The sheriff of a small border town stands in front of a notorious drug cartel leader, blocking his path across the bridge that will take him safely out of the country. Wanting to avoid a physical confrontation with the much larger man, the cartel leader attempts to buy him off. The sheriff responds by discarding his gun belt and shedding his jacket, dropping it to the ground. The men rush each other. They trade blows, neither getting the upper hand until the sheriff lifts the man into the air and prepares to slam him to the asphalt. Director Kim Jee-Woon calls cut and sheriff Ray Owens (Arnold Schwarzenegger) slowly lowers cartel leader Gabriel Cortes (Eduardo Noriega) to the ground with the assistance of the actor’s stunt wires.
It’s late October 2011 and we’re on set of The Last Stand, Schwarzenegger’s first starring role since leaving the governorship of California and his triumphant return to the big screen. While we’ll have interviews with the cast and crew of the film later on this week, you can hit the jump right now to view our “20 Things to Know” for The Last Stand. Also starring Forest Whitaker, Rodrigo Santoro, Johnny Knoxville, Jaimie Alexander, Luis Guzman, Peter Stormare, Zach Gilford and Genesis Rodriguez, The Last Stand opens January 18th, 2013.
To familiarize yourself with The Last Stand, here are the film’s trailer and synopsis:
Here’s the official synopsis for The Last Stand:
Action icon Arnold Schwarzenegger makes his much-anticipated return to the big screen in Korean director Kim Jee-woon’s hard-hitting US directorial debut, THE LAST STAND. After leaving his LAPD narcotics post following a bungled operation that left him wracked with remorse and regret, Sheriff Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger) moved out of Los Angeles and settled into a life fighting what little crime takes place in sleepy border town Sommerton Junction. But that peaceful existence is shattered when Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega), the most notorious, wanted drug kingpin in the western hemisphere, makes a deadly yet spectacular escape from an FBI prisoner convoy. With the help of a fierce band of lawless mercenaries led by the icy Burrell (Peter Stormare), Cortez begins racing towards the US-Mexico border at 250 mph in a specially-outfitted Corvette ZR1 with a hostage in tow.
First of all, I have to say how cool it was to be on the set of Schwarzenegger’s return in his first major starring role since vacating the governorship. The guy is a former Mr. Universe, Mr. Olympia, was a governor, is worth hundreds of millions of dollars and, oh yeah, stared in the greatest action films of the 80s and 90s. But more on Schwarzenegger (and me geeking out when meeting him) later on. Let’s talk about The Last Stand.
The film centers on Sheriff Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger), a former LAPD narcotics officer who moves out to the quiet border town of Sommerton Junction. The peace is shattered with one of the FBI’s most wanted men escapes a prisoner convoy and heads straight for the small town to cross the border into safety. Kim Jee-Woon’s U.S. directorial debut builds to a collision between the cartel leader and his men against Sheriff Owens and his ill-equipped department. Here are the 20 things you need to know about The Last Stand:
- This film is more of a “return” to form for Schwarzenegger and less of a “comeback,” as the former governor was merely out of the game due to public service and not because he retired from Hollywood.
- Schwarzenegger and Noriega were actually on the bridge (on set) for the fight scene; stunt doubles were present and used for some of Jee-woon’s shots, but the principal actors did the majority of the dirty work. Their costumes and make-up suggested that this scrap is probably the last in a sequence of fighting.
- The weapons used throughout The Last Stand reflect the characters that wield them. Cortez’s cartel uses high tech, military grade weaponry that you might see in a Call of Duty or Modern Warfare 3 games. Owens’ sheriff’s department is drastically under-powered compared to the criminals, so they seek out a cache of vintage weaponry at a local museum, run by the zany Lewis Dinkum (Johnny Knoxville).
- Sticking with weaponry for a bit, the gatling gun that Schwarzenegger fires at the end of The Last Stand trailer? It’s a 1916 Vickers machine gun that actually served in two wars. Its sister gun is in the Smithsonian institute as an incredibly reliable weapon of war that fired one-million rounds of ammunition without a breakdown.
- Peter Stormare stars as Burrell, the leader of a band of lawless mercenaries that assists Cortez in his escape. Burrell sports an 1847 Colt Dragoon, a revolver used during the Mexican-American War and the American Civil War.
- Producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura talked about the level of humor in the film, calling it balanced and comparing it to the early Lethal Weapon films. Di Bonaventura especially called out Knoxville’s performance as “a crazy fucking character in the middle of this insane shoot-out.”
