Newsarama hosted the NY and LA premieres of the new DC Universe animated film, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, and I was lucky enough to cover the red carpet in Los Angeles. Executive producer Bruce Timm was unable to attend, but I did get a chance to chat with him over the phone the next morning.
In Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, our heroes Superman (Mark Harmon), Batman (William Baldwin) and Wonder Woman (Vanessa Marshall) must battle their evil mirror images Ultraman (Brian Bloom), Owlman (James Woods) and Super Woman (Gina Torres) in an alternate universe. Timm gave us some great info about casting, the short film DC Showcase: Spectre, what story he'd like to see next and whether or not he'd like to continue the Timmverse/Whedonverse crossover (several Whedonverse members have voiced characters in Timm productions, Torres being the latest) by working with Joss himself (he's a huge fan). We also got a bit of a sneak peek into his next DCU animated film, Batman: Under the Hood.
Newsarama: Let’s start by talking a little bit about the casting. One of the things about DC Animated films is that the casting is always fantastic. Was there someone you really wanted personally? Someone that really surprised you?
Bruce Timm: Casting these characters, and we've done it a bunch of times by now, it's always a challenge, because, whoever you cast, you have to kind of compare them to Kevin Conroy and Tim Daly and George Newburn who played these characters for years on our TV show. And every single time we stop and go, why are we beating our brains out trying to come up with new voices for these guys? Why don't we just use Kevin and George and Susan (Eisenberg) and the gang? But in this particular case, since the story did originally start as part of the TV continuity, but this...the branding of it that these are stand alone stories that are more directly based on the comic versions of the characters, not the TV continuity. We felt it was really important for us to do it so we could separate this from the TV continuity. Therefore we kind of had to recast the characters.
At that point, as we always do, we sit in a room with myself and Andrea Romano, the voice casting director and the other directors of the project and we brainstorm. We say, 'Who would be a good...?' What we know of TV shows and current movies and whatever, 'Who would be a good Batman? Who would be a good Superman? Who would be a good Wonder Woman?' And we come up with a giant wish list and argue back and forth. 'Oh this guy is too old,' or 'This guy is too expensive,' or 'This guy is going to be too difficult,' or 'This guy is this or that.' And then we come up with our first choices and call up the agents and see who's available and come up with our cast.
Nrama: You guys always have a really fun cross over with the Joss Whedon universe...
Nrama: ...which is something that Whedon fans love. Now that he's done with Dollhouse, would you ever consider doing a project with him?
Timm: I would at the drop of a hat. I can't speak for him. I've only met him once or twice and it was so embarrassingly awkward because I'm such a huge geek fan that I just stammer and, 'Oh, you're Joss Whedon!...uh, I'm so delighted to meet you!' And then I just run out of things to say and just walk away, embarrassed. [laughs] I would jump at the chance to work with Joss on something. I've been a fan of his for years and years and years. He's at the top of my list of people that I think would do a great job with these characters. But he's got a lot of irons in the fire, so...I would hesitate to even approach him.
Nrama: I know you did a voice cameo in this film, as you often do. Can you talk about that?
Timm: I don't even remember who I played in this one, frankly! [laughs]
Nrama: Uncle Super.
Timm: It's mostly a matter of expediency. It's a matter of these things always have big fight scenes and lots of thugs, whether they're super-powered or not, that get beat up by the good guys. After all these years, I've become pretty good at doing 'oof's and 'ugh's and 'whoa's, so it's just easy for me to go in and lay down the tracks. I don't consider myself a good actor. [laughs] I usually just do a lot of looping for fightwalla.
Nrama: Can you talk a bit about 'Spectre' and what you guys have coming up with the shorts?
Timm: The short version is that there are all these great DC comics characters out there that aren't necessarily able to support giving them a feature film of their own. But there are terrific characters like The Spectre and Jonah Hex...and somebody here had the brilliant idea of doing a series of shorts about these characters...I've been a fan of The Spectre for years and years and years, and never really found a way to work him into my previous shows. But when we decided to come up with a list of who we would do for this series of shorts, The Spectre was way high on my list. And again, since these movies are being aimed at the PG-13, young adult audience, it allowed us to do The Spectre in the way that I think we should do The Spectre which is based on the seventies version of him by Michael Fleisher and Jim Aparo, where he's like the really scary, dark and violent avenger of evil. So it was all perfect timing. And Steve Niles came to our attention. Todd Casey who works here as one of our staff writers has known Steve for years and mentioned him as a possible guy to write the script. And Steve is really good at crime fiction and he's really good at horror stories, so it was perfect casting. And Steve was available and delighted to come in and do the script. The stars were in alignment for this one.
