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Daredevil Conference By Lane Tirce with Dan Epstein
Set to hit theatres February 14, 2003, Daredevil the movie has already created a hype exceeding its previous Marvel comic predecessors. In a recent press conference held at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, Slush had a chance to speak with the filmmakers and stars on how they brought Daredevil to life.
Walking into the Biltmore, I find that I have entered through the wrong door and stumbled onto the set. Although slightly embarrassed, I at least take the opportunity to take a quick look around. I see that director Mark Steven Johnson (Simon Birch) has transformed the main ballroom into a black tie event where I spot Matt Murdock, played by Ben Affleck (Pearl Harbor, Chasing Amy) descending down the lit staircase in a modest tuxedo. Across the room Jennifer Garner (Alias), who plays Elektra, talks to Johnson in her silver sequined floor length gown. The room is buzzing with extras decked out in eveningwear and I try and blend in while I cross the room into the press conference. As not to waste any time, Affleck and Garner enter the conference minutes later in costume, while Michael Clark Duncan (The Green Mile) who plays Kingpin, Jon Favreau, who plays Foggy Nelson (The Replacements), and Joe Pantoliano (Memento) cast as Ben Urich, follow them in dressed in their T-shirts and jeans having already finished their final days of shooting. Mark Steven Johnson is attending as well, along with producers, Gary Foster (The Score) and Avi Arad (X-Men, Spider-Man).
Despite the long hours the cast and crew have had to put in on the set for the past seven months, their enthusiasm and excitement for the film is more than evident.
PRESS: How did you get involved with the film and had you been a fan of Daredevil before hand?
AFFLECK: I have always enjoyed comic books ever since I was a little kid, especially Daredevil. Later, when I found out comic books were an enthusiasm I shared with Kevin Smith, he was particularly impressed with my knowledge of Daredevil. So after Kevin had written a series of comics himself, he asked if I would write a forward mentioning the Daredevil character. I thought it would be a fun thing, so I wrote a little section where I mentioned how Matt Murdoch had tickets to a Good Will Hunting premiere. In that same forward, I talked about how much I loved the comic. Some of the producers new about the forward and came to me. After that, saying yes was a no brainer, because everyone has that one thing from childhood that they want to play and this was it.
PRESS: What were some of the influences for the fighting scenes?
AFFLECK: Well, Mark (Steven Johnson) had shown me like 20 different movies with fighting, but one of the biggest influences was Japanese Anime. It was interesting to try and convert that style into live action but I think it looks great.
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PRESS: The Daredevil character is blind, what sort of challenges did you face portraying that?
AFFLECK: That is a good question, because yes he is blind, but because he is able to put together things with his other heightened senses he is able to navigate the world. Therefore, I tried to show a combination of the vulnerability of the handicap but emphasize the extra abilities. It was very tricky.
SLUSH: What were some of the challenges in playing such a cult character?
AFFLECK: In the genre of comic book movies, sometimes the filmmakers have to stray from the actual story in the books. But I felt that I really wanted to aim toward creating the type of character in the comics. I wanted to make it honest and believable. My barometer for playing the character, was to ask myself, would this or wouldnít this be in the original comic.
SLUSH: Did you have to do a lot of training for the role of Elektra, or has your role on Alias been a form of training in itself?
GARNER: My training on Alias is very different. I learn the fight or stunt on Sunday and then shoot on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Then it is gone I can forget about it. But in this film for example, we are getting ready to shoot a scene and we have been practicing it for 6 weeks now, everyday, three hours a day. There is a lot of prep time, so we are just taking a lot of care to make sure things are true and specific.
SLUSH: Was Frank Miller approached to be a consultant?
JOHNSON: Yes, there is a ton of Frank Miller in here. He is probably the strongest influence. There is also a lot of Kevin Smith too.
SLUSH: Michael, Joe, and John: Did you have any precious knowledge or experience with the Daredevil comic and did you go through any special training for your roles.
DUNCAN: I was very familiar with the character of Kingpin. Getting to play Kingpin was like a dream come true. I didnít go through any kind of physical training because look who I have to fight (glances over at Affleck).
