Director Marcus Nispel reveals the secrets of Pod and Conception

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST
Director Marcus Nispel (center) discusses a scene with Danielle Panabaker (left) and Jared Padalecki on the set of Friday the 13th.

Director Marcus Nispel (Friday the 13th) offered SCI FI Wire a few more details about his proposed underground sci-fi/horror movie, variously called Subterranean and Pod.

"It goes to a long fascination of mine," Nispel said in an interview over the weekend in Beverly Hills, Calif., where he was promoting Friday the 13th. "I'm a big New York fan, and New York ... goes deeper than it goes high. They have seven, eight sublevels, and as they drill under the bedrock of Manhattan, they find something they never should have come across. It's a Pandora's box, and it's an urban archaeologist that ... knows essentially how to deal with it by knowing the different levels and by playing [them]."

The film, which was reported to be in development as long ago as 2004, is set up with Armyan Bernstein's Beacon Pictures, Nispel said. "I just love that there's so much gothic, urban, hidden New York happening underground there, from old Masonic things to old caves," Nispel said. "They found, truly, there's a room made out of mirrors, prisms, and it's huge. Nobody knows why it's there, who put it there, how it got there. I can't even put it in the movie, because people would think it would be a Hollywood idea, you know. So that's something very dear to me. That kind of stuff."

Nispel says he got the idea when he was still attached to 1999's End of Days (which he eventually left). "It was actually on End of Days that I found this location," he said. "We literally would look for forgotten subway stations, and you could only get there with maintenance trains, because so many tunnels would be paralyzed if they would build new buildings. There are levels of the subway grid that are completely insulated or isolated. We went into one, and when I walked in there, we turned [the corner], and we had our flashlights there. There ... was a baby grand and a chandelier. ... They had them everywhere. It was classier times."

The idea of lost subway stations and hidden underground marvels is not new to movies or books, having appeared in everything from TV's Beauty and Beast to movies' Ghostbusters II and Mimic to Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child's sequel novel Reliquary.

Indeed, Nispel thinks the story might be better suited to another medium: "It actually might make a great video game, I would think," he says, jokingly.

Meanwhile, Nispel said that he is also developing a religious-themed sci-fi thriller called The Immaculate Conception.

"This is something I came up with in a conversation with a bunch of friends one evening, and they said, 'How come there's no good movie on cloning?'" Nispel recalled. "I said, 'Any character in world history that we could clone, who would it be?' Somebody says, 'Oh, Elvis Presley.' Somebody else, 'Walt Disney.' I said, 'Well, that's interesting. You clone Walt Disney, you could wind up with somebody who entertains the masses, but you could also wind up with the next Adolf Hitler, you know?' ... And I came up with an idea out of this whole thing called Immaculate Conception, where a girl is pregnant but never had sex before, doesn't know how [she's pregnant]. There's obviously a conspiracy going on, people around her get targeted, get offed. You know, she wants to get an abortion, her priest says, ... 'This is so what we're not about. You can't go through with this.'"

The girl finds her parents murdered, and "at the end of the first act, you're watching Rosemary's Baby, only to find out that there's sort of a religious splinter group that has a relic, and the relic is a rusty nail that they found in the hills of Golgotha, and that she's pregnant with, in all likelihood, the body of Christ," Nispel said.

Nispel said that the film wouldn't be a horror movie, but rather more like a 1970s conspiracy thriller, "like Marathon Man or Coma," he said.