Well, the new year has begun and I’ve all but remained vigilant of any and all legitimate news regarding director Joe Carnahan’s development on The Raid given how much of my own time I’ve invested in covering this film – from pestering XYZ Films’ Todd Brown for info to covering as much ground on Indonesian films within the genre as possible.
Needless to say, not everyone is convinced just yet, even as Carnahan and partner Frank Grillo went public in interviews a few years ago to state their intent; I tend to rub it in a few faces of folks that I know because, in all honesty, one can never really, or always, tell how good or bad a movie is unless they’ve seen it, or how the reviews are in whole or even if they take reviews seriously enough.
For this, I’ve personally been urging caution for fans to try and take heed to actual details about this film as news develops. For starters, they’ve already been granted director Gareth Evans’ blessing. And second, I recommend at least four Carnahan films that I’ve seen thusfar: Narc, Smokin’ Aces, The A-Team (adapted from the classic TV series), and Stretch.
Granted, to each their own on what they like in movies, but I found these pretty damn fun; Stretch was especially a delightful surprise to catch onto when I finally managed to see it several years ago. As far as whirlwind underdog crime comedies go, I *LOVED* that movie, and I wholly recommend it as a pallate cleanser to bide the time until Boss Level, Ben Bray’s El Chicano and Joe Lynch’s Point Blank, get their day on the big screen.
For that matter, I certainly see the appeal in having Carnahan go after The Raid as hard as he’s gone, and I couldn’t be more thankful that he’s got himself a worthwhile team backing him up on it over at WarParty Films, namely including Man Down screenwriter Adam G. Simon who I’ve covered several times from the interviews he’s done to get the word out about WarParty’s plans for The Raid, and you can read those reports here, here and here.
In the meantime, it was late last year just ahead of the holidays when I managed to stake my claim in getting a word in with Simon. He took a liking to my coverage and it pleases me to be able to share his story, his opinions, visions and resolve here on my platform as well.
Adam thank you so much for this opportunity. You’ve been pounding the pavement all year promoting WarParty and its upcoming slate of films by next year. Are you taking it day-by-day or can 2019 end a little faster and sooner for you?
I’m always struggling to stay present, you’ve got to, otherwise you get sucker punched. So, yeah, ‘day by day’
Tell us about yourself and, prior to coupling with WarParty, how you got into acting and eventually screenwriting?
I have been acting and writing since I was a kid. I did bodyguard work for years to keep the lights on. The constant rejection as an actor pushed me to start creating my own content. Plays, scripts, shorts. Actors need to understand that Los Angeles is like Vegas: it isn’t built on everyone cleaning out the casino, it’s built on the people dumping their children’s college money and life savings into the slots in hopes of a win. Reading “The Secret” and having positive mental attitude ain’t gonna cut it, you have to think outside the box to get ahead.
Are there any particular roles in the past decade that you recall the most fun or memorable?
I loved watching Mel Gibson work on Boss Level – I met him before filming. He was exceptionally kind and humble, but when he got onto set in character, it was like being locked in a cage with a leopard. The guy is an absolute pro. You get into a situation like that and quickly realize how far you have to go.
I just finished a series that’s still completely under wraps. Titus Welliver, Thomas Beaudoin and an exceptional cast who were an absolute joy to work with. My character on the series is very different from who I am in real life. He’s constantly being tossed around, abused and acts solely out of self preservation and fear. He was a lot of fun to play.
What are some of the rules you stick to when putting together a good screenplay? What are some examples you can point to in your own moviegoing experience?
You have to care about what you’re writing about – that means giving the project you’re working on the love and respect it demands, which means you HAVE to read and write daily. The other part is preparation – before I start typing on a computer, I write things out by hand. I create character bios for each character, I create the outline, I create a 3-act summary, I create a beat sheet, then I plot the character arcs. I map out the story before I ever even open Final Draft. It’s the script before the script.
Carnahan said one of the coolest things about screenwriting when we sat down to write on The Raid. He said, “I write so I can work things out in my life. If I can find a way to make the process beneficial for me, mentally and emotionally, I’ll have a better product at the end of it”. So for me, writing Point Blank was about becoming a better father, and writing The Raid was to become a better brother.
In your view, are these same rules applicable when it comes to remakes and reinterpretations of original films such as your incarnation of The Raid with your partner Joe? Or do those differ in some capacity?
I think the same rules apply, but you have to be true to the essence of the thing. The spirit of the original project. I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again, neither Point Blank nor The Raid are ‘remakes’. They are each a complete reimagining of two very different worlds while staying true to the premise on which the previous films were built.
