Way back in Mary Parent’s back catalogue as a producer is 1998’s Pleasantville, the sleepy, sweet comedy drama about two teenagers sent back in time to shake up the culturally stagnant 1950s.
Somewhere along the line, Parent obviously decided to go big or go home. Just look at the three films she has in production right now; Darren Aronofsky’s Russel Crowe-starrer Noah, Gareth (Monsters) Evans’ Godzilla redux and the movie she’s here on the Toronto set to talk about, Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim.
What was the biggest challenge on the film?
Keeping up with Guillermo because he’s got so much energy, he’s like a bull. He’s so determined and he just keeps going. But the other challenge is balancing the fact that it’s about 25-storey robots and monsters yet the story is very emotionally grounded. You’ll love these characters and the stakes are very serious. There are things underneath the action I absolutely resonate with, yet it’s a big popcorn entertainment movie.
What’s the appeal in producing a big action adventure movie?
I love making movies so for me it’s about getting to make as many movies as I can. I sat on the bench for a year and a half, so I could jump into this right away and it was a dream come true. A movie of this size can really get away from you, and that’s the other thing about Guillermo – he has full command of the movie and the way he thinks.
I mean, look at his body of work, he thinks visually as well as about character and emotion. Let’s face it, you see some movies that have incredible visuals but you don’t care about the characters, or smaller movies where you care about the characters but not the visuals. Guillermo is able to do it all.
It’s also the only major film of the midyear 2013 season not based on a pre-existing property. How do you get a studio to take that risk?
People first and foremost want to be entertained, but what makes a great entertainment experience is when you connect. In this case there’s also this huge wish fulfilment – we’ve seen robots before but we haven’t seen them this big and to be able to get inside and actually drive them. And in Pacific Rim you really get up in the face of the monster.
So you’ll get that visceral on the edge of your seat feel, a real rollercoaster ride, but a real emotional investment of the characters at the same time.
Considering it’s giant robots, were you conscious you didn’t want to make another Transformers?
Michael Bay delivers, he almost has his own brand that delivers a level of entertainment that’s unparalleled. I love all the Transformers movies. Guillermo does very different movies. Again, in this case we’re driving the robots and the creatures are coming from an entire other universe.
These sort of films appeals to the little boy in all of us. What can you bring to the film from a woman’s perspective?
As a woman, we like the visual thrill ride. A lot of people are surprised how well horror films play to women, it’s that visceral feeling you get from that experience. So women will 100 percent relate to this, plus there’s an absolute love story at the centre of it. I think women have a hard time when there’s just mindless violence or action that has no character meaning, not that men really like that either, but I guess guys would be more tolerant of it.
For me this film has all the elements. I love that big adventure, I love the idea of looking into the face of these monsters. But at the same time I want a story where I can care about people, care about characters. It’s a movie about second chances. It’s about an unlikely gang of characters who hopefully come together against all odds. I like movies where I feel like I’ve been transported but at the same time where I feel like the characters need me on some level.