Chris Columbus Talks Pixels, Spider-Man, Comics & More

Nothing is better than a filmmaker who shares the passion for movies audiences do.

Over the weekend, had a chance to speak with Chris Columbus about his upcoming film, Pixels, but the conversation wandered to his previous work and comic book fandom. It was easy to see he is as passionate about his films as the people who watch them while speaking with the writer of Gremlins and The Goonies and producer of the Harry Potter on-screen saga.


CB: How excited are you for this movie to finally come out Friday?

CC: I'm excited! It's two years of my life. Filmmakers say it's a labor of love but this was a grueling shoot. I fell in love with it when I read the script a couple years ago. I thought that the concept was delightful, you know?

Of course! Video game characters, stuff everyone grew up loving... Were there any video game characters you really wanted to feature in the movie which weren't originally written in?

The first draft of the script didn't include Donkey Kong and that was the holy grail for me. We had to really do a lot of work with Nintendo to say the least. We had to have a lot of conferences> I had to create an animatic of the entire sequence along with conceptual art to show Nintendo. So, that's a lot of back and forth but we finally got the rights which was fantastic.

This cast looks like it was a total blast. Kevin James, Adam Sandler, Peter Dinklage... What was the set like? A complete riot?

It was interesting. I wanted to work on Adam's strengths as an actor. I always admired him in film's like Funny People and Punch Struck Love. Here he's a character who's kind of a lost soul in life. He thought he was a rockstar. He though he was gonna be the video game king of the world and then he grows up to really not achieve much of anything. His best friend who was kind of a loser becomes the president. It's an interesting concept. It's a performance with a real character arc. I said to him, "We should surround you with really great actors, people like Peter Dinklage and Michelle Monaghan and Josh Gad. And then let's play Kevin against type. Kevin should be the President and we'll play him with a bit of a Chris Christie vibe." So, it was all a...All the humor in this film is really coming from the characters so it sort of rose the bar for everybody. Everybody was playing on a different playing field.

How was it working with Peter Dinklage? Did he channel any Tyrion Lannister to the set?

No! And I'm a huge Game of Thrones fanatic. I fell in love with his performance in Elf a couple years ago so I knew he had really strong comedic chops.

So, do you think Jon Snow is dead or what?

We asked him! He refuses to tell us!

Who do you think wins in a fight, all the characters of Pixels versus the Avengers?

Pixels! The Avengers, as great as they are, they don't have the gaming skills that our guys do.

Fair enough! Do you have a favorite super hero that you loved growing up or you just want to be a part of if the opportunity presented itself?

I was always obsessed with Spider-Man. Spider-Man is probably the reason I got into filmmaking because I grew up as a kid obsessed with Marvel comics. Steve Ditko and John Romita were my favorite artists of all time. I spent eight hours a day in my basement during the summer time, I would draw comics all the time. I would draw Spider-Man comics. I really wanted to go to New York or Manhattan and work for Marvel. That's what I wanted to do. Then when I discovered movies and I started making my own movies, well movies are really the extension of comics. I wanted to work with them. The reason I made the change is because I thought, "Well, I don't really want to sit by myself alone in a room all day, I want to work with people." That's when I really made the change.

The Spider-Man comic that really changed my life... It might be issue 39, which is iconic, where the Green Goblin is flying through the air and he's got Spider-Man behind him on his little hover craft thing and Peter Parker's face is exposed. I was stunned when I saw that cover. I remember seeing it for the first time. It was just the coolest comic book cover I had ever seen.

Yeah, Peter Parker is one of Marvel's best characters. Are you excited about him coming back to Marvel Studios for movies and to see him with the Avengers?

Yeah! Of course, I love them. I'm anxious to see what they're gonna do. He keeps getting younger. I think there's gonna be a Spider-Baby movie eventually. [Laughs]

At this rate! Now, you were involved with the previous Fantastic Four movies and there is a reboot of that coming along. Have you seen that or the trailers for it?

The reality of those Fantastic Four movies which we never really talked about was we got fired - my producing partner Michael Barnathan and I - we got from the first movie before they ever started making it. We had a meeting with the director and the producer and we walked in and it was very friendly meeting. We all got along. There was some conceptual art, I may have said something like, "We can maybe try and make the production design a little more Jack Kirby-eque." That was probably the comment that got me canned.

We left and the studio called us about an hour later and said, "You know, we really don't need any more of your creative comments. Just stay in the background of the set." They didn't say, "You're fired," but they didn't involve us on those two movies. So, in that respect, I have great hopes for this new one. I think this one will be very good. I think it'll blow the other two out of the water.

I hear constant whispers of a Gremlins reboot. Is there any update you can offer on the status of that movie?

You know, it's in the early stages. We're working with a writer. We're just trying to work out the story. I'm very protective of Gremlins and Goonies. Obviously, over the years... Some people don't want a reboot, some people do. They're gonna do it with or without me. I just want to be involved in the franchises, if need be.

Would the Goonies be something you'd want to see come back, too?

I think that's a little tougher. It'd be great to see. People are clammering for it. There's a lot of writers in Hollywood that really want to write the script. It's a tougher one though. Gremlins are creatures. Gremlins movies are Gremlin driven and the Gremlins haven't aged 30 years. The original Goonies was based on that cast. They were so great together and we're 30 years down the road. I don't know. That's a bit more of a challenge.

Got it. Thanks! And now, before I let you go, back to Pixels really quick. I haven't seen it yet, so I don't know how it all wraps up, but is there any chance at a sequel or is that something you would be interested in?

It's interesting because I'm still in the mindset of the 80's. The reason I did Pixels was because I wanted to recreate the Amblin movie vibe of the movies I wrote in the 80s. I never directed anything like that. My mindset in the 80s was, I remember them talking about a Gremlins sequel and I was like, "Why would you want to do a Gremlins sequel? We've done it once." The same thing with Goonies. I'm still kind of in that mind set on movies I've directed. I did it on Home Alone which was essentially kind of a remake of the first film. The Potter films I never thought of as sequels. The Potter films were one long extended story. So, I don't know. I've spent part of my life on it, I'm proud of it, but I think it's time to move on to something else.



You can catch Columbus's latest film efforts Friday, as Pixels, starring Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Peter Dinklage, Michelle Monoghan, Josh Gad, and Donkey Kong hits theaters (July 24).