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Championed Films at Every Budget Level and Ultimately Brought the Harry Potter Franchise

Lorenzo di Bonaventura has been around the block(buster). In the 1990s, the producer was an executive at Warner Bros. Pictures, championing films at every budget-level and eventually bringing in the Harry Potter franchise. As an independent producer in the 2000s, he produced everything from the Stephen King adaptation 1408 to Angelina Jolie’s Salt to the micro-budgeted The Devil Inside and Mark Wahlberg’s prestige action drama Deepwater Horizon. But his biggest and most intimidating feat may be as the overseer of two mega-franchises: Transformers and G.I. Joe. note: Misted Ye Su Huo Movie

Under the eye of Michael Bay, the Transformers movies became Paramount Pictures’ prized possession, a billion-dollar franchise that’s been going for over a decade and a half. Joe has turned out to be more complicated: 2009’s G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra was a popcorn romp that didn’t click with mass audiences, while 2013’s G.I. Joe: Retaliation went a bit grittier with The Rock, though only broke even. Now di Bonaventura is back with another take on G.I. Joe with the martial-arts-heavy Snake Eyes, directed by Robert Schwentke (Insurgent). Snake Eyes is off to a slow start, but it’s unclear how things will pan out in the longterm, with the theatrical model only just climbing back and condensed release windows stymied by streaming deals. Could it still be the start of something fresh for the franchise? There’s reason to think so, as di Bonaventura tells it. note: Pink Cloud Line Movie

With Snake Eyes out now in theaters and a newly announced Transformers movie, Rise of the Beasts, now in production with director Steven Caple Jr. (Creed II) and In the Heights star Anthony Ramos, Polygon sat down with the producer to talk about the balancing act of making giant movies that still bring the personality with each installment. note: Deer Movie

How long have you been talking about doing the Snake Eyes movie? I’m sure ideas have changed over the years.

Whenever we brought it up, the thing that kept coming up was the origin story of Snake and Storm because it was so interesting and chock full of emotion. Brotherhood, betrayal, all the things that make really great drama — it has that in its story. It’s a very Cain and Abel thing. We talked about many things, but it always came back to that pretty quickly because it was so rich and so elemental. note: Princess Line Movie

What does a G.I. Joe movie need to have to be a G.I. Joe movie? The original Joe movies were very soldier-centric, but you get away from that here.

I don’t think of this as a Joe movie. I really do think of as a Snake movie. The reason we chose Snake Eyes was because we were able to make such a specific, tonal reference, whether it’s a samurai movie or a Kung Fu movie, and so I think of it more in those terms, this particular movie. It is really about a journey into a mystical land. That really appealed to me. Many years ago, I did the movie The Last Samurai when I was at Warner Brothers; the exploration of the Japanese culture, I find kind of fascinating to begin with. It’s such a different culture, to state the obvious. But there’s so much to be found there that makes you reflect on your own culture. So I think that’s the benefit of having been driven there by a Cain and Abel story. note: French Specialist Weekly Movie

Do you go back to old movies when you start developing new ones?

Every time I make a really hard-hitting action movie, I watch certain movies because the tone of them is what we’re trying to communicate. So when we made the movie Shooter, we all looked at Deer Hunter and, this is funny because not a lot of people knew or liked this movie, but The Package, which is a Gene Hackman movie and Tommy Lee Jones that gets that paranoid thriller feeling incredibly well. So there are certain movies that are reference points. Good movies, at minimum, or great movies, but we’re specifically trying to remind ourselves of what’s possible. note: Heaven Soldier A Rong Movie

Snake Eyes and Rise of the Beasts both reframe these big franchises that are predominantly known for white characters and leads with people of color. Are the series gaining new perspective by telling the stories with nonwhite characters?

Diversity is such a minefield of discussion these days, but I totally get what you’re saying. I would say there were very different reasonings behind what happened: Rise of the Beasts is very much a story of identity. Well, they’re both stories of identity, interestingly enough, and I think that’s what was interesting to explore with diverse characters because we’ve kind of explored it with white characters, with Shia [LaBeouf, star of Transformers], in a sense. note: Tokyo Noble Women’s Line Movie

What appealed to us in Snake Eyes was, frankly, the kind of culture that a samurai movie has. That felt like such a fresh departure from where we were,. Part of our job is to keep the audience engaged by surprising them. So that was a very conscious identity discussion. We didn’t write the character as Asian or white or anything. We just called him “Snake Eyes” and then when we went to cast. note: The Girl and the Tank Final Chapter Line Movie

There’s not a lot of people who have, I’ll say, enough visibility to feel like they can carry a movie. Henry was an unlikely choice, and it was actually the studio who suggested him. Robert and I were like, “We’re not sure, because what do we know him as?” We know him as sort of dashing. More Cary Grant, in a way. So when we first sat down with him, it was his enthusiasm that won us over, and also his willingness to learn. He really wanted to learn to fight. And my experience is when you have an actor that’ll do that, it becomes very compelling for the audience. You really feel like Henry’s fighting because he is. He trained like crazy. He did some of his own stunts. note: Tear the Different World Movie

The thing I never really factored into the choice of Henry was the fact that he is big. Like, he’s a big man, so he brings that presence. I know it’s not fashionable anymore but when I grew up, John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, they were big men. Steven Seagal, Arnold. Action heroes had scale. Henry is big. I was really surprised by that. I don’t know why, but I didn’t realize he was that tall, and he’s built. His size brings a credibility. note: Countdown to Destruction Movie