We interview director Patrick Hughes on The Expendables 3 & The Raid remake!
As part of our coverage on THE EXPENDABLES 3 set visit, I spoke with Australian director Patrick Hughes in an exclusive interview about the upcoming sequel, how he got the gig, the pressure of taking on such a massive cast for a first-time Hollywood feature, pranks on the set, his stylistic choices, and of course, THE RAID remake he's set to direct. Hughes was really laid back and easygoing and a lot of fun to talk to. He was very genuine with what he had to share and based on my set visit, the raw footage I saw, the pics, the trailers, and general direction Hughes has taken with the film I feel like we're in for the best of the franchise. If nothing else it feels like it'll be a damn fun time at the movies.
So, how did you get this gig?
I’ve written a couple of scripts and I’m into big genre movies, that’s kind of what I was always in love with as a kid, and all the scripts I wrote were big action movies that I could never get made. So, I went away and made my first film RED HILL. And, when I made a list of all my favorite filmmakers I realized every single one of them made their first movie without a distributor, so I just did it that way. I had the premiere at Berlin Film Festival and then Sony bought it in America. And then, when Sony bought it, I got a phone call about two weeks after Berlin and it was my agent and he said, “Just so you know, Sly is a huge fan of RED HILL" and I was like, that’s so random and so awesome at the same time. And then, it was like three years later I got a call from my agent who said, “Sly wants to meet you in L.A.” I was in the middle of shooting a lingerie commerical, so, I wrapped my commercial and flew out to meet with Sly. I sat down with him and he said that he had a project he wants to talk to me about – it was Expendables 3 – and the minute I sat down with him we really just hit it off within 30 seconds and we got along really well and that’s how I got the gig.
Was your mind blown that you were being offered something like THE EXPENDABLES 3?
Yeah, you know it’s an incredible opportunity and I’ve had opportunities in the past to jump on various projects and there was a few that didn’t go my way and there was a few I didn’t want to jump on and, especially with this one, it was a proven franchise, an incredible cast, and an incredible opportunity to work with all these old school action heroes. Every single actor I grew up watching as a kid, y’know? Which is amazing.
RED HILL was a lot like a modern western. Are you bringing that same kind of style and atmosphere to THE EXPENDABLES 3?
I think the Expendables 3 is sort of – y’know, we’ve got some serious big action set pieces in there. This is a different style of filmmaking. I grew up watching westerns with my dad and essentially when you break down any action film they’re all westerns. I mean, that’s the way the action film genre started; through the western genre, and that’s what we see with modern day action films today. So, I think there’s always that throwback to westerns. The heroes- the type of archetypes that you see in those genres is what crosses over to the action genre. But, this one is a big fat movie, dude. Got an enormous cast, enormous action. Get ready to buy some popcorn [laughs].
What are you bringing to THE EXPENDABLES 3 that we haven't seen in the other two films?
I think the goal was to bring a bit of heart and soul to it and I think that’s what I’m most proud of. The first Expendables was quite dark and the second was quite comedic, sort of almost went into parody, whereas this one was about finding the balance, because at the end of the day people want to go and enjoy the old school action stars up on the big screen and they also want to have some fun with it. And also, they want some emotional weight to it, an emotional kick to it.
What was the pressure like in working with so many established and iconic action stars? Were you nervous about that?
I love working with actors, it’s my favorite part of the job. I was chomping at the bit to get in the room with these guys. That was the best part of the job. Every week it was a new chair on set. There was a few moments where – y’know, I had to stop and take a few photos – but, at the end of the day they’re just guys that know their craft back to front. Just having the opportunity to work with these guys, I was actively asking them a million questions just to sponge as much as possible off of them. Because y’know, including the cast you’ve got some phenomenal filmmakers in their own right with Sly, Antonio Banderas, and Mel Gibson, so it’s been an incredible learning experience at the same time.
I think actors of their caliber like when a director takes control and takes charge and I think that’s what you gotta do. At the end of the day you’ve been given a job to do and that’s your job, to pull it together. I’m a vocal person on set, I get amongst it and talk with actors and I really had a ball with all this cast and crew. It was certainly the most challenging shoot I’ve ever been on and ever will be on, but at the same time I had a really good time shooting it.
What was it like working with Mel Gibson, who plays the lead villain of the film?
