Exclusive Interview : Stan Winston

For the Australian release of “Zathura”


The last time we talked to Stan Winston he was selling us a frightening cannibal caper about a young woman that’s terrorised by flesh-eaters out in the boondocks. The “Wrong Turn” helmer’s latest film, for which he did the amazing special effects, is the polar opposite: a squeaky-clean family film with not one decapitation. Winston tells CLINT MORRIS what appealed to him about “Zathura”.

How did you get involved in “Zathura”?
Jon Favreau, the director, was recommended by Sony – who we have a working relationship with – to look us up. I read the script, and I totally flipped. I also loved his (Favreau’s) vision and what he wanted to do with it.

What did you create for the film?
He (Favreau) wanted to do as much live as he could; he wasn’t a huge fan of total CGI characters. We did a wonderful retro robot and also, the characters called the Zorgons, and Jon didn’t want them to be digital effects but to be there, on the set, so the young actors would have something there to act with. I love digital, I’m one of the biggest supporters of it out there and I founded one of the biggest digital companies out there, but I’m a starch believer in that if you can do it live, you do it live. So, they’re actually hybrids of technologies – the characters are actually there, acting and reacting…but I won’t get into the details. At no point will you look at these characters and go “Oh, that’s a digital character, or, Oh, that’s a man in a suit!”.

How did Jon Favreau do directing this, a family film?
He has a wonderful sense of humour, a wonderful sense of storytelling. He’s looking to do things that haven’t been done before….so it was the perfect marriage for us.

You’ve done a lot of films – “The Terminator”, “Jurassic Park”, “Wrong Turn” – so where’s this rank in terms of your achievements?
It is one of my funnest experiences, I’m very, very proud of it. It’s been one of the favourite jobs we’ve had here at Stan Winston Studios for all the right reasons.

You created the Alien and the Predator, but weren’t asked back to do “Alien Vs.Predator”. Would you like to work on those series again, though?
I take great pride in ownership of the Alien and the Predator, but these days, I like doing stuff that people haven’t seen before.

What did you think of AVP?
I saw it.

What’s that mean?
I saw it. [Laughs]

Moving right along then, let’s talk about some of your future projects. Didn’t you plan on doing a “Wrong Turn 2″ at one stage?
Wrong Turn 2 isn’t on the burner right now. We’ve just finished shooting a movie we produced in Toronto called Skinwalkers, which is a wonderful werewolf movie. We have a great script and we have created some of the coolest werewolves you’ll ever see. They’re not digital werewolves – we’ve given it back to the actors. It will be released next Halloween.

And we’re always hearing rumours about a “Jurassic Park 4″ and “Terminator 4″, what’s the latest?
The scripts don’t exist right now. They’re always talking about them, but until we’ve got scripts, they’re not happening. Though I’m more interested in coming up with original stuff these days, I’d still love the chance to return to both of those franchises though…we’ll see.

You were rather excited about a movie you were going to do called “Me and My Monster” at one stage too. What happened to it?
We’re still working on the script. Nothing is solid, but it’s still very alive.

ZATHURA is now showing in Victoria, other states to follow