In RED DAWN, a group of young adults in the Pacific Northwest are catapulted into adulthood when their town is invaded by the North Korean military. Utilizing their quick wit and survival skills, the group fights back in order to liberate the town from its captors and win back their freedom. Being that this is a re-boot of a dated 80’s classic, a lot is riding on how filmmakers were able to translate the feeling of the original into the modern zeitgeist.
We (along with a few other reporters) spoke with the action-packed film’s producers Tripp Vinson and Beau Flynn, as well as the talented stunt coordinator-turned-director Dan Bradley to talk about putting a fresh spin on an iconic classic, finding the right villainous foreign invader, and how stunts can augment a character’s journey.
Q: Why did you want to remake this movie?
Beau Flynn: “Trip and I were massive fans of the movie and really aggressively pursued the rights at MGM. The timing was perfect. We had a great take and we got a great writer. It just all came together really elegantly.
Tripp Vinson: “Taking a movie like this on is a scary proposition because the movie has a history already being beloved by people. We really felt being fans of the original, that was something that was challenging, scary, and exciting all at the same time.
VeryAware: Did you know exactly what you wanted to include and exclude from the original in this new version?
TV: “That’s one of the tricks of doing a remake is finding that balance of honoring the original and adding enough new stuff so that it’s its own thing. We talked a lot about that – the iconic moments that we’d use. Once we started adding to things, it felt like it was related to the original. It wasn’t a straight remake.”
BF: “There were about five that we identified that we were adamant about being in that Dan had a very strong point of view on the movie. It was Dan who got us off totally the idea of the original and brought us back. He brought us that urban element into the film much earlier than the original, much bigger than the original, and still keeps the integrity of the film real, but at the same time opened up the movie in a significant way.”
Q: Much has changed in the four years since this movie had gotten started. Can you talk about the challenge of finding an enemy, because you did have to change your enemy at one point. What was that in response to?
Dan Bradley: “The driving thing wasn’t so much the enemy, it was really about the kids dealing with an invasion. For me, it was never political. We never really focused on the enemy so much.”
BF: “When we were conceiving the movie, we talked a lot about CLOVERFIELD or WAR OF THE WORLDS. Kind of like what would happen if we were sitting in this room and we saw 5,000 troopers land. What would you do? And you wouldn’t know what the back story is. You wouldn’t know who it is. That’s what Dan is tapping into.”
TV: “We had a lot of discussions about why did the original RED DAWN resonate with us. A lot of people would say that it’s because of the time it came out – it was about an invasion and the movie was released during the Cold War. Ok, fair. That may be true for some people. There was another part that made the movie universal in appeal and that was the fantasy of becoming a soldier and protecting your home. We started to focus on that because we couldn’t recreated the geo-political climate of what existed when the original was released.”
BF: “We wanted to stay in the kids point-of-view.”
Q: Being that you are a skilled stunt coordinator/ second unit director, what was the learning curve for you on this film?
DB: “I’ve directed some of the biggest second unit shoots in film history. You get to go in and do this job, I’m incredibly honored. You are thinking about everything and you’ve got all these young guys to martial through this very intense shoot. There’s a lot of action – with a lot of these kids doing their own stunts. I was a big fan of the original. It was an homage – the whole spider trap. We have to find a way to do that in an urban environment. It was quite the challenge.”
BF: “Dan always knew to put the best people around him so that would free to focus on the story and set pieces.”
VeryAware: What was the toughest stunt to shoot or maybe even the toughest day?
DB: “The hardest stuff, for me, was all the jumps from the window onto the other building for reasons you won’t know as the audience. There was a windstorm that blew up. We had to take the lights down. We got there and the entire city was fogged in – we couldn’t see across the street. So it was trying to get all that stuff done, and pretty complex stuff, with the weather working against you.”
BF: “Dan was a stunt man and he’s very tough on his stunt men. There’s no excuses. That’s what makes everything look so real and so fresh. There’s not a lot of CG in the movie at all. It’s really Dan and his team doing it. I remember when we were doing the car chase and they hit one of the soldiers and the soldiers go flying. Doing that, we had him on a wire. We had him getting smashed over and over by that car. As a producer, you’re dying. I would go to Dan and be like, “Dan! This guy’s not gonna be able to take this.” And Dan saying, “He’s fine. Trust me.” Dan knows how far he can push, but at the same time, there’s no one more concerned about safety than Dan. That’s what’s so interesting; Dan knew that line and that helped everything feel more real.”
Q: How do you find new ways into stunts that have all been done before?
DB: “Honestly, I’ve had the advantage participating in numerous car chases – behind the wheel of a car. And go and see dailies and say, “They missed it. They didn’t see what I saw.” I took those things that I saw and figured out ways to shoot them. Really the technology was a limiting factor. It’s being brave enough to break the rules and break the conventions to get those things that I know exist. But they are very hard to accomplish. Honestly, it’s more of a storytelling accomplishment than a stunt accomplishment. I’ve been talking about FRENCH CONNECTION since my first days in this business. It’s still one of the few car chases from the 70’s that holds up because it is character driven. It is about Gene Hackman’s desperation to keep up with the train and his energy drives that chase. So I’m always looking for characters to drive the action.”
RED DAWN opens on November 21.