Director Louis Leterrier is in a better frame of mind than he was during the press rounds for 2010's "Clash of the Titans." That film, a box office success with $493 million in worldwide grosses, was plagued by controversy surrounding its rushed 3D conversion. Leterrier understands the critiques: he now admits that the "Clash of the Titans" 3D was "horrible," but he kept quiet in an effort to play, in his words, the "good boy" for Warner Bros.
Leterrier has no such concerns about his new film, "Now You See Me." The thriller stars Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher and Dave Franco as The Four Horsemen, a team of magicians that uses their stage shows to pull off elaborate heists, then deliver the newfound wealth to those in need. Mark Ruffalo plays an FBI agent trying to stop the team and solve the mystery of how these heists are performed.
Ahead, Leterrier, the very definition of a straight shooter, discusses the "tough experience" of filming "Clash of the Titans," why he won't bet against Will Smith and how he first wanted to cast Ruffalo in "The Incredible Hulk," but wound up with Edward Norton in the lead role as Dr. Bruce Banner instead.
I hate calling "Now You See Me" "fun" because that sounds dismissive, but it was fun.
I know, I know. People are like, "I'm sorry, but your movie is fun." Don't be sorry! That's what I was aiming for! Last night we had the L.A. premiere and it was good because I was standing in the front and watching the audience react. And I just loved it.
That sounds stressful.
Sometimes it's stressful when it's just like an action-adventure movie, because you're like, "Well, it's not for everyone." But I think this one has many levels and people are like watching certain things and others on other things. It's the least stressful of all of the movies that I've done. For me, the other movies I did were like, "OK, will it blow up or won't?"
It's been well-documented that "The Incredible Hulk" was a stressful shoot and "Clash of the Titans" looked stressful. Was something less stressful something that you sought out?
Yeah, you know, the problem on both "The Incredible Hulk" and "Clash of the Titans" is a problem I've encountered since I came to Hollywood. When I arrived in Hollywood, ["Incredible Hulk"] was my first Hollywood movie and I really wanted to work with Marvel and I really wanted to do that movie with American actors. And then they were like, "Oh, welcome, welcome. Great news, Louis. We just got a release date. It's a year from now." I'm like, "Fantastic, we have to go. Where's the script?" They said, "Actually, that's the problem, we don't have a script."
I've started movies without screenplays both on "Clash" and on "Hulk" and that is tremendously stressful, because you have a tendency to overcompensate with effects. You haven't tested it in your head. You didn't run it over and over again and covered all of the plot holes and figure it out. It's a marathon that you sprint. "Now You See Me" was longer and it was a great script to start with.
Would you ever put yourself in that position again? Shooting without a script?
No. It's two things: shooting without a script and also not surrounding myself with enough of my collaborators. It's too stressful. It's an enormous weight on your shoulders and then afterwards everybody blames you and points a finger at you and says, "Why did you convert the movie to 3D?" "I didn't convert the movie to 3D! I didn't want to do it! I didn't like it!" That kind of stuff.
Is it fair to say this is the happiest you've been on a movie?
Yeah. Oh, yeah. This movie truly represents who I am ... I didn't think I would become a director. And then one day I was an assistant director on "The Transporter"; the director never showed up and I ended up directing it.
Why did Corey Yuen still get a directing credit in the United States?
Because the deal was done before. You cannot replace the name of the director. Which is fine, because I got credit everywhere else. But I was making action movies, which is not the type I'm particularly fond of. They're fun to watch and they're fun to do, but I didn't go to school because I loved action movies. I love smart, multi-leveled movies. I feel like this one really represents who I am.
Even in your other movies, I've always noticed what you were trying to do ...
And fail miserably [laughs].
Well, I wouldn't say "fail miserably," but they were cluttered.
Yeah, it's true. A movie is a sum of compromises until you grow into your own independence. I always try to bring the character and the actor forward. It's very obvious in "The Incredible Hulk." The first half of the movie is really mine and the second half is the studio's expected Hulk movie -- two giants kicking each other's ass.
I never understood for sure what happened there. Did you and Edward Norton get along?
Oh, yeah, yeah yeah. We love each other. He was just with me in New York at the premiere. We really do love each other. I think it was blown out of proportion. It literally was about one scene. It's one scene that still in the movie. It was either the long version of the scene or the short version of the scene. Edward wanted the longer version of the scene and I wanted the shorter version.
Which scene was this?
It was the psychoanalysis scene. It was a very interesting character scene -- to go back to what we were talking about. It was analysis, going into the dark places of Bruce Banner -- very adult themes. It was a great scene and the scene is on the DVD. But also the start of the movie, something I did, which is Bruce Banner walking to the edge of the world to commit suicide, then the Hulk saves him. And the studio said, "There's no way we are starting this movie with a guy putting a gun into his mouth." Which I understand, but then it was informing who this character was and his relationship with his alter-ego. All of that stuff made it deeper, if you will.
"Iron Man" was this fun, poppy thing bound to make a zillion dollars. And we were the other side of a superhero movie. More complex with The Hulk being this complex character -- that's what it was. Edward is a great friend. Marvel is a great friend. There are arguments in every movie.
When people are asking me, because Mark Ruffalo is in this one, who's the better of the Bruce Banners -- both are great; both are fantastic -- but I actually wanted to cast Mark Ruffalo as Hulk and Marvel was like "No, you should get Edward Norton because he's more famous." So you see what I am saying? They are the ones who wanted Edward -- and I was thrilled to meet him and work with him. I wanted Mark Ruffalo. And they were like, "No, no, he just does smart, intellectual movies." Which makes sense, then and there in his career. But that's how I know him. We've stayed in touch and it's why he said "absolutely" when I offered him the part in this one.
I have to say, you seem like a much happier human being right now than when I spoke to you for "Clash of the Titans."
It was a very tough experience. I was literally thrown under the bus for something that ... I still have a good relationship with Warner Bros., but at one point it was like, "Yeah, Louis chose the 3D." And I was like, "No, guys, I didn't choose the 3D. I actually told you it's not working. I couldn't control it. I said don't do it."
The 3D on "Clash of the Titans" was famously rushed.
Yeah, exactly. It was famously rushed and famously horrible. It was absolutely horrible, the 3D. Nothing was working, it was just a gimmick to steal money from the audience. I'm a good boy and I rolled with the punches and everything, but it's not my movie. "Clash of the Titans" is not my movie. And ultimately that's why I didn't do the sequel.
It's a fun action movie, all in all. Some people are really happy with the movie. I tried to do the best I could, but it was not the best experience of my life, I must say. I wasn't protected. Talking about surrounding yourself with the right people -- I felt like I was really thrown at the wolves.
You did get a producer's credit on "Wrath of the Titans." What exactly does that mean?
When you do a first movie you're contractually supposed to do the second one and then you don't do it, you become an executive producer. That's why there are a ton of directors who have executive producer credits on other movies. That said, it happens. That stuff happens. You know, I'm learning. I was learning. But this one, from the beginning, is very much mine. Very, very much mine.
"Now You See Me" is jammed in with the summer blockbusters. Hopefully it can find an audience.
I know. It's like I hope the movie gods pause the sea of blockbusters so we can just walk through and be like, "Hey, guys." What I hope is that the word of mouth is good. It's a movie that's great to see with your friends and see their reactions. I hope it has legs. I don't think we'll be number one this weekend because Jesse Eisenberg versus Will Smith, I'm betting on Will Smith. But I hope it has legs and keeps on going and becomes a movie that people like.
Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.