Director Chris Columbus feels powered up for ‘Pixels’

Even though Chris Columbus’ new film “Pixels” co-stars video game icons such as Donkey Kong, Pac-Man and Q*bert, the San Francisco director is particularly proud of the big-budget action-comedy’s practical effects.

“It wasn’t all CGI,” Columbus says. “We built the entire Donkey Kong set. Sometimes the actors were hundreds of feet in the air on harnesses, jumping over imaginary barrels.”

Columbus subjected Adam Sandler, Michelle Monaghan and Kevin James to the “grueling” harness treatment. In the film, Sandler’s character, a former video game prodigy, and fellow childhood champs Josh Gad and Peter Dinklage are assembled to fight space invaders who have taken the form of, well, Space Invaders and other 8-bit game characters. The trio is joined by a brainy lieutenant colonel played by Monaghan and the president, played rather incongruously by James.

“I kind of related to all of them,” Columbus says about the characters played by Sandler, Gad and Dinklage, who go from 1980s video game glory to dead-end jobs, conspiracy theories and prison, respectively, before getting a chance to save the world. “I could see in my life that I was really only good at one thing. And if for some reason the movie business kind of fell apart, I would be out of a job.

“My parents were both factory workers,” says Columbus, whose credits include directing “Home Alone” and “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” as well as penning 1980s classics such as “The Goonies” and “Gremlins.” “I went to NYU film school, and I knew if I did not succeed I’d be working in a factory.”

The melancholy slant of Sandler’s character is something of a departure for the comedian, whose recent filmography includes broad comedies like 2011’s “Jack & Jill,” for which he became  the first person to win both worst actor and worst actress at the Golden Raspberry Awards.

“Adam is a really good actor in films like ‘Punch Drunk Love’ and ‘Funny People,’” Columbus says, adding that the film’s emotional stakes “sort of upped the ante for everyone.”

“Pixels” was inspired by French director Patrick Jean’s 2010 short of the same name, in which characters made of “voxels” — the 3-D version of flat-screen pixels — terrorize a city. The 2015 film’s upgraded special effects included giving the game characters an arcade-bright inner glow.

“Doing this film was partially a course in physics for me,” Columbus says. “Voxelization is not something that was in my vocabulary a year and a half ago.”

So did producers ever consider naming the movie, which is screening in 3-D, “Voxels”?

“Maybe that will be the sequel,” Columbus says with a laugh.

Giselle Velazquez
Share
Published by
Giselle Velazquez

Recent Posts

SF transit board may approve dockless bike expansion

More dockless electric bikes may soon hit the streets of San Francisco, following a vote by The City’s transit board…

8 hours ago

SF targets city’s biggest buildings to reduce trash going to landfill

San Francisco has abandoned a more than decade-old goal of sending zero waste to the landfill by 2020 but now…

8 hours ago

Does a Republican have a chance of winning an SF supervisor race?

A Republican candidate for supervisor says a new survey he funded shows he has a shot at winning an election…

8 hours ago

San Francisco 49ers passing attack scrutinized after close win over Detroit

By C.J. Peterson Special to S.F. Examiner The 49ers secured their first win of the 2018 season on Sunday but…

9 hours ago

Jonathan Wilson revels in rock ‘n’ roll classicism

North Carolina-bred, Los Angeles-based tunesmith and producer Jonathan Wilson has found his unique artistic vision to be both a blessing…

9 hours ago

San Francisco Giants get contributions from old and young in win over San Diego Padres

With Brandon Belt on the bench with a mysterious knee ailment -- his MRI late last weekend came back clean…

11 hours ago