INT: Scott Wiper

Scott Wiper has made what you could call a Hard-R action flick that recalls the violent action flicks made in the early eighties that avoids political correctness or anything of that nature. This flick also happens to have one of the biggest wrestling stars of all time, Stone Cold Steve Austin in his first leading role. THE CONDEMNED is not a perfect movie, and I have a feeling it will not get wonderful reviews from critics. But for what it is, it is a blast. There is violence, gore, things blowing up and Stone Cold Steve Austin. And most impressively, it plays with the idea of how far the media has gone in turning murderers into celebrities as in a recent news story which I will not mention here. Yes, this is basically a big and loud popcorn flick but it is fun and it also has another scene-stealing performance from Rick Hoffman.

I got the chance to hang out with Scott Wiper and THE CONDEMNED crew at the Wizard World Convention a couple of months ago. I was very impressed with the dude who also handled comments regarding BATTLE ROYALE similarities during the panel discussion. Truth be told, a group of people battling each other to save their own lives has been around much longer than even BATTLE ROYALE [although, yes, I loved that film]. But he is a laid back guy who really loves action movies. Call THE CONDEMNED almost his love letter to those films that were unapologetic about what they were trying to be. Scott is a great guy, and he loves to talk about his work making my job very easy.

Scott Wiper

This is your first big thing really. What was it about this movie that made you want to do it?

I smelled something when I first got the script. They were looking for a writer and a director. They wanted to move fast. They already had a script so they wanted a director who could also re-write. I had a lot of screenwriting as well as film making. I’d written scripts for Joel Silver, Walter Hill, and the late Bobby Newmyer. Every time you go in for a potential job, it takes a lot of prep work. You have to figure out if it’s worth your time. I didn’t know at the time about WWE. When I started reading about Stone Cold [Steve Austin], of course I know of him, but I discovered this enormous fan base.

I just smelled untapped potential with a massive celebrity who hadn’t been an action hero yet. And that just right off the bat got me excited. Vince McMahon is not only a billionaire but enough of a maverick that if he likes what you got, if he likes your vision, he doesn’t care if you’ve just come off a $100 million movie or a $2 million movie, which probably you wouldn’t find in a studio system. You could have made a small movie but it probably had to win Sundance. I’ve always been into action films. After I got out of film school I made a low budget movie, about $100,000, with some buddies of mine from school.

I’d worked for years as a sound man and realized all my buddies from school were still unemployed. I thought, we got to make a movie. So I went back to Ohio . I set up a limited partnership. I got a bunch of books. I went to New York and met with all the independent film makers at the time, Alex Rockwell, Jesse Beaton, and all these different [people]. Independent film was surging, this was in the early 90’s, and I just said, how did you do it [to everyone]. I’d walk into bookstore and buy all the how-to-get-your-film-financed books. It seemed like everyone did a limited partnership.

You set it up, it’s pretty cheap, and then you can take investments. I did anywhere from $2000 to $10,000 from about 25 different people, including friends, family, fraternity brothers, and then just businessmen that I solicited. We got the money together. We shot it on super 16 [film] and then blew up 35. Then I moved to Hollywood. I didn’t come to L.A. until I had a feature. I lived with my parents [and] saved my money. I wrote another script and then moved to L.A. I had a movie and a script.

With “The Condemned”, how much of it is you trying to make a statement and how much of it is you trying to make a kick-ass action movie?

The latter… because first and foremost movies have to be entertainment. Having gone to a liberal arts film school I had my dose of classical French film and French society. We watched all the greats, like Hitchcock. At my school, the focus was on education of film and storytelling. Then we’d get the equipment and do anything. If you wanted, you could film, you could shoot, you could edit. But I think, especially this type of movie, has to just be entertainment but with that a violent film must be a cautionary tale or a morality tale, but no more than like the old Clint Eastwood movies. The Westerns were always that, they used violence for some simple allegory.

You don’t want to be heavy-handed, and I’m always concerned about that. You shoot a little bit more of that stuff and then you edit it out so that it’s not heavy. But I felt there was a vacuum as an action film, I don’t see any “Die Hard”s – rated R. “Lethal Weapon” – rated R. “48 Hours” – rated R. All I was seeing was these PG-13 action films made for $80 million and they have to entertain everyone from my two sisters to my mother. So when I first pitched how I would do this movie, I said, first and foremost rated R. It’s the whole essence. There’s a whole faction of people out there, and they’re not just men, and they’re disappointed with action films because they’re sugar coated.

So my two themes for this movie were authentic and unapologetic, the way I found in “48 Hours”. They movie had humor but it had hard-boiled action. “Deliverance” wasn’t an action film but the photography that I wanted to use was a lot like “Deliverance”, which I called “non-privileged photography”. For instance, when you see a Mountain Dew commercial, every single shot is reminding you that it’s a movie, whereas some of those older films had that documentary style. If you see those old films by William Friedkin or John Boorman you saw this, damn I’m lucky to see this.

You have on a political level or whatever you want to call it, you have these people who are bad – the evil television producer – did you base that on anybody?

A lot of people. In the script, I wrote the producer like the reality TV guys, Mark Burnett, Mike Fleiss, Joe Francis, and there’s Michael Bay although he’s not a reality TV guy. When I first started, I’d written the treatment of how I would do the re-write. I went to a friend’s birthday party in Texas, where they were filming “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, and I’m at a table with Joe Francis, Mike Fleiss, and Michael Bay. I just wanted some character that represented Hollywood. I need to find things to hold on to when I’m writing. It may not end up that deep, but I need it to sit my ass in a chair for 70 hours a week.

I saw Breck, the producer, as just Captain Ahab, a man who has scars. In longer versions he was exiled, he had to leave America for legal reasons, so he was an exile from Hollywood. Or a Kurtz type character that holds up and decides he’s obsessed with Hollywood having basically exiled him. All the networks shut him down because he went too far. He tried to film executions. He’s obsessed with showing them, that he can beat them at their own game without any of the major networks. And he’s charming enough to convince people to do this stuff. And just as in “Moby Dick”, Starbuck, the first mate, approaches the captain and tells him, we’ve gone too far, we’ve sailed to far from England, we need to go back.

There is this sense of doom that the ship will go down and only one person will live. That was like the control room to me. The control room also represented Hollywood and America. The cool thing about an island is it is a microcosm. You can use it visually as a statement, as the world. The control room is like America. The other side of the island could be Africa, or it could be the Middle East. What I wanted to do was create these two different worlds, one is desensitized to the violence that is all around them, but they are constantly looking at it on the screen.

The look was based on a sports bar I was in where when the game ended, the TVs all defaulted to CNN because another game didn’t start for like 15 minutes, so there was just footage of like Iraq and whatnot. During football, everyone is just looking up at screens and Iraq came up and people surrounded by 30 images of violence didn’t even affect them anymore. At some point these worlds have to collide. Bringing Vinnie Jones and Stone Cold into the control room, for example, is kind of a wake-up call for these young Hollywood types who work there that the contents up there on the screen, is facing them in real life.

Everyone in the control room on one level would have an epiphany. Like Julie has hers early on. Goldman, who’s probably the most complex of the bunch, because he is tortured, unlike who is Julie is cut and dry about this being wrong. He is torn because he has a loyalty to his captain, to his best friend. The others don’t have their epiphanies until someone is putting the gun right to their face. But they all at one time realize that violence is real.

Let me know what you think. Send questions and comments to [email protected].

Source: JoBlo.com



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