A chat with Gale Anne Hurd, producer of “The Walking Dead”

Gale Anne Hurd, producer of There aren’t many producers around these days whose name can help sell a movie or TV show, but Gale Anne Hurd is the rare exception. Probably best known as one of the co-creators of “The Terminator” franchise, Hurd has been an important player in numerous mega- or merely major productions, including both “Hulk” and “The Incredible Hulk,” “The Abyss,” “Armageddon,” “The Punisher,” and the underrated 1999 comedy “Dick,” which starred Dan Hedaya as Richard Milhous Nixon and a young Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams as a couple of teenagers who wind up bringing down a presidency.

Clearly one of the more hands-on producers around, Hurd is pleasant and businesslike when talking to a member of the show-biz press, but clearly has the gumption to deal with the biggest and most difficult of personalities, which is how I segue into the obligatory mention of the fact that she spent the part of the late eighties and early nineties being married to first James Cameron and then Brian De Palma. Moreover, she began her career working for one the most fascinating and effective producers in the history of the medium, Roger Corman, but more of that in the interview.

Still, nothing she’s done is quite like her current project, the zombie horror drama and comic book adaptation, “The Walking Dead.” The AMC television series, adapted from a series of acclaimed comics by Robert Kirkman primarily by writer-director Frank Darabont (“The Shawshank Redemption,” “The Green Mile,” “The Mist”) is currently receiving maximum exposure on the web. The publicity train was only just getting started when I spoke to Ms. Hurd at a mammoth new San Diego hotel adjacent to the Comic-Con festivities last summer.

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I had typed my questions on my laptop, which I was afraid might be a little off-putting. So, after a quick greeting, I tried to explain why.

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Midweek movie news

Big movies are in the news today.

* James Cameron apparently won’t be directing the latest iteration of legend of Egyptian queen Cleopatra. Instead, he’ll spend the next few years doing the inevitable: “Avatar 2” and “Avatar 3.” Apparently, the commitment now is partially in return for Fox making a large donation to green causes Cameron supports.

* Christopher Nolan gave Geoff Boucher the title of the next Batman installment “The Dark Knight Rises” — not very inspiring. Having previously eliminated Mr. Freeze as the film’s big bad, he also eliminated the Riddler. That leaves Catwoman, the Penguin, and…Man-Bat?

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It’s the end of week movie news dump — now, with fewer items!

There really hasn’t been all that much interesting movie news this week, but things have definitely heated up just in the last few hours. Specifically…

* Via Quint at AICN, “The Hobbit” two-movie package has been officially greenlit, with Peter Jackson directing. It’s a good thing because I was really getting tired of those “it’s just about greenlit” “it’s almost greenlit” “no, it’s actually not quite greenlit because of MGM being on the block, nothing to see here” rinse-and-repeat stories. I don’t even care if Nikki Finke and Mike Fleming want to claim a “toldja” on this or how many casting rumors they’re repeating, just make the damn movies already.

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Oh, but first, they’ve got to solve the previously reported issues with SAG and AFTRA. As a good liberal I’m very pro-union and I think that anyone who thinks we’d be better off without unions should be immediately transported to a smokey factory in 19th century London and asked to work a 72 hour week without overtime pay. However, like all the other geeks, I nevertheless think SAG and AFTRA are probably overreaching here and are singling out the movie because of its high profile.

* A related story is also a classic example of an unpleasant news item arriving late on a Friday night in an attempt to bury it. The highly regarded executive Mary Parent — beloved of Joss Whedon fans for giving both the “Buffy” TV and the “Serenity” movie gigs — is officially out at MGM.

* The king of the world is supposedly flirting with making a movie about the queen of the world — not Oprah, but Cleopatra. Angelina Jolie is already set to star in a project that’s already sounding to me as bloated as the wildly over budget 1963 production, directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, that nearly bankrupted Fox — despite being the year’s most successful movie (despite being a movie that almost no one likes today).

* It always tempting to make jokes about the porn industry, but HIV is no joke and there’s been an outbreak of it, so far limited to one on-screen sex worker. Is the site of a condom really that much of a boner buzz-kill?

