Andrew Stanton Interview
Andrew Stanton Interview
One of the original animators from Pixar, Andrew Stanton has been the part of the creative force behind several hugely successful titles, including the likes of Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Finding Nemo, WALL-E, and Monsters, Inc. Having turned his attention to live action, he came up with the space epic John Carter, based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs novels from the early 20th century. Starring Taylor Kitsch as the eponymous hero, transported from Civil War America to the planet Mars, the film follows him as he becomes friends with some of the natives and falls in love with one of their princesses.

Recently in London, he spoke to View’s Matthew Turner about his lifelong passion for the story, being inspired by other great films and how he hopes there will be a sequel.
Can we consider this the first live-action Pixar movie?

Andrew Stanton

Only in the sense that I've come from Pixar, but then you would have to say that about Mission Impossible, too, with Brad Bird. There's a little more Pixar in this, only because my producers are my same producers from Pixar and Mark Andrews, who was my co-writer. So we pushed the same philosophy of how we make films. We had a little bit more influence. But Pixar is Pixar – I would never want to rob it or try to steal from what it is. But I can't separate myself from Pixar – I mean, I was part of the group that helped turn it into what it is, so it is me, I'm it, there's no way to really fully separate.
But Pixar has a way of putting the story in the centre.

Andrew Stanton

I know, it's very sad to me that that's unique to Pixar, I mean, you want that to be how all movies are made. So I'm not proud of that – I wish that was always the case with everything.
But sometimes blockbusters have a way of putting the action at the centre …

Andrew Stanton

Oh, absolutely. I don't think that - people want to blame Hollywood and I'm not saying it's not guilty of that, but I think it's human nature, as an artist, to sometimes get distracted and attracted to the spectacle. And start to stray from the content, even without meaning to. Because it's sexy! You go out with the gorgeous man or the gorgeous woman and then not till after you're done with the dinner, you go, 'Oh, they don't have a single thought in their head that's interesting.' So it's very human, to fall into that trap, as an artist. And so the trick is surrounding yourself with other people that are creating the thing with you to remind you. It happens all the time – it's not always a conscious shallow decision.
Given the influence on John Carter of movies such as Avatar and Flash Gordon, how difficult was it to make it visually different?

Andrew Stanton

Well, I would never want to make any movie I work on look like another movie. So that's just common sense. When I made Nemo, I didn't worry about whether it looked like another movie about the ocean and when I made WALL-E, I didn't worry about whether it looked like any other science fiction movie and it probably did. The job of the writer and the filmmaker is to identify what's specifically unique. And that's my job, is to find that specific difference and amplify that.

So that's all I did – I would do that on any project. There is not a single piece of art that's ever been made that wasn't influenced by other great art that's ever been made and you can sense its lineage. That's the way it's supposed to be. It's like a promise in history – so it's like hereditary, it just moves on. So that's all I've ever seen when I see Star Wars or Avatar or Superman – I don't see the same book, I see the influence.

The nice thing is that I read that book [John Carter of Mars] in 1976, when I was 11 years old and I fell in love with exactly how it read and how it felt and it was a 1912 book. It had a wonderful, romantic, ancient feel to it, that felt like something that had happened in the past and it read like somebody had actually been a tourist and gone to this country and found it and wrote down everything that he saw. It didn't feel like, 'Oh, I've been to space with aliens', what it felt like was, 'I got on this boat and I went to this continent that nobody's found.'

So I love Star Wars, I love Avatar and I never thought I was seeing the book. So that means that there's room for it to live with its own identity. So I thought, well, then the goal is to just go straight to the book, forget everything else and just go, 'What's special about this book?' and just make it without any fear of whatever it's going to be compared to. If I was afraid it would be compared to things, I shouldn't make it, because everything gets compared to everything else. Who cares? This has something special about it.

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Content updated: 15/12/2017 17:15

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