Last week news broke that Max Landis’ script, Chronicle, had been picked up by Fox and that Josh Trank was directing it. So far, so good – but reports online also began including information that Landis says just isn’t true, and so he got on the phone with me to clear up a couple of misconceptions about the film.
‘It’s not what it’s been described as!’ Landis said. ‘In the logline the word superhero is nowhere to be found. I don’t know where superhero comes from – superpowers, maybe, but superhero is going down the wrong road. When people think superheroes these days, they think a genre that this movie isn’t.’
Okay, so it’s not a superhero movie (although it has superpowers). What about the reports that it’s a first person, shaky cam movie?
‘I heard the words ‘shaky cam’ tossed around the minute the news came out,’ Landis told me. ‘The movie is filmed by somebody, but he’s competent. The only time the camera shakes in this movie is when it has damn good fucking reason to shake.
‘The key thing is that we are really going to do things with the camera POV idea that haven’t been done yet. I started watching, in research for this movie, almost every single fucking POV movie made since the 60s. I’ve seen about 30 of them now, going all the way back to Albert Brooks’ Real Life, looking for shit that hasn’t been done. And I’ve found a lot of it. That’s what Chronicle is – the summation of all those ideas.’
That leaves one last thing to clear up – is Max’s father, John Landis, producing the movie? ‘My father has absolutely no involvement. And he found the script disturbing. His first response was ‘Max, you sick fuck!’ And then later he said, ‘You know, that’s kind of a touching script.’ Great, glad we could go from sick fuck to touching, dad!’
Landis is proud of the fact that he and his director are Hollywood legacies (Trank’s father, Richard, won an Oscar in 1998 for the documentary The Long Way Home), but wants it to be clear that they got to their first feature based on their own work. ‘Both Josh and I have been around forever. I’ve been in the business for five years, trying to sell something. Josh has been an editor, he’s shot second unit and he’s directed a web series called The Kill Point. He’s done a lot of stuff.’ Sure, having family in the business can open some doors, Landis says, but you have to prove yourself once you’re in. ‘[The family name is] your starter Pokemon. It’s your Pikachu, and if you can’t evolve your Pikachu, you’re not getting anywhere.’
Now that we know what Chronicle isn’t, what the hell is it? Landis is cagey, and unwilling to divulge much of anything. ‘The issue is that there are so many surprises and fun little twists along the way,’ he explains when I keep pressing him for more details. ‘No one reading the logline would guess where it goes.’
What I am able to get out of Landis is that the film is about a kid who gets superpowers, but it’s as much a superhero movie as The Fury is a superhero movie – the acquisition of extranormal powers doesn’t automatically make you a spandex-suited hero.
‘It’s realistic,’ Landis said. ‘If you got superpowers – in this world! Not in the bright and shiny world of Kick-Ass, not in the sweet world of Sam Raimi and certainly not in the overserious world of The Dark Knight - in this world that we live in today and you were 17, what would your life be? This is just a notion, but I don’t think fighting crime would be the first thing you would do.
‘Because of the premise there was a lot of thoughts of, ‘Is this too new? Is this too different?’ The thing I can say repeatedly about Chronicle is that it’s something that’s not been done before. There was a fear about how people would respond to it, and people responded the shit out of it.’
Chronicle is in development right now, with Landis taking another swipe at the script. He hopes to get in front of cameras at some point early next year. I know Max a little bit and I can tell you that he’s a real, legit, serious geek. His ideas for Chronicle come from the point of view of someone who reads a lot of comics and who might as well have a cot at the Cinefamily and the New Beverly here in LA. In a business that is suddenly full of filmmakers who have become nerds because that’s where the development money is, it’s refreshing to see a dyed in the wool geek made good.