PARK CITY, Utah — Most directors, especially ones directing their first film in 17 years, don't want to be told not to quit their day jobs. But for Robert Shaye, back behind the camera for the science-fiction adventure "The Last Mimzy," it's a compliment.
"I am still co-chairman of New Line," the studio behind such recent high-profile flicks as the "Lord of the Rings" and "Austin Powers" trilogies, Shaye said, "making 14 movies a year and spending about $600 million in the process. So whatever I do filmmaker-wise, I'm not gonna change the destiny of New Line. I want to keep doing that."
It's a philosophy that has served Shaye well since co-founding New Line in 1967. It's also a philosophy that castmembers credited with making "Mimzy" great.
"Bob is not really known as a director, but he has produced so many great films and read thousands of scripts. He knows movies inside and out," co-star Rainn Wilson said of Shaye. "I think one of the most important things you learn in filmmaking is how collaborative it is, and as a founder and CEO of a major studio, he is a great collaborator, really taking the input from the writer and the actors about how the scene should go."
"The Last Mimzy," which Shaye called "one of my favorite science-fiction stories," centers on two young children who discover a cache of strange and powerful toys (including the titular Mimzy, a stuffed rabbit) that contain secrets to saving the human race.
If it all sounds a bit complicated for a children's film, it is. With references to string theory, Buddhist philosophy and the genetic code, "Mimzy" isn't your typical Saturday-morning escapism.
Co-star Timothy Hutton, who plays the children's father, said the fact that "Mimzy" wasn't "designed around a concept or a quick one-line" was exactly what drew him to the project. Despite this, he argued that the flick really does have a pretty basic core story.
"I think that the strongest thing in the movie has to do with innocence — the loss of innocence or the regaining, as an adult, of that innocence," the Oscar winner explained. "Opening the brain up as children so you can be a human receiver to all kinds of things that tend to get shut down over the years."
By mixing futuristic settings and science fiction with Hutton's notion of "innocent" fantasy, Shaye saw "Mimzy" as an opportunity to craft a modern-day fable, relevant for young people striving to have carefree childhoods in the face of overwhelming technology.
"It's possible [that] eventually our bellicose attitude could take over and that ... the wonderful behavior of innocence [that] really underlies humanity could get turned off," Shaye asserted. "You look around you and you see how many people are on cell phones, things and devices. I am not saying that devices are bad or that electronics are bad, but it's starting to cause us to become isolated from one another and lose our innocence."
For the children in the film, the fight against "man's inhumanity to man" all leads up to a very "Alice in Wonderland"-like moment in which they literally go through the looking glass to glance at a future without carefree whimsy.
"It's a very poignant moment where they look at each other, the little boy grabs the little girl's hand, and she sticks her head into [a wormhole that allows her to see the future]," Shaye said of the scene. "It's the quintessence of innocence."
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