Saban Films releases Skiptrace on September 2nd, 2016 at AMC Empire 25 and on VOD.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Given that you've been working in the filmmaking industry for the past 30 years, how do you feel about all of the changes when it comes to the business models?
Renny Harlin: That comes down to why I love so much living in China. I feel like China is Hollywood in the 80's. When I first came to Hollywood, people were excited and passionate. There were lots of different companies and lots of movies with different budgets. It was a pretty exciting time when I came to Hollywood. Then, in the last 30 years, it's really drived down----DVD, cable, PPV, VOD. In the end, it's the theatrical model that has suffered more than anything. We get comic book movies, sequels, reboots and so on. Other than that, there's really low budget horror films some of which work. Some of the romantic comedies occasionally work, but that's about it. Marketing has skyrocketed, and so if you don't have 30$ million or $130 million to market your movie, you don't have a chance. You have to make tens of millions of dollars opening weekend because there are other movies opening the next week, so if you don't make your mark, you're done. For all of the success stories of films coming from film festivals and winning awards, there are hundreds of sad stories of good movies that don't have good marketing or distribution. There's a lot of tension, a lot of fear in Hollywood for new directors who want to get their voice heard.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What makes a good comedic duo? How did you know that Jackie Chan and Johnny Knoxville would have good chemistry together?
RH: Opposites attract. In this case, I chose two guys who both are great at doing stunts. Jackie Chan is good at doing madcap action. Johnny Knoxville is known for doing crazy, crazy stunts.
NYC MOVIE GURU: What do you think are the basic elements that turn an action comedy into a classic?
RH: It has to have some kind of personality. Movies that are not formulaic and made by the factory. So, when you make a movie where all of the executives and people involved are trying to maximize the results, that's when things don't go so well. But there are filmmakers who have a point of view and want to tell a story in a certain way. It also takes a good writer which is the key. Shane Black is an example of a good screenwriter. [The film] has to be funny with characters that lead you to emotional situations, so you relate to them and feel for them. The action is kind of a bonus. Shane Black wrote one of the best movies I've made, The Long Kiss Goodnight. He mixed the characters that felt real with comedic situations and cool action. It's a major movie that's fun to see. People go to the movies for a few reasons: to laugh, to cry and to feel emotionally engaged whether it's falling in love or being scared. NYC MOVIE GURU: Was there ever a moment in your career where you struggled to go with your gut instinct as a filmmaker?
RH: Yes, I absolutely agree with that statement. That's why there are also movies coming out of Hollywood like sausagees from a sausage factory. They are all the same shape. Occasionally, there's a movie like Deadpool that comes out and everybody looks at it and asks, "How did he get that made? How can you make something that's very violent and humorous with many characters that are unlikable yet so likable?" It happens very rarely. A movie like that doesn't get made because the executives say "Let's make something different!"; the executives are running scared. It's writers and directors who have to come up with these different kind of concept and get them made, but getting them made is a huge challenge. With my own experience, I was asked to direct Cliffhanger and the producers told me that they want to cast Sylvester Stallone as the lead. I said, "Absolutely not!" I wanted the film to be a realistic natural story and wanted a character who feels real and who's not a superhero. People would expect Stallone to pull out a machine gun in the film and shoot everybody. I wanted to cast somebody like Harrison Ford or Mel Gibson in that role, but the producers insisted for me to cast Sylvester Stallone. Then Sylvester and I sat down and was very skeptical doing the movie with him. I said to him, "I don't know how this is going to work because you've created this image of being unbeatable and not being able to be vulnerable ever. That's not what I look for in this movie." He replied, "Well, change the script. Do whatever you have to do. I really want to do this movie. I really want to work with you. Do whatever you have to do to make it different." Originally, the opening scene of Cliffhanger was a scene where Stallone rescues an eagle that can't fly. He takes the eagle home and brings it back to health. Sylvestor Stallone took me out of the moment when I had this idea: I told him that he'll have to try to save a girl who dies, and he said, "What do you mean the girl dies??" I said, "Yes, that's how I want to introduce your character." He looked at me and said, "Ok, if that's what you want to do, then do it!"