A new dance video from ‘(500) Days of Summer’ director Marc Webb
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It’s only fitting that Webb, 34, would slip a song and dance number into ‘(500) Days,’ his first feature film. After all, he’s the guy behind scores of music videos for such artists as My Chemical Romance, Weezer, Daniel Powter (Remember ‘Bad Day’ before it was hijacked by ‘American Idol?’), Green Day (including the new ’21 Guns’) and Ashlee Simpson.
As a sort of complement to ‘(500) Days,’ Webb (with backing from Fox Searchlight) came up with a new video featuring the film’s stars Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel. Like most of the scenes in the
movie, the video was shot in an architecturally notable prewar location in downtown L.A. In this case, an old bank building some may recall from ‘The Mask,’ the film that launched Jim Carrey’s career.
The idea came about, Webb says, because ‘Zooey likes to dance’ but she doesn’t appear in the film’s dance scene.
‘I had thought about doing a sequence in the movie where Joe and Zooey are making love through dance. We had an abstract idea of doing a dance, but instead we ended up doing the number with Joe,’ Webb says. ‘So we got to talking, and we all like old musicals and dance scenes, so we just decided to make this work.’
The director wrote up his ideas, then connected with Michael Rooney, who choreographed the Hall & Oates dance scene. The bank space was enhanced with new counter tops, desks, tables, some lights and other accouterments. They rehearsed, then shot the video in a day.
‘I’m a big fan of old musicals --- we all were,’ Webb says. ‘Movie musicals sort of disappeared for a long time, like in the ‘70s and ‘80s. It feels like after ‘West Side Story,’ they just kinda stopped. Then ‘Moulin Rouge’ came along and sort of revived it.
‘I think when MTV came along, that sort of satisfied the need for musicals and dance,’ he adds. ‘But now that they’re doing less videos, musicals are kinda coming back, you know, with ‘Hairspray’ and some others.’
Webb was no stranger to the grittiness of downtown Los Angeles. ‘I’ve shot so many videos there that to me it was a back lot essentially,’ he says. ‘So I knew downtown, and I’ve always had something of an affection for it.’
Many who have seen the film note the particular camera angles Webb used when shooting architectural details. ‘I don’t have a background in architecture. We studied it and read about it. It’s a very specific component – L.A. architecture – since it’s downtown,’ he says.
‘When we were scouting and looking around, trying to find buildings to shoot, my [location scout] said something like, ‘If you look from ground level, it’s kinda gross, but if you look up, it’s really beautiful. And I think that’s true.” So he spoke with the film’s writers, Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, who added a similar line to the script. ‘That fits Tom’s character – he’s an optimist and always looking up,’ Webb says, ‘So it’s kinda a code for his character.’
Downtown L.A. is ‘really a spectacular place and has a great and spectacular history,’ Webb notes. ‘It dodges all the assumptions you have about L.A.’
‘(500) Days of Summer,’ which Webb says was made for just over $7 million, has brought in about $15 million so far at the box office since it opened in mid-July.
So what’s next for the director? ‘I would love someday to do a Broadway musical; I’d rather do that than a sequel’ he says, mentioning there was also loose talk of doing a musical version of ‘(500) Days.’ (‘A kind of meta-musical about the making of the film.’)
And regardless of any rumors floating around about possible movie-remake projects, Webb’s next move will, no doubt, be linked in some way to his musical interests. ‘I think at the end of the world if somebody dug up a note from God about the meaning of life, it would say, ‘I put you here to dance and make music.’ People have a primal connection to dancing and music.’
Top photo: Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marc Webb. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times. Middle photo: ‘Best Morning Ever’ scene from ‘(500) Days of Summer. Credit: Chuck Zlotnick / Fox Searchlight Pictures. Bottom photo: Chuck Zlotnick/Fox Searchlight Pictures