He recently took time out from his busy schedule to talk with us about his new film Close Range which he co-wrote with Shane Dax Taylor.
We also chat about Daylight’s End and the upcoming Isolation starring Dominic Purcell.
You can read all about it below.
Colton MacReady is one of my favourite action movie characters of recent years; can you tell us about how you came up with him and if there were any inspirations behind him?
Wow, thanks so much, man. That’s awesome. Those are some pretty big shoes but thank you. Honestly though, and Scott and Isaac both added much of their own things to this of course as well, Shane, my co writer and I, really just kind of saw MacReady as a true anti hero. Not some good guy who’s just sort of bad like a Jack Sparrow or whatever but more of a bad guy who’s just maybe sort of sparingly good, if that makes sense. A bit how I always saw the Snake Plissken character in John Carpenter’s ESCAPE movies. He’s a guy who’s in it for himself unless the tide just happens to turn and he can’t not intervene or be involved. I liked the idea that in any other movie he might very well be the bad guy but here, in this story, he just happens to be the good guy due to circumstance and from this story’s perspective. Like Christian Slater said about Sonny Chiba in TRUE ROMANCE “he ain’t so much a good guy as he is just a bad motherfucker…he gets paid by people to fuck guys up.” That was sort of the genesis, that sort of general idea. It’s just that here, in this story, they messed with Colton’s family and he comes to help, even if almost begrudgingly seeming at times.
If you look at it, it’s there, some stuff was changed here and there along the way, but it’s there, there’s a lot of gray in the story. With all of the characters really. It’s kind of hard to pinpoint classic good guys and bad guys in this one and I knew that and always really liked that about it. It’s rare you can do that. Even Colton’s sister, she knew her husband had been running drugs on their property but she didn’t try and stop it and/or at least turned a blind eye to it therefore leading to everything that takes place. In a way it’s all as much her fault as anyone else’s. There’s lots of grays in the movie, with Colton, with her, with the Sheriff and his son, even with the cartel guys in a way having people they care about get killed by Colton. It’s all cause and effect and I really like that about it.
I liked how Colton is straightforward; there are no big speeches. If there’s fighting to be done he does it and doesn’t waste time. Was it important to make him a fight first, ask questions later kinda guy?
I think so, yeah. I mean, he really knows all he needs to know, there’s no reason to talk. These guys took his niece, he takes their lives, you know? No rocket science involved. These guys come to kill him, he kills them first. It’s basically a martial arts spaghetti western, what more needs to be said? (laughs) There was some more talking in the script here and there, in various incarnations, but yeah, less is more a lot of the time. Colton knows what he needs to do, so do we as an audience. We went through various versions where Colton said more or said less but I really like where it all landed.
You co-wrote the script with Shane Dax Taylor; talk us through the process of having two people work on a screenplay?
Well, I’ve done it several times. With my brother Evan, with Shane, with others. I like it. I love working with Shane. Two heads are usually better than one, I think. I think that’s true. I like the whole collaboration process. Its one of the reasons I love making movies, working collectively. And it can work any number of ways honestly. At least for me. For this, Shane and I had the story, the whole idea we were given, both of us were on the same page, and then Shane was in there first and then I went in after I was done working on something else and then we just kind of swatted it back and forth, both of us jumping in and out. And then Scott and Isaac came on board of course. After that, I did a lot of the rewriting from the set of ISOLATION in the Bahamas, this other movie Shane and I co wrote together, while Shane was directing that one. So it was kind of hard for him to be much involved in the rewrite process while he’s directing a movie. But, yeah, that aside, it’s really just an honest collaboration, both of us taking turns at the plate sort of thing. There are a lot of cooks in the kitchen when making a movie usually but I don’t generally see that as a negative. Most of the time everyone has the same goal – to try and make something good. Hopefully that’s the case anyway. And when you’re working with people like Shane and Scott and Isaac, you know that’s the case, you trust them, and it’s fun.
I want to put on the record that I need a sequel ASAP so can you make that happen? Might work as a TV series as well…
It’s funny you say that, there was actually some talk at one point between Isaac and I and some others about how this could be a pretty cool TV show. Like sort of a more modern/harder WALKER TEXAS RANGER almost. Never say never. I’d love that of course if Scott and Isaac were involved. That or a sequel. I think the possibilities with a character like Colton MacReady and an actor like Scott playing him are pretty much endless. Now can I make that happen? No, but I can help make it happen. I can write it of course. I mean, I need a sequel too. (laughs) I’d love that. It’s up to the audience though really. It’s up to the producers. Ehud Bleiberg, hopefully he can make that happen, yeah. Ehud, call me, Shane and me are waiting at the keys.
Do you have any ideas for a storyline?
Nothing concrete, no, but we have several ideas. We’ve kicked around some, Shane and me, ways of expanding the character and world. Isaac and I have talked about it like I said. Again, nothing concrete, but with a character like Colton the possibilities are really endless I feel. I just know he’d be talking some shit and kicking lots of ass.
Isaac Florentine is one of the best action directors in the business; talk about working with him and his directorial style?
