GS EXCLUSIVE: Interview with David Barrett, Director of Fire with Fire

Fire_with_Fire_FilmPoster.jpegGeek Syndicate recently spoke to the director of the new Bruce Willis movie Fire with Fire out now in cinemas.

You can find the review of the film HERE in which we talk about the action thriller starring Bruce Willis, Josh Duhamel and Rosario Dawson. The director has come from a stunt background working on dozens of movies over the years.

GEEK SYNDICATE –You have come from quite an amazing and varied stunt background looking at your film career. How do you think this helped you move into the director’s chair?

DAVID BARRETT – Well man, it has been invaluable you know from the time that I was a little kid my dad was Burt Reynolds and Paul Newman’s stunt double so I had been on the sets of movies like Canonball Run, Hooper, and Smokey and the Bandit and I was able to see how these directors tackled the action. To me just growing up that way and looking at sequences and how you are visually going to capture it was invaluable. My dad’s best friend was Paul Newman so he was my god father and to be able to break down scripts and understand characters like he did then to actually apply the character to the action so the action was informing the audience on who that character was is what became my process. So I got to work with Stephen Spielberg on Jurassic Park and talked about sequences with him and why I would do what I do.I also worked with Roger Donaldson, the Wachowski’, and 2nd unit directors like David Ellis.  I was really was able to get educated in terms of production, performance, and I was given examples of guys who were very successful at it, and guys who weren’t  so it was absolutely invaluable, especially on this movie because I don’t know if you know this but we shot this movie in 20 days.

GS – Wow! No I didn’t know that, that’s amazing.

DB – So, I’m on a show right now called The Mentalist which I’m directing and this show we shoot in eight days.To  give you a better example Once Upon a Time is another TV show here in America and you shoot that show from 9-10 days and it’s 44 pages. We had a script that’s 106 pages, no standing sets, a crew that doesn’t know each other, zero money, and you know to shoot that in twenty days is insane.

GS – So how close was the finished film to the original script when you got it?

DB – Not real close, because the script had been around for a little bit of time but due to budget constraints and time constraints it had to shift and change a little bit. Once the actors got on board and I convinced them to get on board there was some changes, but really…it changed a fair amount.

GS –One of the things I loved was when the two hit men did the sniper attack across the range from one motel to the other one. There was some really nice new visuals in there, is that something that you thought up yourself ?

DB – I love this question.  I set out to do a movie I felt that was going to be a 50 – 40 day shoot. All of a sudden I get there and it’s two weeks prep and a 20 day shoot and I’m thinking ‘oh my god do I do this movie or not ?’. This is career suicide you know? How am I going to be able to do this when everyone is telling everybody this is going to be an action movie? Looking at the first couple of acts, there is really nothing going on in terms of action, when you read it on the page, there is a sniper that shoots her, that’s it! So how am I going to make that exciting? I knew that was my first kind of action sequence so I knew I had to draw the audience in right from the beginning and I couldn’t just think about being in a hotel parking lot and all of a sudden we just start shooting coverage on a sniper. He pulls the trigger and you cut to a window breaking and that’s an action sequence? Its not, and it’s not scary, it’s not spooky, it doesn’t put the audience in a seat. So what really drove this idea was how do I get the audience in the seat? How do I put any girl that is in there as if she’s on the end of the barrel? How do I make the guys feel like they have to save the girl they love, the love of their life and they have no idea where the bullet is coming from? And I wanted it to be raw, you see the movie how the action shifts points of view? It shifts because I wanted the viewer in the seat of danger, because if they feel it then they will go along for the ride. If you can make Jeremy vulnerable enough then they will root for him. If I make it real enough, it becomes relatable; if it becomes relatable it becomes commercial.  That shot I tried to explain to everybody in the two weeks of prep that we had, what my vision was, and no one could understand it. So what we did is we took a little remote control helicopter, attached a camera to it, and the producers didn’t even believe in it. So what I did is I showed up early one day for work and we got that sequence. I took the helicopter and flew it across this grassy field, and essentially got the plate for that and I stitched it together in the movie. In that sequence I operated the camera, I was also driving the Bronco, we had to do everything we possibly could to make the movie. But Remington Chase helped me get that sequence together and Greg Cramer, who I am now doing another move with them called Sanctuary. I had to convince everybody. They could not imagine it therefore they couldn’t get behind it which is why I showed up three hours early before work and we tried to do something kind of special. I am telling you it is so fun to watch the audience watch that sequence, because from that moment on they are in.

