Marvel Studios founder Avi Arad produces ‘Ghost in the Shell’

As the former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer and founder of Marvel Studios, Avi Arad has been a driving force behind bringing many of Marvel’s most famous comic book characters to the screen, with a track record that has been nothing short of spectacular, including a string of No. 1 box office openings.

As a producer or executive producer, his credits include Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3, The Amazing Spider-Man (Columbia Pictures); X-Men, X2: X-Men United and X-Men: The Last Stand (Twentieth Century Fox) and Iron Man (Paramount Pictures).

Now, Arad produces the much anticipated big-screen adaptation of the popular manga, Ghost in the Shell starring Scarlett Johansson.

In the near future, Major (Johansson) is the first of her kind: A human saved from a terrible crash, who is cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world’s most dangerous criminals. When terrorism reaches a new level that includes the ability to hack into people’s minds and control them, Major is uniquely qualified to stop it. As she prepares to face a new enemy, Major discovers that she has been lied to: her life was not saved, it was stolen. She will stop at nothing to recover her past, find out who did this to her and stop them before they do it to others.

Over the past three decades the popularity of Ghost in the Shell has continued to grow as its central themes have become more pertinent. “It’s a cautionary tale about technology,” says producer Avi Arad. “Ghost in the Shell raises interesting philosophical questions in a futuristic setting, but it also happens to be relevant to issues we face right now. It’s about what defines us as individuals — our history versus our actions. And it does all that in the context of a big, exciting action film.”

The film began its long journey to the screen, when Avi Arad pitched the project to Steven Spielberg — with help from an unexpected source. “I ran into Steven and his young daughter on the beach in Malibu,” he recounts. “She knew everything you can imagine about Ghost in the Shell. She did the pitch for me. That started the ball rolling.”

In 2008, Spielberg and DreamWorks acquired the rights to make the first live-action version of Ghost in the Shell, with Avi Arad, Ari Arad, Steven Paul and Michael Costigan as producers, and Tetsu Fujimura, Yoshinobu Noma, Mitsuhisa Ishikawa and Jeffrey Silver as executive producers. Almost eight years of painstaking efforts to get the right script, director and star would follow.

To helm the ambitious project, the producers selected British director Rupert Sanders, best known for his dark action epic, Snow White and the Huntsman. “Rupert Sanders is a visionary,” says Avi Arad. “He always loved the project and he knew how important it could be. Rupert’s love for art and storytelling made him the perfect director for this.”

Arad also notes that of all the film’s characters, Major is the one whose life has been transformed the most by technology. “She revels in being the most extraordinary person in the world, but at the same time you get a real sense of the weight that she carries. Scarlett [Johansson] perfectly captures Major’s emotion, humor and intensity.”

Ultimately, Ghost in the Shell is a story about how people may have to change to survive in the future, according to Arad. “Technology is already penetrating our lives in different ways. Here we are literally mixing man and machine together. But however little of Major’s original physical self is left, she is still profoundly human. Rather than a story about fearing the future, it is a film about finding a way through a complicated future.”

Opening across the Philippines on March 29, Ghost in the Shell is distributed by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.

‘Ghost in the Shell’ film villain Kuze, a composite of manga characters

American actor Michael Carmen Pitt (HBO’s Boadwalk Empire, TV’s Hannibal) oozes not just menace and rage, but also vulnerability, in Paramount Pictures’ Ghost in the Shell, the live-action adaptation of the internally acclaimed Japanese manga.

In the film, Kuze is the mastermind behind a bold attack on a high-ranking Hanka Corporation executive. A brilliant hacker out for revenge against the people he believes have wronged him, Kuze is willing to sacrifice anyone who gets in his way.

“Michael Carmen Pitt is a true artist,” says director Rupert Sanders. “I’ve known him for many years as a friend. He’s very independent minded and exists solely in that artist’s world.”

Pitt says he appreciated the ambitious nature of the project and the enduring relevance of the source material. “The manga has been extremely influential in Hollywood movies, graphic art, tattooing and industrial music,” says Pitt. “I saw the first animated film on VHS when I was maybe 14 or 15 years old. I had never seen anything like it. While I was preparing, I re-watched the original film and was really surprised by how current it still is. The world is complicated, scary, extremely exciting and full of evil and full of good — like the world we live in.”

Kuze is a composite character drawn from several elements of the Ghost in the Shell universe that served as a jumping off point for an intriguing, challenging antagonist for Major. “Is he truly a villain?” asks Pitt. “I don’t know. That’s one of the unique and interesting things about the script. I worked a lot on how he would speak and made some rules for myself about the way he could move. I wrote pages and pages and pages of backstory. He is such a strange character that I just didn’t know any other way to do it.”

Pitt arrived on set fully immersed in the physicality and violence of the character, according to Sanders. “By the time he started filming, he’d been eating raw food for months. He was doing boxing and Pilates every day. Not only was he whippet thin and ripped, he had developed a very in-depth character. He built himself a little house in a shipping container on the back lot, where he had a punching bag and an ashtray. He filled notebooks with painting after painting after painting about Kuze. It’s a master class watching him.”

Audiences may be startled by Pitt’s transformation, warns producer Jeffrey Silver. “Michael brings a phenomenal depth to Kuze. You’re not quite sure what he is. He alters the pitch of his voice, his eyes, his hair – everything about him is on the edge.”

Pitt’s hope for the film is that it will be an entertaining and exciting movie that also touches the audience. “It has the potential to move people because it’s about someone who is figuring out who she is, what it means to be human, and then ultimately deciding to fight for that humanity.”

Opening today across the Philippines, Ghost in the Shell is distributed by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.

New ‘Ghost in the Shell’ banners exude futuristic vibe

Paramount Pictures has just unveiled two banners for its upcoming action-thriller Ghost in the Shell that sell the futuristic tone of the film, while showcasing Scarlett Johansson’s kick-ass physique.

Directed by Rupert Sanders, the film also stars “Beat” Takeshi Kitano, Michael Carmen Pitt, Pilou Asbaek, Chin Han and Juliette Binoche.

Check out the poster below and watch Ghost in the Shell in Philippine cinemas starting March 29, 2017.

In the near future, Major (Scarlett Johansson) is the first of her kind: A human saved from a terrible crash, who is cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world’s most dangerous criminals. When terrorism reaches a new level that includes the ability to hack into people’s minds and control them, Major is uniquely qualified to stop it. As she prepares to face a new enemy, Major discovers that she has been lied to: her life was not saved, it was stolen. She will stop at nothing to recover her past, find out who did this to her and stop them before they do it to others.

The film is based on the internationally acclaimed Japanese Manga, “The Ghost in the Shell.”

Ghost in the Shell is distributed by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.