Sega of America announced on Monday that it has optioned the film rights to its popular Crazy Taxi driving game franchise to Goodman-Rosen. The production firm has in turn enlisted the services of Hollywood director Richard Donner, who has previously worked on such films as The Omen and Superman, among others. Following the announcement, GameSpot had the opportunity to speak with Jane Thompson, director of licensing and character development at Sega of America, about specific ideas being considered for the film, the early stages of the licensing deal, and the future of video game-based movies.
GameSpot: How did this deal come about?
Jane Thompson: We were shopping Crazy Taxi to a company to develop toys, T-shirts, and the whole entertainment gamut. Basically, the philosophy is that you start with an entertainment property and work from there on out. So, we were talking to a company about a few other things and they happened to have a relationship with Goodman-Rosen Productions. Goodman-Rosen saw the property and got excited about Crazy Taxi. So, they in turn have a first-look deal with Richard Donner. They presented the movie idea to Donner, who loved it.
GS: Why choose Crazy Taxi?
JT: That is a question that has been coming up a lot. Certainly, something that is more character-based, like Sonic, Lara Croft, or Ulala, would be more logical. But it is one of those things where it just hit Richard Donner and he realized how fun this game was and the fact that it was a huge success. So, when you access the property and you are passionate about it, it kind of hits you in a visceral way, and I think that's what happened here. I mean, there really weren't one or two characters that stood out. They saw the humor and they saw the fun--the whole idea of Crazy Taxi. What everybody saw was that this is a fun and exciting game that could easily translate into a fast-paced and exciting movie. Also, it had an ensemble approach. There are a lot of characters, so you could certainly build an ensemble-type movie as well.
GS: What type of film has Donner envisioned with Crazy Taxi? Will it be an all-out action movie?
JT: Initially, we were really looking more into doing an all-out action movie, but as Richard Donner said, he doesn't want to take a property and just make it into something that may be more driven by money than the value of the property. He is really committed to taking what is really exciting and successful with the games and translating it in a very interesting and different way into a movie. So, excitingly, I can say that they're really looking at this from a different perspective than what you see out there in the action genre.
GS: Sounds interesting. Do you think that the popularity of video game-based movies will continue to grow? Will we see more such movies, based on games?
JT: As the popularity of game franchises becomes more and more, mass-market people will become more familiar with video game properties. It has just been in the last three or four years that the video game industry has blossomed into a multibillion dollar industry, so you'll see a lot more of these franchises being developed into movies. Video game developers are extremely creative, and they consider themselves artists. Of course, Hollywood is always looking for something with a built-in audience and storyline. For example, Tomb Raider with the casting of Angelina Jolie and so forth was brilliant, and I knew it would be a fun movie. I'm also looking forward to seeing Final Fantasy, and I'm hoping it will be successful as well, because it's a different approach with the innovative use of CGI. I do believe that this isn't just a trend and you will see more and more video game properties being developed into feature films and into live-action series on television.
GS: What other Sega properties are intrinsically conducive to such licensing deals?
JT: A lot of the properties that come from Japan, such as Jet Set Radio, Space Channel 5, Skies of Arcadia, Shenmue, Phantasy Star Online, and Virtua Fighter are all very, very good for entertainment development.
GS: Anything concrete as far as other properties are concerned?
JT: Nothing concrete at the moment. It takes a long time to build these relationships and get projects green-lighted. The thing about Hollywood is that they like to see properties become successful in their core categories, such as Final Fantasy and Tomb Raider. Of course, we want to extend each of these franchises into other entertainment categories, so most of the games that come through here could go somewhere in entertainment--whether it be a cartoon, a television series, or anything like that.