Robert Zemeckis has directed dozens of iconic films including Back to the Future, Forrest Gump, and Cast Away. His most recent project is Welcome to Marwen. It stars Steve Carell as Mark Hogancamp, an artist who is trying to rebuild his life after a major trauma.
Screen Rant: First of all, Mr. Zemeckis, amazing job on this film. You captured Mark’s world, both worlds, I thought perfectly. Talk to me about some of the challenges that you faced. Because I heard that in early testing, that it was very difficult to do the action figure stuff.
Robert Zemeckis: Right. Well, I thought that this would be a perfect example to use performance capture. And the key to– the struggles we’ve had with performance capture since its inception was to really capture the power and emotion of the human performance. And it was vital in this story. Because each one of these dolls is an alter ego of a human actor. It’s in the movie. So, we did a lot of R&D and a lot of testing to make sure that that came through in the doll performance. That it was the actual essence of that human actor that came through.
Screen Rant: And this kind of worked a little bit differently, because mostly in post-production is when you start doing the VFX and stuff. I heard that you guys did it in the beginning of the film, is that correct?
Robert Zemeckis: Yeah, we did a lot of testing in the beginning of the film. Movies are complicated nowadays. We do something called previz, which is, you lay out the whole movie using pre-visualization. Which is kind of like making the whole movie like a little animated movie. And then we shot all the live-action stuff. And then we ended by shooting all the performance capture stuff. So, that was our process.
Screen Rant: Steve Carell is amazing in this. And he captures Mark Hogancamp perfectly. Talk to me about what Steve brought to that performance, that you saw in him, when you first initially started talking to him about this.
Robert Zemeckis: Yeah. Well, Steve was my first and only choice. Because I knew I needed somebody who was a great comedic actor and then had really great dramatic acting chops. And Steve fit the bill perfectly. Because he’s also got great empathy and he has that every man quality. And so, I knew that he could play the swagger and the comedy of the doll alter ego. And then be able to really tug at our heartstrings when it’s time to play that damaged human character.
Screen Rant: So much of his performance in his eyes, and you can just sympathize with almost everything that he’s going through. Can you talk to me a little bit about the other casting of Marwen in general? The cast that we have in Marwen.
Robert Zemeckis: I’ve got a fantastic cast. And they’re just these great women. The women of Marwen. I got Leslie Mann and I got Janelle Monáe and Merritt Weaver and Gwendoline Christie and Eiza González and Diane Kruger. I got such a gigantic cast of great women. They’re fantastic in this movie.
Screen Rant: Can you talk to me about the challenges from Mark’s real photos? About bringing those to life and what attracted you to doing this project?
Robert Zemeckis: Yeah. Well, what I loved about the story, well, I thought the story was a hopeful story. And I thought it was the triumph of the human spirit and the healing power of art. But what I thought was also something that only a movie could do, and a movie could do it in the most perfect way, was to be able to tell the story between Mark’s photographs. Bring this story that was going on in his mind’s eye alive between the photos. And I thought that’s something that you can only really do in a movie.
Screen Rant: You captured it perfectly. Thank you so much, Mr. Zemeckis.
Robert Zemeckis: Thank you so much. Appreciate it.