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July 2004
Thunderbirds press conference: An Interview with Jonathan Frakes, Brady Corbet, Vanessa Anne Hudgens, and Soren Fulton

By Wilson Morales

Thunderbirds press conference: An Interview with Jonathan Frakes, Brady Corbet, Vanessa Anne Hudgens, and Soren Fulton

Jonathan Frakes is like a God to a lot of Sci-Fi geeks. Of all the Star Trek actors, past and present, he's the only one who keeps on working within the sci-fi genre. He's into directing these days and has done a few kids' films such as "Clockstoppers" and now he has another film that should entice adults and kids to come. "THUNDERBIRDS" is the live action feature film on the hit British television series of the 1960s. At a recent press conference to promote the film, Jonathan as well as three of the stars, Brady Corbet, Vanessa Anne Hudgens, and Soren Fulton, spoke about the Thunderbirds franchised, while Jonathan also talked about doing kids' movies now.

Are you set doing kids' movies now?

Frakes: There are worst fates, aren't there? I don't know, that's a very good question. I don't think this is all a kid's movie, it just happens to star three great young adults. I think the idea of hiring somebody who had done visual effects movies and had worked with kids was not lost on Universal. I have a lot of kid in me, and I have kids of my own and I like the energy. So it's not a bad lot.

Fulton: There are definitely worst fates Steven Seagal knows that. I'm only kidding.

Frakes: Be careful guys, think of the room you're in.

(to Frakes) I hear that you're trying to change young people's minds from enjoying one sci-fi genre to the other from Star Wars to Star Trek (looks at Fulton)

Frakes: I think it was part of their entertainment education.

Can you tell us the challenges you had working with green screen and have you left Star Trek for good?

Frakes: I'll do the second one first. I don't think you ever leave Star Trek for good. We'll wait to see what happens.I hear Shatner's going on Enterprise, have you heard that rumor? And I also hear there's a prequel in development Starfleet Academy. I'm actually having dinner with all those guys tonight, I'll get all the dish for you and tell you what's really happening with Star Trek.

You've obviously worked a lot with green screen in your past

Frakes: Is that a good thing?

I think it challenges the actors

Frakes: These guys learned the technique.

Fulton: I love green screen. It wasn't too hard for me because I've got a really big imagination, I read a lot of books. It's just like a little bubble inside of my head, like those thought bubbles when you're picturing everything that's what I do.

Frakes: We're also lucky because we developed a lot of what the movie was going to look like in pre-production, so I was able to share with these guys what would be in the ??? what would be out the window of the spaceship, out of the cockpits, what the silos would look like, so the visual effects team would come to our rehearsals and then come when we were preparing to shoot, and there were visual stimulants that would help us. It was more of a tone of what's going on, the movement, that you have to pretend to be moving when you're not is always a challenge.

You all got to work with one of the great actors of our age, Ben Kingsley do you have any favorite stories or experiences with him?

Fulton: I was a little afraid of him at first. I remember one time we were shooting in the Thunder One silo and he's like, 'If this shot's going to work, it all depends on you.' I was like, 'Okay.' But I guess I made it work because it's in the film.

Hudgens: No, I remember when you were intimidated to go down and get his signature.

Fulton: I got my script all signed with all sorts of people, and wanting all the actors, and after awhile Vanessa's like, 'Go, go ask him.'

Hudgens: And he wouldn't go, so I had to grab him and pull him down the stairs because he wasn't doing anything. I really didn't get to know him that much. He seems like a great guy and the time that I have talked to him he's just amazing.

