Gamer poster

Blake J. Harris: Throughout all your movies, it seems like there’s a lot of practical stunts. Is that because of the cost or is that because you think it feels more authentic than doing it in post?

Brian Taylor: Both. Our big influence was the Road Warrior stuff. First of all, if it feels dangerous when you’re shooting it, it’s probably going to look dangerous on film. That was a big theory that we had. And I also I still kind of have the theory that even if you’re not particularly film-savvy or tech-savvy — you don’t really know much about how movies are made — I just still feel like when you see an action scene unfold and it’s done on a computer, I think you know on some level that you’re safe. It just feels dull, you know? It’s like I’m watching the world blow up…but this was all done on a computer. Like a guy in a room with a computer. It’s just…there’s just something about that. Then you watch Fury Road or you watch some of the stuff that we’ve done, you look at it and you go: man, that looks like some camera man almost died doing that.

Blake J. Harris: [laughs] Yup.

Brian Taylor: And Chris Nolan understands that too. There’s just something visceral about it. Sure, you can do it on computer. It would probably look quote “better” unquote. You can make it framed better, you can make more dramatic moves, you can do crazier things. It’s super entertaining and people love it, but on some level it’s just kind of like: eh. Okay…

Blake J. Harris: I think that part of it is, like you said, it’s framed “better.” It’s framed perfectly. But when you actually do a stunt, or stuff like that, it’s not perfect. And it’s kind of like the rawness and the flaw that sells it to us.

Brian Taylor: We flipped a snowplow. Like a full-sized snowplow. You know how heavy those things are?

Blake J. Harris: Yeah, they are cumbersome.

Brian Taylor: And that was just a random idea: let’s have him get chased by snowplows. Why? Because it’s gonna be great! Now, if we had done that on CG, you’re looking at a snowplow flip, and my feeling, in my gut, is just like: well, why not just flip it 8 times? Why not just flip it 12 times? Why not just have it fly through the building.

Blake J. Harris: Yeah.

Brian Taylor: Why do I care that it flipped one time when you could have just flipped it eight times. Whereas when you do it in real life, the limits are not arbitrary. The limits are very real: gravity, being one of them. Right? So when you’re seeing something like that happen in real life, you’re going like: damn. Gravity is a thing!

Blake J. Harris: Haha.

Brian Taylor: It’s hard to make the argument when you movies where all of the action is done…like The Avengers. Okay, we’re going to have these guys fight 4,000 robots from space and blow up 80 buildings…they’re going to destroy a city at the end. And it’s hard to make the argument that that’s really whack and lame and tired when these movies come out and they all make a half a billion dollars. They keep making the money, they keep going out on 5,000 screens and they make the money so they’re just going to keep doing and doing it and doing it again. But I think for guys who love movies…I just think there’s just a fatigue that sets in where you’re just like…And I really believe that’s why film fans, like real film fans, went so completely fucking bananas and berserk over Fury Road. Because it was just so ballsy. You just looked at it and were like: damn! They had to go make that thing, Awesome! And to give a different kind of example, it’s why I really loved The Revenant. It’s like: they went out there. They put their balls on the line and went out there. Granted, they did a lot of work on a computer after that movie was captured—re-light and all the blah, blah, blah, blah; we know there was a lot of post on The Revenant—but they had to go to some pretty fucking crazy places and they had to freeze their asses off. You know, they were flying out to places they were only able to shoot for two hours. It took commitment to make that movie that you just don’t see in a movie that’s completely done in an office on a hard-drive with a guy drinking coffee. It’s just…I don’t know. I’m just kind of over that it. Like I’m over that CG shit. I just don’t even see them anymore.

neveldine taylor

Blake J. Harris: Well I think a pretty compelling case to me was one of the pieces we did early on — I mean, it’s hard to make a counter-argument when The Avengers is making $2 billion, but one of the biggest franchises is the Fast & Furious ones and they basically, after the fourth movie (it was not doing as well), they hired that guy Spiro [Razatos] and they want back to doing practical stunts. That’s not the only reason they turned around their fortunes, but I think that’s part of it.

