EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS
About The Origin
Filmmakers Roland Emmerich and Dean
Devlin met 10 years ago in Germany, when Emmerich was filming the feature Moon
44, in which Devlin had a starring role. Impressed with the actor's talent
for improvising dialogue, Emmerich enlisted his help in writing the screenplay
for his next feature, the science fiction action film Universal Soldier,
and an enduring creative partnership was born. The two subsequently re-teamed
for Stargate, Independence Day, Godzilla and The Patriot, under
the banner Centropolis Entertainment, with Emmerich directing and Devlin
producing, and both of them sharing screenplay credit on all but The Patriot.
The two movie buffs often discussed
their favorite films with one another. In particular, they both loved the
low-budget B-movie thrillers of the 1950s and early 1960s, such as Them
or Tarantula, films whose enduring popularity over the years has earned
them classic status and made them a genre unto themselves. As Devlin recalls,
"we were wondering if there was a way to recreate that kind of film with
more sophisticated visual effects and state-of-the-art production values, to
bring it into the modern era but not lose the charm and humor that made those
films distinctive in the first place."
It was essential that any such updated
version, regardless of its modern effects and polish, "did not take itself
too seriously or deny its origins," adds Emmerich.
What they didn't know at the time was
that New Zealand filmmaker Ellory Elkayem had recently written, produced and
directed Larger Than Life, his own homage to the genre, a 13-minute,
black and white, 1950s-style science fiction film about a small spider that gets
exposed to a toxic substance, grows to monumental proportions and terrorizes a
woman in her house. The film played to enthusiastic audiences at film festivals
around the world and eventually earned $50,000 for the New Zealand Film
Commission, a remarkable figure for a short.
After Larger Than Life screened
at the l998 Telluride Film Festival, executive producer Peter Winther showed it
to Emmerich and Devlin. "Ellory's short film was precisely in the vein we
had been discussing," Devlin says. "It was hilarious, stylish and
well-made. We knew immediately that this was the opportunity we'd been hoping
for, to revitalize a dormant style that we both loved."
The three met to discuss the potential
for a feature-length version of the spider short, featuring not one giant
arachnid but thousands. Emmerich and Devlin wanted Elkayem to direct because, as
Devlin explains, "we wanted him to express his vision the way he did so
effectively in the short, only on a larger scale, with the resources of a full
production team behind him, our combined experience as filmmakers, plus the best
effects. In other words, let's drop a Porsche engine into a Volkswagen and see
Bruce Berman, Chairman and CEO of
Village Roadshow Pictures, whose numerous and diverse credits include The
Matrix, Training Day and Ocean's 11, found the concept
irresistible, being a longtime fan of genre films himself and knowing that Eight
Legged Freaks was in good creative hands. He brought it to the attention of
Lorenzo di Bonaventura, President of Worldwide Production at Warner Bros.
Pictures, as a potential joint venture. "Both Village Roadshow and Warner
Bros. Pictures had wanted to work with the filmmakers for some time,"
Berman says, "because of their extraordinary reputations. With this
particular project, we knew<
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