The stars of the new ''Poseidon'' on the old movie -- Josh Lucas, Jacinda Barrett, and director Wolfgang Petersen talk about the charm of the 1972 flick and the late Shelley Winters
WOLFGANG PETERSEN (director)
Did Shelley Winters cameo in your film?
No, we have no Shelley Winters.
Everyone’s been asking you about her, huh?
Yeah, yeah. “Who plays Shelley Winters?” So thank God we didn’t even try to have anyobody play a Shelley Winters character! [Chuckles]
Why is there such a fascination with her in that role?
When people remember the old movie they remember Shelley Winters because she was such a beautiful character, because she was so handicapped by the fact that she was… roundish, let’s say, heavy, and she was such a burden for everybody to carry around. But then she saved the day and saved everyone’s life because she has one great strength, and that’s swimming underwater. And that was beautiful, and she was so good.
Are there any sets or anything from that movie that you used in this one?
Well, don’t forget, that was 1972. All the technology that we have now — bluescreens and computers and all that — of course they couldn’t use then.
They were very technically inferior.
Absolutely! And it’s very charming to see the film now, and see it still have exciting moments in it. But nowadays, that whole aspect of what we can offer from the effects point of view — that is like light-years better than what people did in the ’70s. But the good old gimbal that they used, well, we still use it. It’s the same basic thing to make the movement of the ship. Things like that will never change. Or working with real water and gigantic dump tanks — I’m sure they did that, and I know we did it, and I’m sure in 20 years they will do the same thing. Because if you really need water to crash into sets that are real, nothing [computer-generated] beats real water there.
JACINDA BARRETT (Single mom Maggie James)
Had you seen the original Poseidon Adventure before you signed on to this movie?
Not when I was younger — it came out before I was born, so I didn’t see it.
They don’t want to call this a remake, but…
Given the devoted fanbase for the original movie, how did you try to make this one different? You must get a lot of people wanting to talk about the original.
Of course you would ask — it’s the same title, it is based on that movie, there’s no two ways about it. And it would be a disservice not to credit the original book and the original movie. Yeah, people ask about it, they always ask who’s playing the Shelley Winters character. [Laughs] And I’ve decided it’s Richard Dreyfuss [who plays a suicidal gay architect]. He had a moment where he was so terrified and freaking out, and I was like, ”Oh, I got it! He’s playing the Shelley Winters character!” But we didn’t talk about it on the set much, we only joked about it. And obviously, this ship is different. That was over 30 years ago, so obviously CGI makes it look really different.
JOSH LUCAS (Gambler Dylan Johns)
What are your memories of the original movie?
It’s funny — my 90-year-old grandmother came to visit me on the set, and I realized that for her to have any reference to what she was watching — because she’s never really spent any time on a movie — I needed to sit down and watch the [original] with her. I am in love with homages as an actor, and I think that if you watch that movie, honestly, Hackman is great. And much of the dialogue that Hackman has [about] the battle between God and man and religion and life — you know, he’s constantly saying, ”We have to go toward life!” This movie has a completely different essence, much more oriented toward the truthful, modern, selfish times. And that’s kind of the beauty of what happens with these people. But there are moments where I tried to incorporate little pieces that I saw within that movie. I don’t necessarily by any means dismiss that movie; I went back and looked at it and was quite surprised by it. And it affected my grandmother. Watching her watch Shelley Winters, she was roaring and loved it.
Shelley Winters is the one character everyone seems to connect with.
Yeah, well, for me I had a profound sense of what Hackman says at one point: ”Rebellious, angry, the best kind!” I thought, Well, that goes for actors, that goes for priests, that goes for anyone who’s trying to push themselves.