Will Pitof make purr-fect?


Superhero Hype has posted a translated interview that "Catwoman" director Pitof did with Allocine.frl. First things first, how did a french director nab a movie like "Catwoman"? "I don’t know (laughs). After the incredible experience of "Alien Resurrection" (Note to reader: where he was in charge of visual effects), I had the urge to steer towards the Hollywood studios. That opportunity finally arrived with an assistant of my American agent who had shopped Vidocq (film title) to several producers…And that’s how I became connected to Catwoman", says Pitof.

The rest :

AlloCiné: What stage of preproduction is "Catwoman" currently in?

Pitof: For the moment, the film is still in development. We have Halle Berry interested in starring. Things are moving ahead, but I really can’t tell you much more: the script isn’t finished yet, and things are still a bit crazy. We hope to start filming in fall 2003 for a summer 2004 opening at least.

AlloCiné: Do you think you might call some of your friends from Duboi for certain f/x?

Pitof: We are currently evaluating how to work with French and foreign partners for special effects. This is clearly the subject of the day (Note to reader: Pitof was leaving for Warner Bros. Studios in Los Angeles once we finished this telephone interview).

AlloCiné: With "Vidocq", it appeared that you had already used the superhero theme…do you think that’s what showed Warners that you were the man for the job?

Pitof: Absolutely. Vidocq could absolutely be seen as a superhero with a French theme. At the same time, I don’t think that it was a major factor in the studios decision to hire me, it was more the universe of the film and the unique imagery and design that attracted Warners.

AlloCiné: Let’s talk about the character, made ultimately popular with "Batman Returns" How are you going to approach the character?

Pitof: Catwoman is a superhero with a strong foundation but also the traits of a cat like night vision, the ability to easily jump like a cat, a completely different instinct as well as many other abilities that make her superhuman. She also knows that she doesn’t have Superman’s powers and that she is bound by the laws of physics.

She’s also a super heroin who transcends comics. She’s a sex symbol of cat-like femininity, which to my sense is on an entirely different path than that of traditional superheroes. Also, unlike other superheroes where there is only ONE Superman or ONE Batman, le concept of multiple Catwomen has existed since the beginning that any woman could be Catwoman.

Now the idea is to develop this character in a relatively realistic world à la Spider-Man. We’ll probably set it in the near future but in a North American urban setting, which is more classic. The main idea is to develop a female superhero and give her depth not to make her a bimbo or a sexy vigilante. She’s a woman’s hero for women.

AlloCiné: For the audience, the character of Catwoman remains Michelle Pfeiffer in that sexy vinyl outfit of "Batman Returns". How are you going to try to get away from that icon?

Pitof: It’s always difficult when you have such an icon or symbol, but everything is going to be different: there will be no direct link with Batman, nor will there be Batman-esque imagery and it won’t be set in Gotham City. The story will be different and the costume will be different. We aren’t keeping anything from Catwoman except the original idea: the character. The idea is to begin her story from scratch, and possibly begin a franchise.

AlloCiné: Hally Berry has recently been signed to be your star, why such a decision?

Pitof: First of all because she is an excellent actress. We also needed someone who could equally give the convincing performance of two distinct personalities: the cat and the woman. This woman must be able to convey by way of her face and body language the feeling of a feline, which Hally Berry definitely has.

AlloCiné: What do you make of the sudden mass interest in comic book adaptations: new superheroes for the American public, lots of money for the studios or true artistic interest in very interesting and profound characters?

Pitof: I think it a mix of all three. There really is an interest in the characters and with the digital technology, which is now able to really breath life into them. Until now, the television shows and cartoon series were always a bit campy, and we kept the superheroes in that realm. Now, we have the technology to really make these characters exciting in a realistic manner, et finally put onto film exactly what we’ve been imagining since we began reading the comics.

I think that this new wave of interest isn’t going to quell any time soon, since the audiences haven’t quite had enough as yet of these characters and their worlds.

This is a two-man team, which continues their manufacture: one part studio/production/creators and the other part is the public.

AlloCiné: Let’s talk about the audience: Warner Bros. is going to try and make "Catwoman", a new "Superman" and at least two new "Batman" movies. Isn’t there a risk of superhero "overdose" or overkill with the superhero genre?

Pitof: I don’t think so since every time the audience is just a little bit different: the Batman audience isn’t necessarily the same that say "Catwoman" or "Superman" would have. I think that there might be too much at some point, but the audience always wants more as we can see with "Daredevil" because these films follow a formula that we know we are going to see, and enjoy. So it’s really, in quotation marks, an entertainment standard without too many surprises.

AlloCiné: According to you, what makes a good superhero movie and what makes a bad one?

Pitof: A good one is one that meets our expectations, and must be as true to it’s origins without being limited by them. This is a difficult task: You have to keep the character true to the original comic and make them believable without going below the audience’s expectations. The best example is Spider-Man: Sam Raimi added something to the original with the unexpected casting of Tobey Maguire while keeping with the laws of the spider man character.

AlloCiné: You’re currently developing this film in Hollywood. How is the American film industry different than our French one?

Pitof: The answer is in your question! We’re talking apples and oranges. In France, movies are more artistic, while in Los Angeles, the industry is geared towards making money. They are completely different. I thank Jean-Pierre Jeunet for having given me experience so that I could understand the nuts and bolts of the industry (note to reader: experience on Alien Resurrection).

In Hollywood, the producer has no power: he’s an employee just like anyone else. I am in a "positive phase" where the studio asks my opinion on what I will do, knowing that the entire project is still in development. But, once that’s over with, if I can only direct exactly what they want and nothing else, I’ll thank them and return to France. That’s how this system is, which is obviously stressful, especially at the control level because we have all this freedom at the beginning, but if the studio isn’t seeing exactly what they want "good-bye".