Comic-Con ’07 – Day 1: SUPERMAN: DOOMSDAY Interviews

Andrea Romano (voice director)

Our site covers all of Joss Whedon’s past projects, and any new projects he or the actors and crew members involved in them have. In Superman: Doomsday you have both Adam Baldwin (voice of Superman) and James Marsters (voice of Lex Luthor).  

Andrea Romano: Yes, and they’re both wonderful. Dreamy, too! (laughs)

You’ve worked with the previous incarnations and different actors. How was it this time?

AR: It’s the third time I’ve had to cast Superman, I thought I had done a good job the first time! (laughs) You know, Tim Daly was our first Superman, and then he moved to Rhode Island, and so it was difficult to get him because, at the time, we didn’t have the ISDN phone capabilities we have now, and so for Justice League we replaced him with George Newbern. It’s an awesome responsibility to cast such iconic characters as Superman, Lois Lane and Lex Luthor, and it’s always a matter of having good relationships with agents, and who they represent, and who’d be willing to come out and play, and as difficult as it is, it’s also easy because you don’t have to explain, ‘Well, it’s this guy who pretends to be Clark Kent, but he came from another planet.’ They all know who the characters are! So, even for this kind of thing, which is more adult and a more intense version of these characters than we’ve ever done before at Warner Bros, it is the kind of stuff that their kids can watch more than some of their feature films or other work, that might be a bit more intense for their children. So, they’re more willing to come and play. So, aside from Adam Baldwin and James Marsters, who are both great and who never recorded in the room at the same time—whenever I have an ensemble, I try to record all the actors at the same time, playing off each other. Half of acting is reacting, and when I don’t have that, I have to act the other part myself so they can have something to play off of. James Marsters was probably the last person to record of the entire project, and yet when you watch the piece, it certainly sounds like they’d been talking to each other, so I think that worked well. Everybody’s asked to come to an emotional height that I don’t think any actor has come to before.

How did you decide to cast Adam Baldwin as Superman?

AR: I’d worked with him for many years, on many different projects. I knew what a strong actor he was, and the film’s producer, Tim, was also a big fan of his, and we were working on a previous project… I think it was Justice League, and we started talking about who we might use for Superman that we’d worked with before, whom we knew would be able to do it. And then it became a matter of availability too. There are lots of wonderful actors who really want to do it, but can’t for four months because they’re shooting in Bulgaria or something, and there aren’t many connections we can make that way, but he happened to be around, and he was interested and he was just terrific. I was able to record Adam Baldwin and Anne Heche (Lois Lane) in the room at the same time, so that was worth it, because you need Lois and Clark and Lois and Superman to act together, especially in this piece. It’s really important, so that worked out great.

How did you choose James Marsters to be Lex Luthor, when he’d just been on Smallville playing Brainiac?

AR: I know, isn’t that great? (laughs) Isn’t that wild? I love Smallville, all of it, and I’ve worked with Michael Rosenbaum who plays Lex Luthor on that for years! He voices The Flash in The Justice League, and I’d worked recently with Alison Mack, who did an episode or two of Batman, so I kinda have that. And John Glover I know very well too, as he played The Riddler for me years ago. I had approached James Marsters probably for six or seven years for various projects, I’d always wanted him on and he was never available; he was always busy, but he wanted to do it. And this time, all the stars aligned! Lex Luthor is such a great character, he’s such a great bad guy! He’s not overt, he’s not a scream-y character; he’s kinda quiet and oily and wealthy and… he was great!

How is he different from Clancy Brown? Because the voices are…

AR: Completely different! And they’re depicted visually differently. Clancy Brown’s Lex Luthor is a much stockier, stronger, broad-shouldered character, so that deep voice coming out of him made total sense. This new Lex Luthor you’ll see is slimmer, slighter, no-less-evil character, so the not-so-deep voice works just fine, and it was all about the acting anyway, it was about this bitter, angry, “I want Superman!” guy and James is such a terrific actor.

 

How long did it take for the whole project to come together?

