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Interview with Prometheus Blu-ray Behind-the-Scenes Producer Charles de Lauzirika

Posted October 9, 2012 04:09 PM by Casey Broadwater

20th Century FoxCharles de Lauzirika is an acclaimed behind-the-scenes documentarian and Blu-ray/DVD producer, whose work includes the Alien Quadrilogy/Anthology box sets, the extras on Twin Peaks: The Definitive Gold Box Edition, and, most recently, The Furious Gods, the nearly four-hour making-of doc for the Prometheus 3D Blu-ray: 4-Disc Collector's Edition. His narrative feature film debut, Crave—starring Josh Lawson, Emma Lung, and Ron Perlman—is also currently playing the festival circuit. staff reviewer Casey Broadwater recently had a chance to chat with de Lauzirika about the Prometheus bonus materials, the current state of supplementary content, and the sexy Michael Fassbender:

It's a pleasure talking with you. I'm a huge Twin Peaks nerd, so your Gold Box set was like manna from heaven for me.

Well, thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

But let's talk about Prometheus. You've had a long history with Scott Free Productions and Ridley Scott. Can you explain a bit about how you got to know him, and how you came to work on the Alien Anthology and Prometheus supplements?

You have about three hours to go through that story? (Laughs) I started as an intern for Scott Free when I was in USC film school—which meant lots of menial tasks—and then eventually I got promoted to script reader. I was reading scripts for Tony Scott, then for Ridley Scott, and it just evolved over time, from reading to doing story notes for them. And then, I was the only DVD geek in the office around '97 and '98—when DVD started to launch—and I basically encouraged Ridley to get involved, as I'd heard the first Alien box set was in the works. I thought he should get in on it, and he did. In doing so, he put me in charge of his DVD productions, and away I went. That was fourteen years ago.

Personally, I loved Prometheus, and saw it twice in theaters, but when it comes to the Blu- ray release—and I don't think I'm alone here—I'll admit I was actually more excited to see the special features than to watch the film itself again. I'm sure you're aware that lots of fans await this behind-the-scenes material with bated breath. What's your approach to "giving the people what they want," so to speak?

Well, it's easy because, since I'm a fan, all I need to do is make a disc that I'd be happy with, and that should hopefully sort everybody out, I'd think. In working on the Alien Anthology, and before that, the Alien Quadrilogy set, of the four films, the one that was lacking the most behind-the-scenes footage, of course, was Alien, because it simply wasn't covered as well as the later films. There's precious few minutes of behind-the-scenes on Alien, and I've always had this fantasy of "oh, if only I had a time machine and I could go back to 1978 and '79 and document it the way we document movies today."

And then, imagine my surprise when Ridley decides he's going to make a new movie in the Alien universe. And I would have the chance to basically do that with a new film. So I did. I mean, I shot the hell out of it. I think I shot over a year before production with Vanessa White, my other camera operator. We shot entirely through the shoot, and then I continued on through post-production and even after the release a bit. When you see the Prometheus disc, it's basically what I would've done had I been around to shoot behind-the-scenes on Alien.

You pretty much had full access to the sets, then, for the duration of the shoot?

Definitely. The cast and crew were very supportive and we really got to cover so many different facets of the film—every little detail that I think fans would truly enjoy. I'm sure some of the people on the crew might've rolled their eyes at the level of detail and kind of nerdiness that we were going for, but I felt it was important to at least capture it because, well, once it's gone it's gone forever. We really tried to shoot every possible thing we could.

How big of a crew were you yourself working with?

In the early days, pre-production, it was just me shooting by myself. Then, during the shoot, I had Vanessa White, so basically whenever I wasn't on set, she would shoot for me. We also shot interviews during production, so we had three or four guys from London come in and we'd shoot these interviews at Pinewood on the green screen stage. Into post, it was me again, shooting stuff solo, and then I hired crews around the world—I can't be everywhere at once!—to go down to Weta, in New Zealand, a few in Sydney, and the scoring sessions in London. At that point, it's kind of like "all hands on deck," because I'm also back in LA editing with my team. It starts small, ends big, and then it's over, but we always hope it turns out okay.