FAVREAU: The Frank Miller period of the comic was huge when I was in high school. That was kind of the heyday of Daredevil, so I was very familiar with it. When I read the script I was really impressed. So after that, I thought okay what super hero do they want me to play? Then Mark said, you know what Jon, start eating a bit more, because we want you to play Foggy Nelson. So on the one hand I was completely excited to be part of this production but on the other hand I feel like the butt of all jokes in the film. But I had a great time!
PANTOLIANO: I had no idea about the Daredevil comic. I was really drawn to the enthusiasm of Mark and all the actors had for the project. Now that I have seen the whole thing come together I feel blessed having been a part of it.
PRESS: Jennifer, when you decided to become an actress, did you think that you would be doing all these action roles, and do you think that it is going to become more common for women to play such roles?
GARNER: I really thought that I would be playing Shakespeare festivals for the rest of my life. So no, this was the furthest thing from my mind. But now I love the action aspect of my job. Before I would have shunned at the thought of bungi jumping now I can hang from a wire, 50 feet up, all day. I do hope women continue to play action roles.
PRESS: Jennifer, what did you think of the costumes you had to wear in the role of Elektra?
GARNER: Elektra has two costumes: the one that is more well known is the red one with the sashes with what looks to be nothing underneath and another black leather costume. It is not something I would choose to wear but you kind of just have to go for it. But the costume designer was great and really put a unique spin on the costumes as not to look like your average ďman in tightsĒ type of costumes.
PRESS: Are you guys having a hard time removing yourself from the characters at the end of the day?
AFFLECK: I have no illusions of being a superhero at all. I am acutely aware of how much I am not a superhero.
GARNER: I agree.
(AFFLECK and GARNER have to leave to return to the set for their next scene)
PRESS: Are you guys developing any DVD content as you go?
JOHNSON: Yeah, we have a ton of stuff. I am a huge DVD fan. We will have a couple of versions as well: an R version and a PG-13 version.
PRESS: What made you decide to do Daredevil over other comic book heroes?
JOHNSON: Well, I always wanted to do something unique, and portray a character who is totally human and vulnerable. So the big draw to Daredevil is that he is the only handicapped superhero.
(JOHNSON returns to set as well)
PRESS: Is there a possibility for other Daredevil movies?
ARAD: An Elektra movie and two Daredevil sequels are being discussed.
SLUSH: Joe, the character of Ben Urich isnít like the characters you have played in the past. What was the appeal to this role?
PANTOLIANO: It isnít often that I get to play in a movie that my children are able to see. Plus I got to play a nice guy for a change.
PRESS: Considering that this comic came out in the 1960ís, why has it taken so long to make a film?
ARAD: We almost made this film 8 years ago but we felt that we didnít have the right people. If we were going to do it, we wanted to do it right.
PRESS: How has the internet played a role in the promotion of Daredevil?
ARAD: Like everything with the internet it is a curse and a blessing. Reactions are intense. People really care about these characters, so they want to make sure that the characters are accurate. Only they need to realize that we need to make decisions, and that we are paying homage to the character, so some things may be different.
SLUSH: What are some of the reactions you have received in regard to having Michael play the Kingpin?
FAVREAU: I was actually on the Internet when it was announced that Michael would play Kingpin, and I have to tell you that people were surprised, but at the same time thought it was totally cool. His character is such a strong presence, and after seeing Michael play Kingpin I canít imagine like, Dom Deluise playing the role.
ARAD: Overall, the reaction to Michael is excitement. It is not about physical appearance, it is about character.
DUNCAN: When they told me that I was going to be cast as Kingpin I was very shocked. But I guarantee you, when this movie comes out, everyone will be satisfied, that I was Kingpin.
PRESS: Do you, as actors, feel that you need to approach roles of this genre differently than you would approach others?
FAVRAEU: This is much more of a forgiving medium. You really have a broad canvas to work with and can really have fun with it. You can really go beyond what you normally would. You can go out on a limb because the humor in comic books is not a subtle as you would find in regular comedies. It is very freeing.
PRESS: Michael, how did you feel about your Kingpin costume?
DUNCAN: Let me just tell you, I was so happy, after coming off of 2 hours of make-up each day in Planet of the Apes and the Scorpion King. This was like a breath of fresh air to put on my boots, and put on my suit that just looks like the coolest thing on earth.