A Whole New Fight Game

This month, DreamWork’s Pictures’ brings you a gritty, white-knuckle action ride “Real Steel” which stars Hugh Jackman as Charlie Keaton, a washed-up boxer in the near future who, because his sport has been taken over by 8-foot steel robots, now lives in a world where he doesn’t fit in.

With no fights and no prospects, Charlie is forced to hustle as a small-time robot fight promoter, earning just enough to survive by piecing together low-end bots and traveling from one seamy underground boxing venue to the next for whatever prize he can wrangle for. Just when things can’t become any more desperate and complicated, his estranged 10-year old son Max (Dakota Goyo) suddenly and unwillingly comes back into his life.

In our POP of the month, we look at The Making of Real Steel.

The Director

Exploring deeper depths of the story, Real Steel director Shawn Levy experienced it as a tale of redemption for three lost and forgotten souls. “The main characters – a father, his son and a machine — are each abandoned beings,” the director says. “All three of them have been cast aside and forgotten. The Substance of the story is about how this trinity has a chance of returning to grace.”

The idea of boxing robots was a provocative one for noted director Shawn Levy who is widely regarded for his box-office hit comedies “Night at the Museum” and “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian” also know as Night at the Museum 2 in Singapore. When DreamWorks first presented him with the idea for Real Steal, he says he was attracted to the project because of the pitch from Steven Spielberg and Stacey Snider. “Of course I was super-flattered, but I was on the fence about the premise. Then I read the script. What I found was an opportunity to make an emotional father/son/sports movie. That was galvanizing for me.”

They called me up and talked about what at first sounded like a crazy idea for a movie

Real Steel Director Shawn Levy

Shawn Levy grew up not only as a fan of boxing but also as an ardent admirer of boxing movies such as “Raging Bull” and the “Rocky” sense of films. “Even the not so great ones are awesome because there’s usually an underdog hero and you want him to have a comeback and give his all and ultimately triumph,” the director says.

Real Steel is absolutely a homage to those boxing movies that I watched with my brothers fifty times.

Real Steel Director Shawn Levy

The Cast

Director Levy and his producing team spent a great deal of time finding the perfect actor for each of the roles in Real Steel and were thrilled that all brought more than expected to their characters.

The value of the project that instantly drew Hugh Jackman to the role of Charlie is the same thing that made the director and DreamWorks eager to be part of this unique story. Jackman was also intrigued by the world in which the story is set. “I loved the idea of the time period being not too far in the future. It’s a future that is seemingly accessible to us,”

What I loved first and foremost about the script is the father/son relationship and the idea that people who have made mistakes, who have regrets, can get a second chance, and they become better people

Hugh Jackman

For the role of Max, the son who was abandoned early in his life by Jackman’s character, the filmmakers auditioned hundreds of boys and found many exceptional young actors. “We always had the feeling that there would be a kid out there who would be talented and who would have the right look, but would have that little something extra, something that you can’t quite put your finger on but is magic up on the screen,” director Levy says. “When we met Dakota Goyo, a kid from the suburbs of Toronto, we knew that he had that special indefinable quality we were looking for. He has that thing that I’ll never quite find the right word for. When you watch the movie you’ll see what I mean. It’s undeniable.”

For the role of Bailey, which went to popular television star Evangeline Lilly of Lost, director Levy admits that he was already a big fan of the actress and was thrilled that she accepted the role. “I marvel at Evangeline,” Levy enthuses. “I was crazy for her on Lost. I was a big fan of that series. I always knew she was good, but i didn’t know that she was great. Ans in Real Steel not only does she deliver in the big dramatic senses between her and Dakota and her and Hugh but also even when she was in a crowd of thousands of people reacting to the fights. In those tiny short cutaways within fight scenes she brings so much visceral, rousing energy. She was kind of an audience surrogate for us. She is so into it and so vested in what happens.”

I received the script from my agent and when I started reading and discovered it was about robot boxing I immediately thought, ‘No Way! I can’t do a movie about robot boxing! This is so not me!’ I’m invested and interested in cool little indie films. But I kept reading, and by the time i finished the script, I was so moved and so touched and it was so heartfelt and well written, I wanted the role.

Evangeline Lilly recalling her introduction to the role

Catch our interview with Real Steel star Hugh Jackman and our Real Steel Robot Roll-call on 7 Oct.

Real Steel opens in cinemas 6 Oct

Photos and notes courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Singapore

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