Regarding the editing, at nearly four hours—and more including the Enhancement Pods— The Furious Gods is truly epic in scope. What was the process like of choosing what to include and what to leave out? How much total footage did you have?

I believe there's about seven or so terabytes of footage, which is (laughs) a lot, to put it simply. Sculpting that much material into something that's interesting and coherent is tough, but on the other hand, the interviews with the cast and crew tend to provide me with the narrative spine for everything. They are the storytellers. I ask informed questions, but I let them run with it. When you have those voices laying down the groundwork, it's easier to go into the behind-the-scenes and find footage that's relative to what they're talking about. Rarely do we have behind-the-scenes footage without a story behind it. I might have footage that didn't make it into The Furious Gods or the Enhancement Pods, but there's nothing to back it up in terms of context. And the Enhancement Pods are great because they provide us with ways of presenting material that didn't quite fit into the general making-of. Those are the little back-alleys in this world that I really enjoy. Because, you already get a three-hour-and- forty minute doc that's pretty epic on its own, but when you get into an hour and fifteen minutes of even more little things, as a fan, I'm glad we have those on the disc.

Was there anything you wish you could've included but couldn't for various reasons?

I would've loved to have interviewed H.R. Giger. We were certainly into serious discussions on that.

He does show up briefly.

Yeah, I'm glad we got him in the documentary; at least he's a presence there. I shot that footage of him and Ridley working together. There was a last minute scramble to get Giger's approval to include it, and I'm glad we did. It would've been nice to sit him down and do a proper interview, but at least he's in there in some form. But beyond that, I've gotta be honest, I think we got pretty much everything. There are always little things, and down the road, if there's a 10th or 20th anniversary release, and there's ever a need to go in and add more stuff, there's plenty. But by the same token, we didn't hold anything back. What you have is what we intended to include.

Were you involved at all with putting the deleted scenes together?

On the older films, Blade Runner, for instance, I was handed the dailies and then I cut those together with my editors. That's where we have free reign, unless there's a cut existing. In the case of Blade Runner, there wasn't, so we basically had the power—which is very addictive!—to take Ridley's dailies and cut them in a way that I thought made sense. In the case of Prometheus, we have Pietro Scalia, the editor, who has already cut together these scenes in one form or another, and at some point, those scenes have appeared in rough cuts of the film. Pietro goes through his bins and picks out the deleted scenes that he feels are the most coherent. We'll talk about it, and then we'll run those by Ridley, who will approve them. So, what you're seeing is basically the approved list of deleted scenes from Ridley and Pietro, and I just try to be the advocate to say, you know, "the fans really want to see these, can we please include them?"

More generally, when it comes to Blu-ray, how do you approach the format as opposed to your previous work doing supplements for DVD? Beyond more storage space and high definition, is there anything you can do with the format that you couldn't before?

There is, but I've gotta be honest and say that, for me, it all boils down to the story. What's the human story behind it all? Even back in the DVD days, we kept trying to find new, interactive ways of presenting the material—whether it was multi-angle or seamless branching or whatever —but with Blu-ray, it's the same thing, just slightly different technology. I just focus on the story, and that's why I've been able to keep whatever level of quality, good or bad, that I've maintained; I ask, "What have these people gone through to be able to tell their story? Is there a vision? How do they achieve it? And what challenges did they face?" When you go from that point of view, it doesn't really matter how that story is delivered, so long as you deliver that story. And that's going to be my mantra until I stop doing this, basically.

Where do you see supplementary content going as the studios are really starting to push streaming options, which don't usually include special features?

Maybe I'm naive, but I feel like there will always be a need for behind-the-scenes coverage for these films. As we're already seeing with second-screen apps and other downloadable content, it will go on and on, it'll just change slightly in how people access it. That doesn't really change my job, as I'm just focused on what's interesting and what people would be compelled to watch. Especially because we've seen a million other making-ofs, so what's different this time? That's what I focus on. In terms of how it's delivered, that's a conversation I have with the studio each time—especially on the newer films—we have these conversations and always try to find the best way forward. But ultimately, it's the story for me.

Speaking of story, I'm looking forward to seeing your debut narrative feature, Crave. I know it's played a few festivals and gotten great coverage; any idea if we'll see a Blu-ray release sometime in the future?

