Interviewing Robert Stromberg is a ride down the lane of modern film-making. The two-time Oscar winner and director of last summer’s blockbuster “Maleficent” has had a hand in practically every major motion picture of the past 25 years. From his work as a matte artist on “Journey to the Center of the Earth” in 1988 to 1992’s “A Few Good Men,” to 1996’s “Star Trek: First Contact,” to his talent as a visual effects conceptual consultant in 2007 on “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” to television’s “Boardwalk Empire” and “Game of Thrones,” Stromberg admits he has been attached to a number of great projects.
When you talk Robert Stromberg you also have to include his credits on such Hollywood hits like James Cameron’s “Avatar,” Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland,” and Sam Raimi’s “Oz the Great and Powerful” for which he picked up Academy Awards for Best Art Direction.
“I have been really fortunate to spend a lifetime of creativity since I was a little kid,” Stromberg says. He recalls drawing pictures at the age of five and how his creative juices began to flow when he was nine-years-old and started making movies in his backyard with a Super 8-millimeter camera. Despite his humble beginning the filmmaker confesses that his naive movie making experience was “pretty primitive.”
With the upcoming Academy Awards on February 22nd, Stromberg spoke with me about his most recent major motion picture “Maleficent” and his latest project “What Lives Inside.”
Nominated for an Oscar for Costume Design, the story of the self-proclaimed Mistress of All Evil, “Maleficent” challenged him creatively. He never set out to make a live-action version of the classic 1959 Disney film but rather take the story “and have a different understanding of it.” The director says if he was to retell the animated story verbatim “that would have been probably not as interesting to me.”
“I think if I had made a straight out of the box version of a retelling of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ there would have been disappointment in that.” Stromberg adds that most people already know the story of Briar Rose but “there is a whole new generation of people to introduce perhaps a new idea and yet we still have that classic.” He admits that he was excited to take the characters and looked at them from a different point of view.
As for being overlooked in the Best Director Category at this year’s Oscars, Stromberg says he does not pick projects based on the possibility of being recognized with honors. “For me personally I don’t do creative things to be rewarded. It sounds a bit strange but I do it because I like to do it. If people recognize it, that is fine. I think a true creative person doesn’t do things to win awards. They do things to make themselves internally feel good.”
Feel good is exactly what the filmmaker hopes to do with his newest project, “What Lives Inside,” a four-week series set to debut next month on Hulu and then online at WhatLivesInside.com. Stromberg is inviting the public to help him in his venture by submitting character sketches and drawings for potential inclusion in the story. People are encouraged from now until March 9th to create a character and submit sketches to the website where they will be scrutinized by a panel before Stromberg makes the ultimate decision on what artwork will be included in the series.
He sees “What Lives Inside,” as a way to reach out and give back while inspiring others to get involved in the creative process while satisfying his desire to get involved in a project that for him is “creatively pioneering.” He admits it is not another credit “but exploring something new.”
As for re-exploring those “pretty primitive” Super 8’s that launched his movie-making career, Stromberg says he still has them tucked away in an attic somewhere but reassures me they he “will not disclose them ever.”