Director Kim Jee-woon (The Good, The Bad and the Weird) couldn’t have picked a bigger action star in Arnold Schwarzenegger to make his American film debut with The Last Stand. The old school actioner pits a small town sheriff’s department up against a ruthless drug lord and his high-powered militia as they attempt to blast their way through a border town.
In a recent interview (facilitated by a translator), Kim talked about transcending the language barrier as a director, directing Arnold as the man he is instead of the characters he’s been, relying on old fashioned practical effects over digital manipulations and even revealed two or three deleted scenes that will appear on the eventual Blu-ray and DVD. Hit the jump for our interview with Kim Jee-woon for The Last Stand.
Collider: I wanted to talk about transcending the language barrier for directing The Last Stand. I’ve talked with a lot of the actors and they said that you have a very active directing style and it helped to get over that language barrier.
Kim Jee-woon (via translator): Initially, before he came to Hollywood, he thought that the language barrier would be the biggest challenge, but he realized that actors all around the world, regardless of language, are all the same. To go into more specifics regarding actors, whether they’re from Korea or the U.S., all actors know if they are loved by the director. When they feel that love from the director, they respond by giving a great performance on camera. Also, everyone on set – the crew, the actors – they were aware of the film’s message and its broad theme, so these big issues were never discussed on set.
But when there were certain moments or scenes that required a very specific nuance or performance, Jee-woon himself would act out the scene or the sequence and that would inspire the actors. Of course, he can’t really express emotions on camera, but he was very active in showing a certain action or a blocking for an actor. He would also participate in certain stunts himself and because of that, he would get bruises or cuts on his knees and elbows.
Since you mentioned working with different actors, obviously the biggest actor is Arnold Schwarzenegger. Since The Last Stand is your American film debut, could you comment on making your debut with, arguably, the biggest action star in the world?
Kim: To be honest, he would have to say that there was a certain burden in working with Arnold, a big action star. He’s aware that Arnold is loved by the American audience, but rather than focusing on working with Arnold, what Jee-woon focused on was expressing the character, Sheriff Owens, through Arnold the actor and knowing that Arnold and Jee-woon’s idea about Sheriff Owens coincided and that it was about Owens protecting a certain value and justice, Jee-woon focused more on that aspect that helped him to be more comfortable in working with Arnold.
There are some fantastic action sequences in this film. Can you walk us through your visualization process of how you see these scenes before you shoot them?
Kim: He did not want these action sequences to simply be an exhibition of spectacle. Rather, he wanted to utilize Arnold’s character, but not the commando that we’ve seen or the Terminator or this perfect human being we’ve seen in films like True Lies. Rather, he wanted to portray Arnold at his age where we see him fatigued; he’s tired and he’s old. Regardless of these limitations and conditions, he overcomes this to defend something, to defend his small town. Seeing that he was able to successfully fuse this human emotion to Arnold’s character, he feels that that allowed for a deeper connection with the audience.
As a director, do you prefer a majority of practical or digital effects?
Kim: He prefers to work the old-fashioned way. He tries to do everything or most of his action sequences practically, because he feels that while added effects or the VFX process allows for flashier sequences, he feels that it lacks the energy we see in practical effects.
In talking with the actors, I know that there is some additional material that involves some of their backstory that didn’t make the final cut. Were there any relationships or other plot points that you wanted to explore a little more?
Kim: There was actually a scene that was cut out. After Agent Richards, who is played by Genesis Rodriguez, after she was thrown out of the Corvette, there was a dramatic scene where we see her go through this internal conflict and this agent who betrayed her agency is once again betrayed by the villain. There was this great conflict that we see within Agent Richards, but due to time constraints and to quickly move on to the climax, that scene had to be cut out and he misses that.
Kim: Interestingly, his first director’s cut was an hour and forty-one minutes. Then, the studio actually wanted to add more to the story, so we went all the way up to an hour and forty-seven minutes. After that, he made some additional cuts and now we are where we are.
There are two deleted scenes that will definitely make it to the Blu-ray or DVD. The first one is a scene that the studio really likes. It’s when Arnold shows up at the opening. The scene itself was very fun and charming, but because of time constraints and also because of the balance of the film in its entirety, the scene had to be deleted. But that one will definitely be on the Blu-ray or DVD. Another scene is where Forest Whitaker, Agent Bannister, is in the FBI locker room and he talks about how he’s run into Cortez in the past and he feels that that was a great performance by Forest and there was a nice energy to that scene. That will definitely be in the deleted scenes/additional features as well.
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