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|Subject: Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett star in 'Olympus Has Fallen' (Photos) Mon Apr 01, 2013 5:46 am|| |
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Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett star in 'Olympus Has Fallen' (Photos)
In the action thriller “Olympus Has Fallen,” the White House is under attack from North Korean terrorists who have taken as hostages President Benjamin Asher (played by Aaron Eckhart), the vice president and several other high-ranking U.S. government officials. Meanwhile, a Secret Service agent named Mike Banning, who was once was part of the personal protection team for the president and his family, finds himself at the center of a heroic effort to rescue the hostages and take down the terrorists.
Other members of the “Olympus Has Fallen” cast include Oscar winner Morgan Freeman as Speaker of the House Allan Trumbull, who becomes the acting president while the president and vice president are taken hostage; Angela Bassett as Lynn Jacobs, the head of the Secret Service; Dylan McDermott as Dave Forbes, a former Secret Service agent who works in private security for the South Korean Foreign Minister; and Rick Yune as Kang Yeonsak, the leader of the North Korean terrorists who have taken over the White House. Butler, Eckhart, Freeman, Bassett, Yune, McDermott and “Olympus Has Fallen” Antoine Fuqua gathered for a press conference in Los Angeles and shared behind-the-scenes stories about making the movie.
View slideshow: "Olympus Has Fallen" photos
Aaron Eckhart, Angela Bassett, Antoine Fuqua and Gerard Butler at the Los Angeles premiere of "Olympus Has Fallen"
Aaron Eckhart, Angela Bassett, Antoine Fuqua and Gerard Butler at the Los Angeles premiere of "Olympus Has Fallen"
In today’s political climate, did you have any reservations about political leanings or is it possible to make a film like “Olympus Has Fallen” and make it apolitical?
Fuqua: The intention was to entertain and make it a fun, action thriller, but it’s always good to make an action thriller that has substance and relevance to our times. And since terrorism is a part of our lives, unfortunately, it punches you in the gut because it feels real. Our brains are wired since 9/11 that these things could happen. So yeah, that was the intention.
[Says jokingly]. You know it was obvious that Morgan Freeman’s character was the contact for the terrorists to get military weapons?
Freeman: [He says jokingly] I told you someone would figure that out.
Fuqua: In our current environment, there might be a few people who’d want to do that to our president. No, they got their weapons the way everybody else gets their weapons in this country: You can make them these days. You can make an AK-47. You can get it off the military. You can get it any way. It’s a big problem.
Butler: These guys got it from Amazon.
Gerry, do you prefer action roles with not much dialogue or roles that have more talking?
Butler: To be honest, I was very jealous the week that Morgan arrived because literally, this excitement came over the whole set. It was amazing to watch. And I really wish I’d been involved in those scenes. It would’ve been great to be there. A lot of my favorite stuff in this movie is what happens in the crisis room. It’s so incredibly gripping to experience what it is that these people do that we don’t know when this happens.
On 9/11, we’re saying, “Where’s the president? Who’s making the decisions? What’s happening?” Here, you realize — and this is why it was great to have this incredible cast — to really humanize these characters and the decisions they have to make, and that real people have to make split-second decisions that will affect the planet. And the stakes are rising, and they’re going into territory where there is no protocol for what it is they do.
So I would’ve loved to have been involved in that, but it’s fun to kick ass as well. Antoine and I really wanted to make this guy really incredible and brutal and uncompromising to give some satisfaction to our recent history that I never felt that we got. After 9/11, it was done. Everybody was gone.
Here, we have a standoff situation with an escalating international crisis, but the terrorists are there, and we need to see some payback. We do, but it’s not just the action.
It’s being able to climb into “What happens in there? What are counter-terrorism strategies, when you go in and assess the enemy’s capabilities and you get your ammo and establish outside lines of communication? Because nothing can happen in this film, I can’t work without these guys, and they can’t work without me, with the president holding out the information.” So that’s what’s great about it. It kind of brings it all together, the action and all that.
Do have a most memorable moment in “Olympus Has Falled”? What challenged you most about making this movie?
Fuqua: As a director, I have so many memorable moments. Every time I got to walk on the set and see Angela Bassett and Aaron Eckhart and Gerard. Gerard and I were together every day. In the middle of the night or 2 or 3 in the morning, he’d come up with ideas.
