In The Director's Chair: Doug Liman
From The Bourne Identity to Covert Affairs, Doug Liman has created some of pop culture's most excellent action -- but he also played a part in bringing The O.C. and Kissing Jessica Stein to life, so clearly emotional fireworks are just as important to the multi-hyphenate. And it is the latter which he mines for gold in MTV's new series, I Just Want My Pants Back.
An irreverent look a life a group of friends navigating post-collegiate life in Brooklyn, the series kicks off its first season tonight at 11 p.m. and I caught up with Doug to find out what made him sign on as producer for this new, scripted series. And while I had him on the horn, we chatted about his next big screen directing gig: the Tom Cruise-starring sci-fi actioner with multiple names.
Insider.com: What attracted you to I Just Want My Pants Back?
Doug Liman: I really fell in love with these characters and the world they take us too – it was so funny and so charming and the characters were so smart. I wanted to live with these characters in Brooklyn and that's sort of my criteria for taking on any project – do I want to spend time with these people?
Insider: What are your other criteria?
Doug: The most important is: Am I in love with the characters? Then I ask: Is the world original? My next movie is called All You Need Is Kill, set in the future with Tom Cruise battling aliens. But what drew me to that is the same thing that drew me to this: it's totally original, completely entertaining and totally satisfying. A lot of times when you go original, you don't necessarily get satisfying in the equation. A lot of times when you do originals, you discover why there are clichés – they just work.
Insider: After doing this for almost two decades, do you think you've figured out what audiences want?
Doug: I really do it for myself than I do it for the audience. I'm never pandering with my work. This show feels as honest as it feels because we were trying to satisfy ourselves. It's never about trying to predict what other people want to see. Maybe that comes from the fact that I started in independent film, where you just assume no one is ever going to see your movie – our sound guy on Swingers would tell us on a daily basis: "No one is ever going to see this movie. It's cute, but only your friends are going to see this." So when you start out with that attitude, you end up working from the gut. And that can define a career.
Insider: Goes to show what he knew since nearly 20 years later people are still quoting that movie and talking about a sequel.
Doug: We've joked about what a Swingers sequel would look like. The joke is that because it was so autobiographical and Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn have gone on to such massive careers, I don't know if a sequel would be as much fun or make people as happy as seeing them unemployed did. As much as they were complaining about not being able to get a job, life was more simple for them then. I tend to think about a Swingers sequel given that lens.
Insider: You've worked a lot on TV, which allows you a long time to develop characters, but have never actually done a sequel. Does the idea just not appeal to you?
Doug: It appeals to me if I messed up the first time. Then I'd want another swing at the ball. But if I feel good about what I did and there's someone else who can come in and carry on, that makes more sense to me. My career is founded on the idea of me not repeating myself and the whole point of a sequel to a successful movie is that people almost want you to repeat yourself.
Insider: You mentioned the movie you're doing with Tom Cruise, called All You Need Is Kill but IMDB calls it We Mortals Are. Which is correct?
Doug: It has 2 titles right now – the original title and the one in the press. The original script is called All You Need Is Kill but obviously there's concern at Warner Bros over a title with the world "Kill" in it, so I can't guarantee it'll be the final title but in my mind, that's the movie we're making. That's the title of the script I fell in love with.
Insider: What made you want to make this movie?
Doug: I'm all about starting with material. In this case, Dante Harper wrote an amazing screenplay. The visual look of the movie stems from the script. I started from scratch for this movie – I don't look at other people's work and I don't look at my own work. And if I do look at someone else's movie, it wouldn't be the movie you'd think. Getting ready for Mr. & Mrs. Smith, I rewatched A Philadelphia Story. So my inspirations come from oblique sources. The movies I've been watching for All You Need Is Kill are not the movies you'd think someone setting out to do a giant science fiction epic would watch. They're great, old movies.
I Just Want My Pants Back airs Thursdays at 11 p.m. on MTV.