Indonesian action movie The Raid fairly blew the mushy stuff through our brain pans back in 2012 with its mix of super-fantastic gunplay, awesome stuntwork and amazing kills. So naturally we’ve been keeping a close eye on what director Gareth Evans is working on next.
With The Raid 2, he ups the ante in just about every way you can imagine – with a bigger world, more action, more stunts and a twisty story for Rama (returning Iko Uwais) to navigate. And its bloody incredible stuff.
We were lucky enough to get the chance to catch up with Evans by phone to talk about his new film – starting out on expectations for fans of The Raid and moving on through the specific challenges of the piece to the good (and bad) points of being on Twitter. It’s a great, wide ranging chat with the effusive and ever so slightly foul mouthed Evans and we hope you enjoy it.
[This interview conducted by phone on the 4th of April 2014]
CLICK: The Raid was a big fan favourite but the sequel is very different. Were you ever worried the original fans wouldn’t respond to it so well?
GE: Yea I had a feeling this one wold be more divisive because it’s so different from the first film. But the whole process of making it I was just like ‘ah fuck it, why not?!’ And not in a negative way but I didn’t want to make a sequel that was a carbon copy of the first one. I didn’t want to do the same thing over and over again because if that’s the case then just watch the first one again. So I wanted to do something a bit different, with a new perspective on the storyline that would expand the world out more. But we did have this sense of anticipation about the idea. Our surprise element was gone now, people have an idea of what to expect from the film. So when me and Iko [Uwais – star and fight choreographer] talked about our fears about how people would react or respond. And I was like you know what, let’s just make this film like we did the first film. Then nobody knew what we were doing so we just relied on our gut instincts. And then just by some kind of sheer fluke really people started to respond to it. We didn’t expect people to respond to such an aggressive little movie. So we were flattered by that and hoped they’d go along with it again. If we’re right we’re right, if we’re wrong we’re wrong. But as long as we’re happy with the film we made, we can’t blame anything else then.
CLICK: Are you glad then that Berandal wasn’t your third movie? That you had some time to learn a bit more?
GE: Absolutely. It was such an important thing because if I hadn’t done The Raid first I don’t think I would have been ready for Berandal. Because it was such an ambitious undertaking, there’s no way I could have done that film on the budget level that I was being offered at the time to make it. I couldn’t bring it in. So yea very happy now with where we are and the fact that we get to finally see four years’ worth of ideas in my head in terms of how the images should be up there on the screen now.
CLICK: The first action scene in The Raid 2 calls back to a promo you made more than 4 years ago – what was it like coming back to that moment in a toilet cubicle?!
GE: That was interesting! When we shot that one, it was never meant to be seen. It was just an investor thing to show people, a tonal thing of what we want to do. We shot it in a day. Now, four years later on I’m inside a fucking toilet cubicle again and sticking to some of the shot list from four years ago. And I’m like ok well that still kind of works, let’s see how this turns out. And even the way the screw drops and hits the floor and bounces and rolls, it’s exactly the same as what we did on that one. Because I really loved the way that screw dropped and the way it kind of curled as it rolled around and the head of it faced the camera. We couldn’t recreate that with the real screw because it was just like always going the wrong way. So we shot any empty plate and I just told my CG guy to make me a CGI screw and get it to do exactly the fucking same thing!
CLICK: That’s fucking insane.
GE: I know! I’m terrible for little details like that, it’s annoying!
CLICK: I wondered was there one scene that you didn’t think you’d manage to pull off.
GE: Car chase, without a doubt. It was just the most stressful thing I’ve ever done. It was chaos and crazy. It was so fucking hot and uncomfortable. And also it was just that idea of every time we would get a permit to close a road down we would be waiting for the police to close it. So we’d be there at 4.30 to shoot by 6.30 and they don’t close the road til 8 or 9 am. So we’ve already lost 2 hours before we even start. And then you have the issue with traffic building up in Indonesia and people didn’t really appreciate us being there. I’ve since learned every single Indonesian swear word! So it’s been one of those shoots really where everyone on set was just waiting on us to finish that fucking scene. So by the fact that I was cutting the stuff on location while we were shooting, that works as a morale booster. So I can play it back and say ‘hey guys, remember how shitty yesterday was? This is what we got from it.’ So they’ll be happy again and good to go the next day and the next day and the day after that.
CLICK: The film almost feels like a calling card for all the kinds of scenes you can do now but also maybe as an advertisement for the quality of the crews in Indonesia?
GE: To a certain degree. I love my crew so much and they work so fucking hard on these films, and the reality is it’s a full on Indonesian crew. Me and my DoP [Matt Flannery] are the only ‘white boys’ involved in the production. And so for my crew, I’m so proud of their work all the time that it kind of pains me sometimes because there are these awards that happen every year in Indonesia. And they’re not eligible purely because I’m the foreigner. But the film is Indonesian, the culture is Indonesian, the money is Indonesian, the production company is too. 99 percent of the fucking crew is Indonesian but they never get the recognition they deserve. And I feel like what they’re achieving is a game changer for the industry there. So hopefully we will see more productions come over there, because there’s some beautiful places there, some amazing locations to use. We just need to increase the infrastructure there because right now it’s not supportive, there needs to be a lot more support for the creative arts out there.
CLICK: The Raid 1 had some great audience reaction moments in it – what are the best moments in The Raid 2?