And Morgan Freeman would walk in the room. And Rick Yune would walk in the room. And Dylan McDermott would walk in the room. Melissa Leo would walk in the room. Ashley Judd. For me, it was every day. And then I got to shoot and blow some stuff up. There are so many memories for me.
Yune: The fight scene with Gerry. That was fun. [Butler laughs.] The Gerry that you see, this jovial, laughing guy from Scotland is a different kind of guy that I know. This guy could rule Glasgow.
Being able to work with a buddy, especially in a scene like this, you can go just a little bit harder. Just to let you know what was choreographed is not what we did. He slipped in a few hard punches on me. I returned the favor, and that’s what we got.
And Antoine was there. He’s like a maestro. He’ll set a situation up, and then he’ll kind of disappear in the background. And things will transpire. But we really got into it. And afterwards, there’d be a day or two to laugh about it. It got pretty intense.
Butler: A three-day fight sequence.
Morgan, did you have to do any additional research to play the Speaker of the House? And what was it like to work in Louisiana in the heat?
Freeman: I was raised in Mississippi, so that heat and humidity was my bread and butter. It keeps me going. I can’t stand cold weather!
I don’t think to play any role, unless you’re going to play someone who is existent, someone who is living today, that you have to do any research beyond learning your lines. So I don’t go for trying to study the Speaker of the House. I don’t think there’s any need for that.
I played a prisoner, and some of the actors in that scene were like, “We’re going to spend the night in jail.” Really? And learn what?
Dylan, when you were on “The Practice,” we saw you argue your points as a lawyer. Did that help you in your role in “Olympus Has Fallen” when it came to wrapping your head around Dave Forbes’ point of view?
McDermott: That was one of the things that drew me to this, because I played a Secret Service agent in “In the Line of Fire” years ago. So I was interested in playing the bookend to that. But the real reason I took the film was to play golf with Morgan Freeman. He kicked my ass how many times?
To answer your point, working with Antoine, whom I loved working with, we were able to fill in the script on points that weren’t there. That whole speech at the end about globalization and the buying of the presidency, that was something we worked on hard to justify why my character [did what he did], which was such a huge thing … So there was a lot of intricate points to this character that we had to fill in.
What did you do to get in shape for the role? How did you learn the fighting moves?
Butler: Thai take-out for me. Rick, you can answer this separately. Rick’s been doing this his whole life. He is the ultimate bad-ass, so I wasn’t relishing the three days fighting him.
I’ve done a lot of action movies and worked with a lot of stunt teams. We had a phenomenal stunt team in this movie, former Navy SEALs and martial-arts experts. So for me, I was constantly moving, practicing my moves and loading guns while I’m talking to people. I’d be constantly doing that just to keep up.
You just go out every second you can, and you’re pumping weights … Antoine and I were tight. We were always working and always moving forward with ideas. And then just get in there and hope you don’t make a fool out of yourself.
Yune: What you guys see is not what we do. What I’ve learned over my experience is the punches and the kicks and the explosions and the gunshots, they really don’t matter that much. It’s always about the attention placed behind it. And the reason why it’s there.
I’m sure you guys have seen all these movies that are filed with all these extemporaneous fireworks that really amount to nothing. You’ve seen guys like Bruce Lee, who does one move and it’s magic. Or a guy like Clint Eastwood, he picks up one gun and says one line, and it fills the screen. Same with Sean Connery: He’ll be in a bar fight and do a punch, and it looks magic.
That gives a lot of credit to the actors involved. Gerry was working, doing five different jobs at once. And he was also in the background. This is not something a lot of the actors normally do. But it was that commitment to the characters and making sure that you got something reality-based, which was really the focal point for Antoine.
I think it was at 2 in the morning, Gerry showed me a video of Antoine and Gerry in the ring, boxing. And they went a couple of rounds. I was like, “Man, you guys are taking it to another level!” I was like, “Morgan, I don’t really have to do this! It’s all pretend!” But we all really went for it.
Butler: We should point out that the only person who would really compete for being the biggest badass on the planet other than Rick would be Antoine. He’s seriously a Golden Gloves boxer. So to make an action movie with a guy that understands fighting and who understands character, it’s like Rick brilliantly pointed out, you can say so much with a fight scene or you can say nothing.
And we were always about this specific intention about this guy fighting, because stunt guys are incredible, but they’ll often give you stunt-y moves and you go, “No, I want this. I want a surprise. I want to be lethal or I want to punish.” It’s like Rick said, “What’s the intention behind that?”
