I consider myself to be very lucky that, as a film commentator I have had the opportunity to meet a lot of interesting and talented people, as well as going to some great events. The hottest day of the year saw the UK press conference for RED 2 (read the Movies In Focus review) being held in London. Thankfully, the event wasn’t being held in a hotel, but rather on The Symphony, a glass boat which is London’s largest dining cruise vessel. The boat cruised the Thames, taking in some of the sights from the film (it’s a jaunty euro-flavoured actioner). However, what made this such an impressive event was that the stars of the movie which were going to be present: Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker and Helen Mirren – that’s an impressive line-up. But let’s go back to Bruce Willis.
I’ve been a admirer of Willis’ work going back to Moonlighting and I’ve followed his career as he made the leap to the big screen, first with Sunset and Blind Date and then with Die Hard. The role of John Mc Clane cemented his action hero credentials, something which Willis has never been totally comfortable with. Sure, it has made him successful, but you can see the character actor itching to get out. Parts in films like Pulp Fiction, The Sixth Sense, 12 Monkeys, The Story Of Us, Nobody’s Fool and Breakfast of Champions show an actor of great range. Even within the action genre, you see an actor trying to find new and interesting elements
I got to ask Willis a question about the action genre and I mentioned Hudson Hawk, a particular favourite of mine. He seemed genuinely happy at the mention of it, a little bashful even. To me, that shows that there’s much more to this man who is presented as being tough on and off the screen.
Here are a few choice cuts from the press conference. Willis, Parker and Mirren were all relaxed and chatty with the assembled film journalists. Mirren began by discussing the (then imminent) royal birth before getting down to business, discussing RED 2.
RED 2 is based on the DC comic book – did comic books play a part in your childhood?
Bruce Willis: I wasn’t a comic book guy. I spent most of my time just outside. Outside playing. Not much of a connection to DC Comics – unless you just want me to make it up. I’m a big DC Comics fan, let me tell you. Nobody’s bigger than me with DC Comics!
Why did you want to come back and make a sequel to RED?
Mary- Louise Parker: I just love these actors – they’re legendary. Bruce and I have a really easy…it’s so easy to work with him and hang out with him. Also my scenes are with him. That’s the draw for me. I feel that I’ve gotten lucky so many times. I’ve had more than my fair share really.
Helen Mirren: This movie expanded from the first. They go to incredible locations – that they didn’t write me into – like Paris. The film is bigger in a sense. You always learn. That’s the great advantage of coming to do a second one. You learn from the first. What was so wonderful about the first was these fully realised quirky characters and the comedy and the romance and the action. That’s a very difficult balance to make a film that has genuine love, romance, great comedy and a lot of action. Those are the balls that we try to keep in the air in this movie – at the same time playing it with great seriousness, if you like. It’s not sort of tongue in cheek. All of these characters are very serious in who they are and what they do. I think that’s a very important element. I think it’s faster and funnier and a little more furious than the first one.
Bruce Willis: I was pleased to return because…I’ll say it a different way, and tell you why I was happy to come back. When we did the first film, it was very ambitious. It’s not often they try to make a film that has romance, action and comedy all in the same film. I always thought that one part was going to be kicked out. It stayed in – and it all stayed in, so this time the writers just added more romance, more action and more comedy. When we all got back together it was about two years in-between, or a year and a half in-between, but when we got back to work it was as if we had just seen each other the day before. Everybody was already in character and showed up ready to play.
What’s it like making a sequel?
Helen Mirren: I think that it’s a fantastic opportunity to come back to a character. There’s always more to discover, you can push the character further. It’s rare – I know Bruce has done a lot of that, but in general, in an actor’s work in film, you very rarely get to play a character twice. It’s fantastic to revisit it. I would love to do it again.
Mary-Louise Parker: I’ve never done a movie with a two after it before. This was the first one. I thought it was really fun. I do theatre and television and I like being with the same group of people and working with them and having an emotional short-hand. It’s really a luxury.
Bruce Willis: I still don’t think about creating a franchise, that task is the producer’s job, to make the film come together and get everyone together and make sure they’re on time. The discipline of film is a specific thing, but if you want to talk about really acting, it would be theatre. Because in theatre it’s all live and it’s all happening at the same time – there’s no second take. It creates much more fear in your heart than working on film.
My favourite part of making films is the actual day to day process of getting in front of the camera and trying to make it seem life-like. Trying to make it funny, make it romantic. All this, I know is a big part of films, the sales of it all – it’s the explanation of how we made the movie, how we did it. My favourite park is actually making the movie, going to work every day.
Was the Queen moment in the film ad-libbed?
Helen Mirren: I’m still trying to wriggle out of that mantle. I can’t remember how that came about actually. I think the writers thought it was very funny of course that I would pretend to play the queen. I think that I suggested it should be Queen Elizabeth the first. I thought that would have been funnier than the present queen.
You had success with music with Under The Boardwalk, would you be interested in music roles?
Bruce Willis: I shout in key more than singing. There are a lot of really good singers and I’m very happy to let them handle the lifting of singing really well. I just can’t stand to hear the sound of my own voice when I sing. It’s excruciating.
You’ve been making action films since the golden age of the genre. What do you look for in an action movie and what do you bring to the table?
Bruce Willis: I try not to take it very seriously. It’s just a difficult thing if you take yourself seriously or what you’re doing seriously. We’re all really just trying to be entertaining and the action sequences and things like that are just part of a certain kind of entertainment, not my favourite, but I like to try and make people laugh more than I like to fight in films. But I have done a lot of them .
A lot of good ones.
Thanks very much. Thank you very much.
RED 2 opens in the UK on 2 August 2013