Montreal director Shawn Levy finds broad success with big-budget Hollywood films

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TORONTO - Montreal-born filmmaker Shawn Levy loves an audience.

As the director of one of Hollywood's biggest movie franchises, the effects-laden "Night at the Museum" series, the Canadian expat says he's doing exactly what he always dreamed of as a kid.
"Even in high school, my taste and sensibilities were very populist, very mainstream commercial sensibilities, and I had a sense from a young age that the place where that was primarily happening - broad-scale, broad-based populist entertainment - was Hollywood and Los Angeles," Levy says in an interview from New York.
"The models that I really love are (directors) Ron Howard, Bob Zemeckis, guys who work in a variety of genres but they always make commercial, largely movie-star driven movies."
Levy's upcoming projects include the adult action comedy "Date Night," starring Tina Fey, Steve Carell and James Franco, and the action film "Real Steel," starring Hugh Jackman and produced by Steven Spielberg.
Levy says he and Spielberg are in the midst of pre-production on "Real Steel," a film set in the boxing world where robot fighters have replaced humans.
"I'm definitely having a fun moment," Levy says of his latest big-budget forays.
He says he's particularly proud of the "Night at the Museum" movies for boosting attendance numbers at venerable institutions in New York, where the first film was set, and Washington, D.C., which provided the backdrop for the sequel.
"Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian" comes out on DVD next week. It features cast commentary, a gag reel, featurettes and a behind-the-scenes look at the making of intricate museum sets, all constructed in Vancouver.
The film's Montreal production designer, Claude Pare, said in a recent interview that it was a mammoth undertaking to build replicas of the National Air and Space Museum, the Smithsonian Castle, the National Gallery of Art as well as many of the famous artifacts, paintings and sculptures found there.
"The biggest set that I've ever built in my career was the Air and Space set, which is the equivalent of one room of the Air and Space Museum in Washington," notes Pare, whose work also appears in "The Aviator" and "The Day After Tomorrow."
Levy says he'd consider doing a third film in the series if he and star Ben Stiller can find a script worth shooting.
"It's all about finding that story and then finding the right moment," says Levy, who lives in Los Angeles.
"But we love these characters, we love the franchise, so if we can come up with a story worth telling, a third instalment is a definite possibility and I suspect it will leave the United States. That's the only hint I'll give."
Levy says several museums have made it clear they'd like to host the next film after seeing ticket sales jump by 20 per cent at New York's Museum of Natural History following the first movie.
"Various curators and museum presidents would love to see the effect of the next movie on their institutions. We're giving it a lot of thought and quietly noodling it and working away," he says.
"Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian" comes out on DVD, Blu-ray and as a limited edition "Monkey Mischief" double DVD on Tuesday.

Organizations: National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Castle, National Gallery of Art Museum of Natural History

Geographic location: Montreal, Hollywood, New York Los Angeles TORONTO Washington, D.C. Vancouver United States Blu

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