Exclusive: Bob Shaye On His Sci-Fi Flick For Kids, "The Last Mimzy"

by | March 19, 2007 | Comments

Robert Shaye is known for a lot of things in Hollywood that don’t have much to do with directing movies (heading New Line Cinema, producing the "Nightmare on Elm Street" series, sparring with Peter Jackson). Now the uber-exec’s going back to semi-uncharted territory with the family fantasy "The Last Mimzy," marking what is only his second directorial effort to date.

We met Shaye a few months back at the Sundance Film Festival, where New Line held a special screening of "Mimzy" to commemorate Shaye’s thirty years in the movie biz. Contrary to many a "LOTR" fan’s worst dreams, he’s a genial guy with an obvious affection for the movies whose passion for this project spanned more than a decade. With "Mimzy," Shaye steps out of the deal-making/producing arena to take on his first directing gig in seventeen years (Shaye’s first and, until now, last film was 1990’s "Book of Love").

RT spoke with Shaye about the making of "Mimzy" (based on Lewis Padgett’s 1943 short story "Mimsy Were The Borogroves"), the film’s core sci-fi logic that could be real, and Shaye’s own take on sitting in the director’s chair. [During the festival, New Line bought remake rights to Slamdance film "King of Kong," a documentary to be released later this year by Picturehouse about obsessively competitive video game rivals — look for Shaye’s businessman take on that as well.]

Bob Shaye tenderly cradles his Rotten Tomatoes t-shirt

Rotten Tomatoes: "The Last Mimzy" is said to have been at least 12 years in the making. Why did it take so long?

Bob Shaye: Well, for a couple of reasons. One, because I wasn’t exclusively focused on it, and neither was Michael Phillips, who was the producer. Second of all, it came from a really great science fiction short story, but it was a short story that had for me a fascinating premise, but a totally incomplete story arc.

It’s the story about two kids who find a box of objects, and they don’t know what they are but they look like toys and they start playing with them; what they are in fact are teaching machines from the future. And it’s a true scientific fact that kids’ brains don’t get hardwired until they’re about six or seven years old, when they start throwing off all these synapses that are in there and their whole brain system starts to focus and reduce.

So if there was a way, theoretically, to communicate with kids whose brains are not hardwired yet, by somehow…getting a five year old girl to figure out what non-Euclidean geometry is, as an example, of something I haven’t a clue about, and other sorts of scientific stuff, those kids could theoretically become beyond what we consider genius now. And I thought that was a really fascinating idea.

Emma Wilder (Rhiannon Leigh Wryn) hugs Mimzy

["The Last Mimzy"’s press notes cite current research in physics and neuroscience alluding to theoretical possibilities of both time travel and the genetic loss of traits like innocence, both of which ground the film’s fictional logic.]

But it took a long time to put together, and we didn’t really know how to end the film; at least when we started the development process, we had the story…[it] actually ends with the kids getting their brains changed, and they become super geniuses and they disappear, and that’s the end of the story. I didn’t think that was going to be such a hot storyline for a movie! So we had to figure out a bunch of stuff — what the toys were, where they came from, what they were doing here, what is the effect on the family altogether, and eventually what the kids would do with them and what would make it into an exiting adventure that also was touching.

RT: The themes are a bit reminiscent of "E.T."…

BS: Well, obviously any reference to that is a great compliment, as long as people don’t think I was knocking off Steven Spielberg, ’cause I definitely wasn’t. But what we were hoping, and what initial screenings indicated, is that it’s a film that parents like to bring their kids to. There’s enough with Rainn Wilson and Kathryn Hahn, who play a kind of comedic sidebar, there’s a lot for parents to like; the extra pleasure for them is to have kids with them that they can see enjoying the film as much as they do, without being bored. It’s definitely not a pink pony movie. Actually, it was written too by the guy who wrote and won an Academy Award for "Ghost," Joel Rubin. I thought he was so clever in putting the Whoopi Goldberg character in the middle of that great dramatic story, so I asked him to write Rainn Wilson’s role, and Kathryn’s, so there was some comedy, there was some grown up stuff in it. But it’s still a PG movie, and we wanted to make sure that parents felt comfortable bringing their kids to it, as well as enjoying the movie themselves.

RT: It’s great that the concept of the kids doesn’t pander to children, like many children’s movies.

BS: And then there’s the last theme, that — I’ll say to you, as I’ve said to others — I’m definitely not a message filmmaker, I often quote Samuel Goldwyn, "If I want to send a message I use Western Union," and being pedantic or pointing a finger is absolutely not one thing I want to do. But in the context of this story, and what the toys are doing and what was happening, it did begin to dawn on me that there was a comment — not an instruction, but a comment — that we do seem to be losing our innocence a little bit, and that’s kind of the subtext of the movie.

