of things that used to make me smile all day long, and we’d all see it and be like, “That’s awesome.”  But then of course the movie will come out and nobody will notice them.  But it’ll make for some good DVD commentary. [Laughs.]