Interview: Director David Latt discusses his upcoming release of H.G.Wells’ War of the Worlds

Asylum’s War of the Worlds arrives June 28

An invasion is about to be launched on the earth when The Asylum Home Entertainment releases H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds to DVD on June 28. The movie was directed by David Michael Latt based on the screenplay “Invasion” he wrote with Carlos De Los Rios.

In an interview with Monsters and Critics, Latt discussed how he used Wells’ novel as a blueprint for his movie, but that it doesn’t follow the book word-for-word.

His version will also differ from the upcoming Steven Spielberg/Tom Cruise summer blockbuster, and Latt said he is fine with the two movies being different.

“Wait. There’s a Spielberg/Cruise version?” the director joked. “Though both our films star leads from The Outsiders (and both named Tom), I really can’t answer that (having not seen his version). I’m sure Spielberg’s version is going to be incredible as I’m a huge fan of his and the book. I’ll let you know when I see the film. Maybe our end credits are shorter.”

Wells’ War of the Worlds, considered by many the foundation of all science fiction, was first published in 1898 and has been adapted for radio, stage and the screen.

The most famous adaptation of the story was the 1938 radio program by Orson Welles that threw the nation into a panic – due to many people believing the world was really under attack.

The most famous screen adaptation, and the version that has the most iconic image of the alien invaders, was the 1953 version that was directed by Byron Haskin.

Latt explained when he was tasked with writing a modern-day science fiction epic that there was nowhere else to consider looking than Wells’ novel.

The director said his film incorporates elements of the novel, but fans of Wells shouldn’t watch the movie with “book in hand looking for the discrepancies.”

“It’s a different beast. In many was this is very liberating,” Latt said. “We weren’t trying to mirror the book and therefore we could explore different ideas and relationships…we can be much more graphic with the violence, gore and creatures.”

Latt’s vision is not a ‘sanitized’ version of the book.

Although Latt’s vision of an alien invasion of our world will be released the day before Dreamwork’s star-powered big budget version of the story, the director said he isn’t concerned about comparisons between the two films.<!–page–>

He admits that his version, which has the aliens coming from Mars, is on a smaller scale than the Spielberg movie, but Latt is confident his version of the story, which stars C. Thomas Howell, can stand on its own. The director also feels that his version of the film will be less big budget popcorn and a darker drama mixed with science fiction horror.

“Am I concerned? Not at all! Is Dreamworks concerned? Doubt it,” the director joked. “We’re all making our own films with our own parameters. I think our film stands on its own – that is to say that I’m not diluting myself – we are no where near the size and scope of the Dreamworks effects machine (we spent a little less) – it’s just, well, I’m very proud of the film we made and I think that the audience will enjoy it too.”

Director David Latt (left) kept the roots of Wells when writing his script “Invasion”

By keeping some of the roots of Wells’ tale, Latt was able to create a story grounded in the real world which he feels added to the terror of what is happening on the screen.

His take on the story has received an R-rating, but the director said the rating allowed him to be uncompromising on the true nature of the story. It also allowed him to not hold back on the amount of violence in the movie and the horror that would come with a true alien invasion.

“This is a story about a man surviving. This is a story about unseen forces destroying the world. Thematically I believe we keep the spirit alive in this story,” Latt said. “I didn’t want to hold back. In fact, we open this film with some nudity just to put it out there that we didn’t want you think that this was going to be a ‘sanitized’ version of the book.”

Even with the darker elements of Latt’s film, the director said the movie does keep the tones established in Wells’ classic tale. He described the theme of the movie and Wells story universal and timeless.

This theme is achieved through the story about the journey of a man who has lost everything – in a world that has turned upside-down. His family and humanity motivate him. Unseen forces around him constantly threaten him, according to Latt.

Another challenge Latt faced was how to make a movie of this epic scale on a small independent studio budget. Once the title was changed from Invasion to H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, he also faced classic perceptions of the story and the aliens –specifically the “walkers”.

“Time, money…the usual stuff. You don’t necessary overcome these problems, you just deal with it the best you can. I’m sure even Spielberg at a quarter billion dollars feels the same way,” the director said about the challenges his film faced. “At the end of the day we ended up cutting a few scenes because they didn’t have the same production value as the other parts in the movie. We wanted to maintain a big epic look even on a small budget.”


Latt didn’t hold back on darker elements of the story

Most of the director’s cast only knew the film as Invasion and that helped relieve some of the tensions he faced. The decision to change the title came towards the end of production, which made it easier for the cast. Latt also made sure that his actors concerned themselves with committing their energy to their characters and the story – not the title of the film.

“The cast received a script called Invasion. They took direction and story insights from me as the director…so they were pretty much on board with my vision from the get-go,” Latt said. “Everyone knew this film as Invasion. War was never discussed. Even the co-writer only knew this film as Invasion.”<!–page–>

When asked if he is considering adapting other classic science fiction novels, such as other tales by Wells or even Jules Verne, into modern retellings, the director teased about continuing to follow in Spielberg’s footsteps.

“Why? Is Dreamworks doing 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea?” Latt joked. “Seriously, I’m a huge fan of epic stories, sci-fi, horror, adventure – OK, a huge fan of movies in general. When I’m presented with another opportunity to direct another one of these films I’m sure I will jump at the chance.”

Note the date on this article may be incorrect due to importing it from our old system.