Nrama: I spoke to him on the red carpet and he was talking about writing a story that scared him.
Timm: [laughs] That's good! That's good! Yeah, he's a great guy. I love Steve.
Nrama: You've been so much a part of the animation/comic universe...would you ever want to move into live-action comic features?
Timm: It's not something that I would pursue because I'm really happy doing what I'm doing. If somebody out of the blue offered me something...if it was something that I was interested in, I would certainly consider it. It would be an interesting challenge, but like I said, I'm very happy doing what I'm doing. Part of that has to do with the fact that what we do flies under the radar a little bit, because these are a little bit lower-budgeted movies. We don't have as high a profile and less of a cash outlay than a big feature film. I don't have to take as many notes from as many executives. You know? [laughs] So we can pretty much do these movies the way we want to do them without a whole lot of interference. To me, that's more important than doing something in live action just to be doing it. So yes and no.
Nrama: I know you have the Batman: Under the Hood project coming up next and we're all dying for any details you can spill beyond what we know from the comic.
Timm: Well, I don't know how much of it I can talk about specifically, even though it's an open secret based on a comic that's already in print. But it's a pretty dark, intense, mystery/drama/action story. It's funny, in broad strokes when I look at it, it's kind of like a weird cross between Mask of the Phantasm and (Batman Beyond:) Return of the Joker in that it deals a lot with...it's kind of a personal story for Batman. Not just an 'Oh, he's fighting the Joker again,' or 'Oh, he's fighting the Riddler or Poison Ivy again.' This is something that's...I don't want to say soap opera, but it does have ramifications, dealing with his history with his junior partners and his worst enemies. So it's an emotionally complex, intense story. I think it's going to be terrific.
Nrama: Everyone I spoke to about this interview asked if you would ever be involved with an animated version of Green Arrow: Quiver.
Timm: Um...[laughs]...we actually, probably a couple of years ago now...not based on that particular comic, but we had a Green Arrow long form script in development, which was written by a really talented writer called Tab Murphy. He wrote a script that was basically the Green Arrow origin story. It was a really, really great script. We all enjoyed it. The home video people crunched the number and thought that Green Arrow probably wasn't famous enough yet to support his own feature. So we kind of had to put it on the back burner. But we're hoping at some point to be able to make the movie because it's a really, really great script. And he's a character that a lot of us really like. And it gives us a chance to to outside the Batman/Superman mythos and do something a little bit different. Let's keep our fingers crossed.
Nrama: Is there a story that isn't in development yet that you'd really like to see as an animated film?
Timm: Not off the top of my head. [laughs] I'm super-focused on all of the movies...we usually have like two or three things in production at the same time. And beyond the DVD movies, there are some other animated projects here at Warner Bros. that I'm attached to and developing. I'm so scattered that I can barely focus on, if somebody just gave me five million dollars and said, 'Here. Do your DC dream project,' I'd really have to sit down and think about it. And I haven't really had the opportunity to do that. There are a lot of characters that I like. In my dream world, yeah, I'd love to do a Question feature film. That would be great. I'd love to do a long form Jonah Hex movie. I think that would be awesome. The Black Hawks. I love The Black Hawks. Characters like that. But there isn't one particular story that I'm just champing at the bit to do yet. We'll see.
Nrama: Is there anything in the multitude of secret projects that you've got going on that you can hint at?
Timm: Ah...honestly, no. [laughs] I can't even hint at it, because people are really good at reading between the lines and figuring things out. Some of the upcoming DCU DTV's that we've got coming up are really, really exciting properties. Some of them are original stories and some of them are based on very familiar, famous story lines that, when they are announced, people are going to lose their minds. So we've got some really exciting stuff coming down the pike in the next year or two.
Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths will be released as a single disc DVD, a Special Edition 2-disc version DVD and Blu-Ray Hi-Def, as well as On Demand and Download on February 23rd