GE: I love watching the film play with an audience, hearing them respond. It’s an excitement, there’s something about seeing the film connect with people that means a lot. But we’ve done it once with The Raid 1 so we know some moments that are going to make people vocal in the cinema. But the things that really make me freak out now are those little details, the little touches of character beats here and there, that also spark the same reaction. So for me my favourite thing in The Raid 2 right now is the moment when the Baseball Bat man and Hammer Girl get sent out on a mission to go get Rama. And she gets pulled aside and she leans back to grab her hammers. She stumbles out of her chair and it’s like this little childish immature moment that hints at this idea these two characters are violent as hell but you also feel there’s an innocent lost about them. So for me that was a last minute improv thing we did when I asked Julie Estelle to try that out to see how it would work. When an audience responds to that they get it and know what it means, that’s great.
CLICK: The reviews have been great this time – are you hoping that’ll be reflected at the box office? The first film made very little in the States in particular.
GE: Yea. I hope so. I’m hoping people go out and support the film. It’s important for the genre as well that it gets supported. Because I remember being a kid and trying to watch martial arts films and it was only on VHS and you could only see it at home on a video that was pan and scanned and dubbed. And now we have so much availability today. I hope it will go out and that it will be supported and prove to the exhibitors that these films work, that they can play to an audiences regardless of the fact they’re subtitled.
CLICK: Will we get the uncut version in Ireland and the UK
GE: I’m pretty sure it’s uncut. I know the version in the UK is uncut. So I’m pretty sure it is. I don’t think there was any censorship there. The version that came over from the US was before any censorship that happened there. So yea it should be uncut.
CLICK: What’s been your most memorable fan interaction recently? I know you’re very active on Twitter.
GE: [laughs] Ok so… you’ve given an opportunity now I can vent a little bit. I absolutely love it when people get in touch and say what they loved about the film and that kind of interaction. Seeing how enthusiastic people are. But one thing that blows me away and makes me feel ridiculously overwhelmed is that… there are a lot of different island in Indonesia. So there aren’t enough cinema screens to cover all of them and we’ve had people who have sent us images of two tickets – one for the movie in the cinema and the other one is their airplane tickets because they flew in to see it. That blows my mind, that degree of commitment. It’s just too much, it’s overwhelming. It’s such a beautiful thing. But then! For everything positive about Twitter, there’s a fucking downside. One of the things I’ve been finding a little bit interesting recently. There’s an unspoken thing – if you’re a filmmaker and you get criticised, just shut the fuck up and take it! And I will always just shut the fuck up and take it. But there’s this one girl that since the film came out, man, she has been trolling me so fucking hard on Twitter! I think I had about 22 tweets from her in the space of about 7 hours. Basically detailing every single thing that I fucked up on in the film! Literally when I fucked up with the camera, with the story, with the drama, with the action, with the performances, with the editing, with this and this and this! I just take it with a grain of salt right now, everyone’s a fucking critic! I’ve been so tempted, but I never do, to just write back and say: “can you do me a favour – can you compile all those 20 tweets into one document, send it to me once so I only have to ignore it once!” [laughs]. You’ve gotta play the game – and that game is shut the fuck up and just let it happen!
CLICK: Eventually you’re going to make an English language movie – I’m not going to ask you when because you’re not going to tell me!
CLICK: But when you do would you be looking to use a regular actor or someone with stunt training?
GE: To be honest when it comes to that I’m not sure yet. It depends on what the film is and what the role is. Go back two years ago and I would have been saying ‘fighter, fighter, fighter’. Then we cast Hammer Girl who was an actress with no fight experience whatsoever and fuck me but she came in an owned that role. She really trained hard and showed so much drive and energy so she killed all her scenes. She was perfect in it. It’s changed my perception a little now. If a role was demanding of something ridiculously complex in choreography and martial arts, I’ll never cast anyone other than a martial artist for that. Or at least be able to have enough years to train someone up for it. But if it’s a little brawling here and there or a bit of fighting then I’m open for either a fighter or an actor I could train up
CLICK: Any western stars you’d like to work with?
GE: I’m a huge fan of people like Michael Fassbender and Tom Hardy. They bring such intensity and commitment to those roles. Those guys are incredible. There’s a lot of people I’d love to work with to be honest. And not just leading roles but a lot of character actors, like John Hawkes, I love that guy so much.
CLICK: As a film fan, any movies you’re looking forward to or loved recently?
GE: I’m actually really looking forward to seeing the new Captain America film because everyone’s been raving about it. I know they kind of mentioned us recently so I’m keen to see that.
CLICK: If you could do a movie of any scale or budget next – what would it be?
GE: Ok… basically… I don’t know. The important thing isn’t about the project it’s more about… whatever I come up with and find myself passionate about the story. At the moment none of my interest has been to go into that $100 million budget range. Because if I do something next in the US or UK and it’s at a certain budget level, I’d rather it be at a point where I’m still in control. I want the producer to want the version of the film that I would make and not whatever the trend is right now. So for me it’s really important that I can get a synergy with a film producer so that when we do go off and make a film I’m not going to be compromised in what it is I want to bring to the US or UK in terms of the film industry there.
CLICK: Finally what will your next movie actually be?
GE: I have two in development at the moment – one is a UK based product with Universal pictures. The other one is US based one that I’m writing myself which is a gangster action film called Blister that I’d be making with MRC out there. It’s an opportunity for me to be able to play with a little bit more money and to bring my boys from Indonesia with me so they can help me figure out multiple ways to hurt people in America instead of Indonesia.
The Raid 2 is in cinemas from the 11th of April 2014.
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