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Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Sarah Michelle Gellar - "Scooby-Doo 2" Movie - Set Visit Report

Dan Shubert

Friday 1 August 2003, by Webmaster

On the 61st day of its 71-day production schedule, I arrived on the set of next spring’s big blockbuster sequel, "Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed." With its enormously vast sets and high-profile cast, which includes Sarah Michelle Gellar, Freddie Prinze Jr., Alicia Silverstone and Seth Green, this reported $80 million production seems destined to do gangbuster business with its family-aimed crowd.

In their new mystery, the Mystery Inc. team, which includes Scooby (voiced by Neil Fanning), Daphne (Gellar), Fred (Prinze Jr), Velma (Linda Cardellini) and Shaggy (Matthew Lillard), confront an anonymous masked villain who is plotting to take over the city of Coolsville by wreaking mayhem with a monster machine that creates Mystery Inc.’s classic foes like the the Pterodactyl Ghost, the Black Knight Ghost, the Creeper, Captain Cutler and the 10,000 Volt Ghost. Meanwhile, the gang’s detecting abilities are scrutinized by relentless reporter Heather Jasper-Howe (Silverstone), aided by museum curator Patrick Wisely (Green) and thwarted by the nasty Jeremiah Wickles (Peter Boyle).

Production commenced on this sequel in April of this year in Vancouver, BC, Canada. The original creative team, consisting of director Raja Gosnell, writer James Gunn and producers Charles Roven and Richard Suckle, have all been brought back to continue the story of our mystery-solving pals that struck such a chord with its audience (to the tune of over $250 million worldwide at the box office) the first time around.

The sets are both extravagant and innovative, as production designer Bill Boes got to improve on the work he did with the first "Scooby" film. "There was a lot of things we didn’t get to do in the first one...in this one, we got to conceptualize where [Mystery Inc.] live and work, which is cool." Boes explains to LatinoReview.com, "There’s a lot more elements in this...there seems to be a lot of classic Scooby Doo moments." Many of the sets have a late 60’s, early 70’s feel to them, especially the Mystery Inc. headquarters, which is filled with orangey-Barbarella colors and space-age velvet furniture which could have come straight out of "2001: A Space Odyssey." There are no straight lines, he tells us, in the Mystery Inc. headquarters, and the set looks very much like a retro/futuristic sci-fi movie that would have come from the 60’s. "We took a lot of reference from the 70’s and the 60’s because the show came out in 1969 and we’re trying to keep the retro flavor in there," comments Boes. Were there more sets to be built this time around? "We have 60 sets on this one and last time we had 50...there’s a larger variety of things in this one." Other sets, like the Mine Shaft set, were partially shot on location. One shot at Vancouver’s Brittania Beach, which actually has a real old mine, was allowed to be used for the movie. Another set is Jeremiah Wickles’ haunted mansion. Long hallways, filled with stone faces, candlesticks, dusty old books and cobwebs, outline this set, which is strikingly similar to Disneyland’s "Haunted Mansion" ride.

The Coolsonian Criminology Museum is the biggest set of them all. A giant soundstage houses this massive interior set, where the movie will open up. In this scene, the Mystery Inc. gang are being honored for their detective work by the city as all of their captured ghosts are on display in glass cases for the public to view. But all hell breaks loose when somebody with the intention of destroying Mystery Inc.’s reputation sets free all of the captured ghouls.

Almost 10 original "Scooby Doo" ghosts are brought back from the original cartoon for this scene. But only a handful, such as the Pterodactyl Ghost and the 10,000 Volt Ghost (which will, among others, both be CGI), will get significant screen time in the film. This should bring back a sense of nostalgia for old fans of the series that was arguably lacking from the first movie. "One of the things that I was hoping that we could do is actually pull some of the nostalgic elements of the cartoon into the movie," explains producer Richard Suckle. "You know, that’s one of the things that we’re hopefully doing successfully, which is including some of the very famous monsters from the original show." "It’s really fun, as a fan of the cartoon, to see those monsters come back," confides Linda Cardellini, "and I think part of the fun of ’Scooby Doo’ is the nostalgia, and for me, it’s sort of a trip into the nostalgia of ’Scooby Doo’ during my childhood." Sarah Michelle Gellar comments: "The monsters are great. It has a real feel for the cartoon...it reminds you. It gives you something to work off of." Matthew Lillard agrees, saying, "It’s very clever. It brings back elements of the cartoon that people love that we didn’t necessarily have in the first one. When you see Captain Cutler’s ghost...and the Black Knight ghost and all these ghosts you recognize from the series, I think that’s fun and I think that kids and adults will love that."