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GS –  Well for me I loved the whole sequence. I am sitting there going ‘Ok, this is really good, I am loving how this was filmed and how it was put together’ so it definitely paid off.

Now I am not a great fan of in your face, close up, shaky cam fight scenes but your fight scenes were  clean and fairly easy to see. You found a middle ground that still made them quite raw and powerful. What do you think makes a good fight scene? And how do you make it clear for the audience to see what is happening?

DB – You have really good questions! Here is my approach, because I worked on those movies where I think it is a fraud if you are not able to see it. I think it is smoke and mirrors and I think you haven’t done your homework as a film maker. That’s my personal opinion and there are guys who have made franchisees out of it. I feel like this movie had to be relatable and had to be real, because it had these un-real moments, so for example the fight scene, you know the stunt co-ordinator was like ‘ok,’ and I had worked with him before, and he has come from a famous family also, and he started to lay out and show me this sequence, and I was like ‘you know what, I need this to be real, this is too staged’. So let me just get the actors in. I’ll get in Vinnie Jones and Josh (Josh Duhamel) – Josh is an incredible athlete you know, Vinnie Jones is an incredible athlete and I said ‘Listen guys, lets make this about two guys in an alley’ and I said ‘If its truthful then its palpable??’ so I would say the mandate is give them two or three jabs and I want all the dialogue out in these two or three jabs and so I had them run that. I said ‘Josh hit him’, in this rehearsal, ‘Try and hit Vinnie’ and I knew Vinnie knows exactly what he is doing when he is fighting. If the guy shifts his foot to his front foot Vinnie knows he is throwing a right hand. I tried to just get an actual fight. I had Vinnie actually hit Josh. I figured that was the best way and I only had about 40 minutes to shoot it. So that’s why the fight looks the way. It was about making it fell raw enough, if you were there, but still not using…not being a fraud to the audience. You have to honour the audience as at the end of the day they’re are my boss I am delivering an experience to them that is truthful and I had to make this movie as truthful and as relatable as I could, because it could have been obnoxiously over the top.
GS –In terms of the movie based around our main hero who is from the fire department, did you have a lot of support from the local fire department at all?

DB – No we didn’t use them at all really. We didn’t need them. Long Beach we did some research with them and Josh went and stayed with the Long Beach Fire Department, and they were fantastic. We did consult with them, but we shot the movie in New Orleans.

GS – In terms of going back to what you were saying about how fast you shot this movie and without giving away any spoilers the climax really is a heated affair and there is a lot going on there. How long did it take you to film ‘that’ sequence, and how much of a challenge was it?

DB – I shot that sequence in two nights. It’s insane. I mean in a movie you would have had two and a half weeks to shoot that. We were in ten different rooms and Rosario (Rosario Dawson) was incredible. I mean everything you see, she did. I mean she actually got burned and a cameraman got burned. I was standing in flames and my suit went up. We had to do this in a very raw way and I could never have done it without an actress like her. She’s in a tank top for gods sake! I mean that’s real * laughs*.

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GS –Brilliant, thank you so much for you time. I loved the film and I loved the angles and how you approached it. It was really good and fresh.

DB – Well thank you very much, thanks for watching and I hope people enjoy it over there.

Watch the trailer below

Source: Fire with Fire
Reporter: Montoya, DarkPhoenix1701

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