Mile 22 set visit

No Handcuffs on Earth Can Contain Iko Uwais 

Our arrival on set is immediately followed by a silent greeting from Berg. Without saying a word and with a knowing smile on his face, he nods and eyes the group, and then finally points to two bloggers present to follow his lead. He walks them over to where they’ll practice a stunt with Iko, who, at the start of the day, has to take out an armed group of men while handcuffed in a car. Watching him practice these stunts – defeating stuntmen and bloggers with only a car door and a seatbelt – was seeing an artist go to work.

Berg gave Uwais a lot of freedom with his fighting style in Mile 22. With his team, the actor choreographed all his fight scenes, of which there are two or three in the movie.”Every fight scene I’m handcuffed,” he says. “It’s a new experience for me as well. It’s going to be fun. It’s less free. It’s challenging for him because if I fight with two hands it’s more free. Because I’m fighting with one hand, it makes it more of a challenge.” Uwais’ longest fight in the movie is, give or take, close to three minutes long.

Like every other actor we talk to on the set, Uwais is having a new experience with Berg, who “changes everything on set.” The actor is working much faster than usual on Mile 22 as well. What takes three or four days to film in Indonesia, he says, only takes one day with Berg and his crew.

mile 22 set visit

Kevin Bacon Doesn’t Call Him “No Marks” Pete for Nothing

Peter Berg moves fast. He shot Mile 22 in 43 days in Bogotá, Colombia, and Atlanta, Georgia, which is impressive given the movie’s scale. Out of the sets I’ve visited, he’s been the most active and quickest director I’ve seen at work. He usually appears on the move and rarely behind a monitor. Most remark about how prepared he is in knowing exactly what he wants, but he also how he likes to toss the script aside, throw some curveballs at the actors, and see what happens on the day.

In Mile 22, Lauren Cohan’s (The Walking Dead) character, like the rest of the operatives on her team, is “straining at the seams” and perhaps ready to call it quits. Cohan’s character is basically the same as she is on the page, but even for a production as big as Mile 22, there’s room to explore with a director who’s not interested in actors hitting their marks, Cohan says (who also shares a nice piece of trivia about Friday Night Lights):

“When I first came onto the project he said, ‘You know, this is the way I work and I don’t like to use marks.’ I was doing a Funny or Die episode with Kevin Bacon when I got it, and he was like, ‘Pete Berg. “No Marks” Pete.’ Like everybody was sort of like, ‘You won’t get marks, you won’t get preparation.’ You do get preparation, but… the most fun part I think is Pete will be like, ‘Okay, so what do you think if we do this? Just roll! Action!’

It’s so good. I remember hearing a story from them about when they did Friday Night Lights, and they’d have the actors and the football players coming off of the bus, and coming off the bus to go to set, and there would be cameras just there in their faces to capture everything before anybody was ready to act. I think that’s the most refreshing part of it, is that it’s you know, it’s just the capturing of action and interaction. It doesn’t feel like acting.”

mile 22 set visit

Peter Berg Likes His Explosions Big and Real

As Berg has done with most of his work, he is relying primarily on practical effects. “Yeah, as you can see,” he says, after the second explosion goes off. Even with all the crew and cameras around, the set is convincing and tactile, like you’re walking around the aftermath of an ambush. There are also about nine blocks closed down to accommodate filming, so with all that space and the large surrounding buildings in Centro International, the scope of the setting feels huge.

Berg wants to make a hard-hitting and aggressive action movie, which is why it’s no surprise he was very much influenced by Iko Uwais’ most famous films:

“A lot of this was inspired when I saw The Raid. Big fan of Iko’s and what Gareth Evans did in The Raid. And, wanted to play around with Iko and his unique style of fighting. I really do think he’s heir apparent to Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee and Jet Li; he’s up there.”

Right after a round of fist bumps after explosion number two, Berg briefly speaks (more so jokes around) with the group of us. It’s five minutes of rapid-fire answers, not really an interview, but it’s a memorable five minutes and a good laugh to finish off the day. This is the conversation in a nutshell:

How did the script change when Mark got involved?

More commas.

He likes commas?

Everyone likes commas.

The director, who once considered shooting in Hong Kong, is clearly pleased with the decision to film in Bogotá, which has a unique atmosphere and energy we haven’t seen in a big summer movie yet. The city is sprawling, bright and rich with color and history, and what has to be some of the most beautiful street graffiti on the planet. So much of the city is inherently cinematic. If you’re going to have a cast of this caliber fighting to survive, Bogotá sure is one epic place to shoot a Peter Berg action movie.

***

Mile 22 opens in theaters August 3, 2018.

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