When you get a guy like Antoine who completely understands that and yet understand character … that’s why we have such a rich movie. It’s not just an action movie. It’s a thriller but an emotional ride as well with characters that you get involved with. He does all of that.
In this situation, I think the explosions actually are important, because this takedown of the White House is one of the most unforgettable action sequences, but it has such a purpose behind it. It’s all relevant. How do they do it? What is the intelligence they use?
It’s a very powerful thing to experience because we were really focused on grounding and making it, “What would this really look like, feel like, smell like, taste like?” So you’re totally pulled into this. And in that respect, every gun shot and every explosion is mind-blowing.
Antoine, how do you think Barack Obama will react to “Olympus Has Fallen”? And do you think this movie will make the Secret Service more paranoid?
Fuqua: No, we’re in good hands, man. Hopefully the president will watch it and enjoy it as a movie. It’s always a good conversation starter.
We worked with some Secret Service guys. These guys are the best of the best. We’re in good hands. They sit around and talk about different scenarios.
We discussed the 9/11 commission. We were able to be attacked because we lacked imagination. Well, part of our government now is to sit there in think tanks about scenarios. I think this is another scenario they can look at and say, “Let’s make sure this doesn’t happen.” But we’re in good hands.
Angela, how do you feel you’ve evolved as a thespian for your role in “Olympus Has Fallen”?
Bassett: I honestly have not thought of that. I don’t know. I just hope that I continue to be passionate about the roles and to always endeavor to bring clarity and honesty to the table and different ideas.
Some of you went to Camp Pendleton for a screening of “Olympus Has Fallen.” What was the reaction that you got at Camp Pendleton?
Butler: For me, it was a huge fear when we talked about showing it to the military, especially the Marines. I thought, “How are they going to react to this?”
Because this is a day that we focus on there being a big fail. This was a fail today, which shows you that every other day that nothing goes wrong is a big success. But at the same time, we were concerned about what they would say just for those reasons. This is a shock attack. It takes us by surprise.
And at the end of the day, this is a movie about the heroism of everybody. Everybody in every different part of the movie, in our darkest hour, our nation will rise and it will unite. And that’s what they got out of it. So I stayed, even though I was more terrified than anybody.
And I thought, “If it’s not going well, I’ going to leave before it’s going to end.” But they got exactly the heart and soul and the point of the movie. They got the humor in it, because there’s a lot of funny moments in it. They got the inspiration in it. They got the intelligence of it. And they got the action of it. They took it for exactly what it is: It’s provocative entertainment.
McDermott: It was incredible being around these guys.
Butler: We screened this in Washington to political journalists, to government officials, to Secret Service, and they went crazy for it. We screened it for the literati in New York. They loved it. We’ve done word-of-mouth screenings all over the country. Really, I don’t think even they expected that response.
Everybody takes out of it what they need, if it’s just for the action or just for the patriotism or whatever it is. The themes involved are so overpowering. Man or woman. I tell you, women love this movie as much as, if not more than, men.
Freeman: Women are working in it.
Butler: And especially because of the performances of Angela and Melissa and the characters that they play: phenomenal. But also because of the values in the movie. We all, whether you’re a man or a woman, what are we attached to, your feelings your emotions, deep in your psyche about?
What does the White House mean to you? What does the fragility of our freedom mean to us? What does the president taken hostage mean to us? It means the same to a man and a woman.
So at the end, we’re all feeling it. Women are coming up to me and punching me going, “Damn, I love that movie!” Between Antoine and the rest of the cast, they kicked it out of the ballpark.
How much of the White House did you already know? Was filming a replication of the White House easy?
Fuqua: Nothing about it was easy. We worked with people who worked in the White House. Most of the people we worked with, outside of a couple of people I can’t tell you, gave us some information. They were employees of the White House, Secret Service. One gentleman worked for George Bush Sr. You can imagine that job.
So they laid out the White House for us in the basic sense. And they told me a few things that I wouldn’t put in a movie anyway. And, of course, they wouldn’t let me. I know about the basic White House, but I didn’t realize they had a lot of passageways and things like that. And one of our consultants told us stories about Jimmy Carter’s daughter. They would always have to get her because she would sneak out. That’s all true.
Bassett: We had a screening in New York. And one of the Secret Service guys stood up and said he really enjoyed the movie. He said, “You guys had the pictures in the exact right place, down to the sconces on the walls.”
Being an insider, you’re looking for that thing. You know when it’s right in your lane. He appreciated that.