It was awesome. That was one of the beautiful parts of the process was to see what each actor – y’know because they all come from a different approach, a different style, and a different training back ground and someone like Mel is classically trained. And you see the different approaches and different styles and I remember the first day we shot with Mel we had to shoot a big dialogue scene between him and Barney [Stallone's character] and we were rehearsing it and we were getting it down and as soon as we rolled the cameras and Mel was getting in the zone and when he lifted his gaze and locked eyes with Barney I said “Woah, threre’s the movie star.” It was this moment where it was like “Holy Shit, that’s why he’s a movie star.”
This was funny actually, I’ve got to tell you this story, you’ll love it. I love joking around on set, y’know, it’s not brain surgery, but at the same time it’s a very stressful environment and you’ve got to get through a lot so you try to have a good time and a laugh and Sly’s the same. I think Mel had come in and it was quite late and Sly and I were always throwing abuses at each other just for the fun of it. And, because it was Mel’s first day on set, I asked Sly like three times, Sly could you just push in [towards Gibson]. I was watching the performance and I go back in there and I was like, "Sly, just with that delivery don’t forget I want you to just lean forward a little bit" and Sly goes “You say that once more and I’m gonna fuckin’ beat you over the face with the butt of my fuckin’ gun.” [laughs] He said that in front of Mel and Mel’s sitting right there and Mel looked at him and then looked at me like “Oh my God, is this how he’s talking to the director?” And then I said “Mel, relax he’s joking.” I just realized at that point that Mel witnessed the most volatile actor hurling abuses at his director. I think my response was like “Sly, why don’t you get the fuck out of her or I’ll punch you.” Anyway, that was some funny shit.
There was a photo of Mel Gibson leaving the gym just after he was announced as being cast in the film and he looked absolutely pumped. Was that something he did for the film?
I think he’s going through a health and fitness phase and he’s just training hard regardless. His training routine was enough to make me feel exhausted. He looks amazing. He’s fitter than me. Yeah, you know, that’s just the payback you get when you hit the gym 5 days a week, which he does.
Are there any particular stylistic choices you've made for the film, such as speed ramping, slow-mo, etc?
There’s a few moments that we break into slow motion if the story requires it. There’s no real speed ramping. You know, the challenge of these kind of films is you try to shoot as much as you can in camera, just to give it a bit of throwback to the old school action films, because so much is post and CGI in the modern era. So that’s certainly something we were pushing for. It’s like, okay, we’re gonna shoot a chopper attacking a train, let’s get a fucking chopper attacking a train. [laughs]
It was recently announced that you'd be directing THE RAID remake. What can you tell us about that?
It’s a really exciting project. Actually, I had the pleasure of catching up with Gareth [Evans, director of the original film] the other night in L.A., who’s EP [Executive Producer] on it. This one is a little more broader canvas. It’s a very different film, very different style of filmmaking. It centers around a DEA FAST (Foreign-Deployed Advisory and Support Team) Team that was formed during the Bush administration when the crossover between terrorism and the narcotics trade were so closely intertwined that they created a task force – I believe there are six teams that operate – they’re sort of like Navy SEALS but they operate in the world of narcotics. And, these teams work across borders so it centers around a team that goes across the border and, y’know, all hell breaks loose.
One thing that blew me away with THE RAID, along with everyone else, was – you know, what was phenomenal – it wasn’t cut up, y’know. You could clearly tell that there weren’t stunt doubles involved because you weren’t cutting around the action, it was done in “oners” and that comes down to rigorous training and having incredible fight choreography play out. We’re just in the middle of casting right now.
There were rumors of the Hemsworth brothers and possibly Scott Adkins being involved. Is there anyone you're looking at in particular?
There’s some really exciting things going on, but – I can’t say, brother! I’d love to tell, but I can’t. [laughs]
Fans can be trepidatious about remakes. Is that a concern for you?
There’s two versions of this remake; one is that we do an expected Hollywood glossover that nowhere near matches the original and then, what my goal is, which is to to elevate the original with the heart and soul and emotional impact of what we bring to it in the story and narrative. They’re my favorite action films, where you can balance the emotion and the action. And also we’re doing some really exciting stuff with the martial arts involved – a crossover of cultures and different styles, whicih is really interesting. I’m really pumped for the project, it’s a great team involved, the producers are excellent, they’re really great guys to work with and, y’know, looking forward to it and we’re looking to shoot later in the year around September.
THE EXPENDABLES 3 opens on August 15, 2014.