Cityonfire.com had the privilege of interviewing Gareth Evans, the writer and director of 2009’s Merantau, 2011’s The Raid and the highly anticipated The Raid 2: Berandal, which is due for release in 2014.
In this Q&A session, we decided to ask him questions ranging from: What his favorite martial arts film of all time is; Who he would love to work with; His thoughts on directing a Die Hard flick and a lot more! You’ll be surprised with his answers. Enjoy!
"Police Story" Chinese Theatrical Poster
If you had the chance to work with any action star, who would you choose?
That’s an easy one, Jackie Chan. Simple reason being that he’s the reason I fell in love with the genre. Every weekend I’d search for a film I hadn’t seen of his in the video store and he did so much to popularize the genre by putting his neck on the line film after film. I get sick to the pit of my stomach every time we shoot a stunt sequence, there’s something unnerving about making someone risk their health for the sake of a 2 second “wow”. These guys earn every ounce of respect from the crew so for Jackie to have done that time and time again purely for his love of cinema, I can’t think of anyone else who comes even close.
You’re interviewed in Shout! Factory’s Bruce Lee Collection, where you state that Fist of Fury is your favorite Bruce Lee film. What’s your favorite Jackie Chan film?
Police Story. The relentlessness of the fight scenes, the landmark opening and closing scenes. The film has become iconic, and rightly so.
"Knock-Off" Theatrical Poster
Do you prefer the films of Steven Seagal or Jean-Claude Van Damme? Why?
Van Damme all the way – for me a better fighter and also has proven himself to have quite the acting chops. He’s a risk taker and that’s something that fascinates me.
Sylvester Stallone said he wants to top your film The Raid. What do you think of his comment? Do you think he/they will succeed?
Note to reader: Stallone’s actual tweet: “We believe we can do better than the The Raid, which was an excellent film… Raising the bar…”)
I prefer to focus on the fact that he praised the film and by singling it out as something he wants to compete with is a major compliment to what we achieved with so little. Sure it’s possible they will succeed, likewise we’re setting out to top the first film with The Raid 2 – and watching the edit, I think we have. None of this is nor should be a competition between filmmakers – when I go out and watch an action movie I hope it’s well made, entertaining and also inspiring to give us ideas on how we can improve our own game. I wish them and anyone else out there making an action film every success, I know personally how f–king hard it is to make these films. So yeah, it’s all good spirited.
If you were approached to direct the next installment of a film like Die Hard, would you take the job? If so, what would you do with John McClane?
I don’t really have an interest in joining a franchise that’s already had so much of its visual landscape pre-designed. I’ve no idea really what I could do new with the character. I’ve not seen the latest film yet (when I’m in production so many films slip by that I try to catch up once normality resumes) but I always felt that the natural progression for his character was already done in The Last Boy Scout. That was as close to a spiritual sequel as Die Hard could have hoped for.
"Wild Bunch" Japanese Theatrical Poster
Can you name three movies that have have influenced you the most?
The Wild Bunch – Peckinpah invented action cinema, the editing style, cinematography, fluidity – everything I’ve stolen has been from him.
Hard Boiled – Taking Peckinpah as a leaping off point Woo crafted one of the best action films ever made. What I’ve always loved and have tried to incorporate into my films is the calm brief interludes within an action sequence – something to interrupt the choas. Give it a sense of gravitas and rhythm.
Armour of God – the showdown against the monks is a work of genius. This was the moment I realized why I loved Jackie’s work. If you look outside of the stunt work and the choreography and just listen to the timing of the blocks and the hits – it’s like listening to music. Whenever we work on designing a fight now I’m always listening out for that music, the time signature of the scene. Those blocks and hits become percussion – almost a part of the films score.
"Fearless" Theatrical Poster
Best martial arts of film of recent times?
Fearless is a beautiful piece of work that manages to bring great character depth to a classically told story. I’d argue it’s Jet’s finest film (Fist of Legend coming in close behind).
Best martial arts film of all time?
Police Story – for the sheer sense of wonder I had when I first saw it as a child all the way up til now.
What do you think of some of the current martial arts/action stars: Donnie Yen, Tony Jaa and Scott Adkins?
Donnie has been incredibly prolific with the new wave of his success and he’s capitalized on it in a smart way. What his team did on Flashpoint and SPL was refreshing and took the genre in an interesting new path. To follow that up with Ip Man (a career defining role) was just a stroke of genius. I’d love to see him work with Wilson Yip more – they seem to compliment each other perfectly whenever they collaborate.
"Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning" Japanese DVD Cover
Tony Jaa is a phenomenal talent. Ong Bak was a major announcement to the industry and to audiences that the martial arts genre was back. Of course there’s been a fair amount of mud thrown around regarding the situation between artist and production company but that’s not for us to know nor is it in any way something that takes anything away from his all round talents. With the right script, the right role and please God no elephants.
Scott Adkins I’ve had the pleasure of meeting on a few occasions. He’s ridiculously talented with an all round skillset that combines fight techniques with athleticism and acrobatics. I’m looking for the right project, once I do I would love to work with him on something.
Thanks again to Gareth Evans, who took the time to answer these questions, despite his chaotic schedule. Evans is currently putting finishing touches on his latest film The Raid 2: Berandal, which hits theaters in March of 2014.