SDCC '08 - Summit Entertainment Sneak Peek

Summit Entertainment’s first-ever panel at San Diego Comic-Con highlighted three films — though it was the upcoming film adaptation of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight books that fans who packed Hall H were dying to see.

But first, the panel spotlighted “Push,” a science fiction thriller due in February 2009 from director Paul McGuigan, who appeared along with actors Camilla Belle, Chris Evans, and Djimon Hounsou.

The panel began with a showing of the opening credits for the film, which explains newsreel style the back-story of the film. The film posits that the Nazis developed psychic warfare during World War II, turning people with special powers into soldiers. Ever since, the world’s governments have pursued the same goal, hunting down and imprisoning rogue powered people.

McGuigan, director of “Lucky Number Slevin,” says he was attracted to the film by the historical backdrop of the story and the idea that while the characters have powers, they’re not superheroes.

Hounsou says he plays an agent who’s in charge of recovering powered people using his psychic abilities to track down and capture powered people. A short clip was shown of his character instructing another agent to prove his mind hadn’t been tampered with by committing suicide.

Belle says her character, like Hounsou’s, is also a pusher. “She manipulates a lot people in the film and it’s really quite fun,” she says.

Evans plays a character with different powers — he’s a mover, with telekinetic powers. “He’s rejected everyone and turned his back on his power a bit, and he’s living in Hong Kong because it’s easier to hide there,” he says.

Another clip was shown of an actions sequence in which a young powered girl played by Dakota Fanning comes to him in a Hong Kong fish market for help, only to be chased by agents with sonic powers that shatter the tanks.

McGuigan says a lot of the film is “low-fi,” with real stunts enhanced by CGI effects rather than completely digital.

“I actually wanted to blow up the tanks with fish in them, and I was told I couldn’t,” he says. “I’m from Scotland; I didn’t know!”

Hounsou says he drew on his experiences with voodoo for the character, adding that he talked with McGuigan about how similar the story could get to his own experiences with the psychic. “I have encountered people with psychic abilities and it’s scary when they can see your past and see your future,” he says.

Fans reacted well to the footage, applauding and cheering at panel’s end.

The panel then moved on to “Knowing” with director Alex Proyas of “Dark City,” “The Crow” and “I, Robot” fame. Proyas says the film stars Nicolas Cage and Rose Byrne and only recently completed shooting and will be released March 20, 2009.

In the story, Cage’s character comes across a 50-year-old document of nothing but numbers that predicted every major disaster of the past half-century — with three that have yet to happen before the list ends.

A clip was shown explaining the premise and showing some of the disasters that Cage’s character faces in the film.

Proyas says he’s always been drawn to science fiction as subject matter — even though its very nature is at times at odd with the strengths of film. “The movie is about ideas and movies to me are not so much about ideas. (Science fiction) is not totally compatible with the movie form,” he says. “But that’s what I’m intrigued by, is things that affect people’s way of thinking and I hope that move them emotionally as well.”

The director says he tried in making the film to keep it low-key, which is reflected in the performances. The crux of the film is Cage’s character — who begins the film believing there is no order in the world and facing evidence that there is. Cage’s relationship with his son is key. Byrne plays the daughter of the woman who wrote the original number document.

Responding to a question, Proyas says he was never attached to or worked on a Silver Surfer film – though he’s a fan of the character.

What’s difficult about making science fiction films, Proyas says, is that all the details have to be figured out. “When you make a science fiction movie, you’ve got to come up with every little detail and rule on the way your world functions,” he says. “You don’t necessarily see it on screen, but I believe you feel it.”

As Proyas left the stage, the “Twilight” logo appeared on the screens in Hall H and the screams began. The novels, which center on the romance between young Bella Swann and her vampire boyfriend Edward Cullen.

The panel brought out the cast of the film, which included Taylor Lautner (who plays Jacob Black), Edi Gathegi (Laurent), Rachelle LeFevre (Victoria), Kristen Stewart (Bella), Cam Gigandet (James), Robert Pattinson (Edward), author Meyer and director Catherine Hardwicke.

The crowd — which was heavy on the teenage girls — literally swooned at Pattinson, who laughed at the attention and occasional shouts of “I love you!” or “Take off your shirt!”

Hardwicke says she fell in love with the book and “wanted to see Bella and Edward living, breathing — and we just tried to do the best we could.”

Meyer says she felt pressure from the fans and was glad that she waited to get a script she was happy with.

Gathegi says he had fun doing stunts in the film, which lead into a clip from the film in which Gigandet terrorizes Bella until Edward comes to her rescue. Fans screamed and cheered, drowning out the panel for a moment.

Meyer says she saw the story as a film first and was happy to see the images and scenes she imagined come to life.

Lefevre, who plays one of three vampire villains in the film, says it was great to play the villain. “Vampires are extremely powerful and there’s something really sexy about having that power and I think we all enjoyed that part of it very much,” she says.

Hardwicke, responding to one of the questions — all of which were posed by young female fans — said that Muse will provide a song for the film, and hinted that Pattinson would be contributing something musical as well.

The panel was light-hearted and constantly interrupted by whoops and screams from fans. Hardwicke recounted one moment involving a kissing scene where Pattinson “got a little passionate” and fell off the bed onto the floor.

Stewart says many things attracted her to the role. “It was just the ideal version of love, and as a lame, sappy sensitive sort of girl, that’s what life is about,” she says.

While future films depend on how successful the first is, the cast was eager to return for future films. Hardwicke says the film is in the early stages of post production on its way to a December 12th release.

The panel ended with a wave of screams followed by a brief appearance by Fanning, who apologized for missing the panel and thanked fans for turning out.

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