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Raging Mechanical Bull

MOVIE REVIEW
Real Steel (2011)

 

HOW TO MAKE A MOVIE THE DREAMWORKS WAY

 A fictionalized retelling of the pitch meeting for “Real Steel”

by

Sarah Manvel

 

INT. DREAMWORKS STUDIO OFFICES – DAY

The OFFICES in this fictional, imaginary story are large, expensive, sunny and full of tie-in merchandise from blockbusters past. FIVE EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS are sitting in elegant, expensive chairs around a polished boardroom table. STEVE is a bald man with a beard and an Oscar who is the professional partner of JACK, a close-shaven man in his mid-50s who got his start as an agent. They have long experience with producing movies aimed at children. MARY, in her mid-50s, has bright blond hair and grew up in the movie business before becoming a producer. Her brother JOSH, in his early 50s, has significant assistant-director experience and is also building his career as a producer. At the head of the table is STEVEN, a bearded, bespectacled man in his 60s who is an Oscar-winning geek turned studio mogul.

A SECRETARY is also at the side, taking notes.

STEVEN

          What we need is a hit — a
          blockbuster! One the whole
          family will love!

JOSH

          Times are tough. People want
          to see movies about the
          heartland of America.

JACK

          About a hero.

MARY

          Remember the international
          markets.

STEVE

          And the merchandising.

MARY

          But times are tough. How are
          we going to bring all these
          things together?

The EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS think for a minute. The SECRETARY waits.

STEVEN

          Anyone? Anything?

EVERYONE shakes his or her head.

STEVEN

          O.K. That’s O.K. We’re only a
          Hollywood movie studio with
          tons of money and access to
          the most creative imaginations
          on the planet. We can do this.
          We can have an original idea.

There is an awkward pause.

STEVEN
(annoyed)    

          Seriously, people? Fine. I’ll
          start. We want a movie like —

JACK

          “Eight Mile”? Remember that? A 
          working-class white underdog,
          with lots of hip-hop music, in
          a pseudo-industrial setting — 
          gritty, but not threatening.

JOSH

          I’m thinking robots. Everyone
          loves robots, remember? Like
          the “Transformers” series. Not
          like “Iron Giant.” That wasn’t
          a franchise. But with robots,
          it’s easy to bring in Japanese
          influences and tap those
          international markets.

MARY

          O.K., but we need a kid in
          there — a loveable orphan who
          outsmarts the adults. Like
          “Paper Moon.” Remember that?
          They made that into a TV show,
          didn’t they?

STEVE

          What about boxing? Everyone
          loves boxing. Like the “Rocky”
          series. Not like “Cinderella
          Man.” That wasn’t a franchise,
          either.

JOSH

          We gotta keep it simple. Kids
          like video games better than
          movies nowadays, remember?

MARY

          Hmm. I’m feeling a road movie,
          with classic American settings:
          You know, county fairs, old
          factories, honky-tonks. But we
          should skip the driving parts.
          Borrring!

The EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS hold their heads again. A minute passes.

SECRETARY
(nervously)    

          Excuse me? Um. What if you put
          all those things together?
                 (with a movie-trailer 
                 announcer voice)
          “In a world where robots do the
          boxing ...”

The EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS are astonished.

JACK

          Boxing robots! Think of the
          merchandising!

STEVE

          Our hero can be a down-on-his-
          luck boxer, looking for one
          last shot ...

MARY

          He can be thrown together with
          his kid, traveling from fight
          to fight ...

JOSH

          The kid can be better at robot
          boxing than his old man ...

MARY

          This will be nothing like that
          TV show “Robot Wars.” The
          robots will have all the
          personality, except for our
          heroes.

JACK

          We can rip off the set designs
          from “Street Fighter” ...

STEVE

          They can rescue a robot from a
          scrap heap. They will all be
          underdogs.

MARY

          Don’t forget a girl — a girl
          who loves boxing.

JOSH

          And the hero. But only in a
          PG-13 fashion.

JACK

          She’ll love robots too. She’ll
          be the perfect movie girlfriend.

All of them gaze hopefully at STEVEN, who stands.