Brian Taylor: It’s like I know how hard it is to make these movies. So when I see something, you know, when I see a movie where it’s obvious the filmmakers really put their balls on the line, that impresses me. I like that. I think it’s fucking awesome that Eli Roth went down to the fucking amazon and shot Green Inferno with real tribes and shit. The movie is not great, frankly, but I respect it. I respect it, man. It’s like: good for you. Because it’s easy for a guy like Eli Roth to just sit in an office somewhere with a cup of coffee and just rake in checks, but he’s just not about that. He’s like: let’s go! Let’s fucking do something! Oh, there’s another thing about Gamer that’s kind of interesting for geeks.

Blake J. Harris: Tell me.

Brian Taylor: Not comic geeks, but film geeks. Gamer was the first real movie (I only say this because Steven Soderbergh shot some kind of Dogme 95 documentary-style movie in Europe first), but it [Gamer] was the first sort of real cinematic movie shot on the RED.

Blake J. Harris: Oh really?

Brian Taylor: Yup. And that came about because I actually met Jim Jannard, the RED guy, at a tech show. We were there demoing out Sony cameras. They were bringing us in to talk to people about shooting on Sony cameras because we had shot Crank on a Sony HD camera, which was also something that nobody had done at the time. But I met Jim Jannard there and everyone was like, “all the promises they’re making with this camera can’t be real!”

Blake J. Harris: [laughs]

Brian Taylor: And I went in and looked at the footage and talked to Jim and I was just like: dude, this is the way. This is the way. We just became buddies, so we actually helped them beta test those cameras out in the early days. We went down to their warehouse, which was like half-filled with Oakley sunglasses and shoes and stuff…and they had like 15 guys with computers, just like shit sitting there on the floor, building these cameras. We were helping them beta test them. And the first 16 RED cameras that they produced; they gave Peter Jackson, I think, four of them. They gave Robert Rodriguez some of them. They gave Soderbergh some of them and they gave me and Mark two of them. That was the first 16 cameras they made. Our names are actually engraved on them.

Blake J. Harris: Wow.

Brian Taylor: And we were the first ones to shoot a movie. To the point where we had to convince the studio. Like we had no believers in that camera. They were so skeptical about shooting on that camera that they made us carry an Arri 435 film camera on the truck. Just in anticipation that this RED thing would fuck up. And I used to have these great arguments with them, where they’d say, “The whole movie is kept on a compact flash card?”

Blake J. Harris: Ha!

Brian Taylor: “That’s so fragile. This little card!” I was telling them: fragile? You guys have been shooting movies for the last 100 years on the absolute most fragile, most unpredictable, chemically-based, highly-flammable, piece of shit that you could possibly shoot on.

Blake J. Harris: Dude, that’s hilarious.

Brian Taylor: Like there’s nothing more fragile than a roll of film. Like a roll of film is so fragile that if you got a little blink of light on it, you’ve ruined your whole day. If you get a hair on it, you can over-soak that shit in chemicals and fuck it up. You have no idea what you even shot until the shit comes out of the bath. It’s incredibly fragile and every time you make a copy of it, you lose a generation.

Blake J. Harris: Yup.

Brian Taylor: I’m telling you, you can have this thing on a compact flash card that I could literally leave in my pocket and put through the wash and pull it out and stick it in and it’s still fine. I can make a perfect 1:1 copy of your movie in, like, 30 seconds. It’s the most stable format you’ve ever seen and you guys are telling me that it’s fragile. But it took some convincing. We had to shoot on that camera for 3-4 days; we shot some stuff on film too. And then we filmed out the RED and we rented out a studio in Albuquerque and had the guys from the studio come in and then we played them two versions of what we had shot. We said, “Okay, we shot one of these on film and we shot one of these on RED.” We showed them both. And they were like: wow, they both look great. I guess this RED thing really does work. And they said, “obviously the one on film looks better, but the one on RED looks really good.” And I was like, “Yeah, it’s funny you should say that because the one that you thought was on film, that was actually the RED one.” And now if you don’t want to shoot RED or ALEXA, they think you’re crazy.

Blake J. Harris: Right.

Brian Taylor: But Gamer was actually the first, that was the first movie. I mean, they sent techs out. We were calling them from set saying, “Yeah, you gotta take this ‘Run’ button and you gotta put it in a different place because we keep hitting it.” And they modified the camera based on the experience we had on that movie. We had our DP going in and rating the individual cameras; you know, he figured out all the exact ISOs of those cameras, which at that time were different…yeah, it was pretty crazy.

Blake J. Harris: That’s huge. That’s also just a great story aside from the legacy of that. And what about…you’ve described several times just appreciating the “balls” that it takes to do certain things and I see you taking risks, like that, and other stuff you’ve mentioned earlier on. Has there ever been a time you felt like that really backfired?

