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We’ve seen found-footage movies about witches, ghosts,
possessions and a city-stomping monster, so why not one about youths with
paranormal powers? CHRONICLE, opening this Friday from 20th Century Fox,
employs the handheld-camera style to examine what happens when a trio of
high-schoolers gain supernatural abilities, including Steve, played by Michael
B. Jordan, who talked to Fango about the film.
Steve is a popular guy who’s running for student office, but
Andrew (Dane DeHaan) is at the other end of the social stratum; he’s a
tormented loner who lets his new abilities get the better of him, with violent
and destructive results. Directed by feature first-timer Josh Trank from a
script by Max Landis (John’s son), CHRONICLE is an FX-enhanced portrait of a
psyche in slow decay, as Andrew’s cousin Matt (Alex Russell) and Steve, who
have gained similar powers, try to stop the increasingly unhinged Andrew and
his dangerous behavior.
FANGORIA: Found-footage movies like this one are often
stealth productions, cast and even filmed in secret. Was that the case with
MICHAEL B. JORDAN: No, this one wasn’t too secretive. I know
some films like CLOVERFIELD are super hush-hush, nobody sees anything, nobody
says anything about it… But this one, we just shot it really fast in Cape Town,
South Africa, and the turnaround was so quick, I don’t think we left any room
for anybody to leak stuff out.
FANG: What about the auditioning process? Sometimes they
employ cover stories for that part as well. Did you know what you were
auditioning for when you read for it?
JORDAN: Yeah, they sent me the script. I read it, and it was
like picking up a comic book for the first time. It was such a great read. Max
Landis did such a good job painting these pictures. I read it from start to
finish twice, and I called my manager and said, “Listen, I’ve got to get in on
this.” And I went in and went through the auditioning process, which for me is
painful in general; I just hate it. But I guess it was meant to be, ’cause I
FANG: When it came to working on your character and your
onscreen relationships with your co-stars, was there a lot of improvisation due
to the naturalistic shooting style, or did you pretty much stick to the script?
JORDAN: The writing was so good that it comes off as
improvisational, but Max did a really good job of capturing teenagers. There
were certain scenes here and there where we were given the freedom to go ahead
and ad-lib, improv and bring something to the table, and it was cool of Josh to
allow us to take it where we wanted to. But for the most part, about 85-90
percent of it, it was all what was written on the page.
FANG: How did Trank handle directing his first feature?
JORDAN: He just shot right out of the gate. I’m so proud of
him. You know, he’s 27, he’s young, and this was the first time I had worked
with a director so close in age to myself. It was such a new experience for me.
We speak the same language, we come from the same generation; same thing with
Alex and Dane and Max. We were all ready to just put our hard hats on, to put
in the work, to do the job.
FANG: You compared the script to a comic book before, and
the movie is clearly inspired by that medium. Did you, your co-stars or the
filmmakers take any inspiration from comics?
JORDAN: I think so, though the movie is very grounded in
reality. It’s kind of an origin story, but there are no tights, no capes, no
masks, none of that stuff. It’s about real kids, and what they would do if they
actually had superpowers. I know AKIRA really influenced Josh, and there are a
lot of similarities between the two. But it’s such an original take; it kind of
reminds me of UNBREAKABLE in the way it plays on the idea of superheroes, and
that you don’t have to be a bad guy and do malicious things to be the villain.
It depends on the person, at their core. Andrew had a tough upbringing, a rough
life at home, so if you give power to somebody who is powerless, sometimes they
don’t know how to express themselves. He doesn’t know who he is, so that leads
him to make some bad decisions. It doesn’t mean that he’s the “villain,” and
there’s no “good guy” in the movie either.
It’s just about kids spiraling out of control, the way I
think it would happen in reality. If I got powers, I would probably start off
on a small scale, testing them out, trying to figure out just exactly what they
were. I would probably try to mess around with some girls [laughs]…I might do
that. But without somebody being grounded and reeling us back in, it might get
out of hand.
FANG: You mentioned you shot the film in Cape Town, but
you’d never know from watching it. They did a great job of faking the Seattle
JORDAN: That was a crazy thing, to fly to the other side of
the world to shoot a movie [that takes place] two hours north of where we live.
But I guess it’s one of the few places where our dollar is still strong, and we
wanted to get the most bang for our buck. Especially our special effects, and
those coordinators were from Cape Town. [Visual FX supervisor] Robert Habros was
Oscar-nominated for his work on DISTRICT 9, so we had the best of the best.
Nowadays, with the right DP and the right special effects people, you can make
anything look like anywhere. And I think we pulled it off.
FANG: Obviously, you were very much involved with the visual
FX for the scenes where you’re flying and suspended in the clouds. What was the
most difficult part of that process?
JORDAN: The f**king harness, oh my God… The flying harnesses
we had to wear were the most uncomfortable thing I’ve ever put on in my life. I
mean, it’s not meant for men [laughs]. Our anatomy does not agree with that
harness at all. So that was the hardest part for me. We went through a couple
of weeks of just trying to get ourselves into shape to prepare for the long
hours we would spend up in the air. We used new techniques to shoot the flying
sequences, and we wanted to find a realistic way of presenting that, not the
stereotypical Superman arms out front, you know? If you were actually flying,
it would resemble skydiving, in a way.
So [FX supervisor] Simon Hansen came up with this new rig;
it was the first time it had ever been used in Cape Town, and it worked. Not to
give anything away, but it resembles a hamster wheel [laughs]. We called it The
Hamster Wheel of Death. It was insane. But it was fun, man; it really allowed
you to take your imagination to another level. So it was a cool experience.
FANG: Is this the first fantasy or genre film that you’ve
JORDAN: Yes, it is, and hopefully it’s not the last. If more
movies like this come my way, I definitely want to be involved with them. I
love this genre, the fantasy aspect of it all. It allows me to play from my
childhood a little bit more. You know, as you’re growing up, there are certain
characters you really want to play, and a superhero is always a
wish-fulfillment role, especially for myself.
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