STEVEN

          I love it. Shawn Levy should
          direct. You know, the guy who
          did “Date Night” and the
          “Night at the Museum”
          franchise. He’s desperate to
          prove he’s the next, well, the
          next me. He’ll film it like
          it’s “A.I. Artificial
          Intelligence,” only with the
          product placement of
          “Talladega Nights: The Ballad
          of Ricky Bobby.” He won’t make
          a fuss over all the C.G.I.,
          and the movie will be well-
          shot and look great ...

The EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS begin to smile.

STEVEN
(continuing)    

          Hugh Jackman should star. He
          can sell green-screen; he’s
          handsome; and he needs a hit.
          Whatever weird accent he comes
          out with won’t matter.
          Evangeline Lilly can be the
          girl. She won’t matter much,
          either. But the kid’s
          important. There’s a new one,
          Dakota Goyo. He’s a scrappier
          Haley Joel Osment. I can see
          it now ... 

The EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS begin to cheer.

STEVEN
(continuing)    

          We’ll make it so the audience
          loves them, no matter how bad
          a dad Mr. Jackman is. Did you
          see “Trucker”?

THE EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS stop cheering suddenly, and stare at the table.

STEVEN

          It’s O.K. We shouldn’t mention
          the movies we’re planning to
          rip off wholesale, anyway.
          We’ll be original and say the
          movie’s based in part on an
          old short story that was used
          for a “Twilight Zone” episode
          once.

JACK

          I think once we’ve set up the
          premise, Mr. Jackman should
          sell the kid for $50,000 to
          buy a new robot. Making heroes
          really nasty pieces of work is
          what we in Hollywood specialize
          these days. The audience will
          totally understand.

MARY

          Of course they’ll understand.
          That is a completely
          appropriate subplot for a
          blockbuster aimed at children.
          I know I’ll be too busy waiting
          for the next robot boxing
          match/merchandising set-up to
          wonder why we’re supposed to
          like a man who would sell a
          child.

JOSH

          For a robot.

STEVE

          A robot that can box.

MARY

          Well, we do all know men are
          unreliable, dangerous creatures
          who need to learn the value of
          family. What better than boxing
          robots to bring a family
          together?

JOSH

          Let’s throw in some minor
          characters to help them learn
          lessons. We’ll make one black,
          who’ll be Mr. Jackman’s friend
          to show he’s really a good
          person, and one a racist, so
          it’ll be okay when Mr. Jackman
          steals his money.

STEVE

          Ooh, for the big finale? Let’s
          have a robot programmed by a
          Japanese baddie and owned by a
          Russian hottie.

MARY

          Embarrassing stereotypes for
          all the minor characters? Nice!
          Just like the new “Star Wars”
          franchise.

SECRETARY

          Um, will this distract the
          audience from Mr. Jackman
          taking an envelope of cash for
          his kid?

JACK

          Oh, he can buy him a burrito
          one time. What more does a kid
          need?

STEVEN

          Don’t over think this. The
          final product will be big
          stupid fun if you roll with the
          punches.
                 (turns to the
                 SECRETARY)
          I’m sorry, I forgot your name.
          Did you write all of this down?

The SECRETARY frowns at her notes. THE EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS break out the champagne.

THE END

Postscript:

The above screenplay is fictional — 100 percent made up. The facts about how DreamWorks really came up with "Real Steel" have not yet been made public. But its sequel has already been scheduled for a 2014 release.

REAL STEEL

Opens on Oct. 7 in the United States and on Oct. 14 in Britain.

Directed by Shawn Levy; written by John Gatins, based on a story by Dan Gilroy and Jeremy Leven and the short story “Steel,” by Richard Matheson; director of photography, Mauro Fiore; edited by Dean Zimmerman; music by Danny Elfman; production design by Tom Meyer; costumes by Marlene Stewart; produced by Mr. Levy, Don Murphy and Susan Montford; released by DreamWorks Pictures. Running time: 2 hours 8 minutes. This film is rated PG-13 by M.P.A.A. and 12A by B.B.F.C.

WITH: Hugh Jackman (Charlie Kenton), Dakota Goyo (Max Kenton), Evangeline Lilly (Bailey), Anthony Mackie (Finn), Kevin Durand (Ricky), Hope Davis (Deborah Barnes), James Rebhorn (Marvin Barnes), Karl Yune (Tak Mashido) and Olga Fonda (Russian Robot Owner).

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