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INT: Louis Leterrier

Oct. 3, 2005by: JoBlo

I rarely get to conduct interviews on my own site, but I was excited when the opportunity to interview French director Louis Leterrier came up because he had just directed the highest-grossing Labor Day Week movie of all-time in TRANSPORTER 2, had a hand in directing the original, and very fun, TRANSPORTER (he received credit as "Artistic Director", but really, he was the co-director of that film), and even cooler, directed UNLEASHED earlier this year, starring Jet Li, Morgan Freeman and Bob Hoskins, a film that is currently in my top 10 of 2005, by a long shot!

For anyone who didn't get a chance to see UNLEASHED during its theatrical release, honestly, do yourself a favor and rent or buy it when it comes out on DVD on October 11th, as it's really one of the grittiest, more action-packed movies of the year buuuuut with a nice emotional touch as well. Think THE PROFESSIONAL meets, well, Jet Li!! Anyway, I recently went one-on-one with the director about his films, as well the possibilities of sequels to each of them. Leterrier is from the Luc Besson school of directors (Besson has been grooming home-grown helmers for years now) and as you will read in the interview, really comes off like an honest guy, who's not afraid to admit to mistakes, as well as an obvious big movie fan. Vas-y, mon gars!

Louis Leterrier

First of all, congratulations on UNLEASHED. For me, it has been one of the best films that I've seen so far this year.

Thank you so much, Berge. I'm very proud of this film. It also means a lot to me when people I respect (I'm a major JoBlo fan) likes what I do.

Not a lot of people in North America know much about you. Who are some of your favorite filmmakers and what are some of your favorite films?

I try my best not to be famous. My favourite filmmakers are Steven Spielberg (of course...), the Coen brothers, Sam Raimi, Quentin Tarantino, Spike Jones, Ridley Scott, Spike Lee, Chris Cunningham, Martin Scorsese, Frederick Bond, David Fincher, Mark Romanek etc... In France I love Michel Gondry, Gaspard No, Jacques Audiard and, of course, Luc Besson. In Asia, Tsui Hark John Woo and Chan-Wook Park . I feel very close to Park. Both "Old Boy" and "Unleashed" were being shot at the same time on opposite sides of the World and yet, there are similarities in style in both. "Old Boy", by the way, is one of my favourite films ever and I would love to do a film that beautiful and powerful.

You've worked with 2 great action stars in Jet Li and Jason Statham. How would you compare their work ethic and action styles?

That's a good question. I think they're opposite sides of the same coin. Jet's a great fighter turned great actor, and Jason started being a gifted actor and became one of the best action stars around. Both of them are challenging actors to work with because they'll always want to raise the bar of action films and push their own limits.

I understand that the European version of UNLEASHED (titled DANNY THE DOG) had some differences in it, including an alternate ending. What were those differences and what can we expect to see from that on the North American DVD?

I actually like the US version better. The balance between fights and emotions works very well. This is thanks to Rogue Pictures' president James Schamus (and a tremendous screenwriter) that came in my editing suite one day and pin-pointed the sappy zones in the Euro-edit. DTD is heavier on the "humanize" aspect of the film. James also pushed my visual style. I told him about my dream shot, the piano shot, to finish the film and he allowed me to do it.

I believe that all the cut-out scenes are present in the DVD.

What will be the difference between the UNRATED and the R-RATED UNLEASHED dvds?

The film's overly violent to convey the message by accentuating the contrasts between Danny's human and dog life so we had to trim down some of the fights for the theaters (not to get X-rated). The sound design's also emphasized on the DVD.

Many of the fights in UNLEASHED are brutal and original. Is that something you strive for in your films? The feeling of authenticity really came across!

I'm a film fanatic, I see as many films as I can so I gathered a good visual package of things that have been done over the years. So in order to respect audiences, I try to push the limits of creativity. But in this case, I was lucky to work with Jet Li and Yuen Woo Ping and his crew. You don't have to fight for originality with these guys, it's part of their way to approach a film.

Why do you think so many "action movies" are editing their fight scenes too quickly and close-up these days? Is it so difficult to hold the camera far away so that the audience can actually SEE the actors fighting, like you did so well in UNLEASHED? What's going on, man??

Filmmakers and editors should spend more time on internet reading critics and readers' forums, and not only the ones praising their work.

I'm not the biggest martial arts' film expert, I'd seen a few before directing my first film (Transporter 1) and I made a few editing mistakes by chopping up the fights because, like many directors, I thought it would make the fights stronger. I was wrong. So when I approached the fighting style of "Unleashed", I spent days on websites like yours reading every opinion I could find and I realized that audiences wanted to see the fights, the real actors, the choreography, well long, uncut, wide shots. So I tried my best to please them. You need to maintain a collateral relationship with the audience: you respect them, they respect you. It also helps to have a Jet Li. The man's a fighting god, he can do 15-moves choreography when others only do 4.

What role did Luc Besson play in the production of this film? Did he simply write the script and wish you luck, or was he very "hand's on", visiting the set a lot and offering you advice?

He's the producer and the writer so, of course, his influence is palpable. But there are two kinds of films you can do: The films you do FOR him, like the "Transporter" series, films that you never thought you would direct but Luc thinks you're the right person to do them so you ask him precisely what he wants and you do that precisely.

And the films you do WITH him (Unleashed). He comes to you with a screenplay because he trusts your directing eye because it's close to your universe. The artistic freedom, in this case, is total.

Do you foresee future films featuring the adventures of Danny the Dog?

Not with me.

How happy were you with the great success of TRANSPORTER 2, which broke the record for the biggest Labor Day Weekend opening ever?

I'm was so thrilled. It doesn't happen very often that a $22 Million film directed by a 30-year-old Frenchy tops the US Box-Office and breaks records. But the silly penguins [MARCH OF THE PENGUINS] pooped on my parade. In France , no one spoke of the success of Transporter 2 but every day there's a headline about "The March". In fact, I'm very happy for them, it's a beautiful film and they deserve the spotlight.

Now, we should team up Jason Statham with a 40-year-old virgin penguin to crash a wedding for Transporter 3 and we could rule next summer's box-office.

What can you tell us about a possible TRANSPORTER 3? Is it going to happen? Has something been drawn up already? Would you be involved?

I doubt I'll be involved. I think Pierre Morel (Banlieue 13) should direct it.

What's next on your directing plate? Anything you want to tell us about?

Surprise, surprise... Something really good. You should like it.

Thanks again for the interview and I hope a lot of people pick up UNLEASHED on DVD because I'm sure they are going to love it. BRAVO!

Merci!! Vive le JoBlo.com!

Source: JoBlo.com

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