Frank Marshall has hope for the future of filmmaking: ‘It’s just gonna look different’

Director and producer Frank Marshall at home in Brentwood.
Director and producer Frank Marshall at home in Brentwood. He is currently directing a hit Zoom magic show for the Geffen Playhouse.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

The last time director-producer Frank Marshall remembers one of his movie projects being shut down for this long was in 1983, when Harrison Ford suffered a spinal disc herniation while filming “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.” Ford was knocked out of commission for nearly six weeks while he recovered from the painful, stunt-related injury.

At least there was an end in sight to that delay, said Marshall, whose long list of producing credits includes such eternal classics as “Gremlins,” “The Goonies” and “Back to the Future,” as well as films in the Jason Bourne, Indiana Jones and “Jurassic Park” franchises.

There is no such clarity about when filming can restart on Marshall’s latest movie project, “Jurassic World: Dominion,” which was among the major studio productions that shut down in March when the coronavirus swept the globe.

“I keep thinking and trying to compare this to something, but I have never been through anything quite like this before,” Marshall said. “I don’t think anybody has.”

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During the pandemic, Marshall is directing a virtual magic show called “The Present” for the Geffen Playhouse. That production has moved forward through the use of Zoom, but the uncertainty facing other forms of art and entertainment remains disconcerting as the world economy struggles to find ways out of its virus-induced coma.

“I know there’s a future, I know we will get through this, but the big question is when,” Marshall said. He added that he is in talks about firing up production on “Jurassic World” and figuring out when it might be feasible to reopen “Diana,” the Broadway musical he is producing about the life of the British princess.

“Everybody is optimistic about getting back to what is going to be the new normal, but it’s gonna look different,” Marshall said. When it comes to film, he imagines amenities such as the craft service table will be gone, working hours will be limited, coronavirus testing will be ubiquitous and filming will consist of small pods of people working on specific scenes.

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He also believes that teleconferencing is here to stay, and that many production and board meetings will be virtual in the future.

The bottom line, Marshall said, is that everybody needs to be safe, so there must be strict guidelines in place from experts on how to make sure that’s the case.

At the time of the interview, Marshall had been sheltering in place at home in Los Angeles for going on two months. The thing he missed the most? Travel.

“I was on the go. I was back and forth,” he said of his frequent trips to New York for the musical and to London for the movie. “Being in the same place for eight weeks has really made me a bit crazy.”

His most reliable outlet for the stress of the situation has been daily walks with his dogs.

“I think it’s good to get out and get some exercise and fresh air, and get your mind off things,” he said.

And if your mask is driving you crazy while you’re outdoors, Marshall wants to let you in on a little secret: If you’re all alone, and nobody else is around, you can pull it down. He won’t tell.