Set Visit: The Last Stand starring Arnold Schwarzenegger! (Part 1 of 2)
I haven't attended a set visit personally since 2007 (for the movie 300). I kind of retired from them after that one. But when we got invited to the set of THE LAST STAND (slated to come out on January 13th, 2013), which marks the return of one of my childhood heroes Arnold Schwarzenegger to the big screen and is directed by one of my favorite directors Jee-woon Kim (A BITTERSWEET LIFE, I SAW THE DEVIL), I just had to do it! So I dusted off the old audio recorder, put on my best pair of ripped Jeans, nabbed a good book to read on the plane ("The Game" by Ken Dryden) and got my ass to New Mexico Albuquerque.
THE LAST STAND, which also stars Johnny Knoxville, Forest Whitaker, Eduardo Noriega, Rodrigo Santoro, Jaimie Alexander and Peter Stormare, is about:
After leaving his LAPD narcotics post following a bungled operation that left him wracked with remorse and regret, Sheriff Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger) moved out of Los Angeles and settled into a life fighting what little crime takes place in sleepy border town Sommerton Junction. But that peaceful existence is shattered when Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega), the most notorious, wanted drug kingpin in the western hemisphere, makes a deadly yet spectacular escape from an FBI prisoner convoy. With the help of a fierce band of lawless mercenaries led by the icy Burrell (Peter Stormare), Cortez begins racing towards the US-Mexico border at 250 mph in a specially-outfitted Corvette ZR1 with a hostage in tow. Cortez’ path: straight through Summerton Junction, where the whole of the U.S. law enforcement, including Agent John Bannister (Forest Whitaker) will have their final opportunity to intercept him before the violent fugitive slips across the border forever. At first reluctant to become involved, and then counted out because of the perceived ineptitude of his small town force, Owens ultimately rallies his team and takes the matter into his own hands, setting the stage for a classic showdown.
Once on set, they parked our butts in front of a monitor, gave us a headset and had us watch a key scene that they were shooting at the time. And lucky for us, it was a fight scene. I was told that initially the fisticuff was gonna be shot on location on a bridge located in the Laguna Indian reservation. They've shot some of the footage there already (night shoot BTW). But due to the unpredictable weather they were having (lots of rain); they decided to shoot what was left of the scene in Studio on a set surrounded by a huge green screen where they'll of course insert the backdrop in Post Production.
THE ACTION SCENE WE SAW: The sequence had Arnold (Sherriff Ray Owens) and one of the lead villains named Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) do the “man dance” on a bridge. The scene begins with Ray on one end and Cortez on the other, both men are staring each other down in typical Western Stand-off motif. Ray removes his brown leather jacket and throws it the ground. It's on! With that, his facial expression says “I don't want to fight this dude, yet I have to”. The villain then rushes towards him, Ray waits for him, looking for an angle. Cortez slams into Ray who proceeds to get him in a headlock. Cortez then hits Ray on the back of the head with a couple of well placed elbows. Ray turns him around, lifts him up (helped by a wire attached to actor Noriega, that they will remove in post) and they CUT.
Later on the scene continued with the actors stunt doubles taking over. The lift leads into a suplex (oh yeah) which sends both men down. After that they did some grappling on the ground, am talking some choking, a scissor lock with the legs that eventually transcended into Ray pummeling the baddie with a series of punches in the face. And that was pretty much it... a “piece” of what I was told will be an EPIC mano et mano battle. And hey...I BELIEVE THEM!
While on set, I kept my eyes opened and my ears were everywhere. Here are some tidbits of info that I learned while there:
. They are assembling the film as they shoot so that director Jee-woon Kim can keep track of the progress. What works, doesn't work, what's needed...etc.
. Jee-woon Kim is bringing a lot of nuance to the flick, he has a particular attention to details that is very "him”, he has the whole movie's visual motif in his head.
. Jee-woon Kim doesn't speak English, so he has two interpreters. One to translate what is said and another to translate what he says.
. The flick is a character study (in terms of Arnold's narcotic officer character who left the big city cause of a bust gone wrong and then moved to the the small town of Sommerton Junction to find inner peace) on top of being a modern day Western and an action flick. I kept calling it Arnold's “Copland”!
. It was shot on digital, using the Alexa camera.
. Arnold does not say "I'll be back" or "I'm back!" in the movie.
. Actress Jaimie Alexander is shooting some behind the scene stuff with a handy cam, it will make it on the DVD as one of the extras. Johnny Knoxville is also shooting stuff, but they are not sure if that will make it in.
. Liam neeson was originally cast as Ray. He booked out (they were vague as to why). The script didn't change much when Arnold kicked in. The difference between Neeson and Arnold (according to producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura) is that Arnold makes the funny bits funnier than if Neeson would have acted out the role. Arnold has good comic timing and is a genius at deadpan.
. They rented a whole street, lots of stuff goes kaboom on it and Ray eventually steps in shotgun in hand (surrounded by fire) and blows away the baddies. Sounds like a token Arnie moment to me! Pumped!
Finally we were taken in the editing room where the movie is being assembled and we were shown three scenes.
Scene 1 had Arnold drive in a remote desert location. His deputies are amusing themselves shooting at a slab of meat. Funny banter ensures (with Luis Guzman stealing the show) and it ends with Arnold taking some shots at that slab. A man's gotta cut the edge!
Scene 2 basically displayed character interactions and a classic Arnold loads up for action montage. Except this time, he' s not alone in locking and loading, his crew follows suit. And their not loading up with modern weapons, but old school ones (like a Tommy Gun, a mini rail gun, there's even a sword that pops up at some point).
Scene 3 was an extended action sequence. I was told that it was one third of the final action block, as two other action scenes follow up this one. I will be vague here not to spoil too much: think a typical ghost town, good guys vs. bad guys Western stand off. But this time you got automatic weapons, a school bus, snipers, hot cars and a slew of villains dressed in black taunting state of the art automatic weapons, versus the good guys who are all sporting old school gear. Oh and Arnold has a one-liner. After mowing down a slew of scumbags he spouts: “Welcome to Sommerton”! Sold!
In closing, I will address my first encounter with Arnold. It was actually kinda funny. We were all watching the fight scene on the monitors but my two morning cappuccinos started coming down and I had to hit the head. So I excused myself and went to the men's room. When I got back, Arnold was standing there with the other peeps, decked out in his Sheriff uniform. The unit publicist (sweetheart Sheryl Main) introduced me to him. “Arnold this is John Fallon, he was in the men's room”. I extend my hand and shake his (good grip on the lad) and I say “Nice to meet you sir” and Arnold says “I hope you washed your hands”. I responded “Always, always”.
Come back tomorrow for Part 2 of this set visit with director Jee-woon Kim, Arnold and more of the cast and crew chiming in!
|Extra Tidbit:||THE LAST STAND opens January 18th 2013.|