Read on for the highlights from the Constantine panel, which was hosted and organized by Collider.com‘s editor-in-chief Steven Weintraub. Watch the Constantine reunion panel in its entirety below:
Constantine 2: The Sequel That Never Was
Goldsman recalled that during the making of the 2005 film a potential sequel was frequently discussed.
“Yes, oh my God, yes,” he said. “[It] endlessly came up. Boy, we wanted to. We wanted to make a hard R [rated] sequel, we wanted to … I think we could probably make it tomorrow. Yes, we tried a lot of different ways to find [a way]. It was always, to the studios who made it, which was Village Roadshow and Warner Bros., a little bit of a feathered fish.”
Goldsman feels the studio didn’t quite know what to make of the film’s “oddness.”
“I do think [that] is one of the most lovely things about the film, the way it’s equally comfortable in a character scene between Keanu and [co-star] Rachel [Weisz] as it is with demons flying, hurling themselves at a man who’s going to light his fist on fire and expel them,” he continued. “It’s odd, right? It’s not really action-packed. It just has a bunch of action. And this movie isn’t exactly a thing, it’s kind of a few things, which is what I think is beautiful about it. Those seem to get harder and harder to make. And even then, as much as we wanted to, and we’ve talked about it and we’ve had ideas… [sighs] I like that one where he wakes up in a cell and he has to identify the prisoner, that was Frank’s idea, remember? And it was Jesus! … Yeah, we talked about it!”
Lawrence, who made his feature directing debut on Constantine, said that the creative team thought about a potential sequel or sequels more than the studio did. He thinks they always “loved it” more than the studio did, but the director is gratified by what he sees as an ever-increasing fanbase for the film in the years since it was released.
“You know, the movie did fairly well,” said Lawrence. “And this was also still a time when people sold DVDs, and so I think it did decently at the time. But it wasn’t a knock-out success, and it also wasn’t really sort of critically acclaimed by any means at the time. I mean, the kind of cool thing for me about this movie is just in the 15 years since it released, every time I do a movie and go out and travel the world and do junkets, I am signing Constantine DVDs more than any other movie that I’ve done. Over the years, different countries… people really, really love this movie. And I think that it’s found a sort of a new life in a weird way.”
Could Keanu Have Played a Blond, British Constantine?
The character from the comics is of course blond and British, which caused some small amount of controversy in fandom when the distinctly brunette and American Keanu Reeves was cast in the role for the movie. When asked during the panel whether or not there were discussions about Reeves maybe going with the blond hair and a British accent for Constantine, his answer was simple.
“No, no,” he smiled, without elaborating further.
Lawrence confirmed that they never even discussed the matter.
“And then I remember in costumes too the one other big change for the Constantine character was the coat,” said the director. “And we did try the sort of Constantine coat and wound up going with the black one, which is different from the one in the comics and the graphic novels. We wanted to do what was right for what we were doing.”
Constantine the Movie’s Origins… With Nicolas Cage
Goldsman discussed how this was the project that helped him to break into producing. There had been a script “laying around that was really compelling,” and so a package was put together with Tarsem Singh (The Cell, Immortals) as director and Nicolas Cage as star. Prep on the movie started, and then it stopped and then it “went to sleep for a while.” Cage’s involvement with the project ended when Singh parted ways with the studio.
“And surely but slowly, the idea was durable enough — like any interesting scripts — to outlive whatever struggles it had,” he continued. “And there was this video director who was really something.”
He’s referring, of course, to Lawrence, who got his start as a director making music videos. By 2002, Reeves was also attached to the project, although he recalls that he wasn’t familiar with the character at the time.
“I hadn’t read Hellblazer or seen any of the Scott Collura Alan Moore stuff in Swamp Thing,” he said. “So I didn’t know the character.”
The group laughed about how Reeves was “one of the gauntlets” that Lawrence had to pass to get the job on Constantine. Their meeting happened just days after Reeves had returned to the U.S. from Australia, where he had been shooting the Matrix sequels.
“I really loved the script,” continued Reeves. “And then I did some research on the character and I was, not hesitant, but I’m not English and I’m not blond. And the character is, and so I had to reconcile that, and part of that was what is the base of the character. What could I bring to the character? Why even do it? And it’s such a beautiful character, this kind of humanitarian cynic. Tired, world-weary, tired of all the rules and morals and ethics and angels and demons, but still a part of it. And I loved his sense of humor.”
And Nic Cage got to play Ghost Rider a few years later anyway.
Other DC or Vertigo Characters
The team was asked during the panel whether or not other DC or Vertigo characters were ever considered. Vertigo Comics, of course, was DC’s long-running imprint of adult-leaning titles that often had a more supernatural slant to them. Constantine was a key part of Vertigo back in the day. But Reeves jokingly took exception to this question.
“Wait, you got Midnite, you got Chas!” he smiled. “What are you talking about?”
Djimon Hounsou played Papa Midnite, a Hellblazer supporting character, and Shia LaBeouf played Constantine sidekick Chas Kramer in the film. But today’s superhero films obviously are often focused on world-building and shared universes, a concept that was not prevalent on the big screen in 2005. Lawrence said that for as long as he was on the project, there was never any talk about bringing in other familiar faces.
“The focus was on Constantine and Constantine’s world,” said the director. “So all the characters that surround him, but not weaving in the other kind of classic DC heroes.”
Best Wrap Gift Ever
At one point during the panel, Lawrence whipped out the Holy Shotgun prop from the film, much to Reeves’ delight. It turns out it was a wrap gift from Reeves to his director, and he actually had the props department make a replica of the piece from the shoot.
Made of bronze, the gun weighs “probably 35 pounds.” Unfortunately, when asked if he has the original, Reeves said he doesn’t. Which sounds like the perfect reason to finally make Constantine 2…
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