Interview: Paul Becker, Sucker Punch

Paul Becker discovered dance at an early age and engrossed himself in virtually every style. From hip hop and capoeira to ballet and tap, Paul uses his vast knowledge of dance, multimedia and film making to create elaborate spectacles. Considered to be a protégé of the genius Kenny Ortega, Paul has worked alongside Mr. Ortega on several occasions, including recently when he choreographed the Ortega directed Jonas Brothers’ concert World Tour.

Director Zack Snyder recently hired Paul to choreograph the elaborate musical numbers of the new 100 million dollar feature film “Sucker Punch” starring Vanessa Hudgens and Jon Hamm. He also recently completed choreography on the film version of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, based on the New York Times bestselling children’s book series.

Paul has carved himself a unique niche as a brilliant horror movie movement consultant, working as a movement coach and choreographer for movie monsters in Wes Craven’s My Soul to Take, Joss Whedon’s much anticipated feature “Cabin in the Woods” and the soon-to-be-released Scooby-Doo!: Curse of the Lake Monster.

I had a brief exchange with him in May 2011.

GS: What restrictions does a script put on choreography? In other words, how free are you to interpret a scene?

PB: I always change the scene and re-write it. Usually the writers put in fancy dance vocab to look impressive but have no idea what they are talking about. My job is to re-write and give them things that they have never thought of. That is when they say WOW!

GS: Along the same lines, on set does a director have much control over your work, or do they stand back and let the expert do his thing?

PB: The best directors are confident enough with their talents and collaborate with me. The insecure directors try to take over during the dance scene and shut me down. That is when it is disastrous. I always look forward to directors who aren’t threatened. I love to collaborate and I learn from each director that I work with and vice versa.

GS: Tobe Hooper has a reputation for having a bad temper. Was this the case on “Masters of Horror: Dance of the Dead”?

PB: (laughs) Tobe Hooper was well behaved on Masters of Horror. It was cool working with him. He shared with me how he got started in the biz and his childhood influences. Really cool.

GS: All that must be asked about “The Wicker Man” is… how dorky is Nicolas Cage?

PB: And all I have to say to that is LOL.

GS: Likewise with “My Soul to Take”. What was your impression of Wes Craven?

PB: Wes Craven is a very hands on director. With the movement that we created he was 100% invested and there. He had really good instincts and input. That is what makes him “The Man”.

GS: “Sucker Punch” involved, I presume, plenty of CGI and blue/green screen. How does technology affect your work?

PB: Actually all of the dancing took place in the brothel and I didn’t have to do green screen stuff for Sucker Punch.

GS: I would love to hear anything you can say about “The Cabin in the Woods”. That film is shrouded in mystery and has some brilliant names attached.

PB: I will say very, very minimal… but… I created movement for crazy scary creatures and a really disgusting family. I left the project towards the last week of shooting and a brilliant movement coach named Terry Norary came aboard to finish what I started.

GS: How have they updated “Footloose”? They probably don’t have boomboxes…

PB: I cannot really answer that, as I was involved in the pre-production stage.

GS: Was working on “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn” mostly telling men without shirts what to do, or can we expect more action in this one? I’m assuming you helped with fight scenes.

PB: If I tell you anything about what I did I will have to get Taylor Lautner to kick your ass.

GS: Looking back on what you have done so far, what sort of scenes do you prefer: dancing, fighting, or something else? How much is fighting like dancing when you break down the movements?

PB: I love it all. I do love dancing the most, though. Lately I have been able to incorporate it all into some of my projects.

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