Connecting to a Story: THE BOOK OF LIFE Opens October 17, 2014

THE BOOK OF LIFE is 20th Century Fox’s newest animated feature film.  The story is about Manolo, a young man torn between following in his family’s footsteps to become a bullfighter or pursuing his own dream of singing.  While competing with his best friend Joaquin for the love of the free-spirited Maria, Manolo sets off on a heroic journey that takes him through the world of the dead in order to reunite with his one true love and help defend his village from the evil Chakal.  With the release date of October 17th less than a week away, 20th Century Fox held a press conference with producer Guillermo Del Toro, director Jorge R. Gutierrez and the cast: Diego Luna, Zoe Saldana, Ron Perlman, Ice Cube and Kate del Castillo.  They were all there to talk about working on this very special animated feature.


Manolo (Diego Luna) serenades Maria (Zoè Saldana), the woman with whom he’s long been in love. © 2014 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and Reel FX Productions II, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


Director Jorge R. Gutierrez shared the difficulties of getting THE BOOK OF LIFE made.  He spoke about having a passion to tell this story ever since he was in film school.  Unfortunately, studios repeatedly told Gutierrez, “no one was interested in this subject matter, and there’s no audience for Hispanic movies.”  Not giving up, he was eventually given the opportunity to pitch the idea to acclaimed producer/director Guillermo Del Toro in what they called, “one of the worst pitches of all time.”  Del Toro saw through the pitch though and said that after meeting with Gutierrez, “I immediately connected to it, because the story was so personal to him (Gutierrez)…  What was evident was this movie was his soul.”


(L-R) Producer Guillermo Del Toro and director Jorge R. Gutierrez © 2014 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and Reel FX Productions II, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


The film uses a framing device, which revolves around a museum tour guide who tells the story of Manolo to a group of kids.  As the story plays out, the narrative continues to go back to the group in order to get the children’s reaction to the story.  Gutierrez’s said the inspiration for this framing device came from one of his favorite films, Rob Riener’s “The Princess Bride.”   He said, “it’s a way to bring the whole world into the story…  There was a little bit of a fear that it’s just too magical from the start.  We needed to ease the audience into this magic land.”

When talking about the casting, Gutierrez commented on his choice of using Ice Cube as the Candle Maker.  This came from his love of Hip Hop, but that was not Gutierrez’s only reason for the choice.  The director consciously decided not to use only Hispanic actors, because he didn’t want people to think that the movie was just for a Hispanic audience.  “We wanted it to be for everybody… so the cast had to be from all over the world,” Guiterrez added.


Ice Cube as the voice of the Candle Maker, photo by Kevin Estrada © 2014 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and Reel FX Productions II, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


The cast themselves all stressed their love for the finished product.  Diego Luna (Manolo) remarked, “this was a very important film for all of us.”  Zoe Saldana (Maria) added, “Everything about this movie is positive and so enlightening.”  Finally, Ice Cube stated, “I’m extremely proud to be a part this.”

The movie includes songs written by two-time Oscar winning composer Gustavo Santaolalla and the award-winning Paul Williams.  Luna, who had never sung in a motion picture before, talked about being informed he would to have to sing in the film.  He joked it made him extremely anxious for two months before saying, “it was very scary.”


(L-R) Diego Luna, Zoe Saldana and Director Jorge R. Gutierrez at THE BOOK OF LIFE premiere. Photo by Eric Charbonneau © 2014 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and Reel FX Productions II, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


When it came to working with Guillermo Del Toro, Saldana had nothing but admiration for the producer, calling him “an amazing Godfather for this project.”  She praised him for supporting Gutierrez and helping him “get his vision to come to life.”  Diego Luna quickly added, “without Guillermo, this movie would have never been done.”


Maria (Zoè Saldana), an independent, strong-willed and fun-loving woman who is wooed by Manolo and his longtime best friend Joaquin. © 2014 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and Reel FX Productions II, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


THE BOOK OF LIFE opens in wide release on Friday, October 17, 2014.  Excited to see THE BOOK OF LIFE?  Use the rafflecopter widget below to enter to win a $50 Visa gift card to see the film plus a BOOK OF LIFE prize pack from Cost Plus World Market.  [Prizing courtesy of 20th Century Fox and Cost Plus World Market; open to U.S. Mailing addresses only.]

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About Mark Oguschewitz

Mark Oguschewitz moved to Los Angeles, California after graduating with a film degree from Columbia College in Chicago, Ill. Pursuing a career in the industry, Mark became an award winning freelance editor. He is also known for being the creative consultant for the podcast "Skywalking through Neverland" and co-host of the Podcast "Talking Apes TV." Mark's short film "Gourmet" took the Best Micro-Short honor at the International Horror and Sci-Fi film festival in 2007. His spare time is all about movies. It's not just entertainment, but has become more of a real passion, as he tries to see everything he can. Art house or Blockbuster – It doesn't matter, he loves them all.