LYT: When I was a kid, I was a huge fan of the Blue Thunder TV series, which I think lasted an entire season.
JB: Right, right; just one season.
LYT: I don't think any of those themes really made it into the show, did they? How did you feel about the show, in general?
JB: I was not a fan of the show. I had a lot of troubles with it. I think they just were looking to make an entertainment, and it was kind of, not a clone, but a copy of The A-Team. It became that pretty quickly. As I told them when they talked to me first about it, I said "I know you're not going to be able to fly that helicopter very much - it's bloody expensive! And on a TV show budget, I don't think that's really in the cards." Sure enough, after 3 or 4 or 5 episodes, they put people down on the ground in a big van, running around that way, doing something more affordable, and forgetting about any themes of invasion of privacy, or anything like that. It just became another cop show.
LYT: Back to the technology theme - in terms of film making, how does that affect the process for you these days? In terms of everybody democratizing the process a bit, but also the big movies kind of get lost in technology and seem to treat the actors more and more like objects.
JB: Oh, yeah! Oh, they just love the idea of, "Look here! We can just do motion capture - we don't really need to have the actors around very much." We can do all of this and the actors are just like puppets being moved around. So it's interesting to me that a film that deals with human beings very nicely, like Blue Jasmine, recently, is attracting a pretty good-sized audience of people that are interested in the human being side of it.
I just came back from Toronto yesterday, and it took me two days to get into that movie, because in the big theaters that they were running it in, they were sold out in every single show. I went in at 7 o'clock at night and came out at 10 o'clock at night, and there were 600 elderly people - it seemed to be mostly an older audience - lined up to see that 10 o'clock show. I think there is always a good audience out there for it, and if they don't find it in the theater, they find whatever's the best on cable - things that they can relate to, in a way other than teenage boys kind of movies that we get in the summer.
LYT: So ultimately, are you pretty hopeful that technology will, like Joshua in WarGames, learn to improve, rather than be a danger? Or like Johnny 5, develop a benevolent kind of personality? You obviously think a lot about the cautions and the dangers, but there's sort of this ultimate message that it's for good in the end. Do you feel that way?
JB: Well, I think it wanted to be for the good, and we've found a lot of good out of it, and we find as computer technology gets smarter and smarter, it can be extremely helpful to us, and we're using it. All those devices we're carrying around; iPads, iPhones, SIRI - all of these things that are really, really quite helpful to us, on so many levels. It's still in kind of a swing stage, where it's going in both directions at the same time. We see it messing up our power grids, we see computer mistakes causing giant problems, not actively, malevolently coming after us, but the malevolence seems to come more from human beings who are using it more to suit their own purposes.
LYT: A lot of people, when Wall-E came out, said he seemed to be based on Johnny 5 in design. Do you see that? Do you see similarities there?
JB: Oh, God yes! Yes I did! (laughs) I think David Foster, my producer on that film, was redder than red had ever been in the face. He was just purple, he was so mad! The similarities - we were all very closely involved in the design of Number 5, so we saw all the similarities. I had the attitude that the flattery is the greatest kind of compliment, and it's very nice. I'm sure that we didn't get all of our elements quite from scratch, so that's good that way, and I'm glad it worked. But David was not so benevolent as I!
On Directing , by John Badham, is available now.