Robert Zemeckis has been working to advance performance-capture technology for years now, beginning with the 2004 release, The Polar Express. But even with all that experience under his belt, his latest feature, Welcome to Marwen, posed some significant challenges. The movie is based on the true story of Mark Hogancamp, a man who’s beaten within an inch of his life, loses a significant amount of his memory and then turns to a personal hobby as a form of recovery. In an effort to cope with what happened to him, Mark builds a place called Marwen, a fiction town populated by dolls inspired by the real people in his life – both friends and enemies.
So the big question became, how would Zemeckis bring both Mark’s real world and the doll world to screen? Ultimately it became clear that the answer was performance-capture technology. The technique is a very hot topic today, often sparking questions like, when will we see a performance-capture role nominated for awards alongside live-action performances? So those were some of the things I chose to pose to Zemeckis.
We discussed how the technology has changed since he first got involved in Welcome to Marwen, the first tip he gives someone who’s new to performance-capture, the hobby that helps keep him in the moment, and more. You can catch all of that in the interview at the top of this article. Welcome to Marwen is now in theaters.
Here’s the official synopsis for Welcome to Marwen:
Academy Award-winning filmmaker Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump, Flight, Cast Away) directs Steve Carell in the moving true story of one broken man’s fight as he discovers how artistic imagination can restore the human spirit.
The screenplay for Welcome to Marwen was written by Caroline Thompson and Zemeckis, while Oscar®-winning producer Steve Starkey (Forrest Gump, Flight), Jack Rapke (Cast Away, Flight), and Cherylanne Martin (The Pacific, Flight) of Zemeckis’ Universal-based ImageMovers banner produce alongside the director. It is executive produced by Jackie Levine, as well as Jeff Malmberg, who directed the riveting 2010 documentary upon which this film is based.