Renny Harlin has a lot to say about his movies. So much to say that, in what was supposed to be a career-spanning interview, we only touched on the early days of his career in a half-hour discussion. Harlin was fresh off directing a horror-thriller, The Refuge, and promoting his new comedic crime caper, The Misfits (now on VOD). The director’s latest, which stars Pierce Brosnan, is a light throwback to the action movies of the ’90s.
Of course, the ’90s were a special time for Harlin. It’s when he directed one of the great buddy action comedies, The Long Kiss Goodnight, and the extremely entertaining Sylvester Stallone film Cliffhanger. And no one will ever forget 1999’s Deep Blue Sea, a movie that remains as entertaining as ever more than 20 years after it hit theaters.
In the future, we’ll talk to Harlin more about those titles, as well as his time making movies in China, including the under-seen gem Bodies at Rest. And we already spoke to him about the experience of making A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. In the meantime, here’s a conversation with Harlin about how he originally envisioned his filmography, what he hoped to accomplish with The Misfits, and one career regret he’s trying to resolve at the moment.
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Willem Dafoe wants to see my face.
During a Zoom call, the video is not working at the start of the interview. Finally, once Dafoe and I connect face-to-face, he explains, “It’s important.” And it is important. Seeing how someone reacts, what lights them up, or what disinterests them, matters during an interview. When you’re interviewing Dafoe, you’re talking to a real conversationalist, somebody who feels completely present. You want to see that, not just hear it.
The interview is for the actor’s sixth collaboration with Abel Ferrara, Siberia. It’s a dream, or nightmare, of a film. It’s tricky to put into words or boxes. It’s a dream narrative you’re reacting to, not consciously analyzing. In other words, another project well-suited to Dafoe’s approach to performing, which as he told us, isn’t about calculation, but intuition.
Truly, acting is reacting for Dafoe.
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A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master is one of the high points for the horror franchise and filmmaker Renny Harlin. The sequel stands the test of time thanks to imaginative dream sequences and practical effects that only look better with age, a Freddy Kruger movie that takes full advantage of the infinite possibilities of a dreamscape.
And although the 1988 picture changed Harlin’s life, he was always in fear while making it.
The Dream Master was only Harlin’s third movie, his follow-up to his now cult-classic horror film, Prison, which gave Viggo Mortensen one of his earliest starring roles. While Harlin talked to us about his new comedic crime caper, The Misfits, he recalled his roller coaster experience of directing the horror sequel.
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The Invincible finale didn’t pull its punches. Spoilers ahead, obviously, but showrunner Simon Racioppa and the team behind Amazon’s superhero animated show — which includes creator Robert Kirkman — showcased the true, devastating destruction that comes with turning a city into a bloody battleground between super-powered characters. The body count was high, but so were the personal stakes.
The season finale, titled “Where I Really Come From,” ended with serious physical and emotional blows for teen superhero Mark (voiced by Steven Yeun). For fans of the comic, it was a faithful adaptation, but for those unfamiliar with the source material, it packed gruesome surprises that are generally absent from large-scale comic book adaptations.
Before the final episode was even available on Amazon, Invincible was renewed for a second and third season. Showrunner Simon Racioppa told us about his hope for future seasons, but mostly, he walked us through the season finale of Invincible, from Mark’s childhood baseball game, to even the sound of Omni-Man’s (voiced by J.K. Simmons) thunderous punches.
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Eric Bana‘s performance in The Dry is one of those reminders that less is more. Sometimes more is more, yes, but in the case of the hit Australian crime mystery, silence speaks loudly. Bana stars as Aaron, a man investigating a murder-suicide involving his old friend back home, where he is not welcomed with open arms. Similar to the cast of colorful supporting characters in director Robert Connolly‘s depiction of rural Australia, as an audience, you’re suspicious of Aaron because Bana gives everyone so little.
It’s a mystery Bana sells in the patient but a propulsive thriller, based on Jane Harper‘s novel. Harper’s hit book hooked the actor, who’s returned to Australian cinema with a bang. “It was a book that I loved and that our director Rob Connolly loved,” he told us, “and we tried to honor the book and try to elevate it as much as we could from a cinematic perspective and felt like it had the potential to really pack a punch.”
As usual in The Dry, Bana doesn’t use bells and whistles as a performer. When we think of his most well-regarded roles, he never goes for the wild transformations always bound to generate headlines. Instead, Bana’s work is more natural and, to the actor, more relatable as a result. During our interview with Bana, he told us why he’s drawn to subtle characters, as well as his fondness for his breakout film, Chopper.
