Fox Studios, Sydney. Monday 19th July 2004
In a press conference in Sydney today with Will Smith and Alex Proyas, star and director of 20th Century Fox’s No.1 smash hit I, Robot, Movie Vault’s own Avril Carruthers was there to bring you the latest.
Will Smith looked relaxed and in high spirits while the quieter Alex Proyas complemented his star well with an understated air of allowing him most of the attention and most of the answers to questions. Nevertheless, it was evident that the two have a great rapport and a huge mutual respect.
Asked if Will Smith was his first choice for the lead in I, Robot, the actor jokingly cut in with, ‘Well, after he asked Tom Cruise…’ Proyas was quick to point that Smith was his first and only choice for the role of Detective Del Spooner. Smith then described how when Proyas first pitched the film to him he turned him down.
‘But he didn’t give up,’ he grinned. ‘He actually went to great lengths to communicate his vision to me – even to the point of making a forward trailer to get his point across. It says something about him that he wouldn’t take no for an answer.’
‘After that,’ he went on, ‘whatever he asked me to do I was happy to do. He asked me to do that naked shot in the shower in the beginning of the movie – I was happy to do it. I worked out, that body is real. My wife (Jada Pinkett-Smith) was happy about that scene too – she says no woman wants a man no other woman wants!
‘Apart from that, this role is the most complete of any film I’ve made.’ Smith commented. ‘Alex is a sci-fi junkie, but along with all the hi-tech, the robots, the visual effects, the great futuristic vision, he was really interested in developing character as well as all the technical stuff. Having done movies like Ali, where I was nominated for Best Actor, and Men in Black and Enemy of the State which I loved, I felt this role goes further into characterisation and is more real.’
He then responded to a question relating to his love of golf and the possibility in the future of having NS-5s as the perfect caddies. He drew laughter with a spontaneous improvisation of the perfectly regulated, modulated voice of a robot caddy as well as a reminder of his Bagger Vance role, giving specifications on the lie of the green and fairway, the wind direction and speed, ending with a recommendation to ‘play the nine iron’.
Alex Proyas commented on how important it was to him to honour the spirit of Isaac Asimov’s book of nine stories based around the Three Laws of Robotics. ‘I’ve loved his stories since I discovered them at around the age of ten and could always see what a great movie could be made of the material. We called I, Robot the tenth story, because it was really inspired by Asimov, rather than being one of his actual stories.’
Sydney-based Australian Proyas talked about the preponderance of Australians in the crew. ‘They are people I've worked with on my other films over ten years, including Simon Duggan the cinematographer.’ For financial reasons and local studio availability he was not able to shoot the film in his home town of Sydney. ‘It was for economic reasons that we shot the film in Vancouver. I just brought along as many Australians as I could. It made us feel at home.’
Proyas was complimented on his being somewhat of a phenomenon in Australian cinema, not only with Dark City and The Crow, but also for the very funny contemporary Australian comedy Garage Days, written and directed by Proyas and based on his own youthful experiences as a music video producer. Commenting on the poor state of the Australian film industry at the moment, he stressed the role of the media in promoting and supporting local films. ‘It’s very important to me to promote the Australian film industry as much as I can,’ he said. ‘I would love to make another Australian film – anything – as long as Will Smith is in it!’
'I'm up for that,' laughed Smith.
© Avril Carruthers, 19th July, 2004