Plane's Gerard Butler And Mike Colter On That Big Oner Fight, A Possible Sequel, And More [Exclusive Interview]

Marketing can sometimes be a mysterious thing. There are dozens of reasons studios may want to highlight certain aspects of a film over others, and the result can occasionally end up as a campaign that doesn't accurately reflect the actual movie being promoted.

Thankfully, "Plane" doesn't have that problem. This movie is exactly what's being advertised. 

Gerard Butler ("Olympus Has Fallen") plays an airline pilot trying to get home to his daughter in time to celebrate New Year's Eve with her, but his commercial flight gets a pair of surprise last-minute passengers: An FBI agent and the man he's transporting, a potentially dangerous convict played by Mike Colter ("Luke Cage"). When the flight runs into a storm and the plane goes down on an island run by separatists and militias, the captain and the criminal must work together to protect the surviving passengers. It's a fun, straightforward, down-and-dirty B-movie that delivers on its premise and provides a satisfying theatrical experience.

In the lead-up to the film's release, I had the chance to speak to its two stars about what drew them to the project, the movie's impressive one-take fight sequence, and whether we might see these characters pop up again down the line.

Note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

'I would've really kicked myself'

Mr. Colter, it seems as if you've spent the past 10 years or so steadily leveling up in your career, and this movie marks another significant step for you. I'm sure you've had opportunities to play major roles in big action movies like this before, but what was it about this project that made you want to jump on board?

Colter: It's all about timing. And I try to let the universe have its way with me. I try not to think so much about opportunities because you can't really control [them], and even when you can control, you can't control the outcome. So sometimes you're just in the right place at the right time. I think Gerry talked about it before: It's like sometimes you have opportunities that you may miss or things that don't happen. You don't get those things and then it happens and it turns out to be a stinker, or maybe it turns out to be a success, but it wouldn't have been a success maybe if you or I were a part of it or something like that.

And I remember thinking this came along and I'd just — there was another project that didn't happen and it was just about conflict of scheduling. Then this comes along and it was the best thing that could have happened, because if I wasn't available, I would've really kicked myself if somebody else had been doing this job. I would've been like, "Oh" — and I hardly kick myself about anything because that's just life. But this is one of those moments where I go, "Man, so glad I'm available for this thing. I'm so glad I'm getting the offer on this, and I'm so glad I get to work with Gerry." So it's just a moment in time where you go, "Yeah."

'Anytime even one thing missed out of 60 different moves, you had to start from scratch'

Mr. Butler, I would love to know about the gritty hand-to-hand fight scene in the shack. How do you approach something like that as an actor, but also as a producer?

Butler: As a producer? Well, there was much discussion, shall we say, about how to shoot this scene, because for myself and [director] Jean-François [Richet], we both wanted to do it in a oner, and we had the best cameraman, Eric Catelan. We fell in love with this guy. He's so talented. But to do a fight scene in a oner, it's very rare. I've actually — one scene in "300," but other than that, nothing like this where it's just messy, but there are so many hits. You typically have to arrange a camera for every hit and break the fight down into six pieces. We did this in one shot.

So anytime even one thing missed out of 60 different moves, you had to start from scratch. So it was a risky thing to do because we could have been doing it for a week and still not gotten anywhere. Finally, we won that fight. Even when we shot it, certain people said, "No, let's break it down and cut back to the daughter." It's like, "No, this is a one-off. We never get this opportunity. Let's watch these guys go at it and just be so incredibly desperate and fighting tooth and nail for everything." I'm very proud of what we pulled off in that scene.

Do you remember how many takes of it you did?

Butler: In the end, we did, I think, six. In 100% humidity and 105 degree heat on the heat index. And I literally, halfway through that fight, every time, I was like, "I can't [breathe]." I couldn't get any air in. I thought I was going to have a heart attack. It was perfect. [laughs]

Colter: Gerry's going to put that on his reel now. That's how good it was. He's going to make a reel for no reason at all.

Butler: That is my reel. [laughs]

Colter: That's his reel. That's it.

'The audience has to really buy into what this movie's about'

I feel like there's more room for additional stories with these characters — especially your character, Mr. Colter. Have you guys had any discussions about returning to this world and playing these roles again?

Colter: Let's just see how this one goes.

Butler: I was going to say, let's see.

Colter: It's all about the audience. The audience has to really buy into what this movie's about. And we're happy that so far, the feedback we're getting from the press is that they enjoy it and we assume because they enjoy it, others will enjoy it and you guys will spread the word. If it's a success, then you never know what happens. But you never want to count your chickens before they hatch, is what we say where I'm from.

Butler: Yeah. So you always hope your movie performs well, but at the same time, at the end of the day, what you really hope is you make a great movie. I've now sat in a couple of test screenings and screenings with other people, I've sat at the back, and I can see people — it takes them on a ride. They come out, and everybody I know who's seen it is like, "That was so much fun and such an escape." So at least we've done that. But I like the fact that you're hinting at a second one with him, not me. [laughs] Because I want to know [what happens to him]. I'm like, "What's happening?"

Colter: No, listen. No matter what, Gerry's got to be part of it. No matter what happens, it ain't going to go without Gerry.

Butler: [laughs] See, I like that. He's going to say to the producer, "Guys, I ain't doing it without Gerry. I don't care what you say. I'm not doing it without Gerry."

"Plane" flies into theaters on January 13, 2023.