Director David Lowery was beyond thrilled to finally be able to show a selection of clips from Disney's Pete's Dragon during an early press day at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, California. He's been eager to show clips from the film since last summer but unfortunately, not everybody agreed with this idea. He even tried to show us the entire film this month, but again, he was told no. (Though I would have LOVED that!)
What we did get to see on this early press day for Pete's Dragon was four select scenes from the film. Scenes David thought would give a hint as to what he and his team have created, which is a Pete's Dragon for a new generation. We also had the opportunity to participate in a Q & A with Director David Lowery and Bryce Dallas Howard who plays Grace in the film.
Pete's Dragon opens in theatres everywhere August 12th.
A New Pete's Dragon for a New Generation
Pete's Dragon is set somewhere in a small town in the Pacific Northwest, and as with many of David's films, Pete's Dragon has a timeless feel from the past. As we saw in the clips, David didn't want to create a remake of the film. Instead he created a new story for Pete and Elliott. A new adventure, in a new world.
An important aspect David wanted to show with this film was the idea a friendship between a child and a creature, similar to your favorite pet as a child. He wanted to hit the heart of that close bond you can have with an animal.
In the clips we screened during the early press day, we were introduced to Mr. Meacham (Robert Redford), an old-timer in town who loves to tell stories about dragons to kids, Mr. Meacham's daughter Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard), Pete (Oaks Fegley), and of course Elliott, and you can meet them too in this new trailer for Pete's Dragon.
Pete's Dragon Q & A With Director David Lowery and Bryce Dallas Howard
Q: How did filming a film like Jurassic World, where you're working with character who aren't really there, prepare you for Pete's Dragon?
Bryce Dallas Howard: It's pretty typical to assume there's going to be some sort of visual effects in a film these days. Once you do that, you get what you need to do, what you need to do to prepare, and what you need to be imagining.
Q: David, what's it like making a jump from Ain't Them Bodies Saints, which is fantastic, to Pete's Dragon? Not in terms of the production and the scale, but the tone.
Director David Lowery: The weird thing for me is, the reason I felt this was the right movie to make is because the tone didn't feel that different. Sometimes I would joke that we're remaking Ain't Them Bodies Saints, but instead of Casey Affleck it's a dragon.
All the movies I make, I can't help but make them incredible personal, make them my movie. That's just the way I do it. I would not have expected to follow-up that film with this one. That being said, once I started working on this script, and it was becoming my own thing, the delineation became very clear and I realized of course this is the next movie I'm going to make.
Q: In terms of the story, we have Pete and Elliott, but Bryce I know you loved the original from 1977 that came out the same year as Star Wars and Close Encounters, why was in not an immediate yes? Why was it to some, a pause, to make sure it was going to be the right film.
Bryce Dallas Howard: It was an immediate yes. I chased this for quite a while, and was very patient and it worked out. But, prior to reading the script, I think I had heard it was not a straight up remake and that was the yes for me.
I love Pete's Dragon, I have the little board book for my kids and I read it to them constantly, and in loving it I didn't want it to be a copycat thing. I felt like the story and the themes within the original film were what the charm of that movie is. When I heard it wasn't a straight up remake I said yes, I would love to be a part of that.
Q: You brought up the word timeless, and from the clips we saw I feel like it has a timeless feel even though when you introduced the clip you set it in the '70's. It doesn't look dated at all. What's behind the conscious decision behind that?
Director David Lowery: When you have a movie which has a fantastical concept in it, you're going to accept it more easily if it has the vale of time hanging over it. To set something in the past, you're a little bit more accepting that there might me magic there that you overlooked in your own past. I also find that movies I return to and love the most are the ones that don't feel dated. There are films that endure because they don't root themselves in a specific time.
Q: How did you find the perfect Pete?
Director David Lowery: I am going to give all the credit in the world to our casting director Debra Zane. We talked about what I wanted and she found about 150 children that she felt were in the ballpark of what I was looking for.
Q: What were you looking for?
Director David Lowery: I was looking for someone who was a little unvarnished and not perfect. Someone who didn't have that trained quality. I love working with kids, and I love creating a context for them to be themselves, and sitting back and letting them do that. When Oaks walked in the room, it was one of those classic things of, that's him. He had that quality of, he wasn't showing off. He wasn't trying to impress me. The way he did things was fascinating.
Q: I want to ask about filming in New Zealand, filming more as practicable as possible, and less green screen as possible. How do you feel that enhanced your performance and made the movie better?
Directory David Lowery: I like things to be real. I'm always going to gravitate towards that. When we were planning this I said if we're going to have a giant CG dragon, let's make everything else real. I want to make this completely real.
We went to New Zealand because it's a slightly elevated and more magical version of the Pacific Northwest. It had the forest we needed and the weather we needed. We wanted the best version of being out in the woods, and the best version of running through the woods. That was really important to make the movie feel more grounded.
Q: How did you come to design Elliott, and what was behind his chipped tooth?
Director David Lowery: He ate some rocks, and they chipped his tooth. The very first hook I had for myself when I was going in to meet the producers on this film about the story, I didn't even have a pitch yet, I said I want the dragon to be furry. That's because I love my cats. I was probably petting my cats and wishing this guy would be 20 feet tall. They really are based on my cats.
If you put a Game of Thrones dragon in this he's going to be scaly and he's going to be cold. He'll be cool, but I want this to be the kind of dragon you really want to give a hug to, that I want to give a hug to and snuggle up with. The best way to do that was to make him furry.
About Pete's Dragon
“Pete’s Dragon” stars Bryce Dallas Howard (“Jurassic World”), Oakes Fegley (“This is Where I Leave You”), Wes Bentley (“The Hunger Games”), Karl Urban (“Star Trek”), Oona Laurence (“Southpaw”) and Oscar® winner Robert Redford (“Captain America: The Winter Soldier”). The film, which is directed by David Lowery (“Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”), is written by Lowery & Toby Halbrooks based on a story by Seton I. Miller and S.S. Field and produced by Jim Whitaker, p.g.a. (“The Finest Hours,” “Friday Night Lights”), with Barrie M. Osborne (“The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring,” “The Great Gatsby”) serving as executive producer.
PETE’S DRAGON flies into theatres everywhere on August 12th!
Portions of this material have been provided courtesy of Walt Disney Studios.