What were your perceptions of The Raid before or after? Did you have any idea it was going to be as crowdpleasing as it was? Or were you like me and saw Merantau and basically already knew this was gonna be worth the ticket money? I know that for me, I was lucky to see these films in the theater when they came which seldom happens in U.S. cities.
Unfortunately, I was late to the game, it was actually Frank Grillo who turned me on to Gareth Evans. I had obviously heard of his films, but didn’t really dive in until Frank put him on my radar. I think all of those films are exceptional and he continues to make incredible work, I just saw “Apostle” and it blew my mind.
Are you still confronted by peers or fans online who happen to be hardcore against remakes or perplexed about “why this film” is it? I ask this mainly because I’ve given a few examples to friends on remakes and reboots that work and just some people have remained completely recalcitrant about it – which is to me is understandable given Hollywood’s track record, though The Raid – this is definitely being handled more closely to the chest, isn’t it?
I have been confronted on multiple occasions. I take it in stride because I know how passionate the fan base is. Before taking on The Raid, I spent weeks online pouring through threads and discussion boards of fans of the films. I think there were great ideas out there in that community. We wouldn’t be making this film, and I sure as hell wouldn’t have written this film, if we didn’t think there was something new, relevant and exciting to explore. As close to the chest as I can express it, the story we’ve created is going to knock people’s fucking socks off.
And you’ve delved heartily into some very specific details for this new iteration – from the brother-centric angle of the plot to various Gary Oldman-isms about Felix, and even some insight about the action with respect to new technology and breaking new ground on the fight scenes. What are some of your favorite aspects about what your executive producer, Evans, achieved when he directed The Raid films and essentially birthed a new era of martial arts action cinema?
The thing I respected the most was how grounded in reality the action was. It was gritty, new and raw. It made me feel how I felt the first time I saw a Jackie Chan movie. His visual style was so unlike anything I had been familiar with up until that point. The whole thing was brilliant.
Is there a specific fighting style that you and Carnahan are going for compared to Evans’ spotlighting of Silat?
Yes, and no. I’m not saying anything on it other than it’s some next-level badassery.
We’re nearing an expected production start which was last reported to launch in January. Has this changed? And if not, how soon can we expect to hear casting announcements? Any ideal candidates in talks or discussions?
No… I don’t know… yes… but no I can’t tell you about it.
You’ve been very succinct in your interviews about how rewarding it is to be surrounded by good, genuine, no-bullshit people – the kind of people who you say understand that a handshake means something. That being said, I want to ask (and I might have heard you speak about this at some point, or not, but I’d like for you to talk and educate us about it if you may), what were some of the most challenging moments for you in the course of your career and your health? And how did you overcome these obstacles?
Man Down was brutal. Writing it was a way for me to deal with my PTSD, a divorce, and being separated from my kids. It was painfully personal. To get that movie made, was like climbing Everest, only to get to the top and have critics there waiting to punch you in the nuts and throw you back down the mountain. The only way for me to get up after that was to simply keep writing. Six scripts later, I feel better about it, and I’m a better person for it. Nobody cares about what you’ve done, they only care about what you’re doing. KEEP IT MOVING!
What are some of your biggest lessons and takeaways going forward?
Resilience, persistance, diligence. There’s a quote from Calvin Coolidge I’m getting inked on me next week. It’s gonna hurt because it’s long! [laughs] “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not: Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” That’s the lesson.
Being privy to the inner-workings of WarParty and all things Boss Level and Point Blank, are you able to confirm an ETA for us on a teaser for either of these projects?
We are really REALLY close… but no.
2019 comes, are you hitting the ground running with any other projects we should keep an eye out for?
I have a series that I’m developing with my long-time road dog and brother Noah Danby. We’ve been working really closely with Mojo Films and we’re getting close. Also, before 2019 is out, I’ll be directing.
I wanna thank you again for taking the time out of your schedule to share some of your story and experiences with us, and I want to wish you and your children good health, and a joyous Holiday season. I know you can’t share too much no matter how much we, the press nudge you, but thank you for being so patient with us. On that note, are there any final thoughts you would like to share with readers in closing this interview?
Yes! I got to see El Chicano in all it’s glory at the Palm Springs Film Festival. Ben Hernandez Bray did a tremendous job. It’s exciting to see a film breaking new ground. There has been a lot of talk about it from that angle.
That it has an all Latino cast, that it is the first superhero origin film of it’s kind, etc. But for me, it’s a great movie. I was entertained beginning to end. Well shot, well acted. A really high octane ride with some heart to it. GO SEE IT!