AR: As far as recording? That’s a great question. My guess is, from start to finish, two months. Two months to get everybody in, cos, you know, you have Anne Heche who is Vancouver shooting Men In Trees, and Adam Baldwin is always busy, and James—A huge part of my job is the puzzle of putting together the actors, and Bruce being available, and me being available because I’m always working on five or six different projects simultaneously, the recording studio being available, and everybody who needs to be in the studio being there. So, once we put it all together, probably two months, and then, that initial recording goes off to animation and when it comes back, we look at the picture to see what needs to be fixed. For instance, if there’s a scene that we thought was going to be like this, us just having a conversation, but the animation shows that I’m all the way here and you’re over there, so we have to re-record it much louder so that it makes sense in the scene. And any kind of action show like this, when there’s punching and movement, you have to do that to picture, because you never—you know, the script would say, “Doomsday hits Superman with an uppercut to the jaw, and he hits a building and goes through two more,” but when you actually see it, he actually hits him in the stomach first, and then there’s a left to the face and he goes through 10 buildings, and so you have to get all those (makes guttural sounds) to match the picture, and that was another 9 or 10 months of additional recording, and it was another test of trying to find everybody’s availabilities. That, they don’t have to work together for. You can get an actor individually and get their ADR done.

How important is ADR to you?

AR: To me, ADR is the difference between a good audio track and an excellent audio track. We look at how something is animated, and we’d recorded somebody really angry, and (with an angry voice) they’re crunched, and they’re really mad, (normal voice) and that’s what we recorded, but then you look at the animation, and they’ve done it (shouting) like this! So this performance doesn’t really work with the animation! (normal voice) So you have to go back in and get that kind of anger. There are 50 types of anger, so you have to match it properly.

 

Are you involved in New Frontier at all? Because I’ve heard some names, and it’s an awesome cast.

AR: I’m not sure how much I can say. There’s some people I can talk to you about, and some I can’t.

Is there anybody from the Whedonverse* involved in the project?

AR: Yes, there is.

Are you keeping the same Superman voice for New Frontier?

AR: No, the voice for Justice League is different from the one in Doomsday.

What defines the voice of Superman for you in all these projects?

AR: Sometimes it’s an artistic decision, sometimes it’s just timing. For instance, when we got the pickup for a 4th season of the Batman series on a Monday, the only way to record an episode to make it by airdate was doing it that Thursday. And that first episode of Batman had Lex Luthor in it, and Superman, and there was no time for me to do—you know, casting takes a long time! Not only coming up with the ideas, but getting answers from the agents, getting the actors to respond to the agents, and what happened was the simple fact that I know I can go to Dana Delaney and Clancy Brown and George Newbern and tell them, “I need to record this Thursday,” and they all said, “Yes, I’ll come play this Thursday; I’m available.” That’s how that got cast.

But is there a quality in the character that you look for?

AR: Yes, Superman? It’s a major character, so well known worldwide! He has to be sympathetic; he’s gotta have real strength, but also a boyishness about him because as Clark Kent, and this is a beautiful topic, because Christopher Reeve did a great job of making the character so boyish and so charming, yet when he was Superman, you knew he was gonna kick some butt! So, yeah, it’s a huge responsibility, and yes, there are a lot of qualities that I look for in casting Superman.

Last question: How much of the casting for “Superman Doomsday” was due to your being told, ‘We need more name actors,’ and how much to name actors seeking to work with you?

AR: They told me they wanted name actors, and I already knew a lot of them who wanted to play, and their agents had told me three months prior, “If you have anything for X, let me know,” and then I look around and say, “Oh, my God! I need to cast Lois Lane, I need to cast… whoever” and then you bring those actors in.

Duane Capizzi (writer)


You deserve a new recording started…

Duane Capizzi: I’m glad I deserve something! I’m sorry if I look a little spacey; I’m running on 2.5 hours’ sleep.

I read that you’d never written for Superman before.

DC: Not before Brainiac Attacks, no. Nor was I expecting to; it’s something that came up very suddenly and much to my chagrin, because when I start a project, I like to prepare. And you know, it’s TV, and TV moves fast, and more often than not there’s not a lot of time to do as much development as you’d like. When I came on to Batman in S3, there was some fleshing out to do but mostly everything had already been decided. With Brainiac Attacks, I was actually just preparing to go on vacation, but I had to basically do a lot of cramming to get up to speed and get my feet wet in that universe.

But for this one, you were ready, then.

