Albert Pyun has a long list of directorial credits to his name, including cult favorites such as The Sword and The Sorceror, Cyborg, and Marvel's 1990 Captain America film. Shadowland Magazine recently had the chance to speak with Mr. Pyun regarding his work on Marvel's premiere Avenger!
SHADOWLAND MAGAZINE: It’s well-known that back in the late 1980s Marvel Comics had been trying to get several of their A-list titles onto the big screen. Can you tell us how you became attached to the proposed late-‘80s Spider-Man live-action film and how far did it go into pre-production before dissolving?
We were pretty far into pre-production and I believe the thing fell apart just two weeks before shooting was to commence (due to a Cannon bounced check to Marvel). We were totally cast (though I can't remember who was cast), sets were built for many of the scenes and I believe there was a prototype Lizard who was the villain in the film.
SHADOWLAND MAGAZINE: Cannon Films had considered following up their 1987 sci-fi adventure, Masters of the Universe with a sequel and with you at the director’s helm. Can you reveal what the premise of this sequel would have been like and, ultimately, why Cannon backed out?
ALBERT PYUN: It fell apart due to another failure on the rights payment issue. Again we were cast and crewed. Sets were up and it was very disappointing. I was ramping it up because the rights would be lost if it did not go before cameras.
SHADOWLAND MAGAZINE: How did you become involved as the director of Captain America? Were you a fan of the comics prior to directing the live-action Captain America film?
ALBERT PYUN: I was a big fan of the comic and the character when I was growing up. I shied away from it for several years because it seem a difficult character to bring to the screen. I didn't know if the character and the intent of the storyline was applicable to present day. Then I happen to get and read Steve Tolkien's draft of the script and fell in love with his take on the material. It was less about super hero action and more about the underlying meaning of heroism and government's need to create symbols, valid or not.
SHADOWLAND MAGAZINE: Were there certain stipulations that Marvel had concerning the Captain America film? Do you recall if there were specific conditions that had to be followed regarding the character, time setting, or costume?
SHADOWLAND MAGAZINE: Captain America is essentially a fish-out-of-water storyline (in this case, a man-out-of-time) both in the comics and in the film. The scene in the film where Steve Rogers (Matt Salinger) is in the car with Sam (Ned Beatty) and sees the ‘Made in Japan’ and ‘Made in Germany’ labels served as a tragic realization that the world had changed. Was it your decision to feature the earlier scenes in the 1940s and the majority of the film in the modern day, as opposed to depicting the entire film in the ‘40s?
ALBERT PYUN: That's how the script was set and I thought it worked given the theme of the story. I don't think it would've worked if set entirely in the 40's. Growing up I love the fish out of water aspect of Steve Roger's trying to adjust his thinking to a new America, not the one he came from.
SHADOWLAND MAGAZINE: Cannon often produced their films on a limited budget when compared to the enormous budgets of Universal, Paramount, and Warner Brothers. Were there any scenes in Captain America that were never shot due to these budget limitations?
ALBERT PYUN: Mostly the action sequences were truncated, reduced in scale or omitted entirely.
SHADOWLAND MAGAZINE: The film was scheduled to be released theatrically in the summer of 1990 but was shelved for two years before being released direct-to-video. Can you shed any light on what may have been Marvel’s reasoning behind this?
SHADOWLAND MAGAZINE: There’s a long-standing rumor that prior to casting Matt Salinger for the role of Captain America, other actors were being considered including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dolph Lundgren, and Val Kilmer. Is there any truth to that? Ironically, all three would go on to play comic book characters in the future, which may have lent some credence to that rumor (Schwarzenegger would go on to play Mr. Freeze in Batman and Robin, Lungren would portray Frank Castle in The Punisher, and Kilmer played Batman in Batman Forever).
ALBERT PYUN: During my involvement it was really just Matt and football star Howie Long.
SHADOWLAND MAGAZINE: Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, comic book films were a rare breed. Today, Hollywood is churning out a handful of new comic book themed films every summer, most of which have adopted a gritty, so-called ‘real-world’ sensibility. Captain America was very different in the sense that the film retained that comic book adventure feel. What do you think about Hollywood’s new take on the superhero genre? Do you have any thoughts on the upcoming Captain America movie, directed by Joe Johnston?
ALBERT PYUN: I think Marvel has a formula now that they are following. I hope Johnston's version retains the tragic aspect of Steve Roger's story. Its what always elevated Marvel comics to me.
SHADOWLAND MAGAZINE: Fans have long-awaited an official DVD release of Captain America, but now they're getting one better with a Director's Cut. What can you tell us about the details of your Captain America Director's Cut?
ALBERT PYUN: Well, with my cut they get a deeper look at Steve Rogers and the struggles he goes through to accept himself as a hero. It has more scenes dealing with that doubt and confusion. To me that was always the best part of the Marvel characters. Their struggles.
SHADOWLAND MAGAZINE: Are there any other projects that you’re currently working on?
ALBERT PYUN: I just finished TALES OF AN ANCIENT EMPIRE, which is a loose follow up to my first film The Sword and the Sorcerer. I think it takes heroic fantasy into a different style of story and characters. I spent the past three years on it so I think its my best film, it takes the genre in a different direction and tells an original story in a slightly surreal way.
Shadowland Magazine would like to thank Mr. Pyun for taking the time for our interview! You can keep up to date on some of Mr. Pyun's latest films at his official website.