Kevin Tancharoen didn’t originally intend for the world to see his “Mortal Kombat” work. The 27-year-old director of “Fame” and “Glee: The 3D Concert Movie” made an eight-minute video last year called “Mortal Kombat: Rebirth” that featured a new, grittier setting and origins for characters from the 19-year-old video game fighting series. His intention was to show the short to executives at Warner Bros. and its label New Line Cinema and demonstrate that despite his background in choreography and directing the unsuccessful 2009 remake of “Fame,” he was the right choice to bring Mortal Kombat back to the big screen after a 14-year absence.
However, a YouTube snafu resulted in “Rebirth” being posted publicly on the site, where it garnered millions of views thanks in part to supportive tweets from celebrities such as “The Guild” creator Felicia Day, who, like Tancharoen, is represented by International Creative Management.
Based on the short’s viral success, Warner Bros. gave Tancharoen $2 million to produce a nine-episode Web series, called “Mortal Kombat: Legacy,” in support of the new Mortal Kombat game it released in April. Now New Line has agreed to make a new Mortal Kombat movie with Tancharoen directing. Shooting is expected to start in March, with the movie coming out in 2013. The director talked to Hero Complex contributor Ben Fritz about the road so far.
BF: In all honestly, when you made “Rebirth,” how likely did you think it was you’d be here now, about to direct a full-length feature film?
KT: It was such a crapshoot for me. I honestly felt it was 50/50. Previous to doing it I had some discussions with Warner executives about Mortal Kombat, but they didn’t go anywhere. This video was meant to be a showcase that I didn’t only have to do dancing stuff, even though that was primarily my background. I was desperate to get into the genre space. As a director you can get typecast just like an actor. I knew nobody would risk putting my name in front of a genre movie. There would be an outcry by fans with everyone asking, “Why are you getting the guy who did ‘Fame’ to make ‘Mortal Kombat’?” I knew I had to get some credibility.
BF: So what’s your background with Mortal Kombat? How long have you been a fan?
KT: It goes back to when I was 13 or 14. It was my favorite game at the arcade, back when arcades existed. Then when they started coming out for Super Nintendo, I bought them all and I still have up to this day. Like everyone, I was mad when they made one that didn’t have any blood.
BF: So who was your favorite character?
KT: I always played Scorpion because I could remember his special move very easily. In the second game I think I switched to Baraka, but Scorpion has always been the go-to character for me.
BF: Both “Rebirth” and “Legacy” were more grounded and realistic than a lot of us are used to from certainly the first two movies. Is that what we should expect from your movie?
KT: Yes, my sensibilities lean more toward realism as opposed to the more mythological stuff that Mortal Kombat automatically has. You can expect more of that instinct in the feature version. It will be more realistic and gritty than the last two movies, but also a very big story.
BF: You created some new origins for the Mortal Kombat characters in your Web shorts. Will you use similar origins in the movie?
KT: Yes. Although we’re very adamant that you don’t have to be a fan of the games to understand what’s happening in the movie. It will be an origin story that you can understand completely from the film. Over nine games, the mythology has gotten quite complicated.
BF: You’re making this movie for Warner Bros. and Mortal Kombat is now made by Warner Bros. So have you gotten to work together with [Mortal Kombat creator] Ed Boon?
KT: Yes, Ed Boon is completely supportive. He understands that to tell a really good story, Mortal Kombat needs to be taken back to basics. [Writer Oren Uziel and I] sat down and talked with Ed over breakfast at Comic-Con. A lot of our ideas are in line. I’ve got to admit I was very nervous … but a lot of our ideas connected.
BF: So is there any question your movie will be rated R and be just as violent as fans expect?
KT: I want to do it rated R and all the discussions have been for it to be rated R. I want it to be bloody, but in a natural sense and not gratuitous, crazy spurting pools of blood. That takes it to a different level of camp.
BF: So you want to have more of a Christopher Nolan-like approach than the 1990s movies?
KT: The cartoonish version has been done. Chris Nolan started the trend of making everything in this type of genre grounded. What took most people by surprise with my shorts, I think, is that you never would think of putting Mortal Kombat in a realistic setting. But I believe it’s a fighting game and it’s meant for that purpose.
— Ben Fritz
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