Youngsters Noah and Emma find a trove of strange toys in "The Last Mimzy"

RT: It occurred to me that maybe this film couldn’t resonate so well ten years ago, if you had made it right away, because we’re so technologically-obsessed right now.

BS: Yeah, that’s just great synchronicity. The movie’s about synchronicity, and Jung and all that stuff, in some very, very subtle way. But yeah, I don’t think this film would have worked ten years ago. There hasn’t been a movie like this, I don’t believe, for a very long time — since "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," perhaps. The producer, Michael Phillips, produced "Close Encounters" before this. It’s about that we are very mortal, and sometimes some of us forget what being mortal really means.

RT: How would you characterize your directorial style, since we haven’t seen a lot from you?

BS: Well, my style is…first of all, I had a lot of baggage when I signed on to this thing — I was head of a company, started a company, I’d only directed one movie before, I directed some shorts and stuff, but still…it’s hard to ask professionals to put themselves on the line, you know, because I am the director and they can’t go off and make the movie without the director, like a symphony without a conductor.

So first of all I got to be great friends with all of the actors, including the kids. But my style is basically, let’s talk about the scene, let me tell you what I think about it, why don’t you give me some idea, show me what you want to do! And the most important thing for this movie, because it is so full of fantasy, is that they play it so straight, and real, and honest. So everybody did that, and I think they pulled it off very well.

RT: How’s the experience (at Sundance) different as a director rather than an exec?

BS: Well, they once asked Stanley Kubrick ‘have you ever taken a vacation,’ and he said ‘A vacation from what?’ So it’s fun to be treated a little bit like talent and not like some crummy distributor or evil producer, which has also been the case. It’s nice to be part of the product in this way as opposed to being a bystander.

RT: Not to stray off the bat, but a purchase was just made recently here at the festival, "King of Kong." Did you have input into that?

BS: Oh yes. It was brought to my attention, and we’re hoping eventually that the film could have a remake as a dramatic film, and we saw the documentary and liked it a lot. It started to resonate with me, it took a little bit of time to "get it," — but not too long, I thought about it overnight — and Toby Emmerich, who’s president of our production company was very enthusiastic, as was Richard Brenner, who’s his Number Two guy. I supported it, I’m very proud that they selected us; I know there was a lot of competition for it. Picturehouse, first and foremost, is going to be distributing the documentary, which is a perfect platform. If we get inspired, and come up with a good script and a good cast, it’ll really be a fun feature film.

It’s gonna be comedic, and we’ve got several outstanding comedians in mind to play the two guys.

RT: Anyone in particular?

BS: I can’t tell you. Stay tuned!

"The Last Mimzy" opens Friday in wide release.