DC: I was more up to speed on this, yes. I think the biggest challenge, originally, was “more adult tone, PG-13, it’s for comic book fans,” but at the same time– every product seems to have its own challenges, so we wanted to make it appealing to comic book fans while still making it appealing to a mass audience as a stand-alone movie. It was decided that we were gonna adapt this book, and the monumental task became, “Okay, how do we approach this? How much do we put in? Is it gonna be true to the letter, or more to the spirit?” And that’s what Bruce (Timm) and I had to figure out.

How much pressure was there in adapting one of the most popular comic books in the last 50-75 years?

DC: To be honest, I think there was a lot more pressure with Brainiac Attacks, a) because of time, b) because I wasn’t quite up to speed, and c) at that stage, it was pretty vague. “Run with this, make it work!” Honestly, in this case, because I was working with Bruce Timm, it was like the guiding light; I knew I was in good hands and I knew he wouldn’t let me steer the project wrong, so I was very comfortable with this one. And I have to say, doing an adaptation? Way easier than starting with a blank page! It’s nice to have it all laid out there, and even though I’d read the book when it’d first come out serialized, it’s nice to come at it with fresh eyes, so you go, “Oh, I like that!” and “Ow, that doesn’t work too much for me!” So you’re sorta navigating the material, and picking and choosing what would work the best in a self-contained movie. I should stop for a moment, because I keep saying “Bruce and I, Bruce and I”—Bruce was very involved in the whole process, we spent a lot of time together, too much time together; there were a lot of raised voices, a lot of debates, a lot of things hashed out… It was a lot of fun!

It was your first time working with him too, right?

DC: Yes, my story with Bruce is, we’d known each other for many years… Actually, Bruce and I were neighbors at DIC, when he was working on Beanie and Cecil and I was working on ALF. And I remember it being very late, nearly midnight, on a Friday night, and I heard Bruce talking to his then girlfriend, who then became his wife, and I thought, “There’s someone else here!” So it went from there, to me having to unenviably follow in the Batman footsteps. Hopefully our series stands on its own and it’s its own type of beast. So, yeah, first time working together, finally, and what can I say? He knows his stuff and he has really great instincts. When we were writing the script, we visualized together certain shots to achieve a specific effect, and it made the script writing a lot easier. It’s a very tight movie!

Is there a lot of influence from Bryan Singer’s live-action movie?

DC: Yeah, but we were pulling from a lot of different sources for inspiration, including comic books. We were asked to make it as much a stand-alone movie as possible, with a much edgier design than the network’s.

Is it possible that this is not the last time you’re gonna work with Bruce?

DC: In future? You know, I actually have something on my plate right now, another DC Universe movie, and my understanding is that Bruce is overseeing all of them, so there we go.

 

You can’t elaborate further on the new project? Is it another iconic character?

DC: You know, I’m a couple days away from turning in my first draft, and yes, it is another iconic character.

Do you like playing with iconic characters?

DC: There’s so
much baggage that comes with the big ones- Batman, Superman- that I think that, after a while, you develop a sort of muscle and say, “Okay, I’m ready to take this on!” For me, other characters have been so much fun, because they’ve been done much less than Batman or Superman.

When you write, the characters sound a certain way in your head. When what you wrote gets turned into a movie, there’s an actor saying your words. How do you reconcile the character voices in your head with what the actor did, when sometimes they don’t exactly match?

DC: This is a very interesting question! Typically, when I am producing a series or a movie, I am at the recording session, making sure—I certainly have voices in my head, actually, I have voices in my head right now! (laughs) But, when I’m in a session, I certainly have a preconceived notion of how a line or a scene should play or work, and then, at the session, there’s a process to get to where it works. That said, I do my best to remain open to an actor’s interpretation, because they may come up with fresh stuff, and often do. “Oh, that’s an interesting take on the line!” I think there’s a middle ground about being open and not acting in a vacuum, because, as a producer, you have a movie in your head and so you go, “No, this is gonna relate to another scene later;” or “No, this should be said in this way,” but that said, I wasn’t really all that involved with the Superman movies. For the most part, it’s sort of a case-by-case basis. Sometimes it’s like, “Ooh, that’s not the way I heard it at all; it’s too raw!” There have been cases when an actor has been too flamboyant, and it’s like, “I would have done it in a different way!” That said, I’ve watched the Doomsday movie a couple of times now, and I think it’s terrific! I think Andrea and Bruce put together a stellar cast, and it was a fun session to watch! Ray Wise was there, wearing a suit—it was so badass! So well put together, that guy, and I was just blown away! He’s one of the best Perry Whites ever!

