Site created 12/15/97.
page created: 8/25/00
Scott Free DVD
A Chat with DVD
Producer Charles de Lauzirika
If there's one thing you can say about DVD producer Charles de
Lauzirika, it's that he's a major film fan. And that's a very good
thing, because in his position for Scott Free, Charlie is
responsible for supervising the effort to bring some of director
Ridley Scott's biggest and best films to the DVD format. Charlie is
also a talented writer and director, who has been involved in the
business for many years. He's been working with Scott since starting
at the director's company as a USC film school intern. Through the
years, he's also directed a number of commercials, music videos and
short films, as well as interning or working for several production
companies such as Lucasfilm Ltd., Lightstorm Entertainment and
Silver Pictures. We discussed his background and first DVD effort
last year when we previewed Fox's Alien:
20th Anniversary Edition. These days, Ridley is keeping
Charlie very busy, working on such great upcoming special edition
discs as Legend, Gladiator
and next year's Blade Runner: SE.
There's a lot of great information contained in this interview, so
thanks to Charles and the staff at Scott Free, as well as everyone
involved at DreamWorks and Warner Bros., for all their help.
[Editor's Note: Universal has
promised to provide us with official details on their Legend
DVD very soon, so we will be following up on this title in the next
week or two. Stay tuned...]
Hunt (The Digital Bits): So Charlie,
last we talked for the Bits,
you were just finishing up work on Fox's Alien:
20th Anniversary Edition. Let's take a minute and wrap
that up before we move on to the other DVD projects you've been
working on. How do you feel about the final disc, after all those
months of work?
Charles de Lauzirika (Scott Free):
I think the final result was pretty damn good. I mean, it's not
perfect. There are little problems I see and hear on the disc which
really drive me up the wall. But I think that's just because I was
involved with it for such an intense period of time... watching the
movie over and over, navigating the menus over and over, going
through the supplements... you know? There are just little things
that most people wouldn't notice or care about... or little changes
I wanted that we didn't have the time or space for. Those things
drive me nuts.
Bill Hunt: What would you do
Charles de Lauzirika: In a
perfect world, I would love for it to have been a two-disc set, with
absolutely everything included. And there are some picture and sound
flaws which would be nice to fix at some point. But at the time,
given the circumstances and the timetable we had, I think Alien
turned out great. You have to remember that this was long before Fox
was the amazing presence in DVD that they are now. This was back
when they were still taking their first steps into special edition
DVDs. I don't mean that technically or creatively, because Fox was
already a leading force on laserdisc. But from a marketing
standpoint, and in terms of their commitment to DVD, this was their
first really big project. And I think everyone at Fox deserves a lot
of credit for making it all happen. That goes for the several other
companies and individuals who contributed to the disc as well.
Bill Hunt: What was Ridley's
reaction to the disc?
Charles de Lauzirika: We only
spoke about it a couple of times, but I know he was happy with the
transfer and the menus. He doesn't really seem to have the time or
desire to dwell on his past work. He tends to move on to the next
thing once he's done with the project at hand. So I think he just
sampled the disc to get a feeling for it, but he seemed pleased. I
guess if he wasn't, I wouldn't be doing this for him anymore.
Bill Hunt: Have you heard from
Fox as to how the disc is selling?
Charles de Lauzirika: I
haven't heard any numbers in a while, but I've been told that it's
done well, especially for what is now a 21-year-old movie.
Bill Hunt: A lot of people
have asked us about the hour-long Alien
Legacy documentary, which was made available for a
limited time on DVD through a special mail offer to those who
purchased the Alien boxed set.
Can you talk a little about why it had to be included on a separate
Charles de Lauzirika: Yeah,
that's a real can of worms, isn't it? The whole fifth disc debacle
basically came about because of the fact that there's only so much
room on a single DVD - even a dual-layered one. I mean, there was no
sinister conspiracy to screw people out of their money. It wasn't
some evil marketing plan to boost sales of the box set. It was
simply a tough decision that came extremely late into the process...
a decision which caught us all off-guard but had to be made.
