THEN AND NOW
In his day, the legendary H.G. Wells, author of the classic science fiction novel The Time Machine, was dubbed "the man who saw tomorrow." However, if he could have really looked into the future, even H.G. Wells might have been amazed to see his most famous story brought to the big screen, not once, but twice.
While much has changed in the more than 100 years since his book was written, H.G. Wells' vision of the future and the notion of time travel itself still hold a great fascination for audiences. Producer Walter Parkes remarks, "There was a time back in the early 1960s when movies like '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea' and 'Journey to the Center of the Earth' absolutely fired our imaginations, and the granddaddy of them all was George Pal's 'The Time Machine.' Today, we have technologies that allow us to recreate a world as imagined by H.G. Wells in ways they couldn't, which is exciting. Yet, there is something about the basic story of this man in a waistcoat, tie and jacket climbing into that beautiful, hand-crafted Victorian machine and traveling to the future that is as compelling today as it was then."
Producer David Valdes agrees. "I can vividly remember going to see George Pal's 'The Time Machine' when it was first released. It was everything you wanted in a movie as a kid, and I must have seen it three times that first week. The whole concept of traveling through time was so fascinating, and it turned me on to science fiction as a genre. I can honestly say it was one of maybe three films that propelled me ultimately to become a motion picture producer."
This latest version of "The Time Machine" has its own ties to the past, both to the story's creator, as well as to its first screen outing from the late George Pal. Executive producer Arnold Leibovit notes, "I saw the first 'The Time Machine' when I was nine, and it blew me away, and I became a great admirer of George Pal. Years later, I made a film tribute to his life called 'The Fantasy Film Worlds of George Pal,' which was a real eye-opener about his extraordinary career as a filmmaker. I'm most proud of this new incarnation of 'The Time Machine' because, with today's technologies, we were able to go beyond the original without losing the spirit of the original. This film is more of an homage, affectionately recalling some of Pal's memorable emotions and images."
The new film's link to H.G. Wells is more tangible. The director of 2002's "The Time Machine" is Simon Wells, the great-grandson of the author. Familial connections notwithstanding, it was Wells' work in animation, especially as a co-director on DreamWorks' animated epic "The Prince of Egypt," that first impressed the producers.
"We had already seen him as an extraordinary talent in animation and felt he could really be a good live action filmmaker," Parkes says. "I had no idea he was the great-grandson of H.G. Wells; I only found out after I learned he had already professed some interest in directing this film. So, if there is such a thing as kismet in the movie business, this is a good example of it."
Simon Wells offers, "Most of my work has been in animation, but I have always had an interest in branching out to the live action arena and the action adventure genre. When I read that DreamWorks was developing 'The Time Machine,' of all things, I went to Jeffrey Katzenberg to throw my hat in the ring, so to speak. A while later, I met with Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald and they said that my take on the story was the way they wanted to go."
Their collective take on the story was also reflected in the screenplay by John Logan, who had just scripted "Gladiator" for the studio. "Walter Parkes came to me and asked how I would feel about working on 'The Time Machine,'" Logan remembers. "I thought about it for all of two seconds before saying 'yes.' It wasn't till about five minutes later that I said to myself, 'what have I done?,' because not only is the novel such a respected classic of literature, but also the George Pal movie is beloved by so many people, including myself."
"From the start, we wanted to return to the spirit of scientific discovery in the novel," the screenwriter continues. "H.G. Wells was also very concerned with evolution, futurism, class-consciousness and socialism, and those philosophical and sociological tenets are all through the book. I think Wells' The Time Machine was the first time anyone had presented so intellectually and in such an exciting way the concept of time travel. And the amazing thing is that he takes the reader on that journey. I believe that's why Wells didn't give his time traveler a name-so you can be the time traveler and witness both the wonder and the horror of what the future might hold. Because, for Wells, both futures were a possibility; the thing that would make the difference is how we individually acted on it, which is why I think the story deserves to be told again."
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