<EM>Flyboys</EM> Flyboys
Dean Devlin has written and produced numerous big-budget studio films over the years, from the successful Stargate and Independence Day

to the not-so-successful Godzilla. For Flyboys, Devlin left the confines of studio filmmaking to tell the story of the Lafayette Escadrille, a squadron of American fighter pilots who volunteered their services to battle the Kaiser in World War I. TVGuide.com spoke with the self-confessed sci-fi geek about making the movie, which swoops into theaters this weekend. Plus, a big-screen Stargate-sequel update!

TVGuide.com: What about Flyboys made you want to take on the project?
Dean Devlin: I always wanted to see if we could revive the genre. I love World War I dogfight movies. I love Wings and Dawn Patrol and Hell's Angels, and I thought, "Why don't we have that anymore?" Then I was handed this script, and it was exciting, but I thought they made it up, because I'd never heard of the Lafayette Escadrille. So I called a person who knew more about World War I dogfighting than anybody director Tony Bill and said, "Was this really true?" He went, "Oh, my god!" and started going on and on with all these stories about the Lafayette Escadrille. So I sent him the script with a note that said, "Tony, this is the movie you were born to direct." That started our six-year journey to bring this film to the screen.

TVGuide.com: Why was James Franco your choice for the lead role of Blaine Rawlings?
Devlin: Since we financed this independently, we didn't have anyone breathing down our necks saying, "You have to hire the hottest celebrity on the planet." The problem is that a lot of times the "hottest" celebrities are only that because of who they're dating, not because of the work they do. So without that hanging over us, we had two rules: Get the best actor we could find, who is really right for the part. Early on we knew we liked James Franco from the James Dean [TV-]movie and the Spider-Man films, but we didn't know if we could afford him or if he would be interested. Luckily, he fell in love with the script and was the first to come on board.

TVGuide.com: A lot is being made of the film's dogfight sequences.
Devlin: It was an enormous effort. We didn't have the big studio money, so we had to be meticulous in our planning. Six months before we shot a frame of film, Tony was sitting down with storyboard artists going through every single battle. When it came time to shoot, we shot three and a half months of real airplanes flying around. After that, we had to augment [the flying footage] with 850 digital-effects shots. To give you some perspective on that, that's about twice as many effects shots as we had on Independence Day.

TVGuide.com: And you did that all without a studio's backing?
Devlin: Had I done the same movie at any studio without changing one frame of footage, it easily would've been a $120 million picture. Right now, it's half that.

TVGuide.com: Why did you decide to go the independent route?
Devlin: For one, I think every studio would have passed. There's a prevailing "wisdom" that this is a dead genre, that nobody's interested in World War I dogfight movies. But five years ago they said nobody was interested in pirate movies, either. So every time Hollywood starts to decide what you want to see, you have to question it. Also, there's an overriding cynicism when you develop a project at a studio, because they feel everything needs to be hip and edgy, like an MTV video. But not everything needs to be like that. The story I wanted to tell would have been destroyed if we had done it at a studio.

TVGuide.com: So are you confident there's an audience for Flyboys?
Devlin: I don't know. That's the thing studios don't want to make a movie unless they're absolutely sure there's a preexisting audience. But the problem with that is that once you've finished remaking every movie, redoing every television series as a movie, doing every children's novel and video game, you've really cannibalized your audience, because you've simply regurgitated things [they've] seen before.

I had a studio executive pass on a script I went out with a few years ago. He told me how much he loved the script and I said, "Well, why aren't you buying it?" He said, "Because it's not based on something else." I said, "Under that criteria you wouldn't make Independence Day today." He said, "You're right, we wouldn't." So it comes down to covering their butts. What it ultimately does is remove passion from the process.

TVGuide.com: Many of the films you've written and produced have pushed the boundaries of technology and special effects. What is it about high-tech filmmaking that appeals to you?
Devlin: It's always challenging. This was the first time I ever shot a feature film digitally. I don't think I would have had the courage to do it if the new Genesis camera had not come out. Bryan Singer and I had talked a lot about using it, and when he was starting up Superman Returns I was starting up Flyboys, so we said, "Let's do it!"

TVGuide.com: There are always rumors about a possible Stargate sequel. Is there any truth to that?
Devlin: When we wrote the first Stargate, we always envisioned it as a trilogy of films, but at the time, MGM saw it more as a television series. Now time has passed and there's a brand-new regime at MGM, and I have a brand-new deal at MGM. For the first time, they've been open to discussing it. It's not a fait accompli, but at least right now they are open to the idea and interested in hearing about what we would do with it. It would be a lot of fun for us now, so we'll see. I'm optimistic.

Send your comments on this Q&A to: online_insider@tvguide.com.