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(Welcome to 10 Stories, a feature where we take a closer look at the making of a film and extract all the necessary trivia you require.)
Alien is perfection. It’s the sort of perfection that makes you ask, “How did they do that?” 41 years after its release, any story to be told about the making of the movie has been told. Nevertheless, we can never talk too much about Alien, especially for those of us who haven’t read or seen everything about the making of the film.
The exhaustive number of docs and making-of features have never dispelled or undercut the magic of the movie. The special features for the film, as well as most of director Ridley Scott‘s filmography, are a film school student’s dream. No stone is ever left unturned. Scott has never been shied away from sharing his secrets or his process.
So we dug into the various special features for Alien to see what we could learn from the master himself about his horror classic.
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Neil Marshall is returning to his roots. The director began his career with the one-two punch of Dog Soldiers and The Descent and while neither is 20 years old yet, they’re already endlessly rewatchable classics in the eyes of many horror movie fans. Marshall went on to direct bombastic post-apocalyptic mayhem with Doomsday followed by Centurion, a lean chase film set in ancient Scotland. For Marshall, this was his last true movie.
Over the last 10 years, the director has been on a roll in television. He helmed one of the more unforgettable episode of Game of Thrones, “Blackwater.” Outside of Westeros, Marshall directed episodes of Hannibal, Lost in Space, and Black Sails, just to name a few. In 2018, his name finally returned to cinemas with a new adaptation of Hellboy. “There was no way it was ever going to be half-decent,” he told us.
Now, Marshall is back with a horror movie he is proud of, The Reckoning, which he co-wrote with its star, Charlotte Kirke. Set in the 17th Century in Northern England, the film is about a widow who must fight for her freedom during a deadly plague and witchhunt. We spoke with Marshall about this new film, and he told us to expect more horror movies from him in the future.
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It’s fitting interviewing director Timur Bekmambetov over Zoom. Towards the end of the conversation, when the pleasantries and goodbyes were over, something about my reaction to finishing the call made him say “You see!” I didn’t see. Maybe he saw how exhausted I actually was the morning of the interview after I hit pause on the recording and was exiting the digital room. I imagined he got a kick out of seeing something surprising over Zoom, something he wouldn’t have gotten over a phone call – my true face of the day following a jovial conversation.
Maybe I’m projecting, but something had the director of Night Watch and Wanted exclaiming in excitement. “You see!”
I could see his true joy for the screenlife format at that moment. I got to hear all about his passion for it during the interview, but seeing it, especially over Zoom, made the filmmaker’s love for the modern technique all the more tangible. The director’s belief in this format, which tells stories entirely through computer and phone screens, is strong.
He’s already produced several movies using screenlife, including Unfriended and one of the most original thrillers of the past few years, Searching. Now, Bekmambetov has directed his very own thriller using screenlife: Profile. It’s based on a true story about a journalist (played by Valene Kane) trying to infiltrate ISIS, to see how they recruit young women. Naturally, things go wrong.
Bekmambetov wants to push the boundaries of screenlife – and he thinks it is the future of moviemaking.
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It can’t be understated what a big deal Night Watch was in Russia. It was the highest-grossing Russian film ever produced and changed the game there when it was released in 2004. With a small budget by Hollywood standards, director Timur Bekmambetov created an ambitious and morally ambiguous horror-fantasy film for adults. The sequel, Day Watch, expanded on the world, cranked up the action, and went wild with its candy store visuals. Hollywood wasted no time calling Bekmambetov, who went on to direct Wanted and other major studio movies.
The filmmaker never got around to directing the third film in the trilogy, Twilight Watch, but he’s still interested. But it would involve a major style change.
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Bob Odenkirk plays a familiar but new action hero in Nobody. “Hero” might even be a stretch for the family man who goes back to his old violent ways, but Odenkirk grounds and livens up the archetypal hero. We see a man who’s not the biggest guy in the room dealing with exhaustion and pain. It’s a nice change of pace from a typical studio action movie.
It’s a change, too, that Odenkirk never imagined in his career until Better Call Saul. The actor, whose own experience with a home invasion inspired this film, has been with the project since its earliest days. After the experience of starring in his first major action movie, Odenkirk told us he’d gladly star in more action movies if given the call.
The acclaimed actor sat down with us over Zoom and told us about the similarities between comedy and action, as well as his desire to star in more action films in the future.
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