Michel Gondry on how he'll helm Green Hornet and stay true to himself

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Michel Gondry, director of the upcoming superhero movie Green Hornet, told SCI FI Wire that he is looking forward to combining his idiosyncratic ideas with the demands of a big-budget studio action movie.

"It's all going to be something different, but that's successful, so I guess there is no problem now," Gondry said in an exclusive interview Monday. "We have a producer, Neal Moritz, who's pretty damn successful; he released Fast and Furious, which had [one of] the biggest openings of all time, so he's going to guide us in our differences, and so far all of my ideas, he loves them and says 'I like the ideas, and I'm open to them.'"

Green Hornet is based upon the 1960s television serial—which was itself based on 1940s radio serials—about a masked hero who fights crime. Gondry admitted that he joined the project after it was already underway, but said he looks forward to collaborating with Moritz, as well as star and co-writer Seth Rogen. "Of course, I have no choice," Gondry said. "I got on board a project that was already sort of going. But I think by them meeting me and me meeting them, we'll be in a very strong place."

SCI FI Wire spoke exclusively to Gondry via telephone during the promotion of his new collection of short films and music videos, titled Michel Gondry 2: More Videos. The following is an edited version of that interview.

You've talked about how Dave Chappelle's Block Party and Science of Sleep taught you things that you applied to Be Kind Rewind. Did the process of doing this music video collection teach you things about doing Green Hornet?

Gondry: Well, yeah. Everything I do, I learn from it. When I finished Human Nature and before I started Eternal Sunshine [of the Spotless Mind], I made a book full of thoughts how to improve my directing skill. Some of them were just bad reviews that I decided to take seriously; although sometimes it's really personal and it's not constructive, sometimes they say something that may be true, and sometimes if I was upset by a comment, I tried to find out why I was upset. Generally, if I was upset about a comment, it was because there was some truth in the comment. So I looked into that, and I've still got this notebook about what to learn from my mistakes and what was successful and how to combine what I do well and what I don't do well to do better. I had lost it, and I was sort of upset about it, and I just found it back two weeks ago, and I read it again and it's very amazing that I did that. I took all of the things that were in the way of me being better, and I wrote them down, and I find a solution for each problem. I think if you take the time and effort to write the problem on a piece of paper, then you can find a solution.

I generally don't think it's worth doing a list, but I think if you make the effort of writing your problem down, then part of the problem is solved. You can think of solutions and then try them. That's not a direct answer to your question, but that's how I work, and I connect these projects. I have a level of frustration in the outcome, and I try to see, like, to find ways to meet expectations where there's satisfaction, and I like to find ways to enhance the satisfaction and then to make it better. Maybe it doesn't translate in the work—some people tell me that I only did one good movie, Eternal Sunshine, and the rest is crap, but there is stuff I learned. I did the other films on my own, and there was a progression between Human Nature and Eternal Sunshine, and it was exactly the same team, and I think there is a progression as well, even if it's not on the same scale or I managed to do the writing myself. I'm always trying to find something new to do, and sometimes it's restricting that people want to condemn me for trying new things.

You've described Green Hornet as something different from what you've done in the past. Is this a situation where you're kind of going to the mountain, or are you trying to do something new?

Gondry: ... People like to say it's quirky, but I think it works by trying to be as human as possible. I'll try to portray a human quality I see in real life and I appreciate through the medium. That's my job, to not use the film to camouflage moments of a person's personality, but to reveal that personality, and I think this is a very clear and broad statement, maybe something to do with feeling good or this type of direction, so I don't see why this should not be easy for people to appreciate.

Is there a lesson you took away from the mixed reception to Be Kind Rewind that you are applying to Green Hornet, which is going to be a much bigger piece of populist entertainment?

Gondry: Well, I'm not writing it, for one thing. People kind of blame it on the writing. I mean, I say one simple thing: The country where [Be Kind Rewind] did really great, where it was a big hit, was England. It was the only country that understood the film and did proper promotion. It was the only country where Jack Black went to promote the film.

I guess he did promotion in America, but he was off doing tons of promotion for Kung Fu Panda. Even when I was in Japan promoting Be Kind Rewind, he was there, and he knew I was there promoting because he was there to do Kung Fu Panda, and I think in this kind of movie, you need your actor to be behind the film. Not that I want to blame him; I think that was great, he brought a lot, but I think in terms of the promotion, he was a little short. But anyway, this movie naturally is [bigger], with more things to be nervous about.