How long did it take you to adapt the book? How many drafts did you work on?

DC: Good question! Probably I did my first draft, and then I probably worked on a couple more with Bruce’s notes, just between us, before turning it to the executives—After I got Bruce’s notes, that were pretty minimal, we dug in and just tweaked and tweaked and tweaked. You know, Bruce is an artist and a producer and a designer, but he also has an amazing ear for dialogue and, “Oh, that sounds funky!” So there were a few scenes where he just said, “You know what? Let me give it a try” and then, of course, when I see him outside at lunch, with the pages, and I’d go, “Hey, Bruce! How’s it going?” And he has, “Exterior – Daily Planet” and nothing else, and he’d just turn and look at me and go, “This is hard!” (laughs) But he did it! There were a couple of scenes where he just wanted a crack at writing them and then I was able to give him notes!

How does this compare to show-running Batman and other shows?

DC: You know, the days are certainly more structured when you’re show-running, where there’s sort of a schedule that’s really tight and really fast, pushing you to the next step. For this, it’s s completely different dynamic, much slower. In fact, the problem I have with long-forms is that I keep fooling myself into the fact that it’s done. I tend to rewrite a hell of a lot of myself. I think it was Paul Thomas Anderson, director of Magnolia, who in one of his DVD commentaries likened writing to ironing. You keep going over the same part of the shirt until it’s flat, and then you move on to the next one. I do that; every morning I get up and go, “I’m gonna pick up where I left off.” But no, there I am, at page 1, anally going over everything again, “trying to get the feel for it…”

Do you miss Batman?

DC: (hesitantly) You know… not terribly. (chuckles)

What’s next?

DC: As I’ve said, I’m working on another DCU movie, and am 2 days away from turning in my first draft. I really like more the obscure DC properties, but in this case, it’s not one of them. They’re not ready to go there yet.

Was there a moment when you were watching the film, and sorta patted yourself in the back? Or conversely, one when you said, “I’m glad Bruce talked me out of that”?

DC: This is tricky, because, like I said, we discussed it in such detail… I tend to think in panels, even as I’m writing—I’ve actually heard Bruce say he’s “a writer trapped in an artist’s body,” and so we’re like mirror images of each other, in a way. It’s very hard to answer this for Doomsday because it was so thought out… Any wrong turn was fixed through the constant debating. The whole movie, I think, is terrific and you guys are gonna like it. What I’m particularly proud of is, in the first act, I don’t think there’ll be many surprises. I think the entire three-act structure works well, and even though it’s only 78 minutes, the whole thing feels like it took its time. We went with the spirit of the book, not the letter because, a) we couldn’t fit it all, and b) we just had to have the movie work in our own way. I mean, what’s the fun in creating a museum-piece replica? If you’re familiar with the story, there’ll be some fun left turns in this for you. That said, I’m really proud of the second act. I think it’s amazing. It’s emotional, and interesting, and really dark and twisted. The third act is nothing to sneeze at either, but I’m gonna leave that to be a surprise.

Brandon Vietti (director)

Whedonopolis: Tell us how the project of taking the iconic comic book Superman: Doomsday and turning it into an animated movie came about for you.

Brandon Vietti:

I became involved with Superman: Doomsday when I got a phone call from Bruce Timm and Duane Capizzi, who were putting the movie together and wanted me to be a part of it. Early in my career, I’d worked with Duane in The Jackie Chan Adventures and The Batman as a director on both. Bruce Timm got me into the industry, gave me my first break in animation working on The New Batman/Superman Adventures, so it was great to come back together with those guys to work on Superman: Doomsday.

W: Explain to us a little bit about the process of directing an animated episode or movie, because I figure it’s difficult enough to direct a live action piece and the actor is there, but when you have something that’s two-dimensional and silent, and then the voice is coming from elsewhere, it sounds to me, at least, incredibly complicated!

