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Set Visit: After the Sunset


This Tuesday, the good people at New Line invited me to the Great Western Forum in L.A. to check out the set of AFTER THE SUNSET, starring Pierce Brosnan, Salma Hayek and Woody Harrelson.

The Forum, once home to Los Angeles Lakers of the 1980s “Showtime” era, provides the backdrop for the film’s opening scene, which takes place during a fictional Lakers-Clippers game. It features Chris Penn, dressed up as a belligerent hick, angrily disputing a ref’s call. The ensuing commotion that he creates, provides a convenient diversion for Brosnan’s jewel thief to elude an FBI agent (played by Woody Harrelson) assigned to keep track of him.

It was my first exposure to a Brett Ratner film set, and I was amazed at how loose and laid-back the atmosphere was. Once Brett arrived, he and producer Beau Flynn casually went over the scene’s blocking while extras arrived and crewmembers set things up. Some of Ratner’s pals stopped by, including Shaquille O’Neal, who agreed to appear in the scene as a favor to his buddy Brett. Initially slated to be on the set for an hour, Shaq eventually stayed for three, as the charming director somehow convinced the big man to stick around. Fellow Lakers Gary Payton and Karl Malone also had cameos. The irrepressible, trash-talking Payton was clearly a crowd favorite.

Multiple cameras rolled as Payton acted out a scene in which he drives to the basket, runs over a defender and is called for charging. Unhappy with the call, Payton shouts insults to the ref as he’s restrained by teammates Shaq and Malone. All three got a chance to do some improv, with Shaq even giving the ref the finger in one inspired take.

We got a chance to sit down with director Brett Ratner, but not before one of the more surreal events of the day took place a few feet in front of us. Payton and Malone (Shaq had left by this point) came over to the monitor area to say hello to tennis champ Serena Williams, yet another pal of Brett’s. After Payton kissed her on the cheek, Malone decided to be a little more ambitious and planted one on Serena’s lips. Startled, she began to stumble backward and – no kidding – her jeans began to fall down. For about five seconds we had a direct view of Serena’s ass (I didn’t see any underwear, by the way), until the flabbergasted girl regained her composure and pulled her pants back up......and then there was the Brett Ratner interview.


Can you give us a set-up of what we're seeing today?

We're seeing the scene that's the opening of the movie where Pierce Brosnan – the whole way he works as a diamond thief is that he sets up a diversion. He sets up an alibi. Chris Penn is part of his team here and – he's not really a hick, he's Irish – I mean, in the movie, the character he plays is an Irish guy. He's setting up a diversion so that he can say that during the heist, he was here at the game. So, this is the scene that we're shooting. We're just trying to capture a real game.

How do you know Shaq? Have you worked together before?

I became a good friend of his when I was directing SUPERMAN. He kept calling me everyday and begging to be in the movie. So that’s when we became really close.

When did AFTER THE SUNSET first come to your attention?

I had a three-picture deal at New Line and I owed them one more picture. Toby Emmerich came to me and said, “I wanted to show you this script. I guess there was another director on it and he had left and we really want to make this movie with you.” I said, “Okay, I'll read it.” And I loved it. And I'm here. That's how it happened, basically. Oh, and RUSH HOUR wasn't ready. I was supposed to do RUSH HOUR next, but the script wasn't ready, so I said lemme just go do this.

You shot for several weeks in the Bahamas.  How did that go?

The rain was crazy! I wanted it to be better, but you know, certain things are out of your control. You go with it. If it rains, “Ok, it's a rain scene!” So, we made it work. But it was beautiful shooting there. It was fun being away on an island. Everyone kinda bonds. And it's a great cast of characters. Pierce Brosnan is the complete opposite of Woody Harrelson. Salma Hayek, Don Cheadle – it’s such a great...then we come to L.A. and get guys like Chris Penn. Some really interesting characters in this movie.

Let’s talk about Pierce’s character. Obviously, he played an art thief in THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR. How is this character different here?

I was excited about doing this because I'm a huge fan of Bond. I wanted to do a Bond movie so bad. I did it really mainly not only because Toby asked me and because I loved the script, but because Pierce Brosnan, when I was doing RUSH HOUR 2, flew to Vegas to ask me to do Bond. He said, “I want you to do the next Bond.” You know – Bond 20. He said, “The only problem is, I have no say in it!”  And I’m like, “Well, why are you here?” He said, “Because I just would love for you to do it.” It was like a dream come true. I never forgot that. When I read this script, I thought, “Wow, this is such an interesting choice for Pierce because it's something he's never done before.”

It still has elements of who he's played in other movies because he's a diamond thief, but it's got a tremendous amount of humor. It's got a tremendous amount of heart. It's a really smart film. It's not just about the action. There's actually not a lot of action in the film. It's more like what I would call a “caper” film. It's really about the relationship between the characters. Hopefully, you even forget about the diamond getting stolen and you care more about the relationships between the characters and what happens to them. My favorite director is Hal Ashby. I love movies where you care about the characters, you care about the relationships between the characters and everybody has a specific purpose. It's not just fluff.

We've seen a lot of heist movies lately, THE ITALIAN JOB being one example. How will AFTER THE SUNSET be different?

THE ITALIAN JOB has huge action in it. This doesn't have a lot of action in it at all. It's more of a character-driven movie, which made it interesting for me because just do a big action heist was not something I was excited about doing. Toby's pitch was that this movie starts where the jewel thief retires. Usually they end on the beach. This one starts on the beach. So it's an interesting twist. I like to challenge myself to do different types of movies. After I did RUSH HOUR, all I got offered were movies like RUSH HOUR – buddy comedies. I was like, “I want to try something different.” That's why I did THE FAMILY MAN and then that's why I did RED DRAGON and that's why I'm doing this. It's more of a challenge for me. Can I do a movie like this and get the tone right? If it's too broad, you don't care about the characters. If it's too serious, it's just a dramatic film and you then don't care.

Were Pierce and Salma attached to the picture before you came on?

They were actually. I've only done that on one movie, which was MONEY TALKS, where I was hired a week before the movie started shooting. This movie, I was hired like eight weeks before the movie started shooting. I didn't actually develop it, but I did change the script completely. Once I came on, I completely changed the script.

Did you already know Salma?

Yes, Salma and I are very good friends because I did a movie with Edward (Norton) when they were a couple. And I knew her years before that, so she called me and said, “You've gotta do the movie!  You've gotta do the movie!”

What about the casting of Woody Harrelson as an FBI agent?   

He's just a great actor. He's just awesome. I love working with him. He can do anything. He can do comedy, he can do drama. He's just one of those actors who is just such a unique individual and he's the opposite of Pierce Brosnan. They could not be from two further places in the world. They're just completely opposite.

So, who has more of the comedy - Woody or Pierce?

Pierce is somewhat straighter - he's the straight man. In a comedy, there always has to be one - Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, you know?  Hold on –

(Brett turns to Serena and her pals and motions for an assistant)

Can you ask these girls if they want something? What would you guys like? Water, soda, anything.

(Brett turns back to us)

So yeah, Pierce is more of a straight man, but the comedy comes from the situation, not jokes like a broad comedy where there's one-liners. You might see jokes in the trailer, but the truth is, that's not what the movie is. It's really about the relationships. It's definitely a movie you will laugh at and you'll really care about the characters.  It's funny as hell, but based on the situations, not because of the jokes.

AFTER THE SUNSET is slated for a November 12, 2004 release.





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