Considering that the only other alternative given to us would have
been to drop the documentary entirely, I think that the path we
choose was the lesser of two evils. I was actually in the meeting at
Fox when it was decided to bump the documentary to a fifth disc, and
I can tell you that no one was happy about it. But it was either
that or nothing.
Bill Hunt: I know that part of
the problem with the whole thing, is that a lot of people have told
us that they didn't receive the Legacy
disc, even after mailing in their coupon for it. Do you think Fox
would ever consider making it available separately for a small
price, perhaps online?
Charles de Lauzirika: That's
not a bad idea. But if you didn't get the documentary disc this time
around, I wouldn't be surprised if it pops up again at some point
down the road.
Bill Hunt: You mentioned the
problem of there being only so much room on a DVD, and I know that
I've heard that complaint from other producers as well. Can you talk
that a little bit more - the challenges of producing for the format?
Charles de Lauzirika: Well,
there are basically three mindsets you have to juggle when you're
producing a DVD with a studio: creative, technical and legal, with
marketing considerations being a factor in all three. And if a
problem develops in any one of those three areas, your whole battle
plan for the disc is suddenly in jeopardy. I've heard horror stories
from friends about legal issues on other discs. Fortunately, we
didn't really have too many legal headaches on Alien.
The big problems occurred in the creative and technical realms. But
ultimately, no matter what you've got or want to include on a DVD,
it all boils down to disc capacity and your "bit budget".
You can play with things, trying to fit things together in different
configurations, trying to shoehorn in every possible asset, but
eventually, you're going to hit a brick wall. And because the film's
the thing, you can't sacrifice the quality of the video and audio
just to slap on a few more supplements. I know it always looks great
when you've got all these bullet points of extras listed on the
packaging, but picture and sound quality has to take priority. And
that's the point of view Fox and Scott Free took on Alien.
Bill Hunt: Very cool. All
let's talk Blade Runner.
By now, everyone should also be aware that Warner is planning a new
Special Edition DVD of Blade Runner.
Given that the film was one of the very first titles to appear on
the DVD format, an SE is LONG overdue. In fact, Blade
Runner was actually the first DVD I ever purchased, even
before I had a player...
Charles de Lauzirika: Yeah, it
was my very first DVD as well, also before I had a player.
Bill Hunt: Can you tell us a
little about the project and how it's progressing?
Charles de Lauzirika: Well,
it's still quite a ways off, but it's definitely in the planning
stages. Ridley and I met with Warner Bros. some months back to talk
about it. I think it's going to be far and away the most challenging
of Ridley's films to produce as a special edition, because there are
just so many possibilities for it and such high expectations. But
the most important thing to know about the work currently being done
on Blade Runner is that, first
and foremost, it's all about restoring the film and creating an
archival negative, once and for all. Mike Arrick, who was in charge
of putting together the 1992 Director's Cut, is currently working on
the final restoration with Warner Bros. Everything else will follow
in the wake of that effort. Blade Runner
is arguably Ridley's signature film, so everything about it has to
be done right, both the restoration and the DVD.
The only other probable element of the upcoming DVD that I can
really talk about at the moment is the recent documentary called
On The Edge of Blade Runner,
which was created by Andrew Abbott and Mark Kermode. It comes from a
lot of the same people who put together The
Fear of God, that great documentary on The
Exorcist, which appeared on the special edition DVD of
that film. It's really above and beyond the usual marketing fluff
pieces that you see done on a lot of films. We recently screened it
at the San Diego Comic Con, and it was great seeing it with a big
audience - hearing the laughs and applause. Rutger Hauer's comment
about what Deckard does to a dishwasher brought the house down. I'm
really happy for Andrew and Mark. Their team did a great job.
Bill Hunt: Were you involved
at all in this Blade Runner
Charles de Lauzirika: Whenever
Scott Free is approached by an
outside documentary team, I'm always willing to help out. If they
want or need me, I'm there for them. If they don't, I step out of
the way. It's entirely up to them. Having said that, it's been a
great experience to have such positive, open relationships with J.M.
Kenny (the producer on Universal's Legend)
and Andrew on Blade Runner.
