“I never thought I would be here,” the Gander native said with a laugh on the phone from Toronto.
That’s just the way life has worked out for Peyton, whose debut feature, “Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore,” is being released in 3D on more than 3,700 North American theatre screens today.
The film is a sequel to the 2001 hit “Cats and Dogs,” which made more than US$200 million worldwide.
“It’s exciting,” Peyton said.
“To be honest with you, I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had much time to reflect on it … it’s a little bit stressful. It’s a big movie, and you hope it does well. It’s your first movie, so you want to protect it as much as possible.”
It’s been a major investment of time for Peyton, who spent the last two years working on it. The film combines live animals with computer-generated imagery (CGI), human, and voice actors — layer-upon-layer of processes.
“It’s a big movie with a lot of visual effects, so it took a certain amount of time to write the script,” he said.
“We shot it in Vancouver. It was a long shoot, because shooting animals takes a lot of time, and then there’s so much visual effects. Any time a character talks, you’re doing a visual effect on their face. Then, on top of that, there’s jet pack chases through San Francisco, there’s explosions, and there’s all sorts of crazy stuff — it just takes time to make.”
Indeed, many of the characters require visual effects in order to talk; as the title suggests, the lead roles are mostly played by cats and dogs.
The voice talent for the film includes James Marsden, Nick Nolte, Bette Midler and former 007 Roger Moore.
“I feel blessed to have the cast we got,” said Peyton, who was particularly pleased to attract Marsden to the project, as he is a huge fan of the “X-Men” films.
Getting a former James Bond to take part in the film was also a bit of a coup, he said.
“I was so happy we actually got a real Bond. For me, growing up, Roger Moore was Bond. I was of the age where that’s what I knew, and I remember arguing with my dad where he’d say, ‘Sean Connery is the real Bond,’ and I’d say, ‘No, Roger Moore is Bond.’
“It’s amazing that we were sitting there in prep in Vancouver, and I was walking with the producer and said, ‘I have an idea — let’s ask Roger Moore to do this voice,’ and he agreed. I was over the moon. Then, when you talk to Roger Moore, and you realize his name is Sir Roger Moore because he’s been knighted, you’re just like, ‘I can’t believe I’m talking to Sir Roger Moore,’ who is voicing a cat in this movie.”
Being the director of a major Hollywood movie involves a great deal of catering to media. On the day he spoke with The Beacon from a hotel room in Toronto, Peyton had eight hours of interviews scheduled.
“We did the same thing in L.A. for two days, so it’s pretty hectic.”
From his time shooting short films for the Canadian Film Centre until now, fantasy has played a role in the stories Peyton has gravitated towards. He first drew the attention of Hollywood with his work on the darkly comic short film “Evelyn: The Cutest Evil Dead Girl” — nominated for a Genie Award for Best Live Action Short Drama.
In 2006, Peyton created the similarly dark CBC Television series “What It’s Like Being Alone,” which drew comparisons to “The Addams Family” and the creative output of director Tim Burton.
“It comes from being into fantasy movies as a kid, and I’ve always been attracted to that kind of material. When I was a kid, I read a lot of sword and sorcery books, science fiction, and my mom had this den with two bookshelves that covered entire walls. All she read was science fiction, fantasy, and horror books.” Peyton said.
His mother’s interests eventually became his own, growing up in Gander. Those interests led him to attempt to create fantasy worlds of his own.
“I really like the idea of creating worlds, because it’s fun to go somewhere else and to design something else. It’s fun to go on to a set where it’s not your average day or place. That’s part of the joy of being a filmmaker and getting to create your own stuff.”
Peyton said he’d love to work on a darker project more in line with his own personal taste.
“I like dark, romantic material. I’ve always loved the idea of re-doing ‘Frankenstein,’ ‘Bride of Frankenstein’ or ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.’ I have my own projects that borrow from that, where they’re either about movie monsters, grim reapers and that type of thing. It’s just hard to get that made right now.”
“I never thought I would be here,” - Brad Peyton, Gander native
For now, his focus is to find projects he can work on that cater to aspects of the fantasy genre he enjoys, like adventure, as with the “Cats and Dogs” films.
His next project is a sequel to 2008’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” which he hopes to start filming in October.
“Part of it is just showing your ability and that you can handle a big movie,” he said.
“That earns you more and more freedom to do your own thing. When I took on ‘Cats and Dogs,’ a big part of it was wanting to prove I can handle this. I wanted to get better as a filmmaker.
“I know from the outside it may seem odd, considering if you know my past work, to do this, but when you’re offered an opportunity like this, where you know you’re going to learn a lot and see all these various aspects of filmmaking and work with the people you work with, you take it. It’s such a big opportunity, even if it’s outside your normal tonal range.”
Learning on the job has been a major plus for Peyton and he said living in Los Angeles has stirred his creativity, as well.
“It’s an industry town, clearly — a big, Hollywood, industry town. But the neat thing about it is what that does is attract a lot of artists from all sorts of professions. You get the most amazing tattoo artists, the most amazing graphic artists — it attracts a community of artists. The most interesting thing about Los Angeles is when you get into finding art galleries, you see amazing art all over the place, and you see inspiration there.”
The opportunity to meet creative Hollywood types and pick their brains has proven easier than expected. In one case, he met David Silverman, director of “The Simpsons Movie,” and was invited to see his band play.
Still, he hasn’t forgotten where he came from.
To give something to people back home, he arranged for a free screening of the “Cats and Dogs” film in St. John’s Wednesday, two days before the official release. The screening was attended by members of the Boys and Girls Club.