Casper Van Dien and filmmakers on Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars

Starship Troopers: Traitor of MarsDuring San Diego Comic-Con 2017, Nerd Reactor was fortunate enough to sit with the team from Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars. Johnny Rico actor Casper Van Dien and writer Ed Neumeier, who wrote the original 1997 screenplay as well as Robocop, took a seat with us to give some insight to the film. We were also able to chat with the creative team including directors Shinji Aramaki and Masaru Matsumoto, and Producer Joseph Chou, and Tony Ishizuka.

Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars follows Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles, and Starship Troopers: Invasion, making this the third CGI animated project in the Starship Troopers universe.

Federation trooper Johnny Rico is ordered to work with a group of new recruits on a satellite station on Mars, where giant bugs have decided to target their next attack.

Are you guys having a good con?

Ed Neumeier: We got here yesterday. Took a train down from LA.

Casper Van Dien: It sucks. It’s terrible. I can’t even believe this shit. No, are you kidding me? I love this! This is my 20th year here. I first came for this movie, only the first one. I’ve been for the first one, and the fifth, and the third, and I guess the other ones as well. But it’s just something that I love. I get to ride the train down here.

Ed Neumeier: The secret of this show is that we became friends in the first movie. I remember the first day when he [Casper] walked in, and I went, ‘Oh, that’s going to be Johnny Rico.’

Casper Van Dien: I felt sorry for the other actors. He actually picked me out of the lineup and pointed at me and told me to come here, and I looked at the other actors.

Ed Neumeier: I find as a writer, that he’s my favorite and easiest character that I have written. I could write him all day long for some reason. Soit’ss been fun to do this again.

What did you guys find different in the roles and writing of live-action vs CGI animated filmmaking? 

Casper Van Dien: Voice acting is different, I wish I could have done the motion capture as well. I liked that; I think it’s fun and there’s a certain talent to that too. But to do the voice over for it and bring the character back to life is pretty easy for me to do. Especially because Ed knows me so well and understands me. It’s interesting to see where my character has gone in 20 years. I don’t want to give everything away, but to see my character go through that and through his eyes and knowing him, being able to see how he writes, I think he’s one of the most talented writers around. I mean Robocop and Starship Troopers show that he has a wicked sense of humor. That is undeniably incredible.

And with Paul Verhoeven directing those, he was a genius. And now you have Shinji Aramaki, who is the number one mecha suit designer in the world, which is what we wanted to do in the first place in Starship Troopers but we didn’t get to do.  I love doing this movie. I have a lot of fun and I love doing this part and seeing how he saw the world.

Ed Neumeier: For me, you would think, well it’s animation… you can do anything. But actually, it’s the same as all the other movies. There’s not enough money. You can have a really great idea, but then there isn’t enough money for it. So you are still fighting resource battles and trying to get the best that you can. But working with Shinji is great; he really loves this world.

Casper Van Dien: And it ends up being an awesome film. It’s a great way to complete it.

Ed Neumeier: I think we have to do another one.

Casper Van Dien: I think so, too. Johnny Rico’s still alive; he hasn’t killed them all yet.

Johnny Rico has the eye patch and has kind of become the Michael Ironside character. Were you conscious of that?

Casper Van Dien: I can’t help but be conscious of that. But even in the end of the Starship Troopers original film, I go, ‘Come on, you apes! Do you want to live forever?” I do it the same way Ironside did it. So my character evolves but quite quickly… someone dies and you move up in rank. I just got promoted and promoted and promoted. It just keeps happening. I think what’s interesting is the way he writes, and the way Shinji directs, they have created a lot of the battle scars on him. Not just what he has gone through physically, but emotionally. You feel it and you see it on him, it’s what happens.

Did you enjoy writing a lot of the old characters like Carl, Diz, and Carmen?

Ed Neumeier: I enjoy writing those characters. I feel like I know them. There are other characters that I have written and had to rewrite, but I have never been more comfortable than writing these characters.

In the film, I like that the armor was more practical. I like that it wasn’t Iron Man but more Edge of Tomorrow. How did you come up with that armor?

Shinji Aramaki: Actually from the design perspective, it wasn’t this form fitting design. It was more like what if it existed in the world, and there was a request to make it more practical and more real. There was a need to try and create a character in a way and became more form fitting. But Edge of Tomorrow is a little upsetting because Japan was first on that [laughing].

What about the Starship Troopers world made you want to be involved in this?

Shinji Aramaki: The original novel was introduced with a power suit cover that was drawn by a really famous designer in Japan. And that suit design became the prototype for future robots in Japan. It was a precursor for the realistic robot like anime series, so it actually really started the whole genre and inspired a lot of creators like him. I started out as a mecha design and reading about a man in a power suit was something very new at the time. It was way before Iron Man. I wanted to see this in the first film and it’s something that the audience who read the book wanted and wondered. So I wanted to make it and add it in the film, which is what attracted me to the film. The story inspired me, but I wanted to complete it.

Masaru Matsumoto: The genre itself and how the story is, it’s a very new and a bit alien to the Japanese. So it was really fresh for me, and something you don’t get to really play with in the Japanese film industry. So that uniqueness and unique taste of the project was very exciting and I wanted to face that challenge.

Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars is scheduled for a one-night release on August 21, 2017, via Fathom Events. It’ll be out on Blu-ray and DVD September 19, 2017.

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