Oh, I sure hope so. I probably shouldn't say too much, but we're close to a distribution deal— which is exciting—and we have a few more festivals to go. People have asked me if I'll apply the same level of supplemental detail to Crave as I have to other filmmakers, and to be honest, I kind of want to just hand it off to somebody else, because I feel like I'm too close to it and I'd like to have an objective voice. My assistant shot every single day on Crave, so we've got a lot of footage, and thirty minutes of deleted scenes, so there's a lot to show if we were to do a Blu-ray. But by the same token, because it's a smaller film and because it's my first, I'd love for it to have a moment to breathe before we start deconstructing it to the nth degree, you know? I would love for it to have a life and for people to appreciate it as a movie before we start explaining every tiny little detail. But in the event, we do have material, so hopefully someone else can come in and makes sense of it all, (laughs) because I'm not sure I can. But thank you for asking that, because I'm really proud of it and I'm really encouraged by the response. I'm looking forward to the last few festivals here as we move into a distribution deal.

Last question, and I swear I'm asking this one for my wife: Is Michael Fassbender as sexy and charismatic in real life as he comes across on screen?

(Laughs) I can't really speak to the first part, but the second part, yes, he's incredibly charismatic and he's super cool. It was interesting because on day one of Prometheus' production, it was Michael, and we show that in Furious Gods—we show the very first shot on the very first day of him roaming the halls of the Prometheus. He's a formidable actor, an actor that we're all wowed by, and on day one I'm trying to gauge how close I can get. I know how close I can get to Ridley, and I know how close I can get to other people, but with the actors, you always try to find your way. Michael was nothing but amazing—sweet and kind and accessible. I have nothing but good things to say about him. I think he's a fantastic actor and certainly one of the high points of the film. But, uh, yes...(laughs)...I hear he's an attractive fellow to many people.

Well, thanks for your time, I really appreciate it.

No, my pleasure, Casey.

Source: | Permalink | United States [Country settings]

News comments (18 comments)

Freelance Ronin
 - Oct 09, 2012

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All hail Chuck de Lauzirika! This is a guy who gets it and has produced some of the best collector's sets in our hobby.

 - Oct 09, 2012

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Awesome. Really enjoyed this movie in the theater. Can't wait to check it out on the HT.

 - Oct 09, 2012

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Great interview. Can’t wait for my BD to arrive and watch the awesome documentary!

 - Oct 09, 2012

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Well, time for Sony to understand that Ghostbusters needs Charles de Lauzirika's name in its special features so we can have something of immense value for once.

 - Oct 09, 2012

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Let's hope he has a lock on Prometheus 2 and Blade Runner 2.

 - Oct 09, 2012

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Excellent interview, Casey

And Charlie's info is, as usual, outstanding!


 - Oct 09, 2012

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He did Kingdom of Heaven as well didn't he?

 - Oct 09, 2012

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Cool. Nice to see a fellow geek in charge of geeky things rather than some uncaring employee.

 - Oct 10, 2012

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Excellent job on the behind the scenes work. I love that stuff and you did not disappoint I spent all afternoon watching them. Thanks for the amazing work.

 - Oct 10, 2012

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I loved his comment about putting together the extras:

"Well, it's easy because, since I'm a fan, all I need to do is make a disc that I'd be happy with."

That's what all discs should be like. Get someone who loves the material.

 - Oct 10, 2012

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Charles de Lauzirika's work on 'Blade Runner' produced the best making of documentary I've seen. I look forward to seeing more of his work. I wish IMDB was better about telling you what disc to find each of his features on, it's not always apparent.

 - Oct 10, 2012

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I watched the full doc last night. It was entertaining all the way through. Excellent work.

 - Oct 10, 2012

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I'm about half way into the documentary. It's quite incredible, I must say. Very in depth.

 - Oct 10, 2012

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My BD status from the post office is "out for delivery". Rats! I hate that the mailman never gets here until after 5PM. I can't stand waiting any longer now.

 - Oct 10, 2012

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 - Oct 10, 2012

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 - Oct 12, 2012

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hopefully watching the documentary this weekend!

 - Oct 12, 2012

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His work for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was EXCELLENT! I still watch those features today, again and again. I love them. Can't wait to see what's on Prometheus.

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