Moviemaking with a Purpose
You've gotta respect a guy who can boss the X-Men around without fearing the wrath of Wolverine.
Ralph Winter is a towering, authoritative figure in stature and in reputation as a producer of Hollywood blockbusters. He's earned the attention and applause of audiences, actors, film crews, and film studios for producing such favorites as X-Men, X-2: X-Men United, the Planet of the Apes remake, and two of the most beloved Star Trek films (IV and VI). His latest production, Fantastic Four, opens in theaters next week, and he's now working on X-Men 3, coming next May. Winter also produced the Left Behind movie and an adaptation of Frank Peretti's The Visitation, due in September.
But there's more to this big-screen businessman than business. He has a heart to help artists grow and excel, contributing to endeavors at Act One: Writing for Hollywood (a program for aspiring Christian screenwriters), and the media communications program at Biola University, and he devotes himself to the art of short films, cultivating a dynamic community of up-and-coming artists.
Moreover, he's a man of faith known throughout Hollywood for his reputation for professionalism, integrity and kindness.
To talk with Winter is to quickly discern some of the secrets of his success. He speaks with the confidence and authority of experience, and he cuts right to the quick of a matter. We caught up with him just as Fantastic Four moved into post-production and X-3 headed into pre-production. But what he wanted to talk about surprised us—a big screen adaptation that serves quite another, er, purpose.
Web geeks and movie buffs are buzzing with speculation about X-3. Can you give us a hint of what we can look forward to?
Ralph Winter: We will definitely be out on May 26 next year. We have a much better script than the previous installments of X-Men, and that is exciting. Bryan [Singer, director of X-Men and X2] had envisioned this as a trilogy, and now with [new director] Brett Ratner aboard, we will deliver a compelling third movie. We are all pumped about it.
But first, you've got another superhero flick—Fantastic Four. What do you like about it?
Winter:Fantastic Four is a very good movie and will play younger than everyone thinks—I believe that is very good. We have a dysfunctional family that learns to work together, accepting their new powers, but learning to think and act as a family and a team.
Comic book movies seem to be more popular than ever. Why do you think that is?
Winter: Our culture wants to see heroes. This story of Fantastic Four is the origin story, the story of how an everyday person, Reed Richards, has his life changed by this cosmic storm, and gains these powers. How is he going to use them? That's a theme through all of Marvel's stuff, from X-Men's mutants to whatever. How are we going to live now that we have these changes in our life? That's always a pretty interesting story. What if this everyday person was thrust into this situation of potential greatness and harm, and what are the choices they're gong to make?
Ultimately, it's about us. What choices we would make in that situation? Okay, you're the President of the United States: What are you going to do? What was easy to criticize from afar now becomes a personal struggle for you as president. And to draw people into that for two hours is pretty interesting. When we do the best job at those movies, it resonates with people. Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 were pretty good at that. "What is happening to my body?" I thought that whole discovery process with him was fascinating.