“Yes, oh my God, endlessly came up,” Constantine producer Akiva Goldsman said Saturday about the “Want to do a sequel” clamor following Warner Bros’ 2005 DC Keanu Reeves movie about a cynical demonologist who can exorcise demons back to hell.
“Boy, we wanted to make a sequel, We wanted to make a hard ‘R’ sequel; we’d probably make it tomorrow,” said Goldsman, speaking during the Collider Comic-Con@Home virtual panel alongside eeves and the pic’s director Francis Lawrence.
Goldsman made the movie under his production deal with Warners at the time. The pic also repped the feature directorial debut of music video helmer Lawrence, who had shot Jennifer Lopez’s “Get Right” and The Black Eyed Peas’ “Pump It” among several others.
The feature did OK, grossing more abroad that stateside, $154.9 million-$76 million, for a combined $230.9M. It was made at the time when DVD sales could still make up greatly for a pic’s cost (the production cost under $100M). But it wasn’t a perfect hit for Warners, which initially put the movie together with Nicolas Cage starring and Tarsem Singh directing.
“To the studios who made it, Warner Bros and Village Roadshow, it was always a little bit of a feathered fish; its oddness,” explained Goldsman about why a sequel didn’t move forward. “(It was) equally comfortable in a character scene between Keanu and Rachel [Weisz] as it is with demons flying, hurling themselves at a man who lights his fist on fire and expels them. It’s odd, right? It’s not action-packed, it just has a bunch of action. This movie isn’t exactly a thing, it’s actually a few things. And those seem harder and harder to make.”
“Religion is a polarizing element in storytelling,” Lawrence told Collider’s Steve “Frosty” Weintraub. “I remember being at a Q&A after a screening, and somebody — I don’t know remember what religion he was — he was so confused by heaven and hell and trying to get me to explain. Because, in his world view, there was no heaven and hell. So, how was he suppose to enter this world appropriately, right? And that was one of the big takeaways. The subject matter of the story was just putting people off.”
The movie was originally, because of its production cost, to be rated PG-13. But the MPAA slapped it with an ‘R’. This was upsetting to Lawrence because if he was going to make an ‘R’ movie, he would have gone for it hard. Within five minutes of the MPAA viewing the movie, they rated the feature for tone.
“There’s a subset of religious horror and that seems to get an ‘R’ more quickly,” Goldsman said.
The project was brought to Reeves by his manager at the time, Erwin Stoff. Lawrence had to lobby Warner Bros suits to make the movie, as music video directors had a bad reputation at the time for not caring about story arcs and characters.
Interestingly enough, Constantine was made at the same time as Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins. Were Warner Bros brass overly hands-on, given the expected build-out of DC?
“Warner Bros didn’t care that much about the movie at the time when we were making it. It all changed when they saw the first cut…” Lawrence said. “There was a transition of power when I got the job to make the movie. The people at the top at the executive level inherited the project, and went along with it, but didn’t have that much faith in it, so I wasn’t getting notes from the studio at all.”
“And were doing something that was weird,” said Goldsman, “It was noir, stylish, and comic book…we were doing something that was atypical.”
In the wake of the movie, there was an NBC/Warner Bros TV series from Daniel Cerone and David S. Goyer that only lasted 13 episodes; it ultimately was canceled because of its lackluster live ratings, though then-NBC president Jennifer Salke did mention at Winter TCA 2015 that the series’ viewership was delayed and skewed younger.