Like his enthusiastic star Sharlto Copley (who I inteviewed just last week) director Joe Carnahan has an infectiously upbeat manner of speaking that reminds you that sometimes people really can be successful by being excellent, fun-to-work-with human beings rather than backstabbing pieces of shit. Hell, after the phone call I wanted to pack my stuff and go work in the sub-arctic temperatures of North Canada, just to hang out on one of this guy’s sets.
It takes a man who sweats fun and bleeds mayhem to bring a film like The A-Team to life on screen without it being a fan-servicing blockbuster that leaves no impression, and Carnahan is that guy. Obviously disappointed by the film’s severe (unexpected) under-performance at the Box Office, he’s hoping people will give it a chance on DVD and discover how fun the film manages to be without being relentlessly stupid. We talked about the upcoming DVD, the badassery of Liam Neeson, and his next film, so check out our chat below…
And don’t forget- CHUD is bringing you the chance to win the DVD!
R: I was still ultra-busy finishing up school when this hit theaters, so I was excited to finally catch it when the DVD arrived.
J: Yeah man, it’s a blast. The movie’s a lot of fun. It’s what we designed it to be- it’s evocative of the show, and we tried not to do too much with the characters to piss people off, but I think, you know, you have to update these things, they can’t just exist under glass.
R: I think you did yourself a favor by cramming it with great people like Liam and Bradley… I just spoke to Sharlto last week, he obviously had a ton of fun on set.
J: Oh we had a blast, man. We had a blast. That would be my biggest- I’m hoping we can figure out a way to make another one because we just had the best time.
R: Well when you were making this one, I’ve gotten the impression that you were very vehement about not just remaking the show, so how did you decide what to pull from it and what to leave behind.
J: It didn’t present a huge issue, in terms of- I knew B.A. had to have the mohawk, and wanted Hannibal to have that kind of silver hair, and Murdock to still be in the psych ward, escape the psych ward, which they always did in the show. So there were like 6 or 7 things that I thought the fans, the hardcore fans would crucify us if we didn’t put in, and then everything after that had to be of our own invention, and couldn’t be so locked into- again, I think you run into trouble when you’re too slavishly devoted to something, you just wind up building a box around yourself and I didn’t want to do that.
R: What’s been the ground-level response to the film from the show’s audiences, as far as you’ve seen it out in the real world?
J: Aw dude, they love it. The unfortunate thing is people didn’t see it, and when they do see it- I think what we found out after the fact is that for every person who loved the show, two people thought it was corny. And if you were one of the people who thought it was corny and you saw the way we used the flying tank in the ads and everything, then you were kind of convinced it was corny and you avoided it, and that’s not really what the movie was. It’s a lot of things- it’s got that sort of absurd element to it in the action, and I wanted to keep that, but at the same time I think it has this great heart, this great camaraderie with the guys, and this great sense of self and I think that’s why I’m looking forward now to people seeing it on Blu-ray and on DVD because now you’ll have the kind of fun with it that I wanted people to have in the theater.
R: Well, even with the campier action like the flying tank, you also have a pretty sophisticated action, almost heist-like sequence that’s parallel cutting between them planning and implementing it.
J: Absolutely man, and that’s the thing, there’s a little something in it for everybody. I thought it was important we have some of that over-the-top action and at the same time, those things kind of combine in the bank sequence- that kind of sliding down the side of a building, it’s very much a take down, it’s very much heisting those plates. Again, I think the movie moves across those parallels very nicely and again it doesn’t kind of betray the essential vibe of what the show was for everybody, which was kind of this crazy planning, and absurd element, and I’m a fan of that, I love that stuff.
R: So in terms of the sequel, if that’s something you could make happen, how would you approach that?
J: I don’t know, man. I wouldn’t want to change a lot of it. I think it’s really going to depend on the appetite for these kinds of stories. But, I had an opening we cut out of this version that was so fantastic, and it involved this blackjack game between Hannibal and this sheik in the middle of the Baca Valley in Lebanon- it was so good! And so cool -I would love to open it up with that and kinda, again, keep it grounded in the real world, as much as possible. I don’t know exactly what the story would be, but we’d do something pretty cool I think.
R: Tell me a little bit about Liam Neeson getting involved with the project and being a leader of the cast- he’s so fucking entertaining to watch-
J: He is! Liam is kinda like I was, he didn’t have any great attachment to the show but he, like I am, is a big Steve McQueen fan, a Lee Marvin fan, and I think he saw Hannibal much more in that light, than any kind of, “Oh let’s do an imitation of George Peppard.” That was not what Liam was interested in, nor was I. What’s great about Liam is you never really get to see him have fun and smile and carry on, he’s always Zeus or Aslan or this kind of larger than life character –Qui-Gon Jinn– and it’s funny to see… He doesn’t see any of his movies (I don’t think he’s seen the first Clash of the Titans) and he took Vanessa Redgrave to see The A-Team, and she just loved it. He was so pleasantly surprised because he had so much- he didn’t think it was going to be that much fun, and for her to flip out like she did, she loved the movie. I just got the biggest kick out of that- to have one of the, you know, kind of grand dames of acting royalty and she’s completely into this movie where we’re dropping a tank and flying it.
R: Since we’re talking about Liam, and it looks like you’ll be re-teaming [for The Grey] with him soon, is that looking good?
J: Yeah dude, we start that movie a month from tomorrow. I came back to LA for a couple of days but we’ve been in Vancouver and north of Vancouver- Smithers, which is almost sub-arctic, so this is going to be a lot of fun and extremely cold. But yeah, we’re doing this film called The Grey.
R: Cool, well do you see any specific challenges or -
J: Well Greg Nicotero, who did all of the effects on The Walking Dead is building me all of my animatronic wolves, and I’m very excited. I’m not seeing them until tomorrow, the kind of finished alpha-wolf- I’m pretty pumped up. That’s gonna be, I think the biggest challenge of that is just going to be elements, man. It’s just so cold, and we don’t have a lot of time to shoot it, we have about 40 days, which is what I had on Smokin’ Aces so this is gonna be- we’re gonna be crankin’. But it’ll be good, I want to spend the next few years making movies that aren’t this genre, ‘cuz while I have a blast doing it, you’ve got to stretch it out and make sure all the muscles are being worked, creatively. I think this will be a good one, because it couldn’t be further from The A-Team, which is a good thing.