BV: Well… for all the artists involved at the storyboard level, I think it’s great fun to get a bunch of words on the page coming at you, because what you do best as an artist is draw, so we love to translate words into pictures. So, you get the script and read it, and immediately your brain starts dreaming up shots and angles and it’s just about that easy for us.

W: What about putting w
hat you’re animating and the external voice of the actor together? Because obviously you’re going to have a voice in your head for the character you animated, so what happens if that voice and what the actor did or the voice director cast doesn’t really work for you?

BV: More often than not, it does work for us. I really can’t think of a situation where a bad voice actor just wasn’t hitting the beats we’d set up for him; it’s really worked out through the voice acting process. We got the directors and producers sitting behind a piece of glass, and the actors are on the other side, behind a microphone, and there’s a back and forth. I think the directors have an idea of what the visuals are going to be, and that’s part of the directing to the voice actors, telling them so that they’d have an idea of the voice needed for that particular moment. For instance, it could be a scene where Lois is having a conversation with Jimmy, and the voice actor may not realize that there’s going to be a helicopter in the background and that he has to really yell and project over the noise of the helicopter that’s going to be put in much later, things like that. There’s that aspect, then there’s the action from the script; sometimes a storyboard artist may incorporate ideas for action, and the voice actor may not have reflected that, and so it needs another session later.

W: An ADR.

BV: Exactly! If there’s a case where storyboard artists and directors have come up with an idea for alternate acting that fits the story better, then we have that second chance at the ADR stage to bring the actors back and explain, “We’ve rethought this sequence, and have a new idea.” and so the actors respond to that. Did that make any sense?

W: Yeah, yeah! It’s just that there seem to be so many different parts that ultimately come together that it looks very…

BV: Yeah, it’s very abstract at times! (laughs)

W: You’re present when the actors are doing their recording sessions, correct?

BV: Yes.

W: Please tell us what’s it like working with Adam Baldwin and James Marsters in the studio.

BV: Those guys are great! Obviously, we’ve had Superman vocalized many times in the past, but I think both James and Adam brought something new to the table with their particular takes on the characters. They’re a little more… mature, maybe? Not that any of the previous actors were overly cartoony; our voice director, Andrea Romano, does a great job giving it the picture quality she does, but I think they really brought a level of maturity to it, and I think it helps you—when you see this movie, it’s a little bit different of what you’ve seen in TV shows before; I think it separates it. It’s definitely not just for kids, it’s not just for adults.

W: Andrea was telling us that you had to adapt the drawing for James’ Lex from the one you used to do for Clancy Brown’s Lex, since James doesn’t have the same deep voice Clancy does. What is it about James’ interpretation that made Lex sneakier or shiftier that caused the change in drawing?

BV: My favorite part of his performance was… he sounds dangerous and smart, and that’s a deadly combination, and he was able to bring that out of the character. Definitely it’s a Lex Luthor you’ve never seen before! Clancy’s Lex has a bigger, more booming voice and it’s a stronger, physical character, and with James Marsters’ performance, you don’t look at this character and think of it as a physical guy, but the moment he opens his mouth, with each word, you think, “This guy is dangerous, this guy is smart, and he’ll get you if you’re not paying attention.” He brings that quality to it, so definitely a dangerous voice.

W: What about Adam Baldwin as Superman? Because we’re used to all the other Superman voices, including Bryan Singer’s, and then there’s Adam, who is a presence! Did he bring all this to the new Superman or did he still manage to keep it jovial?

BV: He did! Adam has a hero quality to his voice that you know when you hear it, but he also brought a sort of humanity to it. You think of Superman as this alien, this big superhero, who has the big voice when he needs it, but he really played Clark well too, and brought a humanity to him, and also to Superman, which is a very big part of the story, humanizing Superman. I think that’s what I liked most about Adam, this humanity he brought to it. It’s important to like Superman and he has a really likable voice too. It’s difficult to put into words; it’s an indefinable quality. You either have it or you don’t, and I think Adam’s voice is likable, and when he vocalizes, you don’t want to hear anything else.

W: Thank you very much for talking to us.

* After the press panel, and through separate research, Whedonopolis was able to confirm that David Boreanaz will be doing his first-ever animated project, voicing Green Lantern on Justice League: New Frontier, currently in production.

 

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