Best known for modest thrillers like Disturbia and Eagle Eye, you might think that D.J. Caruso would not be Hollywood’s first choice to direct a romantic sci-fi film aimed at teenagers. But Disney and DreamWorks thought Caruso was perfect for what they wanted out of the adaptation of Pittacus Lore’s I Am Number Four, and in the end they were right. Caruso succeeded in turning I Am Number Four into an exciting, action-packed, alien movie with just the right hint of teen angst.
Criticize This! had the opportunity to participate in an online roundtable with Caruso about the film, which is now available on DVD and Blu-ray. Read the transcript below.
Why did you pick I Am Number Four as your first sci-fi film?
D.J. Caruso: I was looking for a somewhat family-friendly science fiction film like the great ones in the ‘80s that I grew up watching [such as] Back to the Future. I felt that I Am Number Four had qualities that I could tap into that would satisfy that desire. That is why I was attracted to the material.
What sort of challenges did you run into adapting it into a movie?
D.J. Caruso: All films present tremendous challenges. I Am Number Four was loaded with special effects and the number of shots grew. We had less than nine months to finish the film. So it was a full court press to make our release date.
Why was the film’s production schedule so short?
D.J. Caruso: DreamWorks and Disney had a specific release date and window that had to be hit. It was the driving force behind the short schedule.
Did you feel the need to stay true to the original book? Or were you more interested in telling your own version of the story?
D.J. Caruso: Of course I wanted to honour the intentions of the book. I made some changes that I felt would be more cinematic.
What balance did you try to strike between the film’s story, special effects and action?
D.J. Caruso: I always lean towards character and theme. Once the theme is defined in my head, it informs me about how the film should look, sound and feel. The effects and action should move the story and theme forward.
Is it difficult to have creative control while having to incorporate a studio’s vision with yours?
D.J. Caruso: The more success you have, the more you are trusted to do your thing. I find that the studio’s marketing departments can be the ones who cloud the vision of the filmmakers more so than the creative studio team.