Isaac is without a doubt one of the best action directors working in the business, yeah. And I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a few of what I feel are the great action directors out there now so far. I was fortunate to work with Isaac. I had of course wanted to long before this. He’s a realist, knows what he can do, what he won’t be able to do for whatever reason. And he’s a film fan most importantly. He knows movies. It’s always amazing to me how many people in this business actually aren’t that or know very little about movies. Isaac isn’t one of those. He knows his stuff and you can tell. I remember when I saw the first NINJA being like whoa, who did this? Isaac actually kind of reminds me a bit of Colton in the movie honestly. He doesn’t talk just for talking. He’s straight to the point, sticks to his guns. Plus, he can kick ass similarly to Colton too. He’s a martial artist himself. He doesn’t like a line in the script and he just kicks you out of your chair. (haha) Seriously though, Isaac is great. I loved working with him. I hope I get to again. We’ve talked about it here and there. We’ll see. Isaac does this because he loves it though and I love that. He came up with so many creative ways of shooting things in this one, so many interesting shots. Like the deputy’s gun POV or whatever you want to call it, for example. Isaac doesn’t just point and shoot. And, to me, that’s what a great action director does – they make things leap off the page. I remember going to our main location, this house in California, just outside of LA, just me and Isaac, and him trying to figure out how to do things based on that location, how to get Colton from here to there, and just watching him do that and talking through it all with him. It was so interesting, inspiring even, to just watch that and be a part of that whole process.
How much detail do you go into to describe an action scene when writing?
As much as I can. Probably too much even. These things usually change due to logistics or locations or whatever or when you end up working with guys like Scott and Isaac or Jeremy Marinas who are all more capable of coming up with cooler shit in reality than most any page can read. But I like to try and at least get everything there on the page in some capacity. The script is a blueprint and should be taken as such but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to paint a picture or make it exciting to read. I always try to do that. I equate it to a book being adapted. Things will always change from print to screen but at least everybody has some idea of what’s there and what they’re going from. The gist is there. Besides, that’s the fun part to me. It’s where I’m still like the little kid in my living room trying to come up with the coolest action stuff I can. The script is my last chance to make it as much mine as I can and then it goes into other hands and is translated from that. So I like to “overwrite” a bit I’d say. I’d rather have it all there and not need it, then need something there and not have it. So yeah, the short answer is as much as I can without bogging it down and hopefully not making it too boring to read – like I just made this explanation of it boring to read.
You’ve also got several other projects coming up including Isolation . Tell us a little about it?
ISOLATION is an action thriller that I also wrote with Shane Dax Taylor, who I of course wrote this one with as well. Shane directed ISOLATION too. Dominic Purcell stars, Tricia Helfer, Luke Mably, who’s awesome, just such a great actor, the always awesome Stephen Lang, Marie Avgeropoulos from THE 100, Chelsea Edmundson from another movie of mine, DAYLIGHT’S END, is in there. It’s just such a talented and entertaining cast. We just premiered the movie at the Austin Film Festival on Halloween and it was so much fun. At its heart it’s really a movie about relationships and/or trying to fix them. Even if by way of murder. It has a lot of different opinions about relationships from all sides in it but yeah, it’s kind of couple vs. couple vs. couple on this island in the Bahamas. It’s an old school thriller like DEAD CALM or even KEY LARGO. A director friend of mine, Micah Cohen, actually brought up KEY LARGO to me at the premiere and I of course thought that was a very good comparison. An old school pulpy noir action thriller at least in that vein. It’s loosely based on this true story that Shane found out about from talking to these people while we were working on another movie down in the Bahamas. It involved this couple who would travel from isolated island to isolated island and basically kind of take over these people’s lives and identities in these houses there. Like modern day pirates, taking whatever they can. It was just so interesting and disturbing. It’s a bit different for me from the other things I’ve been involved with so far. I think people are really going to like it.
Any word on when we’ll see Daylight’s End? Been looking forward to it for so long.
You and me both. (laughs) Sorry, Will. No, it’s funny, I’ve actually seen a few people seem kind of irritated about it online like “where the hell is this damn movie?!” Which is good of course I feel because that means they’re just excited to see it. And I’m excited for everybody to see it, I think it’ll be well worth the wait. We just delivered it at AFM in Santa Monica and it’s great. It’s up to our distributors now of course, when it actually gets released, but I think it’s safe to say it will definitely come out sometime this next year. Sometime in 2016. It’s been a long road. And we did it true indie-style, you know? No studio, no overhead. This is great of course but also comes with its own set of obstacles. I mean, it has more visual effects than anything I think Will or myself have ever been involved with at any level, it’s so big in scope. Plus, then we all kind of all got busy with other things as well. Will went and did JARHEAD and another movie; I of course did CLOSE RANGE, ISOLATION and some others. But I’m honestly so proud of the movie and the work everybody did. It was very hard to make, as all movies are, but it was such a great experience and I love the result. Everybody, Will, Johnny Strong, all of the cast, gave it their all and I think you can really tell. We basically set out to make ROAD WARRIOR meets 28 DAYS LATER meets ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 and that’s what we did. The movie we always wanted to make as kids I think, Will and I. It’s great in the way that I thought Will and Johnny’s first movie SINNERS AND SAINTS was except also very different of course. I can’t wait for everybody to see it. Soon, I swear. Soon!
Thanks so much and good luck; got a busy year ahead!
Of course, man, thanks so much. Thanks for taking the time, I’m trying. Look forward to hopefully talking again soon!