Frakes: He's fabulous. He came into meet me, we offered him the part obviously, and we're thrilled that he took it but he came in and the timing of having had done Sexy Beast and House of Sand and Fog was the gift that we got, because he was ready to drop some of that emotional, exhausting, suicidal, painful acting that he'd been doing and embrace a family film. His kids also helped us, because they encouraged him, because they were Thunderbirds fans and they encouraged him to play The Hood. He also does a great Patrick Stewart impersonation, which wasn't lost on me. He's from that wonderful school of actors who have come up from the theatre and through the Beeb and they show up in the morning, they're in costume, they're in make-up, they come to the set and they're ready to go and game for anything. He was a treat to have in the film, he was a treat to work with and he's a genius, so I just had to point the camera in the right direction. And he played the Hood in this wonderful, mad way. As we were rehearsing he was discovering, as we all discovered together, that the character was a few bricks short of the load. He began to physicalize some of that sort of the revenge is there, the sinister anger of the character is there, but there was also a madness in the performance that is just delicious. It's a little part Childcatcher (there is no movie by this title, I looked it up!) and part Don Logan (?)

Fulton: Childcatcher scared me when I first saw it.

Corbet: You know what, I was always on completely cordial terms but I didn't get to know him particularly well outside of the working environment. But he was always really lovely. I've seen him a lot since, and it was just incredible to be working with such a legend.

Frakes: We were lucky to have him.

Corbet: I've been a film junkie my whole life, I've grown up watching and so it was I don't know, it was particularly incredible for me. When it came right down to it, we were all just playing and working and that was that.

Frakes: He also loves it. He loves the craft, he's one of those guys that reminds you why you're doing it, because he really still loves what he does and I think that shows.

Were you guys aware of the Thunderbird culture?

Frakes: I wasn't.

Corbet: I was, I'm a bit of an insomniac, I don't sleep very much, and it comes on at like 3 a.m. on Tech TV now, and it was always on my periphery, it was that kind of thing.

Frakes: Did you see it when you were a kid in Europe?

Corbet: No, I didn't see it when I was a really little kid, I've probably seen it in the past three years, but I've always known what it was and people always kind of made jokes about all of it, but I don't think I'd ever seen an entire episode, maybe one entire episode, or two.

Fulton: I thought it was a car.

Frakes: It's a nice car. Marionettes super marionation (?) It wasn't on my radar when I was a kid.

I caught your little homage to it (a puppet hand on the controls)

Fulton: Yeah, good job.

Frakes: Everybody wanted to do their marionette impersonation, but we spared you most of them.

Does it concern you at all that your target audience doesn't know Thunderbirds?

Frakes: No, not at all. One of the things about making a film like this is that for an audience who knows the Thunderbirds, all of their precious icons are in the film, and for an audience who doesn't know the Thunderbirds, they get to go on this adventure with this international rescue organization. It was very much like the Star Trek movies, if you didn't know anything about Star Trek and you went to see First Contact, for instance, you needn't know anything about any of these people, and you get introduced to them. So you make a great family adventure fantasy film that just happens to be the Thunderbirds, in much the same way as the Star Trek films. I don't think there is any need to know about them. Plus, to be perfectly frank with you, the memory of the original Thunderbirds is better than going back and sitting through an hour of them.

Is that why you didn't worry about exposition?

Frakes: Just dove right in, yeah, exactly.

Do you agree Brady that the memory might be better?

Corbet: Not entirely, we just said this in the last one, which is it's something I appreciate and it's something that, especially considering the time, it is as a kid, it totally would have captured my imagination. I loved Jim Henson, I loved the Muppets, I grew up with Labyrinth and all that, so to me it's not massively different that that. It's not wacky and crazy, it's kind of stern and kind of but it's something that I appreciate more than enjoy, but I'm not really into sci-fi anyway

Frakes: Oh, you will be. I was the same way. I said the same things in the '80s.

Vanessa, what was the hardest thing about working with so many guys?

Hudgens: Well, I wouldn't really consider saying that I look at them just as guys, I seriously look at them as my friends. Me and Soren grew really close

Fulton: We're like, I guess you could say, she's like a twin sister that's three years older than me, but she's also a little eccentric. It's like Dory and male Dory from Finding Nemo.

Hudgens: It didn't really seem like there was much of a difference, I just had fun on it.

Are you insinuating that she's not too bright?

Hudgens: Dory's amazing.

Fulton: We like Dory.

