To the everyday cinemagoer, the name mightn’t ring a bell. But looking back through Producer Jon Davison’s back catalogue – “Robocop”, “Starship Troopers”, “Twilight Zone : The Movie” – his credits certainly will. CLINT MORRIS talks to one of today’s guiding lights in Science Fiction cinema and gets the low-down on his latest project, “Starship Troopers 2”, as well as the likelihood of a “Robocop 4”.
Jon, what’s your take on the Direct to Video sequel market?
Having just done “Starship Troopers 2” a direct to DVD title, I can only equate the experience to making drive-in exploitation movies in the 70’s for Roger Corman. Fast, cheap and with little adult supervision. Most studio movies experience a lot of "input" from executives and are tooled for a broad market. The classic drive-in movies were solely the product of whoever was standing near the camera. Perhaps the direct to titles are the equivalent of today’s B pictures; to be approached with lower expectations in the hope of finding little gems.
"Robocop". What a great movie. How do you look back on it? Any chance he’s going to return?
I consider "RoboCop" one of the top five movies ever made starring a guy in rubber suit. Or at least top ten. People sure hated the second one though. Frank Miller and I were murdered and Irv Kershner never directed another picture. Maybe I’d do another but I don’t know. I steered clear of the third one. Sometimes Neumeier and Verhoeven kick around ideas for one.
You worked on "Twilight Zone : The Movie". I presume that was eventful?
Yeah. After the accident things were put on hold for quite a while. Steven withdrew emotionally and physically from the film and Frank Marshall literally disappeared. I had a great time with Dante and Miller. They are two of the nicest guys with whom I’ve ever worked. Poor Landis was just crucified in the press.
Anything you’ve always wanted to get off the ground but just haven’t been able to?
Of course, there’s always good stuff you can’t get made because it’s too weird or different or expensive or needs to be star driven, etc. I’ve always loved genre films and one of the lucky things about that is I didn’t need to spend years of my life waiting for Mr. Cruise or Ms. Lopez to agree to appear in the movie. They’re not cast driven. I tried for years to get pictures off the ground for Phil Tippett to direct. We developed “Dinosaur” at Disney with Tippett and Verhoeven as co-directors. It was going to be a combination of stop motion and CGI and Disney didn’t understand the later. (This was before “Jurassic Park”. Dennis Muren was going to do the FX with Phil). Also, the budget rose to an astronomical fifty million; which was less than a quarter of what they ended up spending. But enough to kill it for us.The reason “Starship Troopers 2 : Hero of the Federation” came into being was to finally get Phil in the director’s chair. If it’s cheap enough, they’ll take a chance.
How did “Starship Troopers 2” turn out?
I’m too close to it really judge it at this point but I think people will be surprised at the quality of the special effects. Some of the shots are better than most of the ones in the summer movies. I’m very interested in hearing what the fans say on the internet after they see it. The reaction to this movie will exist only on the internet. It will be reviewed in very few hardcopy rags. It’s really a web only movie. And as we all know, some of these fans can be brutal.
Finally, were you gunning for your "Sixth Day" star Arnie to be governor?
I didn’t vote for him.