Butler: If anyone needs a team to meet the White House then, look no further.
Angela and Morgan, what was it like to work with each other?
Bassett: Of course, I was incredibly intimidated by him.
Freeman: Stop saying that!
Bassett: But it didn’t last long. The moment I met him, it was just magnificent — everything that I would hope for: an opportunity to play with, to observe, to study, to steal. And he’s a pretty good singer as well.
Fuqua: Yeah, the scenes would be intense, and Mr. Freeman would sing for us.
Bassett: Serenade us.
Freeman: One of the great things about this work that we do, I’m still kind of star-struck. I see actors. I’ve seen everybody here do incredible work. And to get a chance to dance with them is a serious perk in life.
So you walk on a set and there’s Angela. Yeah, I’m there! Dylan and I had worked [together] a couple of times before. You find a good dance partner, you want to dance.
Morgan, what’s your secret to staying humble in Hollywood?
Freeman: Don’t live here! Go where people put you in your place.
Is North Korea the new “enemy” in movies, like the Soviet Union was the “enemy” in movies that were made during the Cold War?
Fuqua: No. This script was written a couple of years ago. The writers, no one could know that this could be happening in our world, as far as nuclear threats and all that. And in this film, we went out of our way to show that it was about extremist terrorists, as opposed to the country itself attacking us, which is normally the case in these sorts of terrorist attacks. We did research.
One day I was sitting in my office with Gerry, and we saw an image of North Korean boys fighting, and we froze the frame and we looked and each other and said, “That’s Kang.” Most of these young kids are brainwashed over there.
And we said, “What would happen to a kid who believes what the leaders are telling them because that’s all he knows?” There’s no Internet, no TV, no nothing. And then his mother, who gets wise to it, tries to get him out. And they have to go through barb wire and electrical fences and past the largest land mine in the world.
If his mother died trying to do that, in his young mind, because of America, because of one of our own land mines, that guy could become a terrorist. If he did like Kang did, got to South Korea, got into the government, harbored those feelings, got an opportunity. Most of these guys, the terrorists, that’s how they operate anyway. It’s always personal … So we just wanted to make it personal and not about the country.
Aaron, how do you set your portrayal of the president of the United States apart from other portrayals of the president that we’ve seen in movies?
Eckhart: I don’t know. I think it was Antoine that did it in making him physical and active and having a young family. That was really it. And then just what I thought I thought was the president, the ideal characteristics. I think it was mostly the script.
Fuqua: But also Aaron is an amazing actor. Part of what you see are strong individuals — strong, strong actors. And one of the key things for me was I didn’t want any of our characters to be victims.
They’re all tough. They’re all mentally tough. They’re all ideal leaders that we would want. Aaron, I’ve wanted to work with for years. And when I looked at the script, I thought, “It has to be Aaron.”
And I begged him to do it, by the way. I begged him to do it. And he goes, “All right.
But it was one of those things where Gerry and I and we all talked about it. We said, “We want a tough president. We want a young Kennedy. We want a guy that you believe has those values and intelligence.”
And you’d vote for this man. But also he could fight. Aaron can fight. Gerry can tell you, when he came into the ring in that boxing scene, he was more ready than all of us.
Butler: He kicked my ass!
Fuqua: But part of that is that I needed a real heavyweight. The guy’s going to be captured. And I didn’t want a victim. I wanted a fighter. That’s what we need. So that’s what he is. He’s an amazing actor.
Butler: I just want to put in as well that he brought so much to life for that president. And having worked with him, I was totally inspired by the intensity, because … what the president has to go through, that’s hard to keep up. Nobody is more committed and prepared and stays in that space to the point where I thought I was pretty committed, but I’d watch him and be like, “Damn!” I was very, very, very impressed and I think you really, really feel that in the movie: that same tenacity and commitment and brilliance that I got from Aaron.
This question is for Morgan and Aaron. Since Morgan played the acting president for much of “Olympus Has Fallen,” how did splitting that presidential role affect how you played your characters?
Freeman: I don’t see that there’s any decision you’re making regarding your role except you’re either going to play it or not. What’s in the script is in the script, and you don’t go to the director and say, “Look, I like the idea of playing this, but I want all these lines changed so that I can put more weight to the idea that I would really like to be president.” That just doesn’t work.
Eckhart: I don’t know.
Freeman: Don’t look at me. I did my part!
Eckhart: I don’t think it [the split roles] did [affect my performance]. I was just more worried about dying or something.