And again, in this case, it's a completely supportive role. Early
on, I discovered that there were a few different Blade
Runner documentaries gearing up, in addition to Andrew
and Mark's. And this was causing some confusion among the cast,
because there was one particularly aggressive crew out there
claiming to be producing the authorized documentary, which was
untrue. I mean, it's a free country - go shoot whatever you want.
But going around claiming to have the blessing of both Warner Bros.
and Scott Free was not very cool. So I had to contact some of the
cast members to let them know which documentary had official
approval. Aside from that, after Andrew and Mark had the bulk of
their interviews shot, and they had to head back to Scotland, two
more cast interview opportunities popped up here in L.A., so I
conducted those interviews at Scott Free for them, and we forwarded
the tapes. It was pretty harmless, and a lot of fun.
Bill Hunt: As fans know, there
have been at least two different versions of this film released in
the past, the original theatrical cut (with voice-over narration)
and the 1992 Director's Cut you just mentioned, which is what was
released on DVD. But I understand that you're using a new cut of the
film for this new special edition. Why don't you talk a little about
it - what makes it new and unique or better?
Charles de Lauzirika:
Actually, there have been several versions of the film. Depending on
how picky you are, I think there have been something like five or
even more versions shown to the public. It's all in Paul Sammon's
book, Future Noir: The Making of Blade
Runner. Paul covers all the minute differences between
the various cut of the film in wonderfully fanatical detail.
Having said that, there's really not much I can say about any "new"
cut of the film at the moment, because it doesn't really exist yet.
Mike Arrick is still working on the restoration, and there are
several elements that need to be in place before Ridley can really
start to approve things that could possibly get added back in. Mike
did come in to show Ridley some of the extra footage that's
potentially available, so the three of us sat down and went through
these little bits and pieces, including the infamous hospital scene
with Deckard and Holden. As a longtime Blade
Runner fanatic, I can tell you that it was wonderful to
see these lost scenes after all this time, but they're in need of
some work. It's not just a matter of dropping these bits back into
the film and calling it a day. Mike still has to do some significant
picture and sound restoration before we can even begin to talk about
adding footage back in. And, to be honest, I'm not even sure if any
of that footage will actually make it back into the film, or if it
would be presented separately as deleted scenes on the DVD. Just
because extra footage exists doesn't mean that it should
automatically get added into the film... I mean, some of those
scenes were cut out for a reason. And there are still a lot of
obstacles to overcome. Going back to what I mentioned about the
creative, legal and technical challenges of producing for DVD, Blade
Runner is a tangled web of all three. But I hope it all
works out for the best because the film, and the fans, deserve it.
Bill Hunt: So it's basically
too early to tell what will happen as far as any possible new edit
of the film, other than the restoration...
Charles de Lauzirika: Exactly.
Once again, the goal of this project is to make Ridley happy with
the film once and for all, so it's first and foremost a restoration
project. But while that's being done, it's also an opportunity for
Ridley to finally get Blade Runner
the way he originally wanted it. That can't happen until all the
elements he wants are secured, and that's a process which is still
on-going. We're hopeful, but we'll have to wait and see. At the very
least, it should look and sound better than ever.
Bill Hunt: Is there any hope
of including the original theatrical cut of the film on the DVD, to
preserve it for the fans, like Criterion did with Brazil?
Charles de Lauzirika: It's
still way too early to get specific about that. But rest assured,
I'm well aware of the big things that most fans want out of this
special edition, because believe me - I'm one of them. Blade
Runner has been one of my obsessions since I first saw it
opening day in 1982 at the Mann Hollywood. DVD affords a film like
Blade Runner a lot of
possibilities, and it's my hope that we can explore all of them. I
think it's safe to assume that Ridley will want to do a commentary
track, and that we'll have the Channel Four documentary on tap.
Beyond that, it's all in a very early conceptual stage.
Bill Hunt: I know that you've
been doing research on Legend
right from the start in regards to background information and what
fans would like to see on the disc. And I know that you did the same
on Alien. Considering its
well-established cult status, are you doing something similar for
Charles de Lauzirika: Yeah,
I've been in contact with Gerry Kissell who created BladeZone,
which is probably the best Blade Runner
fansite out there... and like Gerry says, it's a community, so
there's a passionate sense of loyalty to the film there. And of
course, I've been in frequent contact with Paul Sammon, who probably
knows more about Blade Runner
than any other human being on the planet. If, for nothing else, it's
just great to be able to get these guys on the phone to just talk
things out and get ideas.