Brian Taylor: Well, I guess every time you come out with a movie like Crank 2 that you think is awesome and it opens in, like, 8 places, you kind of go like: fuck! [laughing] You know? That’s not the best feeling. But it just is what it is, you know. It just is what it is. You push for stuff and you don’t always hit it. That’s just the nature of it. I mean, you learn more by failing than you do by succeeding, but at the end of the day, you push for something—sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t work—and you just kind of gotta live with the results.

Blake J. Harris: I have a quote that I took from an interview yesterday that I liked and wrote down: “In order for innovation to happen, you need to have the ability to fail.” So that’s kind of spot-on…

Brian Taylor: Yeah, well we’ve got that side of it covered, man. We’ve got that on lockdown. We learned how to fail more spectacularly than anyone, I would say. So we got that going for us.

Nicolas Cage in Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance

Blake J. Harris: Let me just ask you one more question. You know that, as I mentioned earlier, Paul loves Nicolas Cage. And I’ve always been a fan. What is he like to work with? And what is he like as a human dude?

Brian Taylor: I mean, all I can tell you—which I’ve said this to many other Nic Cage fans because I’m a huge Nic Cage fan too, I always have been—as a guy and a person, he’s everything you would hope that he would be. Like if you have the idealized version of how you hope Nic would be in real life, that’s what he is…he’s a total fucking weirdo. He’s dark. He’s funny. He’s super smart. He’s just one of the most interesting human beings that I have ever met… eccentric as anybody you’ll ever meet. But, at the same time, he’s the most professional actor I’ve ever worked with. I’ve never seen anything like this guy. I mean this guy shows up at a table read off-book. Doing the movie like you wish you were rolling cameras.

Blake J. Harris: Wow.

Brian Taylor: He has other actors just in awe. Just of his technique and his work ethic and what he brings. And man…you put the camera on that guy and you just get happy. You just can’t not get happy. It’s just like every day working with that guy…when you come to set and Nic is there and he’s reading your words, it just feels like a gift from the movie gods.

Blake J. Harris: What was it like the first time you met him? As someone who grew up, like me, a fan of him?

Brian Taylor: The first time we met him, we met him in New Orleans. We were talking to him about Ghost Rider; showing him a bunch of artwork and stuff like that. And we got along really well and it was kind of late at night and he was like, “Hey, you wanna go see my grave?” [long pause] And we’re like yeah!

Blake J. Harris: Wait, what?

Brian Taylor: So he has a pyramid in a New Orleans above-ground cemetery, where he’s gonna get buried in. Like a white marble pyramid. And so the first night we met him, we drove out there and it was locked for the night. So we actually had to break in and go over the fence to see his pyramid.

Blake J. Harris: That’s amazing.

Brian Taylor: That’s the kind of shit you find yourself in when you’re with Cage. I mean the Ghost Rider stories are crazy. I mean this guy, he fitted himself…he paid for and showed up with black glass contact lenses so his eyes were completely black. And he would do this kind of Baron Samedi kind of like New Orleans voodoo face makeup. With the black eyes. And he would apply this himself, in his trailer, and come to set like that. Partly to get into it and partly just to intimidate other actors because…because they would be by the Ghost Rider, right?

Blake J. Harris: Yeah.

Brian Taylor: So he would show up like that every day and not talk to anybody. It was the greatest thing ever. He would just sort of whisper…I would come and ask him things and he would just sort of whisper to me. I remember one time, he’s just sitting there in the freezing cold, it’s late at night. He’s wearing all the stuff, he’s got the eyes…by the way, one thing we really would like to do—if we could get ahold of the footage, I would love to do it—is we want to put out a black and white edit of the Ghost Rider movie with no CG. Where the whole movie is just him in makeup, you know? Like a zombie film.

Blake J. Harris: Oh my god, oh my god, that would be so good.

Brian Taylor: Yeah, it would be like, way, way better than the real movie. I remember one time he’s just sitting there in the cold, motionless, wearing the shit and Mark goes, “Hey, those things in your eyes; do those hurt?” There’s a long pause and he goes [in a gruff, over-the-top voice]: it’s personal! Yeah, great.

Blake J. Harris: [cracks up] He really is everything I would hope.

Brian Taylor: He’s the best.

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