While speaking with Drew Pearce, it’s obvious he has no shortage of good memories from making his first feature film, Hotel Artemis. Having Jodie Foster star in the first movie you’ve directed should help make for a positive experience, but even when the Iron Man 3 co-writer talks about the most challenging days on set, he does so with enthusiasm.

Hotel Artemis is an original independent movie coming out during the crowded summer moviegoing season. For Pearce, he’s hoping some originality and personality will connect with moviegoers. He’s also hoping all the love that went into making his movie about a hospital for assassins shines through. As Pearce told us, “I always say the movie costs $14.5 million and $20 million in favors.”

If you haven’t yet, check out part one of our conversation with Pearce. Below, you can find part two of our Drew Pearce interview, in which he talks about his Marvel experience, nods to Casablanca and Mary Poppins, and more.

Did you have time to rehearse with the whole cast? 

We did, actually. We never got the whole cast together in one room, but then they’re never in one room in the hotel, either. Thank god, or otherwise the movie would’ve been impossible to make. It was virtually impossible as it was. But I really believe in rehearsal, and this movie, hopefully each of the characters has a specific voice, but the movie itself, I think, has a voice, too, and it was important to make sure everyone’s … for me to know going in, particularly because we had no time for rehearsal on set, because we had such a small budget and such a short shooting schedule, it was really important to make sure I knew everyone was on the same page in the same world with their performances, which is the toughest trick with something that’s both a futuristic world build, and there are nine cast members who are never necessarily going to meet each other.

So, yes, I worked with each of the actors, and then as many of them in pairs and groups of three as I could, as well. Jodie was massively behind that, which really helps, because if you’re an actor, and there’s a chance to come sit around a table for a few hours and work through your scenes with Jodie Foster, then that’s catnip, because you don’t get that many chances every day to work with a legend like Jodie.

She’s incredibly generous as an actress and supportive. I love the kind of double act between her and Dave Bautista in the movie as Everest, the Nurse’s orderly. She adored Dave. I mean, that role is really tough, and it should’ve been really tough to cast, but Dave was the first person I went to, and he is just amazing at. I think it was great for him, because suddenly a legend is affirming your status as an actor, and actively enjoying what you’re doing and stuff. It was a bit of a joy to watch that as a relationship, for example, kind of blossom as we shot the movie.

I want to ask you about your Marvel experience. After co-writing Iron Man 3 and making a one shot, what did you learn about moviemaking at Marvel?

God, I mean, I’ve learnt so much from my time at Marvel, both just as a writer on Runaways the movie, which is very different from the TV show, which was the first project I did there, than on the two and a half, three years I worked on Iron Man 3. Shane and I were literally the only writers that ever worked on that film. There was never anyone else brought in. That’s pretty rare in any tentpole filmmaking. In many ways, Kevin Feige gave me my break here in America, my ability to make movies. Plus, he backed me to make All Hail the King, the Marvel short. I owe him a lot. I think Marvel has had a varied reputation over the years, and my experience, though mostly as a writer there, was just amazingly positive. I think one of the things that people don’t realize about Marvel movies is they’re kind of like gigantic Cassavetes films.

You know, there were five of us that essentially made all the central decisions in Iron Man 3, because Kevin is the studio. So it was Shane, Robert, me, Kevin, and Stephen Broussard, the producer. We were the five the people that kind of started the movie and ended the movie, and over that three year period, made all the decisions. Now, we’re aided and abetted by the most extraordinary crew that money can buy, which is one of the other brilliant things about working on a Marvel movie is the resources that you have at your fingertips, and believe me, nothing will make you miss that more than directing an indie movie for two years.

I think some of the stuff I learned was to be ruthless with your script, to not be afraid to just throw stuff out even when you love it. I think what I learned from Kevin is … I always loved the edit. One of Kevin’s secret weapons is he has the ability to restructure story in the edit in a way that actually improves rather than is just fucking with it just for the sake of it. Those skills are in Artemis. I don’t want to pull back the curtain, but a bunch of the scenes are not in the order that they were expected to be in the script. That sense of adventure in the edit is something that Kevin instills.

I also got to work with a legendary writer in the shape of Shane, and as I say, the affirmation of working with someone who you really admire who then shares the same values as you is pretty priceless confidence-wise going forward. He’s also a total sweetheart, and never afraid of a crazy idea. One of the other things he says is like, “The only thing that works is bold ideas.” In many ways Hotel Artemis is full of bold ideas, and is a bold idea in and of itself, which is yeah, okay, let’s make a high concept thriller about a secret hospital for criminals, and let’s make the main character a 65-year-old woman who listens to folk rock from 1970. It’s definitely a movie that I think owns its idiosyncrasies.

I know you said you don’t want to reveal too much about the scenes you reordered in post, but how did the story evolve once you got to the editing room?

The interesting thing about 33 days is there are no deleted scenes in our movie. There are literally none. But what’s then extraordinary is for a movie that’s all set across one night, one of the things that we found was that it was actually extraordinarily modular in that because we’re telling a bunch of different stories, there are a number of ways that you can lay out those stories in relation to each other. Now, there are always going to be crossover points that you then still have hit, and it’s incredibly complicated in order to try and weave all those stories together, and change how they play, but there were just ways that we found of making characters feel more present throughout rather than like an intense period where we see them and then we miss them for too long.

There were ways of taking the footage we had and spreading it out across the 90 minutes as effectively as we could to just make sure that we were juggling all those stories all the time. There are some ways where we had to get a little bit creative with the small amount of footage we actually were able to shoot in 33 days. So yeah, there’s not much on the cutting room floor, and it’s still a 90 minute movie.

[Cinematographer] Chung-hoon Chung always refers to the movie as a tiny blockbuster, in that it aspires to the bigness, both of cast and aesthetically, but is made on less than a tenth of the budget of most of the movies that people could go and see in the theaters the same weekend as us. That’s a little intimidating, but I just have to hope that that level of personality and a certain kind of gonzo spirit shines through and attracts people to it, and makes people come see it.

It sounds like you were hustling every day with that schedule.

Oh, fucking yeah.

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