Based on the D.C. Comics graphic novel by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner, RED is an explosive action-comedy about Frank (Bruce Willis), Joe (Morgan Freeman), Marvin (John Malkovich) and Victoria (Helen Mirren), who used to be the CIA’s top agents, but who are now the Agency’s top targets. Framed for assassination, they must use all of their collective cunning, experience and teamwork to stay one step ahead of their deadly pursuers and stay alive, as the battle with the new regime.
During a press conference while they were at Comic-Con, co-stars Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren and Karl Urban talked about the entertainment value of movies adapted from comics and graphic novels, and the enjoyment of getting to not only work with an amazing cast, but also kick some ass. Check out what they had to say after the jump:
Bruce: I always question whether it’s the right time for anything I do. I rely, a lot of times, on my own choices, with the scripts I like and the stories I like. This film was always ambitious, right from the very start. It couldn’t have just been defined as an action movie or a comedy or a romantic comedy. The studio and the story was always about that, and stayed there. It always felt ambitious. Depending on who you talk to, young guys will tell you it’s an action movie, and some people will tell you it’s a comedy, or it’s a romantic comedy, but it weaves all these things together, and it doesn’t move you off of liking the action, the comedy or the romance. I have a romance in this film. I really am pleased with this choice. I think (director) Robert [Schwentke] had a lot of things to juggle, and it would be intimidating for almost anyone to work with this many veteran actors and big movie stars, but he managed it every day, with a lot of grace.
Helen: Robert was very good at maintaining the overall style of acting as well as the overall style of the movie. He was very loose, very easy and very patient.
Q: How do you guys feel about comic books becoming mainstream in Hollywood?
Helen: I’m wearing a t-shirt in tribute to Harvey Pekar, who I thought was a great, great artist. I thought it was all about comic book heroes. He revealed the fact that a graphic novel could be as deep, complex, personal and psychological as any other work of art, whether it’s a novel, movie, painting or anything. So, I think that it’s really exciting to see this world burgeoning, expanding and changing, as it goes into a real, total art form. I think we’re at a very exciting point in the whole era, with the whole development of comic books. I’m fascinated to see where it’s going to be in another 20 years.
Bruce: These guys wrote and illustrated a pretty well thought-out story that already had drama in it. It showed up long before it ever made the transition from graphic novel to a film. But, you had to take 66 pages of the graphic novel and turn it into 110 or 115 page script and try to fill 90 minutes of it. It was very ambitious and there were many days that we said, “Where are we?” Robert always knew exactly what we were doing and what the scene was about. I think the story was already really dramatic, very easy to play and very easy to understand. If someone shoves you a little too far, you’re going to shove back. All of us were shoving each other and shoving back.
In a world where the biggest movie-going demographic is teenage boys, what does Red say about remaining relevant in old age?
Bruce: The word is certainly used, and used in the title of the film, which stands for retired, extremely dangerous. It’s commented on a couple times, but when you see the film it’s right now. It’s hip. Karl Urban and I went at it in one of the toughest fights I’ve ever had in my life. It was deliberately crafted along the lines of mixed martial arts and how violent that is. We were literally throwing each other around. The fact that you see anyone who is reported to be retired in the film, they’re doing stuff that is sexy, hot, romantic and funny.
Karl: The most fun I’ve had in years was having the opportunity to throw Mr. Bruce Willis across the room and watch him smash into furniture so well. This film explores the old school techniques vs. new school techniques. They represent the way things used to be done. I play a character who reps the new breed of the CIA. You get to see those two different schools of thought go head-to-head. Old school is cool school.
Helen: I would just say that, as an older person, you bring a different energy to the piece, and maybe it’s the energy of wisdom and experience. I think that people are bringing their deep experience to what they’re doing with this particular job.
Helen, what type of skills did you develop for this role?
Helen: Well, shooting a gun was all I had to learn, really. That was fun to do and I did it.
How was your first time at Comic-Con?
Helen: Bruce and I were both virgins. We’re not anymore. I was just ravaged. I’ve had foreplay beforehand and now I got ravaged. That’s obviously what it’s all about, isn’t it? I just went into the big room to see the fans. We obviously travel in a bubble, a lot of the time. It’s where you actually get to have a really face-to-face experience with fans. The great thing about Americans is that the fans are permitted to be enthusiastic about stuff on a grand scale. For me, as a Brit, it’s really exciting and endearing. It’s everything you love about America. I like to get down and dirty with fans and people.
Why did you feel you had to do this project?
Karl: For me, it was very different. This was a dream project, in many ways. First off, it was the people involved. It is very, very rare that you get the opportunity to work on a project with so many extraordinarily talented people.
Bruce: There was never any way we could ever have imagined the richness of what a film could be that has a huge cast of characters in it, when all those characters are played by actors you already know and I was already a fan of, for a long time. I was excited, all the time. One of the things that’s going to be talked about a lot more is just the phenomenon of having this many actors and this many movie stars in a film, with a good, ambitious story that’s fun and funny, and has action in it.
Helen: It was not The Queen. The appeal was Bruce Willis, an evening dress and a machine gun.
Bruce, do you worry about this film finding a place with all of the other comic book and graphic novel adaptations?
Bruce: I’m still a fan of films. I still go to movies, all the time. I like to see what’s out there. I don’t know about you guys, but I never think there’s any competition between films. I root for everybody’s films. I especially have a fond place in my heart for graphic novels and comics. What’s really cool to me, about seeing Comic-Con and seeing 7,000 people who all dig the same kind of thing is that I’ve never seen it. I’ve never seen any other slice of an audience that’s all in one place and all really excited to be there. It’s a really cool thing to see. I think we all try to live up to the storyline.
Do you collect comics?
Bruce: I don’t collect them, but I’ve done a couple movies that are based on them and they’ve all turned out to be really fun projects. They’re fun to do and there’s just more character in them. There’s just more stuff that’s already there, that you can go to. For the most part, people would expect actors to fill in the blanks anyway, but the blanks are not blanks anymore. It’s always a lot easier.
After so many years of acting, are you afraid of anything in you careers?
Bruce: It’s my favorite part of making movies. There are lots of different parts of movie-making that I participate in, but my favorite part is the making of it. I’m scared, every day. I keep thinking someone’s going to throw me the ball and I’m going to go, “Oh, wow. Oh, god. I just messed that up.” It’s not fear so much as excitement and not that thrill of having to create something out of 115 typewritten pages, and make it be human and lifelike. I think I’m much more afraid of making a mistake in raising my daughters than I would be with any work that I do, as an actor. It’s a much higher scale of fear, raising kids.
Helen: I’m frightened all the time. My life is just overcoming fear. First nights in the theater are always scary. Right now, I’m terrified of rubbish in New York. There’s such a mountain of it. Where does it go? I’m terrified of plastic, basically. Plastic packaging is scaring me right now. Get rid of it.
For more Red coverage…I did a set visit a few months ago and thought it looked great. Click here to read my report. Also, here’s a bunch of on set interviews: Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker, and Karl Urban.