The long-delayed re-imagining of Red Dawn is finally hitting theaters over the Thanksgiving holiday. When the citizens of a city in Washington state find themselves the prisoners under enemy occupation by North Korea, a group of young patriots known as The Wolverines become determined to fight and band together to protect one another and take back their freedom. From director Dan Bradley, the film stars Chris Hemsworth, Josh Peck, Josh Hutcherson, Adrianne Palicki, Isabel Lucas, Connor Cruise and Jeffrey Dean Morgan.
At the film’s press day, Collider spoke to actor Josh Peck – who plays the town’s star quarterback, Matt Eckert – in both a roundtable and 1-on-1 interview, in which he talked about how excited he is for people to finally get to see the film, how lucky he felt to get offered the role and not have to audition, his decision to wait until after they finished filming before he watched the original, just how grueling the boot camp training was, and his experience working with Chris Hemsworth. He also talked about what it was like to make the b-boy competition film Battle of the Year (which also stars Lost’s Josh Holloway), what he enjoys about doing more physical roles, and his hope to direct a feature film someday. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
JOSH PECK: Yeah. It’s tough, in general, when you make a film because there’s usually a year of post-production time before you finally see it come out. And then, in this respect, having to wait two plus years, there was so much anticipation, not only for us, as actors, but for people like Dan [Bradley], our director, who did two years of pre-production on the movie. He had so much work wrapped up in this film. I’m really a fan of his work and what he did with it, so I want people to see it. There’s a lot of excitement.
What was the auditioning process like for this?
PECK: I was lucky enough that I met with Dan [Bradley], the director, and he and I both saw eye to eye pretty quickly. I was offered the role, so I didn’t have to audition. It was one of the few times.
How aware were you of the original film?
PECK: I didn’t see the original until after we made this film. It was just one of those things where I met with Dan [Bradley] and I read the script and I knew I was immediately intrigued. Just because I hadn’t already seen it, and I knew there would be elements that I would love about it, I wanted to avoid imitating those things that I loved. I do that with my favorite movies, whether they’re drama or action or whatever. So, I watched it the night we finished and immediately understood why people loved it so much. But, fans of the original Red Dawn are weirdly protective of this film. As soon as it came up in any conversation, people would be like, “Chill out on my movie, bro. Be careful. This movie means a lot to me, friend.” So, I knew immediately that this was not to be taken lightly. Knowing the components of the people involved, with our cast and our director, I knew that it was all people that would pay proper homage to the original, and they really cared about making a film that not only paid tribute to the original, but utilized the new opportunities that were afford with 25 years plus, of new technology and new techniques for capturing action. I felt like we were a cause for good.
Was this a dream role, in the sense that people can really see the transition you’ve made from child actor to adult actor?
PECK: Absolutely! If 10-year-old Josh could see this movie, I would have been able to avoid a lot of angst, growing up, knowing that this would be the final result. For a lot of boys, running around with a gun and being an action star and getting to kiss a beautiful girl is a total dream come true.
Were these big action sequences fun for you, or did you find that scary to do?
PECK: I can’t believe that I got through it! If I get another opportunity to do it, then I’ll be more ready than I was this time.
PECK: I was shooting that AK-47, at times. I didn’t get to kill anybody with a knife, but that would have been cool.
Did you go into the boot camp training thinking that it wouldn’t be a problem, and then learned just how difficult it would be?
PECK: I didn’t even have any delusions that I was ready. I knew that it was going to be shitty and tough, and it was all those things and more. But thank god, I was surrounded by people that wanted me to win.
How was it like to eat like real marines during the training?
PECK: Meals Ready To Eat are what the troops still eat, to this day, which you can imagine that that’s not the tastiest. And then, poor Isabel Lucas is a vegetarian, so she was eating vegetarian MREs, which is a whole other level of tastebud assassination. It was pretty intense. I think the first initiation was the coffee grounds packet of instant coffee and creamer.
What did you learn about yourself, as a result of having gone through that experience?
PECK: I learned that I have a very low pain threshold. Anytime where you’re challenged, physically or mentally, you rise to the occasion in different ways. For me, it was an intense experience. I realized how important physicality can be with acting. All the things you can do to prepare for a role that free you, in the moment, are great. You have this muscle memory for things. You don’t have to act it as much, once you’ve done it enough. That was important with this because I didn’t have any war experience.
What was it like to work with Chris Hemsworth? Did you get to spend any time together, prior to shooting?