Bill Hunt: I understand that
Harrison Ford is pretty soured on Blade
Runner. Is there ANY hope of his participating in the new
DVD by way of an interview or a commentary?
Charles de Lauzirika: I think
everyone would love to see him be involved in some aspect of this
project. At this point, all we can do is pray.
Bill Hunt: We should make
something clear at this point. Warner just released a new "Boxed
Collector's Edition" of Blade Runner,
but this is still the same DVD we're all familiar with. Our
understanding is that the new DVD is at least a year down the road.
Charles de Lauzirika: Right,
that collector's box set is the same old 1992 Director's Cut, just
repackaged with a lot of other Blade
Runner goodies. The last time I spoke with Warner Bros.,
the Special Edition we've been talking about was looking like a
2001-ish release, or so.
Gladiator... coming soon to DVD.
Hunt: Well, here's to hoping that things pan out for it -
please keep us all up to date. Now then
favorite film is, or course, Gladiator,
starring Russell Crowe. And fans will be excited to learn that
you've been working hand-in-hand with DreamWorks on the DVD version
for a while now. Can we expect it to be one of their Signature
Collection discs, or a special edition of some kind?
Charles de Lauzirika: You can
expect it to be a fairly-well-loaded two-disc special edition. I was
pretty blown away when Mark Atkinson over at DreamWorks sent me
their plans for Gladiator a
few months back. If all goes well, it's going to be a wonderful set.
Every time I go over to DreamWorks, I get energized by their
enthusiasm. They've released some very nice DVDs in the past, and
I'm glad that we're working with them on Gladiator.
The great thing about putting together a disc set like this, is
that Gladiator is still very
fresh and new. That's in comparison to a project like Legend,
for instance, where you have to do a lot hunting and investigating
to find elements. With Gladiator,
all of the material you would want is still readily available, for
the most part. That means you can concentrate your efforts on more
creative pursuits... and that can only help the project.
Bill Hunt: As is par for the
course on the Net these days, there are already lots of wildly
circulating rumors about a first cut of Gladiator
that was more than an hour longer that what we saw in theaters. But
the reality is that Ridley's original cut of the film was only about
30 minutes longer.
Charles de Lauzirika: Yeah,
that's about right. I saw the first cut of the film almost a year
ago, and it was about 165 minutes long without credits, which I
think is about 25 minutes longer than the final cut with credits. So
this notion that there's an hour of deleted scenes to show is
nonsense, much like a lot of the other rumors I've read on the web.
Bill Hunt: Can you talk a
little bit about what was deleted? Where did the excised footage fit
into the film? And of course, the all-pressing question - how much
of that deleted footage will appear on the DVD?
Charles de Lauzirika: Before
he left for Italy to work on Hannibal,
I met with Pietro Scalia, who edited Gladiator,
and we went through all the deleted scenes on his Avid. We worked
specifically on a game plan as to how best to present them for the
DVD. Some of the trims are simply too short to be considered a
coherent scene, but I suggested a way of salvaging them to Pietro,
and what he did with those little random bits is beautiful... and
actually kind of moving.
And really, this is one of those cases where a number of the full
deleted scenes are actually pretty good. In fact, one of my absolute
favorite scenes from Gladiator
was one of the very first scenes to get cut out. It's this powerful
moment where Commodus lays down the law and orders the execution of
two of his own Praetorian Guards, following the revelation that
Maximus is still alive. It just had this powerful Paths
of Glory feel to it, especially when seen in context. But
I'd say most of the scenes that were cut fleshed out Commodus'
character or added some political intrigue. There are also some
extra moments with Oliver Reed as Proximo, which is a nice tribute
considering how great he was in the movie. All of the major deleted
scenes will be on the supplement disc.