* David Chase is reuniting with musical genius Steven Van Zandt, who played helmet-haired Silvio Dante on “The Sopranos,” as his music supervisor and is taking on a cast of more-or-less unknowns on his planned feature musical drama. This one I’m looking forward to. Before getting his start writing some of the best episodes ever of “The Rockford Files,” Chase was and presumably still is influenced largely by European art films.

BTW, if you’ve never heard Van Zandt’s great radio show and you like rock and roll, you’re missing something. Also, Mr. Van Zandt should be remembered as a human rights hero for his involvement with this great piece of pop music protest.

  

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Slightly early midweek movie news

Just a few items that have been swirling about the movie media news/blogosphere…

Ving Rhames in * I know conservative Hollywood-bashers think all we film people both love and fear James Cameron and will leap to his defense with the ferocity of an intimidated momma grizzly on principle. They should take a look at the hub-bub the man has kicked up with some remarks in Vanity Fair that are perhaps best described as 3D snobbery run amok. To use his own terminology, he threw “Piranha 3D” under the bus — presumably with the resulting exploding innards heading directly at the audience’s face. I’m sure the fact that, as per Hollywood legend, Cameron was fired after a week directing “Piranha 2” decades ago, has nothing to do with this.

Anyhow, here’s the oft-quoted choice bit:

…that is exactly an example of what we should not be doing in 3-D. Because it just cheapens the medium and reminds you of the bad 3-D horror films from the 70s and 80s, like Friday the 13th 3-D. When movies got to the bottom of the barrel of their creativity and at the last gasp of their financial lifespan, they did a 3-D version to get the last few drops of blood out of the turnip. And that’s not what’s happening now with 3-D. It is a renaissance—right now the biggest and the best films are being made in 3-D. Martin Scorsese is making a film in 3-D. Disney’s biggest film of the year—Tron: Legacy—is coming out in 3-D. So it’s a whole new ballgame.”

One of the first to get in on the attack — and with the ferocity of a poppa grizzly, I might add — was our pal (and “Piranha” guest reviewer) Dennis Cozzalio. Numerous others have joined Dennis in the good fight for low-budget 3D horror. Apparently not one bit concerned about being able to work in this town again, producer Mark Canton has joined the fray with a sharp counter-attack.

* John Woo directing a movie about the American trained Chinese WWII aces the Flying Tigers in Imax? Where do we send our $15.00? Remakes of his long-time favorite, Jean-Pierre Melville’s “Le Samurai,” and his own international breakthrough hit, “The Killer”? Not my absolute first choice for Woo projects, but I’ll pay to see those too. I just hope he really has something new he wants to say with those stories.

* RIP director Alain Corneau.

* A truly intelligent man like Martin Scorsese knows it’s never time to stop learning. The Onion has the scoop.

*Via an e-mail from the elusive BKS: Cecil B. DeMille rewriting Billy Wilder? Sort of like James Cameron trying to rewrite Quentin Tarantino (and he would too, I bet), but anything is possible in this crazy town.

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What am I going to miss next?

I missed yesterdays big geek news of the upcoming Guillermo del Toro doing his “one for me” project with a long delayed adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s “From the Mountains of Madness” with a little help from James Cameron. Bummer, but we’ll survive that tragedy together.

And then Mike Fleming, and every fanboy on earth it appears, found that the Comic-Con trailer for “Thor” had magically appeared on line, Wikileaks style. Anyhow, just as I had prepared this post, the folks at Marvel who apparently have a control issue with their marketing plan much as the U.S. government would rather you didn’t know too much about civilian casualties or the like, pulled it. I mean like seconds ago — it was there and I was ready to go and then it was gone. If you didn’t see it elsewhere, it was all Shakespearian and stuff and had more than a touch of “King Lear” to it, which makes sense as it’s directed by Kenneth Branagh.

So, since I don’t have the Thor trailer, here’s not one but two trailers. The first, a bit of Branagh directing actual Shakespeare and the probably never to be rivaled best ever quasi-Lear in cinema history. Enjoy, as you taste my bitter fanboy tears.

You know, I love Shakespeare and all, but his stuff is so full of cliches. Well, you’ll see none of that from Kurosawa-san.

  

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