Cannon Films: The Rise and Fall
A short history by Patrick Runkle


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Thursday, August 17, 2006
 
Cannon fan Jox (of dolph-ulitmate.com) has made a major find in the Spanish horror magazine La Cosa. It's an Albert Pyun interview in which he gives some amazing specifics about how far along in production Cannon's Spider-Man and Masters of the Universe 2 were when the plug was pulled, which he alleges was because Cannon bounced the rights check to Marvel! In true Cannon fashion, Pyun was to have directed both simultaneously, but ended up turning all the prep for both movies into 1989's Cyborg. (Cannon had also attempted to make Spider-Man with Joe Zito as director in 1986.) Below is part of the interview, in English. (Click here for the full interview from Pyun's site):

"Cyborg" was a product of what could have been a career shifting period of my life. I knew that Cannon had the rights to "Spider-Man" and sequel rights to "Masters of the Universe". I also knew that the "Spider-Man" rights were about to expire. I proposed to Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus that I make both pictures back to back in North Carolina (at De Laurentiis' studio in Wilmington). Cannon agreed. And I cast both pictures. I can't remember who we cast for Peter Parker, but big wave surfer Laird Hamilton was cast as He-Man (replacing Dolph Lundgren).

Brooklyn sets for "Spider-Man" were built on the Wilmington stages and I had a number of creative discussions with Stan Lee and Joe Calamari of Marvel. I had wanted to use the Black Spidey costume, but this was vetoed. The script was based on the original story only. The budget was my largest at $6 million. "Masters of the Unverse 2" was based on my story. Sets and costumes were built. The film was fully cast. Mattel Toys had a great many approvals and it was a trying process getting everything okayed by the corporate giant. It had a budget of $4.5 million.

The concept was to shoot 2 weeks of "Spider-Man" first. The section of Peter Parker's story before he was bitten. Then we would shoot 6 weeks of "Masters 2". The actor cast to play Parker would undergo a streneuous 8 week workout regimen supervised by a fitness professor at UCLA, Dr. Eric Sternlicht to build size and muscle mass. After shooting "Masters 2" we would resume shooting "Spider-Man". Two weeks away from shooting, it was discovered that Cannon had bounced the rights check to Marvel, canceling the deal and it was discovered that Mattel was owed a large rights payment as well. With Cannon in deep financial straights, the negotiations with Marvel and Mattel fell apart! Remember this was 1988 and the junk bond market which had fueled Cannon's rise had collapsed.

Having spent well over $2 million on sets, costumes, and prep, Cannon was desperate to find away to recoup their spend. I suggested we do a film that could utilize as much of what had been built and prepped and that would cost very little in addition. I wrote a first draft of what became "Cyborg" over a weekend and brought in a young actor - who wanted to be a screenwriter - to do polishes. His name was Don Michael Paul and he has gone on to write and direct "Half Past Dead" and Harley Davidson and the "Marlboro Man".

I was interested in Chuck Norris to star as he was under contract to Cannon. Instead Menahem suggested a Belgian kickboxer they had just starred in "Bloodsport". That's how Van Damme became the lead. His accent was so thick, that we had to change the character from an over the hill ex-Army Ranger to what the Gibson character became. It pretty much gutted the character arc.

What I remember most from the film was exhaustion. The turnabout from prepping to shoot "Spider-Man" and "Masters 2" to writing and shooting "Cyborg" was punishing. We had to figure out ways to use what had been built and created for two different films in a short period of time. As I recall, the budget on "Cyborg" was less than $500,000 including Van Damme's salary. It was shot in 24 days of principal. All in all, my expectations were quite low for the film's success given the mad circumstances."

[link]    Posted 11:15 AM by Patrick.