Bill Hunt: I understand that
the commentary track for Gladiator
was handled a little differently than the other commentaries Ridley
Charles de Lauzirika: Yeah,
well this time, we had Ridley do the commentary with two of his
closest collaborators of late: Pietro Scalia, who I already
mentioned, and cinematographer John Mathieson, both of whom worked
on Gladiator, and who are both
working again on Hannibal. I
figured that since Mark and I had to fly out to Virginia, where they
were shooting Hannibal, it
would be nice to incorporate some of the other Gladiator
veterans who were out there. We had discussed doing separate tracks
for them, but because room on Disc One was getting eaten up, it
proved more economical to have them all do the commentary together -
and it turned out great. It was nice to have John and Pietro there
to keep the conversation going. There was a little concern that they
might get too technical for the layman, but it actually turned out
to be very down-to-earth and casual and yet extremely informative...
and even fun. They had some great stories to tell.
Bill Hunt: Were there any
serious challenges involved in recording a commentary track on
Charles de Lauzirika: I was a
little concerned up front, but DreamWorks found this recording
studio in Richmond called In Your Ear. As soon as I got there, I
knew we were in good shape. They had a very professional staff and a
classy facility - better than a lot of places you'll find in L.A.
The big problem was Mother Nature. There was a major thunderstorm
brewing nearby and about midway through the commentary session, we
heard a loud pop and a second later, the whole studio went dark. I
mean pitch black. We couldn't see a thing, and there's Ridley,
Pietro and John stuck in the recording booth unable to see. Turns
out an entire power grid went down because of the storm, so we had
to break and reconvene a few hours later. It actually turned out for
the better because, considering how tight Ridley's schedule was,
having him come back at the end of the day allowed us more time so
that he could record commentary for the deleted scenes as well. So
the storm was a blessing in disguise.
Bill Hunt: While you were
there, did you get the chance to see any of the Hannibal
filming that was going on?
Charles de Lauzirika: You bet.
There's no way I was going to go all that way and not check it out.
It was really interesting to be able to hang out behind the video
assist, or near the cameras, and just observe. I hadn't been on a
big movie set in a while, so it was nice to get that feeling again.
And just watching Anthony Hopkins at work, seeing him in the flesh
as Lecter, was really a treat and an education. He does so much with
so little effort.
Bill Hunt: Before we move on,
I should ask something on behalf of our readers. All three of the
Ridley films you're involved with right now - Legend,
Blade Runner and Gladiator
- will appear on DVD in anamorphic widescreen, correct?
Charles de Lauzirika: That's
the plan. As far as Ridley is concerned, that's always the plan.
Fortunately, all of the studios we've dealt with directly on these
special editions seem to feel the same way.
Bill Hunt: The trend - toward
the end of this year - seems to be that a lot of major special
editions are including DTS sound as well as Dolby Digital. Will Gladiator
get any kind of special audio treatment on DVD?
Charles de Lauzirika:
Actually, Gladiator will have
a DTS ES track on Disc One, as well as the Dolby 5.1 and 2.0 tracks.
Crowe and director Ridley Scott on the set of Gladiator.
Hunt: That's excellent. Now then
why don't you talk
a little bit about the process of working on the Gladiator
DVD. You've obviously been associated with Ridley and Scott Free
since long before he started work on the film, so you have a unique
perspective on things. Tell us a little bit about Ridley as a
director, and how that influences you when you work on a DVD of his
Charles de Lauzirika: It's a
strange position to be in. As I said, Gladiator
is still so new. It really hasn't had the time to sink in for me
like Ridley's older films. So unlike Alien
or Blade Runner, which are
films I grew up on, I can't really draw upon the fanboy within me
when I'm in the decision-making process on Ridley's behalf for
something like Gladiator. It's
also different, because Gladiator,
in my opinion, at times feels like the kind of personal, artistic
film that Ridley can make when he's at his best
but it also
has a strong Hollywood popcorn vibe, which is probably why it's his
most successful film to date. Traditionally, those two styles have
been at odds with each other. So you have to find a way to bring it
all together on DVD so that it's fun, and not too pretentious, but
still classy and elegant. You have to serve both the artistic and
the blockbuster mentalities at the same time.
Bill Hunt: Given that, how
involved is Ridley in the project
any of them for that matter?
