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G.I. Joe Collectors' Club Exclusive - Stephen Sommers Interview!

GIJCC Exclusive:
Stephen Sommers Interview

By Brian Savage

Stephen Sommers with Brian Savage

Brian Savage: Why G.I. Joe? What was it about the property that made you want to direct this movie?

Stephen Sommers: It was the lore, the characters, and I love to make big visual movies. I really love the characters back stories and relationships. I also have fond memories of playing with G.I. Joe toys as a child.

BS: What concepts and elements from the established mythos do you think were key in bringing [G.I.] Joe to the big screen?

SS: There were things I knew that had to be correct, like, Snake Eyes not talking and that the Baroness not being a blonde - she has very dark hair. I really want to be loyal to the mythos. This is an origins movie, so my goal is to establish the mythos for the mass audience. Hardcore collectors and fans already know the storyline. The name has a lot of recognition worldwide, but not everyone knows the back-story of G.I. Joe versus Cobra. In the movie, we use Duke and Rip Cord to introduce the audience to G.I. Joe, and then the G.I. Joe team is the vehicle for the introduction of Cobra.

BS: What are your favorite aspects of the G.I. Joe universe?

SS: For me, it is the diversity of the characters. The fact that you could have characters as different as Snake Eyes and Scarlett existing in the same universe and interacting together gives you a huge amount of material to work with. The fact that there are so many unique characters to choose from makes this a great property. It makes it a great project for me as a director.

BS: What was the single greatest challenge you faced in bringing G.I. Joe to the big screen?

SS: The greatest challenge was to be sure we had a strong story with great relationships between strong characters. If G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is successful, I hope to do more [G.I. Joe] movies and be able to come back to the cannon of characters and explore more personalities and relationships. But for the first movie, we were really limited to about twelve to fifteen characters we could explore.

BS: Which location was the most challenging for filming?

SS: We filmed in a lot of locations: the Arctic, Prague, the desert, Tokyo, Egypt, France and the bottom of the ocean. All of them were challenging. It would be rare to shoot anywhere that was not somewhat challenging. I think the most challenging to film in was Paris.

BS: What challenges did the accelerator suits pose in filming?

SS: The accelerator suits were very rough on the actors. They were not very mobile when worn. I think in any potential future films, you will see less of them.

BS: We know that the movie is set in the near future. You've got some futuristic weapons technology in the film. How much of it do you think will exist ten-fifteen years from now?

SS: Almost 100%. We see it in the not too distant future. It is not too futuristic. In the next 10-20 years, almost everything you see in the movie will probably exist. They already have this thing called a "camouflage suit," and it has a camera that records what is behind you and projects it on the front of the suit. They think this will be perfected in the next dozen years. Invisibility? I don't believe in invisibility. But this camouflage suit, which makes you virtually invisible, is absolutely possible. Most of this is not made up. I love all of those ultimate weaponry books and magazines and stuff like that.

BS: Has fan response impacted what the final product will look like and how?

SS: We are always aware of them [fans]. I don't want to upset anyone. Sometimes you have to change things a little bit. Overall, I feel like we went above and beyond to stay true to the mythos. I even think the people who like 12" G.I. Joe are going to get a kick out of some of the things in the movie. There are lots of nods for all fans of G.I. Joe in this movie.

BS: We know that Duke has a scar in the film - which everyone assumes is a nod to the original 12" G.I. Joe. Where in the film should fans pay close attention for mythos "Easter eggs"?

SS: They are scattered all over the film. I don't want to spoil the film for anyone; you will just have to watch closely.

BS: Is it harder or easier to work on a film like G.I. Joe that has such a huge established mythos or a new story that has no established mythos? Which do you prefer and why?

SS: This is fun. G.I. Joe gave me a lot. I didn't have to do as much work. But, at the same time, the writer's strike was coming up. The established mythos really helped me because if we had not had such an extensive predefined back-story, we would have never been able to keep the film on schedule [because of the strike].

BS: This film will bring us the origins of G.I. Joe versus Cobra, where do you see it going from here?

SS: I have a whole layout but I don't want to get cocky! [Laughs] Let's see how this one does.

BS: Is there anything else you would like to tell the fans about this coming film?

SS: I think that they are going to be very pleased. I don't want to oversell it, or undersell it. For fans of G.I. Joe, I hope that I didn't let them down.

BS: I don't think you have. From what we have seen so far, it looks great!

SS: The key was to make it big and fun, not cheesy…nothing made of plastic [laughs].

BS: I really appreciate your time.

SS: Thank you!

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