“I wanted to do this great story justice…” – hmv.com talks to Wild Card director Simon West
Jason Statham is known for one thing and one thing only; action. The 47-year old, who has fronted hit smash-em-ups like The Transporter, Crank and The Expendables, is the king of fight scenes and leaping out of just about anything that’s on fire. But, for his new film, Wild Card, which is out on DVD and Blu-Ray on Monday (July 27th), he’s trying something different entirely…
In Wild Card, Statham plays Nick Wild, a security guard imprisoned in Las Vegas with a serious gambling addiction and some debts to pay to some very unpleasant people. It’s a demanding part, Statham is on camera for almost the entire movie and spends far more time talking than fighting (though, naturally, there is some of that).
The film has a script from legendary writer William Goldman and was made, rather unsuccessfully, into a movie back in 1986 with Burt Reynolds cast as Wild. We sat down with Simon West, the man behind the camera on huge hits like Con Air and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, to talk about why he’d taken another crack at the script, getting the best out of Jason Statham and his new all British blockbuster Stratton…
How did Wild Card come your way?
“I was doing The Mechanic with Jason Statham and he actually brought it up because he had bought the rights to the script some time before. It was his pet project, he loved it, he’d given me the script, which is a William Goldman script and it was 30 years old. I looked at it and decided it was a bit dated and wasn’t right for me.”
Presumably you thought that was the end of it?
“Yeah, it went away and then when Jason and I were doing Expendables 2 and he brought it up again and I told him I’d read it again. I don’t know if it was because I’d just spent months blowing up the entire world and hanging out with all these action heroes, but it actually felt really nice to do something with no pyrotechnics and just good writing.”
You filmed it all in Las Vegas right?
“I hadn’t been back to Vegas since I did Con Air. What struck me about the place was that it’d been completely rebuilt in the centre, but the outskirts, which is all the places in the script, are still exactly the same. It’s still haunted by these washed up characters who are trapped in Vegas because they’ve lost everything so I saw it with a new enthusiasm.”
You said you were worried that the script was dated, what changed your mind?
“It was nice firstly to have a script that was so set, because on any big movie scripts are constantly in flux. It also made it easy to sell to actors like Stanley Tucci and Sofia Vergara because their parts were very set out. There’s nothing in the script that’s really aged, there’s no pyrotechnics or technology really.”
When you were putting it together did you watch the 1986 version?
“I watched it on fast forward. Just to see if there was anything I could learn from it. Apparently the shoot was a bit of a disaster. It had all the potential to be a fantastic film, just like William Goldman’s other work like Marathon Man or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, but the shoot just fell apart. To me it was a script that needed to be made properly. I wanted to do this great story justice.”
Did you speak to William Goldman before you started?
“I called him to tell him and he was very pleased that it was being remade. I asked him if he had any advice and he said ‘Just make sure he’s the toughest guy in Vegas’.”
Did you get all the cast you wanted to get?
“More than I thought actually, I didn’t realise how attractive it was to actors. I was able to get people like Anne Heche to come in and do one scene. Stanley Tucci has two scenes, it’s almost a cameo, but the respect for the script just meant I could get this great ensemble cast.”
How was it for Jason? He’s almost on screen the whole time…
“It’s a very demanding part. I think in this film he has more lines than in all his other films altogether. I’ve done two films with him before and I knew he had amazing potential, but to carry every scene and the whole film is something quite different. He was so well prepared though and he really wanted to show people what he could do. He wants to be more than the action guy with those big silent close-ups, this was a chance to make a proper actor’s film.”
Do you think Jason wants to become more of a character actor? We all know he can do action…
“Oh yeah. I think films like this are the stuff he would love to be doing, but this is far more draining for him, he can do a fight scene in his sleep, but this was a whole other challenge.”
What’s next for you?
“I’m doing a film called Stratton in London with Henry Cavill. He’s a new British action hero, I’ve been looking for a counterpoint for Bond for a while, not someone like Bond, this is a Special Forces guy and it’s a very realistic film. He’s on a mission to protect London. Henry is Superman obviously, but this is a dark, complex guy, doing what he has to do to protect London.”
How far along are you with that?
“We’re just in preparation. We’ll start shooting in May. I’ve just got Henry at the moment, but there’s a huge talent pool of British actors. I’m enjoying being back at home, I’m usually off in Bulgaria and Canada or somewhere, it’s nice to be filming in London again. If all goes well, it’ll be out at the beginning of 2016.”
Wild Card is in cinemas now.