As a director, does he supervise or approve things? Does he keep
tabs on the process? How accessible is he to you when you need his
Charles de Lauzirika: Ridley
does whatever he can. When he has the time, he's there. And when he
doesn't have the time, he tries to make the time. He's extremely
interested in the process and cares deeply about how his work is
presented. But, you know, he's also a very busy man with far more
than just movies on his agenda. So that's where someone like me
comes in, to look out for his interests. But when I need his
guidance or input, he definitely makes himself available. It's just
a little bit tough, because he went off and did two huge movies
back-to-back while we're trying to get all of these DVDs done.
Bill Hunt: Getting back to
Hannibal, have you started
thinking in terms of the eventual DVD version of that film? Are
there any special plans to gather material for the DVD during the
Charles de Lauzirika: I
haven't heard anything official regarding the Hannibal
DVD yet. I'm guessing it's still a little ways off. But in the
meantime, I've scanned and archived some early material for the
disc, just in case. I would love to do something special on-set for
a future DVD, but I don't think that will really happen until after
Hannibal. When Ridley gets
back, I would love for him to sit down and really go through the
Fight Club DVD as an example
of what you can do on-set, especially in terms of interactivity with
the B-roll footage. And maybe David O. Russell's video journal from
Three Kings too. Hopefully,
when he sees that kind of raw, you-are-there approach and sees what
the possibilities are for creating DVD material on the set, we can
talk about some ideas as to how to attack his next project after
Bill Hunt: I wanted to ask
about possible DVDs of some of Ridley's other films. Obviously, MGM
has already released Thelma and Louise
on DVD with a director's commentary track. Black
Rain was released by Paramount as a movie-only disc, as
were White Squall and G.I.
Jane by Buena Vista. But notably missing from DVD are
1492: Conquest of Paradise and
The Duellists. Are there any
plans to bring them out on disc in the form of more deluxe editions?
Charles de Lauzirika: I'm not
sure about deluxe editions, but 1492
and The Duellists are both
Paramount titles. I recently spoke with some people at Paramount,
just to test the water. If all goes well, there might be hope for
these films after all, but probably not in the immediate future. And
even further down the road, it would be great to revisit Black
Rain, since that one was released with a non-anamorphic
transfer and only a trailer. There are some interesting deleted
scenes and an alternate ending from Black
Rain that would be great to show. But personally, I'm
dying to get The Duellists on
DVD. The very last shot in The Duellists
is one of my all time favorite Ridley Scott shots. It's a beautiful
film. Aside from those two titles, once all the stuff we're working
on hits DVD over the next year or two, you're looking at pretty much
Bill Hunt: You know what would
be cool? I bet fans would love to see Ridley's 1984
Apple Macintosh commercial on DVD. That'd make a great
Charles de Lauzirika: One way
or another, I have very little doubt that it'll end up on a DVD
sometime in the future. Just which DVD
that's the mystery.
Bill Hunt: Not that you don't
have enough going on already, but are there any other DVD projects
you're working on now, or in the near future?
Charles de Lauzirika: Yeah...
I've started to moonlight a little bit, just to stay busy between
Ridley discs. I'm working with David Prior on a couple of pretty
exciting DVD projects for Fox and New Line. We're both really busy
right now, but in the wake of the Fight
Club DVD, David is outrageously busy. I mean, you just
wouldn't believe the huge discs and insane delivery dates he's
facing. But since we've been friends for over 15 years now, I think
we have a nice shorthand and a similar sense of what's good and
what's bad. He was a big help on the Alien
DVD, so it's been nice to see him become one of the top two or three
DVD producers out there. The funny thing is, I think he and I both
really want to get back into features and get out of doing DVDs as
soon as possible. But it's hard to turn down work that is this much
fun. Well, most of the time, anyway. [laughs]
Bill Hunt: Charlie, it's been
a blast chatting again. Thanks for your time and all your hard work.
Charles de Lauzirika: It's my
The staff of The Digital Bits
would like to thank Charles for taking time to speak with us about
his DVD work. And, once again, our sincere thanks also to everyone
Scott Free, DreamWorks and Warner Bros. for their kind support.