Suckle tells us they are going to great lengths to give fans of the series a real, genuine look back at familiar elements that were successful from the original cartoon. "The first movie was Mystery Inc. going to the mystery, and this time, in some ways, you can look at it like the mystery comes to them, by having the movie set in Coolsville, their backyard, I think that allows us to do some more interesting things such as we get to go to Mystery Inc.’s offices, and see what they look like," he tells us, "...other things I remember a lot of fans wished we had in the first movie was the Mystery Machine, and since we had the gang go to this island, we didn’t really have any reason to bring the Mystery Machine to the island so you get to really see the Mystery Machine as a big part of this movie, sort of a nostalgic element, [in terms of] things that fans of the cartoon would like to see in the movie, I think that we’ve really given them a lot more this time out."

When did the second movie really start getting into development? "The Saturday the movie opened up, and we found out how well we did, Lorenzo DiBonaventura, who was the president of production at the time, was like ’Ok! Let’s go!’ but actually before that, Raja [Gosnell] and I had been talking to James [Gunn] about what kind of story we would tell...Raja got the idea of, sort of, including the famous monsters and try to bring this, sort of, nostalgia element into it, so we had been talking about it, but the studio’s ’yeah let’s go’ came, literally, the Saturday the movie opened." Suckle replies. Writer James Gunn: "I got a call from Lorenzo DiBonaventura on Friday morning, the day the movie opened up, and when we found out how much the movie made, he was like ’We gotta start working on a sequel’ and my first reaction was, frankly, I couldn’t take it. I had been working on ’Scooby Doo 1’ for a long, long time. But after a month or two months, I really missed everybody and started having a bunch of ideas for the way things could go. I saw what I liked about the first movie and I saw what I didn’t like about the first movie, and I thought there was a real opportunity to do something that was truer to what people wanted to see and truer to what I liked."

Is this film going to better than the first? "I think we have a much better mystery than the first movie...there wasn’t like a real, clear sense that it could be three different people...you know it looked like it could be Rowan Atkinson." Suckle says. "But this time out, we truly have three great suspects that I think the audience is going to be wondering throughout the way, ’which one of them is behind it?’" Director Raja Gosnell explains: "We’re trying to do what we did with the last movie, but better...we’re not, sort of, hamstrung by being in an island environment or a theme park environment, we’re throughout Coolsville so we have a beautiful museum setting, we have Mystery Inc.’s offices, the haunted mansion...we all wanted to make a better sequel and we all attacked it with that in mind." Gunn agrees, "On this movie, I’ve went in with a much clearer objective of just making this a better movie, whether it’s going to make as much money as the first movie, I don’t know, but I truly believe that it’s going to be a much stronger film." Lillard vehemently concurs that this movie will be superior: "I guarantee if you ask us all, we are all making a better movie. Script’s better, we have a better idea. The first time we kinda got in a logjam, ’cause we tried to make a movie that was ’Shrek’ in its appeal to both adults and kids, and I think we fuckin’ missed on both ends, we missed both ways. We kinda, like, screwed up...this time around, I think...I know we’re making a movie that’s for families that adults will get a kick out of, but it’s for families. And having that kind of commitment, that kind of focus is completely helping out the film. It’s making a better film...the movie’s gonna make a certain amount of money, again, box-office wise, but hopefully at the end of the day we won’t be crucified like we were the first time around."

As Lillard was saying, it was hard with the first film to find what the tone was going to be, but this time the cast are sure they know its audience a lot better. "I remember when I was in ’Scream 2’ and our whole topic at the beginning of the movie was how sequels suck and how sequels are never better than the first one," Gellar explains. "I think what we’re seeing is that the trend is moving away from that and what’s happening, especially with movies based on previous material, you spend the first 45 minutes to an hour of the first movie setting everything up, whether it’s ’Scooby’ or ’X-Men’ or ’Spider-Man’...we weren’t actually sure what our niche was the first time. Were we a movie for kids? Were we going to be a little more esoteric and go for a little bit more of an older, more satirical audience? And we shot everything both ways, and it was really put together in the edit and really made for a family film. Now coming in, you know we’re coming in to make a family film, we know our characters, the story is set and it makes it much easier to jump into a story." Cardellini sums up Gellar’s thoughts: "We weren’t sure exactly what the audience was...and we found our audience with a younger crowd."