Tag Cloud

japanese streaming movies Apple TV+ dragons 45 spanish language black king kong Black Mirror TV movies war Comedy quibi 21st Century Fox USA Network rt archives A24 thriller based on movie ABC Signature Premiere Dates Horror Comic-Con@Home 2021 transformers dceu 71st Emmy Awards Sony Pictures Comic Book anthology heist movie sequels Disney Podcast Wes Anderson American Society of Cinematographers cults GoT suspense television Musicals hollywood nature Ellie Kemper crime japan comiccon video on demand book TCM adventure TCA casting football high school scene in color BBC Box Office razzies Neflix comedies GLAAD President finale Anna Paquin emmy awards a nightmare on elm street Valentine's Day FX on Hulu TV One richard e. Grant RT21 Walt Disney Pictures 4/20 Pacific Islander ESPN MGM biography Chilling Adventures of Sabrina criterion golden globe awards BAFTA 007 Cannes popular archives romantic comedy Mystery international HFPA hispanic heritage month screenings TV Land binge Starz Amazon Prime venice PBS Sundance cancelled TV shows reviews laika The Witch Lionsgate witnail First Reviews ABC CMT Trophy Talk slasher live action canceled saw Freeform Disney Channel rotten movies we love Calendar comic books Red Carpet police drama Acorn TV scary movies 20th Century Fox Quiz HBO Max feel good comics Apple TV Plus king arthur lord of the rings HBO Go reboot Superheroes book adaptation romance Black History Month South by Southwest Film Festival Sneak Peek Turner Marvel Studios concert TCA 2017 godzilla social media Mindy Kaling El Rey new star wars movies wonder woman elevated horror zombie Amazon summer TV justice league 72 Emmy Awards comic book movie know your critic IFC Films teaser legend Shudder Image Comics period drama Television Critics Association dogs travel political drama Polls and Games The Walt Disney Company ID ratings BBC One obituary all-time supernatural Pride Month zero dark thirty Travel Channel space Brie Larson strong female leads sopranos SDCC Disney+ Disney Plus Heroines Biopics mission: impossible pirates of the caribbean Holidays MCU Cosplay Summer cartoon HBO festivals 2019 mob blockbusters Best Actress mutant Pirates superhero cooking Toys disaster facebook 99% Showtime National Geographic jamie lee curtis Awards Tour Reality medical drama Logo Fox Searchlight critics TLC FX kids AMC Plus Infographic Food Network harry potter stoner Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Awards IFC prank comic Warner Bros. james bond Masterpiece Tomatazos Turner Classic Movies X-Men discovery VICE Rock streaming target documentaries twilight scorecard Marvel critic resources NYCC YouTube Premium crossover scary Opinion hidden camera Hallmark SXSW 2022 royal family joker Disney Plus boxoffice DC streaming service Paramount Network dexter spinoff Esquire Fargo Nominations FXX Peacock Comics on TV Trailer nfl Superheroe Election adenture Mary Poppins Returns PlayStation Nickelodeon gangster golden globes ABC Family movie Song of Ice and Fire spider-verse die hard Pixar monster movies series Academy Awards Hollywood Foreign Press Association Pet Sematary Tarantino Prime Video news Action basketball OneApp cancelled television foreign italian halloween tv RT History Thanksgiving GIFs aapi USA Pop documentary Super Bowl women asian-american vs. broadcast spanish Oscar Spring TV psychological thriller History Spike PaleyFest 1990s independent Women's History Month young adult TV renewals dark hist revenge Avengers WarnerMedia blockbuster Extras fast and furious serial killer OWN art house Amazon Prime Video SundanceTV telelvision Year in Review rom-coms Classic Film Certified Fresh CNN crime drama kaiju Epix renewed TV shows YA satire blaxploitation movies crime thriller Family Universal Pictures 79th Golden Globes Awards Baby Yoda Countdown debate CBS All Access Emmy Nominations DirecTV Musical LGBTQ Captain marvel talk show BET Awards Tokyo Olympics NBA Instagram Live Set visit The Purge indie Ghostbusters 2020 MTV Exclusive Video indiana jones spider-man Syfy NBC 2017 chucky Fall TV what to watch Hallmark Christmas movies sports films ghosts 2018 award winner Adult Swim name the review Photos Vudu Dark Horse Comics composers Crackle Focus Features mcc technology Mary Tyler Moore game of thrones New York Comic Con ITV video singing competition Best and Worst Funimation 94th Oscars Fox News marvel comics diversity stop motion werewolf trailers Rocky slashers 73rd Emmy Awards DC Universe Emmys FOX TCA Winter 2020 Discovery Channel Music canceled TV shows Chernobyl halloween Broadway tv talk Winners A&E jurassic park toy story Character Guide Endgame TNT olympics Paramount Pictures Comedy Central Film Festival 2021 Nat Geo Film rt labs Best Picture adaptation green book hispanic doctor who franchise BET worst sequel Schedule Apple SXSW spain summer preview IMDb TV DC Comics theme song Stephen King Arrowverse Tags: Comedy stand-up comedy free movies San Diego Comic-Con dc new zealand cats Trivia south america latino Marvel Television Tubi summer TV preview Winter TV Ovation cinemax 24 frames 2016 Lucasfilm Best Director Hulu Lifetime Christmas movies best obi wan children's TV cars Writers Guild of America MSNBC psycho Star Wars TruTV action-comedy versus true crime trophy batman Oscars kong Teen The Arrangement E3 Television Academy screen actors guild Reality Competition dreamworks science fiction nbcuniversal Marathons historical drama rt labs critics edition fresh YouTube VOD anime Netflix Christmas movies miniseries australia rotten The Walking Dead toronto Universal Watching Series Animation DGA ViacomCBS Mudbound game show Video Games LGBT cops cancelled TV series Sundance Now Lifetime Fantasy spy thriller Country First Look superman Binge Guide TBS Western french Interview universal monsters 90s Cartoon Network Spectrum Originals Shondaland TV Hear Us Out docuseries politics Grammys Paramount CW Seed Rom-Com AMC vampires Kids & Family docudrama Columbia Pictures Best Actor APB worst movies E! WGN comic book movies The Academy boxing 93rd Oscars YouTube Red cancelled See It Skip It Mary poppins Creative Arts Emmys Martial Arts sag awards live event Holiday marvel cinematic universe zombies Sundance TV animated Paramount Plus Legendary Star Trek christmas movies child's play sitcom Elton John streamig VH1 biopic remakes genre Alien breaking bad 2015 Netflix BBC America dramedy black comedy Drama CBS The CW new york natural history TIFF Bravo robots Britbox directors festival Tumblr aliens 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Sci-Fi posters Pop TV unscripted leaderboard parents Christmas Amazon Studios TCA Awards mockumentary deadpool Rocketman Crunchyroll Disney streaming service classics