For your inner fanboy
COMIC-CON 2010: ‘Dark Knight’ executive producer turns the camera on San Diego fans
FIVE QUESTIONS: THOMAS TULL
Thomas Tull and his company, Legendary Pictures, released their first feature-film, “Batman Begins,” in 2005 and quickly surged to the forefront of Hollywood when it comes to films of the fantastic — “The Dark Knight,” “Inception,” “300,” “Watchmen,” “Superman Returns” and “Clash of the Titans” are among their signature successes to date. For his latest project, Tull wants to see fanboys up on the screen, not just in theater seats. He and Morgan Spurlock are behind “Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope,” a documentary that will follow seven different fans from around America and beyond as they trek to Comic-Con International in San Diego this week. Spurlock, who is directing, was nominated for an Oscar for “Super Size Me,” the fast-food documentary.
TT: No, not at all. This whole thing was Morgan Spurlock’s idea, and when Morgan called me at the end of last year and asked me if I wanted to produce the film, my first question was, ‘What is the point of view? Are you making fun of this? That would certainly not be something I’m interested in.’ But he was so impacted by Comic-Con and how passionate the fans were he felt he needed to document it. Once I understood where he was coming from, along with the fact that Joss Whedon was on board, I realized that I would be fortunate enough to be working with a team that possesses the same passion as the fans and I.
GB: With “Watchmen,” “The Dark Knight,” “Superman Returns” and”300,” Legendary Pictures has been digging deep into the holy land of comic books. Can you talk about your background as a fan?
TT: I started reading comic books in my teens and still do so to this day. I always loved the story telling and the unique edge that comic books have. I read everything from Batman to Superman to X-Men and Sandman. The two works that changed it all for me were Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns” and Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ “Watchmen.”
GB: It’s an interesting team of executive producers that you’ve put together for this project — Stan Lee, Whedon and Harry Knowles. Can you talk about what they bring to the table?
TT: Sure. Well, when I came aboard, Joss Whedon and Stan Lee were already part of the team that Morgan had brought together. Not sure I need to spend too much time talking about what Stan Lee brings to the table since he’s one of the most important comics creators in history. I’m a big fan of Joss Whedon — his work across film and television has a tremendous following because he has such an authentic voice. I encouraged Harry Knowles to come aboard because he’s a friend and he attended Comic-Con with his father back in its early days when they were vendors. I felt like Harry could bring his passion and experience from the beginning of Comic-Con to what it has become today. Morgan is a great filmmaker, and as a documentary filmmaker he knows how to take a subject and make you feel connected to it by showcasing the real side of things including all of the emotions one can experience related to his current topic of focus. I also think he acts with integrity and captures situations as they exist, as opposed to what one might think they need to be to play better in front of the camera.
Well, any time something becomes this big and this important, true fans, myself included, worry that it won’t remain quite as authentic as when it started. So, no matter what the venue, you’re always going to have that, but I think the organizers of Comic-Con have done a terrific job in handling the growth. Last year I had as much fun as in any year past. I’m sure each year presents its challenges, but as long as the fans keep showing up, because it is really their event, then I think it will keep going strong.
GB: This isn’t your first documentary effort. You were a producer and key figure behind last year’s “It Might Get Loud,” director David Guggenheim’s exploration of the electric guitar through the prism of three players — Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White — and their own history with the instrument. Robert Hilburn, the dean of West Coast music critics, called it “one of the half dozen best films ever about rock ‘n’ roll.” Tell us one lesson from that project that will inform this new venture.
TT: It was an amazing experience working with Davis Guggenheim and, much like “Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope,” it was done purely out of passion. The thing I learned from “It Might Get Loud” is that you should have a plan going in, but unlike feature film, in a documentary the story will take you to different places. The other thing I learned is that if you’re making a documentary it has to be about something you truly love. I think that showed up on screen in “It Might Get Loud” and, hopefully, because of the group assembled for this film, it will show up here as well.
— Geoff Boucher