Frakes: Vanessa was one of the guys, in the story and out. She would try anything that I would ask her to try. I must say, all my talent were really up for it, and they didn't have to do some of the things I begged them to do.

Can you tell me what your favorite music is?

Corbet: Busted. I'm a total music geek, I'm a multi-media geek. I love Wilco (?), and I listen to the new Wilco album a lot, Tender Sticks, Tom Waits, all sorts of stuff.

Hudgens: I listen to a lot of things, everything, rap, reggae, I love Bob Marley, Modest Mouse Foot on the Ya, Ya , Yas (?) and pretty much everything well rounded.

Fulton: I listen to the Clash, you heard that right, the Clash from the London invasion, and in my family's car right now is Elvis' number one hits I got that for my birthday. But I listen to a lot of the Clash, they're great.

Frakes: ??? Berto (???) I like, her new album is great I listen to Nora Jones a lot, I listen to Billie Holiday a lot, John Mayo (?). You know the Busted video's number one top of the pops. It's the first time they ever went number one (the kids seem thrilled by this!)

Former child stars burn out are you being counseled for that time in your life when you won't be cute!!!!!!

Corbet: Your career, no matter what age you are, is entirely up to you to do what you want with it. I'm not in any kind of particular fear of being pigeon-holed into, 'Oh look, little blonde Arian superhero.' It's obviously something where you go, 'Oh God, it happened to them.' Most of the people who have ended up where they have, and these dire bad situations, they're not where they would probably hope they would be, they got themselves there and so therefore, if in ten years I screw up, then I'm entirely responsible for that and I can deal with that. Unless there's a sequel of course, this is the only family film that I've ever done and, at least for the next several years, will do. Before this I'd done Thirteen, and as soon as I got home from that I did a film called Mysterious Skin with a director that I'd always dug named Greg Araki. I've no desire to be famous, but what I do have a desire to do is to be working on the kind of projects that I've always (can't hear guy interrupts about peer pressure) Peer pressure, that has nothing to do with the business, or with film or anything of that nature, that's just it is a generation thing where everything is getting younger and Thirteen did explore that, a lot of films have explored that. But I don't go to school, I'm home schooled. I have quality over quantity kind of friends, and I have a couple of very close people that I spend time with, so I don't feel any kind of particular pressure to do anything. I'm sure some people do.

Fulton: I just turned 13 and basically I don't know why I would do drugs. What's the point of burning out your mind? People who do that are usually they want to escape and I'm hoping to have a good future, and it's kind of hard to have a good future if you don't know which end's up, with a bunch of holes in your wrists and tar in your lungs. That's my two-cents.

Hudgens: I spend a lot of time with my family, I'm really close to my family and we just go out and have fun and we do lots of theme parks, and when I do get stressed I go to the gym and just work out, which is also good, because it relieves the stress and I get a good workout so I stay fit. But I really don't have that many friends, because I'm also home schooled, I used to go to real school, but I lived 50 miles away from where I do live now, so my close friends that I have there, I have to drive a long way to see, so now I only have one friend that's really close. I pick out who I hang out with, if I do get myself into a situation it wouldn't no, I would just do my hardest to reject (?). It's not like I would want to do any of those things, but the people I do hang out with I really trust and they are always there for me.

Corbet: Mark my words, we're going to be the next Corey Haim.

Fulton: Thanks Brady. You know when I turned 13, they called in Evan who was also 13, 'Soren, how old are you turning?' 'I'm turning 13,' In the background Brady starts singing the theme to Thirteen. Just say no.

What was it like directing your wife, Genie Francis?

Frakes: She's a pro, Genie Francis is. She shoots a lot faster than most actresses, because she's done the soaps for so long. It was treat to finally get to put her in something, I'll be honest with you. It has been a long time coming. My wife, Genie Francis plays the newscaster in Thunderbirds. I've done a couple of shows with her where we've acted together, but I'd never had a chance to direct her. I adore her, I think she's great. The greatest compliment has been in England, where nobody knows her from Luke and Laura, and felt that I'd hired a newscaster from CNN, so it's been a very good experience.

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