Actor Jonathan Frakes turned to movie directing for two warmly-received films in the Star Trek series, First Contact and Insurrection, which he followed up with the popular Time-travel adventure Clockstoppers. He seems an ideal choice to direct the film version of Thunderbirds. We spoke to him on the set about his hopes for the film and his influences as a director.
Do you see this film as the first in a franchise?
Oh yes! Our intention is to create a wonderful new franchise, may it live as long as Star Trek did. We did fine for 30 years, weíll take that again.
Do you need to know anything about the TV series before coming to the new film?
The movie is big and exciting enough that you neednít know anything about the original Thunderbirds to enjoy it. The characters are so full of colour, as well as the sets. The characters of Lady Penelope and Parker are loaded with irony and sarcasm and double entendre, the kids are full of energy so they have that necessary aspirational quality that youíd want in films like Spy Kids and Harry Potter. The villains are delicious, so it has a great palette, colour-wise. Also the ships are characters. Thunderbirds 1 through 5 are, to the British, Australian and Japanese fans, as much characters as the actors themselves. With First Contact I think we made a wonderfully big action adventure Horror film that just happened to be a Star Trek movie. The intention here is to make a big family action film that just happens to be Thunderbirds.
Are you worried about being typecast as a kidsí director?
There are worst fates, arenít there? In this day and age, childrenís films are very valuable to parents. Iím a parent and a good family film is something that we look forward to at the weekend. The idea of children being the core of this film helps us place it as a prequel. Alan Tracy in this film is 14 and I think in the series heís probably 20 so the idea is that all of this takes place before anything that anyoneís seen from the Sixties. And the idea of having young teenagers in leading roles is great for that 9, 10, 11-year-old audience because it gives them something to aspire to. The older teens have the Tracy brothers and the adults have Lady Penelope, Parker and Jeff, so we have layered up the entertainment and that there will be parts of the film that work for parts of the audience. Thatís the plan.
Is the message of non-violence important to the film?
I think itís invaluable that films, and especially family films, present a non-violent and positive vision of the Future, and then you get your message without pounding people over the head. The message is that loyalty is important and that you need to learn to do things properly if youíre going to grow up. The kid wants to be part of International Rescue but his father wants him to learn properly. Itís a tried and true coming-of-age story and I think itís very entertaining without being violent.
What about complaints from die-hard Thunderbirds fans?
I know our intention is that we honour all the Thunderbirds designs, the ships are clearly recognizable as the originals, and the characters too. Sophia Myles is gorgeous as Lady P, Sir Ben is The Hood, so thereís no mistaking the links to the original. Iím hoping that the real fans of Thunderbirds will appreciate the acknowledgement of the tradition of the show.