The sequel also brings three brand new cast members into the mix: Alicia Silverstone, Seth Green and Peter Boyle. These new additions have brought fresh life into the series. Gosnell explains: "The new supporting cast...they were great...they’re in some of my favorite scenes in the movie because they’re, like, fresh characters, not just goofy sidekicks; they’re living, breathing people with subtly hidden motives and so I think the mystery elements of this are much stronger than the first time around...bringing those three actors on board just elevated the characters and the material immensely." In fact, Gunn calls Green one of the best actors he’s ever worked with. "He’s a lot of fun...and he really came out to create his own character." Cardellini is ecstatic about Green as she tells us, "He’s really such a nice guy, so easy to work with. It’s fun, we play Scrabble...a lot," she laughs. And Gellar, who also worked with Green on her hugely popular show, "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer", says of Green: "He’s an amazing comedian, an incredibly gifted comedian and he’s also a really giving comedian...what Seth does is he tries to make everything funnier." She says it’s also been a great experience working with Boyle and Silverstone. "Alicia’s great. She’s a really easy-going person...you get Alicia and Seth to come in and it felt like they’ve been here since the beginning. And Peter Boyle’s great! Come on, ’Frankenstein’!"

Gunn told us that one of the things that worked the best in the first film was the relationship between Scooby and Shaggy, so the new film also has quite a few more scenes with Scooby and Shaggy than the first. Gosnell calls them the centerpiece of the sequel. Lillard tells us, "Me and Scooby are best friends...for me, Scooby and I have a really great emotional blueline through the film. But it’s also coupled with a lot of big comedy hi-jink moments." Working with a CG dog is extremely difficult for everyone involved, but the person who has to work with the dog the most is Lillard. He explains what’s it’s like working with Scooby and if it’s any easier the second time around. "The leap of faith isn’t as great, because the first time it was like jumping into the abyss and you were like ’I have no idea how this is going to turn out’, or even if it would work...this time it is easier because you have an idea of what’s on the other side." Lillard adds, laughingly, "And what’s on the other side is going to upstage me 99% of the time, and that’s kind of a mean thing to do." He also talks about Neil Fanning, who is the voice of Scooby and on set every single day with the actors, helping them visualize Scooby being there with them. "Neil is my savior in particular," Lillard says, "I couldn’t do this movie without him. No way, without a doubt. Not only does he bring life to Scooby as a voice in terms of the film, but for me, as an actor, he is a tool that I couldn’t replace." And is Scooby going to look more realistic this time? "He is going to look a lot better in this movie," says Gosnell. "The technology of the fur and the wet nose and the eyes...he’s still going to have the same shape and he’s still going to be the same character, but the look of him is going to much stronger."

There is a strong theme in this movie and it revolves around being yourself and not worrying what others think. "The movie’s about being yourself and being true to who you are," says Gunn. Gellar agrees with that theme and relates it to her own character, Daphne: "I think the first story, sort of, revolved around Daphne finding her place. That same ’in-between’ that I think a lot of teenagers and young adults find, which is ’Where do I fit in? What’s my place? What’s my purpose? What am I good at?’ because everything to her was that she was the pretty one, [but] she never really fit in. And this one’s more about public image and, in the beginning, you find Daphne and she’s confident. She’s confident because she’s deriving her strength from what other people think. The press and the fans, and its all about public image. But what she soon realizes is that the public image can change, it’s fickle, and that you have to find your strength from within before you can worry about how everyone perceives you."

There was a bit of sexual tension between Velma and Daphne in the first film, leading many to believe that Velma is a lesbian. But in this film, Velma finally gets a male love interest. Cardellini tells us the scoop: "She’s smart about everything and she’s got great intuition, but the only thing she’s really off-base on is relationships with the opposite sex. So that’s become Velma’s arc throughout ’Scooby 2’, her relationship with a character played by Seth Green...she’s sort of gaga whenever she’s around him...she gets stunted in her thought process by the love she feels for [Green’s character] Patrick." One of the things everybody agrees with is that this movie may have a lot of monsters and visual effects, but it all comes down to Mystery Inc. and the way they work as a team. Cardellini explains: "In this movie, we’re very much a team...it’s been good for the characters and it’s been good for me."

Would there be any chance of a "Scooby 3" being made? "Right now, we’re not actually spending any real time developing that script. We started doing some work on it last fall, but as soon as we got the go-ahead to move forward with the sequel, it was almost impossible for Chuck [Roven], Raja and I to spend any time on it," Suckle says, "...but I am hoping that the studio wants us to explore the idea of ’Scooby 3’ and the early indications are that they are interested." Gosnell also says he’d come back for a third helping. "I love doing ’Scooby Doo’, and if there’s a chance to make it better, then I really would love to. I really feel like, for better or for worse, I’d like to own the series." One player who doesn’t seem to like the idea of coming back for a third is Gunn. "I’ve been doing ’Scooby Doo’ for an awful long time, so its become like working on a TV show and I want to direct a film next year that I’m working on now, so there’s a lot of different reasons."