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May 2004
Catwoman: An Interview with Edward L. McDonnell

By Wilson Morales

Catwoman: An Interview with Edward L. McDonnell

Edward L. McDonnell is a producer who has done many productions such as "Three Kings", "Insomnia", and most recently "Shanghai Knights". His current project is "Catwoman", which stars Oscar Winner Halle Berry. With so many questions regarding the film, Edward freely discussed his views of the subject.

How did you get involved with the project?

EM: It's an interesting story. Denise Di Novi, who produced the Batman film that had Catwoman in it, was the original producer of the movie. About 4  years ago, I came to run her company and be a producer for Denise and the years that we worked on the project, I eventually got my own company at Warner Bros. and we partnered on the production of the movie.

Most folks know the character Selina Kyle as Catwoman from the comic books, from the film "Batman Returns", and even from the TV series, "Birds of Prey", that was on the WB a few years ago. Why did you decide to change the origin of the story of Catwoman?

EM: Well, I think this is something we have talked about for years. It's the idea that Catwoman has come to have a place for herself in the world; and how could you make a movie that wasn't going to be like the sequel to what we had already seen than to start with a fresh idea in terms of what does she stand for; and what does she stand for today? And with the help of D.C Comics and everybody else involved with it, we came up a character we felt had true to the essence of what Catwoman was, but brought her to a contemporary time.

Being that this is a Warner Bros. film and they had produced all of the recent Batman films, including the one that featured Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman, was there ever a thought to incorporate Tim Burton's version of Catwoman into this film?

EM: No. I think Denise had produced the Batman film with Catwoman in it, and if the movie had been produced shortly after the original with Michelle, it would have had a different style and a different message, but here we are, ten years later. It's a different world.

Did you consider talking to hard core fans for some input prior to shooting the films?

EM: Oh, we did. We had fan input from way back when and we had the writers' input who wrote the comics, and we artists' input from the people who drew the comics. I think there was a lot of synergy between the two worlds.

Three writers are credited for the script. Why so many?

EM: Oh, it had more than three writers. Over the course of developing the movie, this movie has been in development 10 years, so it's not unusual.

What was the appeal of choosing Halle Berry for the lead? At one point Ashley Judd was attached to the film, followed by Nicole Kidman.

EM: Ashley was someone we had always talked about. It was her availability when we got ready to make the movie that she was busy on something else. And Nicole Kidman was talked about for a very short period of time and she was not available. But I don't anybody, in our minds at least, embodies all the fanatic and emotional points of view that we want to convey in the movie better than Halle Berry.

How much input did Halle have on her character?

EM: A lot because you bring Halle Berry into a movie and there's the essence of Halle Berry that stands out in the movie.

Did she suggest anything in terms of her character?

EM: Absolutely! I think there was a collaboration between the producers, the studio, and the filmmakers in trying to incorporate some of the things about female empowerment and what it means and what the approach is.

Was there ever any thought to bring in any of the former Catwoman (Julie Newmar, Eartha Kitt) for cameo appearances?

EM: No, because I think the world we are talking about takes this Catwoman to another world they weren't a part of. I think we make one very slight reference to one of the former Catwoman in the movie.

Let's talk about the biggest buzz surrounding the film, and that is the costume. How did you come to choose that outfit?

EM: I think it was a very organic development of the costume given what we were going to have this character do in this movie. She starts off with a straight forward outfit that accommodates to the mood she needs to make in the movie.

What other designs were being considered before settling with the one you have in the film?

EM: They were very similar. It's about freedom of movement and I think it was metaphorically speaking; it was freedom in this woman. This woman is discovering a new sense of freedom and I think that is what the costume sort of articulates. She moves, she jumps, and she has the motions of movement of the cat.

How do walk the line between hard core fans and those who want basic entertainment?

EM: Well, I think we always listen to hard core fans but I think we are working in a world in which to make a movie for the largest amount of people you possibly can, you're incorporating all sorts of elements. But I think the filmmaker came with a clear point of view of what he wanted and the studio had a clear point of view of what they needed and I think we all came together and felt that this was very, very true to the essence of what Catwoman was and gave it some contemporized version of it. We are living in a world 2004 and 2005 in which it's different from when Catwoman originated.

How did Pitof come in as the director of choice?

EM: I had seen his film Vidaq and I happened to be in Paris and they sent me to meet with him. I had a conversation with him. He so clearly understood the character that we were trying to create and we were in sync. The two of us got together. He flew out to LA and met with everybody involved and he was the choice.

Is there anything from the comic book that's in the film that only hard core fans will recognize?

EM: I think there are. I won't give it away, but they'll see.

From the clips I have seen on TV, there's a fight scene between Halle's and Sharon Stone's character. How real is it?

EM: It's very real. They went through enormous amounts of training for it, but I do tink that I'm not going to tell you that there aren't stunt people in it, but there's no body doubles in it. I won't put Halle in a situation that might harm her. There are professionals who can do some stuff than any other actor could. The actors would agree to that as well. You're often obligated to use them. In terms of a body double, no, but stunt double, absolutely. The training period was 8-10 weeks over the course of the movie.

At one point wasn't Halle hurt during the making of the film?

EM: She wasn't hurt. A lamp swung down and hit her on the head and as a precaution, I took her to the hospital, had her checked out, and the hospital said she was fine, and she went back to work the next morning.

Is the connection to Batman mentioned in the film?

EM: No.

What can you say about the video game?

EM: I love the video game. It's probably the closest, and I'm not a gamer, but my experience between the movie and the game, the synergy is closer than I ever seen before in a game.

What can you say about Benjamin Bratt and Lambert Wilson?

EM: Once again, we were talking about this last week, Benjamin, Halle, myself and we were saying that this movie is colorblind. It's produced by people of color and stars people of multiple color. You don't make any distinction and I think that's something you have never seen before in a movie. We cast the best people for the movie and so we don't make any statement but at the same time we say, "Everybody is a party to this scenario." Everybody has the ability to find the inner person within them.

What is it about superhero characters that appeals to fans?

EM: I can only speak for myself, but I think we could all sort of dream and wish about of if we can only. If I can only make this wrong right, I wish I had the power to do that and with these movies you get to express that; you get to feel that. If we have our job successfully, you'll go along for the ride and you'll feel a little bit of Catwoman in you, a little bit of the power that you wish you had in you and the power to make things right.

Why should folks go see this film?

EM: Number one, it's sure great entertainment and number two, Halle's brought something to this movie that they have never seen before because in many ways she's colorless in the movie. She represents everybody; every female. I think she represents those who have been reluctant to express themselves in a way that gives you something fresh. I think that you want to see in a movie is something that you have never have seen before from a visual standpoint, which I think is there but from a storytelling standpoint because we really focused a lot of character in this movie. I think it's much more of a character driven movie than most people would expect.

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