Locked in a darkened room when studio MGM went bankrupt in 2010 and then subjected to last minute post-production changes to magic the invading Chinese into North Koreans, the new take on Eighties cult classic Red Dawn in which genre icons Chris Hemsworth (Avengers Assemble, The Cabin In The Woods) and Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games) fight to liberate the occupied America of the very near future is just as controversial as the Reagan-era original.
Director and action movie veteran (as second unit director and stunt co-ordinator on the Bourne films and Quantum Of Solace) Dan Bradley spoke exclusively to SciFiNow about MGM’s bankruptcy, toying with a fan-favourite flick, and the star quality of Thor‘s Chris Hemsworth…
How did you get involved in Red Dawn?
I was directing the second unit on Quantum Of Solance when I got a phone call, ‘Would you like to direct Red Dawn?’ and I agreed to do it before I ever saw the script because the original one was a guilty pleasure of mine, and I thought now would be a good time to redo it.
Were you worried about getting involved with a film that has such a passionate – albeit small – fan base?
Yeah, that was certainly something that I knew would be a challenge. It occurred to me that there was a built-in audience, and they’d be curious to see it, and it was a major guilty pleasure of mine, and I wanted more action. I knew that we would be able to step up the action in the remake.
Were you torn on how politicised the film should be?
We definitely had discussions about that. I asked questions early on, and the situation changed later that helped us initially, you know, when the movie was released – the bankruptcy of the studio [MGM] was a huge factor in delaying everything else, it was the reason everything was delayed, and the politics got more intense – it was very much trial by fire.
There was some infamous changes in post-production from Chinese to North Koreans, flags and insignias switched around etc. Were you involved in that?
I was actually overseas working when all those decisions were made. North Korea, to this date, keeps herself in the headlines, so the studio thought it was a good change to make.
Was it strange to be doing that to a film you felt was complete?
The minute the studio went bankrupt, the sort of expected course of events to finish the film was dramatically altered, so we were into new territory from that moment on. Things changed very early in post-production – it was a few years down the line, so I can’t remember if the bankruptcy happened the last week we were shooting, or the week after we were shooting, but very early in the post process.
How did directing Red Dawn differ from being second unit director on a far bigger production?
Red Dawn was challenge for me because most of the action I’ve shot over the last 15 years I write – in 90-80% of the Bourne movies I’ve worked on, I wrote the sequence, so I could see it all out. But the same was true for Red Dawn – the difference, or challenge, for Red Dawn is I had three days for an invasion or so, where’s something like Quantum Of Solace, I have 14 days for car chase or I’d have 12 days for a Bourne car chase. So the amount of time was dramatically different, and doing it faster made me realised I’d gotten kinda spoiled on these other movies with the resources and the time available.
How do you feel ramping up the action improved the whole of Red Dawn?
Well, it really was trying to tell the story. It’s very easy to sort of visualise these things, I see them in the same way no matter how much the resources are, so it was trying to find ways to make the action intriguing and I always reckon it comes from the characters. I think some of the better character moments in the movie come during the action, when things are happening with the characters.
What was it like working with Chris Hemsworth?
Chris Hemsworth has a tremendous amount of charisma. I mean, he was clearly a star. When I met him we talked about the character, he was head and shoulders above the rest of the pack. In fact when I told the producer my first five choices for this character it was Chris Hemsworth… Chris Hemsworth, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Hemsworth. I knew instantly he would be a star, and the day after I cast him and we agreed to do the movie he was hired to – he was cast to play Thor. So it was very amusing, on the set we kind of referred to Chris as Thor – that was his nickname – ‘It’s time for Thor’s close-up!’ We were all very well aware that he was soon to have a life-changing experience.
Was he comfortable with the subject matter, as an Australian?
The fact is fighting for your home, fighting to protect your family – that’s universal, people’s desire to protect the things that they care about and the people that they love. I actually think that there’s a simple truth to his character, and he pulled it off pretty well.