PECK: We just became incredibly close while shooting the film. We have a similar ethos. He was training for Thor and I was training for Red Dawn, so we bonded through physicality and the physical inadequacies that we both felt in ourselves. That was a common topic of conversation. He’s just a great guy, and he really works hard, as an actor. Anyone who’s about the work, I find that I get along with. It’s people that are less concerned with the acting or the film that I usually butt heads with.
What was the atmosphere like on set, especially when you were shooting some of the more intense brotherly moments together?
PECK: With drama, you need to be laughing, in between takes, ‘cause you’re going to those recesses of your soul and those dangerous parts. Normally, if you’re not an actor or some crazy artist, you don’t feel the need to run around in those areas. You keep them separate because it’s painful. But, as an actor, you know you need to access that to get that good shit. So, it’s important to have that levity in the middle of it ‘cause if it’s all just being at each other’s throats the whole time, that could get old quick. And then, conversely, if you’re doing comedy, I find that it’s important to be a little more serious. You don’t want to be in on the joke. You always want to play the reality of something that’s funny. So, we had some pretty good levity throughout most of it. But, there was one week where Chris and I had had enough of each other, only because you’re together for four months and everybody is working 16-hour days. It’s normal to have that brothers bickering type of thing. I was like, “Well, we better use it. Either this is a gift, or we’re just jerks.” And then, we got through those next few days and he and I were as best of friends as we’d been during the rest of the shoot ‘cause he’s just a gem.
When you saw him go off to do these big superhero movies, did it spark your desire to do a film like that?
PECK: Sure! I don’t know how I would look in tights, but I would do that! If they were to give me a forgiving costume, it could be appropriate.
Did you relate to this character? When you think about the possibility of something like this actually happening, do you think you might react in a similar way?
PECK: I don’t know. I think I would have to be the comedian of the group and give the troops distractions while they’re eating their meals or before they go to bed. Otherwise, I don’t know how much use I would be in the initial resistance.
Was Isabel Lucas pretty much game for anything, on set?
PECK: She was, yeah! Adrianne Palicki was the most game of the women, but Isabel was great and so was Alyssa Diaz. They’re tough girls. They had it harder than us ‘cause they had more restrictive clothing.
What did you take away from the experience of making this movie?
PECK: That I need to work out more. Being surrounded by an ensemble of people where we were all close in age, it was great to see everyone have their process and where they were at, in their career, especially guys like Chris [Hemsworth] and Josh [Hutcherson] who have seen so much success since we shot it. Being able to watch them now and be a fan of your friend is really exciting. This was a different experience than I’d ever had, physically and with the demands. I had to show up every day. Just getting through it was a great success. This was definitely a marathon. Some movies are a sprint and you’re like, “I can get through this.” But, this was 60 days, dealing with elements and training and injuries. So, just finishing was a great accomplishment.
What was the experience of Battle of the Year like? Did you know anything about that whole world?
PECK: I know about hip-hop culture, whether it’s graffiti writing or DJ-ing or being an MC. But, in this respect, getting to work with the greatest b-boys of today and seeing them do what they do best was such a gift. Now, they’re my friends. Just being around them and their physicality, they’re clowns and they’re hilarious, but what they do is so serious and they’re so talented at what they do. It’s an art form for them. It truly is! It’s unreal. Their physicality is brilliant. It’s all swagger, definitely.
Did you get to do any actual dancing, at all?
PECK: No, I’m just a coach. I tried, but I don’t have all the skills necessary. Just trying to do two moves in a row is the hardest core work-out you’ll ever have to do.
Having done an action movie, a dance movie and a Western, do you like going for those kinds of physical roles?
PECK: Sure! It’s the challenge of doing something new. Sometimes you have to suspend whether you believe in yourself doing it and just give yourself over to the idea that they believe in you. The Western I did was in the Carpathian mountains in Romania where it was negative 40 degrees and I was horseback riding. It was just such a challenge. But, for me, it all begins and ends with the character and the story. If they are really cool things that surround it, then all the better. But, if I feel as though I can bring truth to the dialogue and story, then I’m in.
PECK: I would love to start directing. I just hope to find the right thing and, if I was afforded the opportunity, I think it would be something great. It would be really hard, but I think it would be a great privilege. I hope that I can breathe some life into it because I have the experience, as an actor. Watching guys like Ben Affleck do it so well, you think, “Oh, my god, that might be possible.”
Are you more aware of what directors are doing and how they’re dealing with things on set then?
PECK: Yeah, it’s the best school you can have. You just have to stay observant, and people are eager to teach you on set, if you ask. There’s a lot of downtime, so there’s always opportunities to procure new skills.
Red Dawn opens in theaters on November 21st