- The Tommy guns used in the film were actually commissioned for use in World War II and were later used by the Los Angeles police force until 1968, when they were repurposed for Hollywood.
- Director Kim Jee-woon, who speaks Korean, uses two translators to get his directions across to the cast. Though it was cumbersome at first, the cast and crew quickly picked up on the routine and Kim Jee-woon’s animated style of directing helped with the translation.
- Kim Jee-woon describes the picture as “an American canvas with his colors on it.” He compares directing his first American film as a marriage, which is exciting and, at times, uncomfortable at first, but becomes familiar after time.
- Mowg will score the film for The Last Stand. Kim Jee-woon worked the composer previously on I Saw the Devil.
- The production crew built a small Western town as a practical set on the Main Street of a nearby town. The set is showcased in the schoolbus roadblock scenes from the trailer.
- The ensemble piece is an assemblage of international cast and crew, including Kim Jee-woon, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rodrigo Santoro, Peter Stormare, Luis Guzman and Eduardo Noriega.
- Schwarzenegger leads the rag-tag sherrifs department, which is rounded out by Jaimie Alexander, Luis Guzman and Zach Gilford; Johnny Knoxville is later deputized.
- The Last Stand features some green screen, but a lot of on location shoots. The fight scene on the bridge started out as a practical shoot, but was rebuilt in the studio due to weather conditions.
- Forest Whitaker plays an FBI agent who is in charge of moving their high-value target; Genesis Rodriguez is another FBI agent who is taken hostage by the cartel members.
- The Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 used for The Last Stand is a suped-up version of the fastest street car available (a hypothetical 1,000hp in the film) and can outrun a helicopter in the film.
- The Last Stand previously had Liam Neeson attached in the starring role. After Neeson dropped out, Schwarzenegger expressed an interest in returning to the screen.
- Lorenzo di Bonaventura wants Schwarzenegger to play Igor the Butcher in RED 2. Fans of the original film may remember this character as mentioned in a conversation between Bruce Willis and Brian Cox.
- The bus sequence seen in the trailer is one of the big action pieces in the film but comes before the biggest final action sequence.
- While di Bonaventura is anxious to see Schwarzenegger back on screen in a big, badass action movie, he thinks the younger audience will be more drawn to Knoxville’s character. Interestingly enough, Schwarzenegger’s own children are most excited about seeing Knoxville on screen with him.
As this was my first set visit, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. My fellow journalists and I sat in the video village watching the fight scene unfold when someone, who I assumed was Schwarzenegger’s stunt double, put his hand on my shoulder and greeted all of us. I looked up and holy shit it was Arnold! All those years in politics have certainly given him good people skills, but the genuinely friendly Schwarzenegger surprised us even further by sitting down to lunch with us and carrying on a very candid conversation for the better part of an hour (we’ll have the interview with him up shortly). It was one of the coolest moments I’ve experienced in my life.
The cast and crew were all-around friendly and approachable, which was a direct result of the laid back working environment and camaraderie on set. Noriega was so charismatic that I’m going to have a hard time picturing him as the villain in The Last Stand, but his performance will undoubtedly make up for it. Di Bonaventura went the extra mile to show us an action sequence from the film that gets surprisingly bloody and shows that The Last Stand isn’t just a shoot ‘em up, but that it holds actual consequences for our heroes. If the unfinished scene is any suggestion of the rest of the film, The Last Stand is going to be a good ol’ fashioned return to action for Schwarzenegger featuring some fun Western homages flavored with a Korean twist thanks to Kim Jee-woon. I don’t think you’ll see anything else quite like it all year. Check out The Last Stand when it opens on January 18th, 2013.
Here’s more coverage from our visit to the set of The Last Stand:
- Arnold Schwarzenegger Talks The Last Stand, Returning to Acting, His Personal Favorite Characters from His Career and More
- Producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura Talks The Last Stand, Director Kim Jee-Woon’s Unique Style and Working with Arnold Schwarzenegger in His Return
- Director Kim Jee-Woon Talks The Last Stand, Differences Between Korean and American Filmmaking, His Unique Directing Style, and More
- Eduardo Noriega Talks The Last Stand, Playing the Villain, Fighting Arnold Schwarzenegger, Working with Director Kim Jee-Woon and Driving the ZR1 Corvette