When the first trailer for Red dropped last month, we were pretty excited. Academy Award-winner Helen Mirren packing automatic weapons? Count us in. Since then, we’ve been keeping our eye on all things Red.
Luckily, Red was in full force today at the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con. In addition to a Hall H presentation, there was a Red press panel featuring Helen Mirren, Bruce Willis, and Karl Urban (Star Trek), along with producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura.
Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner, the original creative team behind the graphic novel, were also on the panel. Read on to see what the stars of the film had to say about the much-anticipated new movie:
The panel started with a question for Bruce Willis. An attendee complimented Willis on his recent string of action movies (Die Hard, Surrogates) and then asked him if this stage of his career feels like the “right time” for action.
Willis replied that he always questions whether it’s the right time to do any of the films he chooses to do. One reason he was interested in Red is because he felt the film was very “ambitious” in the way it straddled multiple genres. Depending on who watches the movie, Red could be viewed as a romantic film, a comedy, or a straight-up action film.
Lorenzo di Bonaventura added onto Willis’ remarks saying that there are six or seven tones in the film and that director Robert Schwentke did a great job holding all those different tones together. Helen Mirren voiced her agreement saying “Robert was very good at maintaining the overall style of acting as well as the overall style of the movie.”
Someone asked how the actors feel about comic books becoming mainstream in Hollywood, to which Mirren replied that she thinks it’s “exciting to see it burgeoning and expanding into a real total art form.” Mirren admitted that she hadn’t thought much about comics, but was enlightened to the value of graphic novels by reading Harvey Pekar (who sadly passed away a few weeks ago.)
Willis chimed in that he thought Ellis and Hamner put together a very well thought-out story, but it was still ambitious to turn a 66-page graphic novel into a 120-page movie script. During the adaptation process, Willis said sometimes the cast would wonder “Where are we?” but that Schwentke always knew where the story was headed and how to keep the film progressing.
An audience member asked Helen Mirren if she enjoyed being in an action movie and if she learned anything from Bruce Willis. Mirren replied that she had great fun and that “You always learn from great movie stars and Bruce is a great movie star.”
The next question touched on one of the themes of the movie: old age. In a world where the biggest movie-going demographic is teen boys, what does Red say about remaining relevant in old age?
Willis said that although he’s in his 50’s, a fight that he and Karl Urban have during the film was “one of the toughest fights I’ve ever done.” He said the fight was “deliberately crafted along the lines of mixed martial arts” and that the two were “literally throwing each other around.”
Karl Urban followed up saying that getting to throw Bruce Willis across the room was the most fun he’s had in years, earning laughs from the audience.
Helen Mirren said that as an older person, you “bring a different energy to the piece. Maybe it’s the wisdom of energy and of experience.” When asked what skills she learned for the film, Helen Mirren said “shooting a gun” and that that was a fun experience for her.
Someone asked how Helen Mirren and Bruce Willis were enjoying Comic-Con since this was their first year attending the convention. Mirren said they were Comic-Con virgins, but that they’d just been “ravaged.”
She went on to say that as movie stars, they “travel in bubbles” and typically only interact with press or other entertainment professionals. She said getting a chance to be face-to-face with fans was a good experience. Mirren also said that one of the “great things about Americans is their ability to be obsessed about stuff on a grand scale.” She said it was “fantastic to get down and dirty with fans.”
Each panel participant was asked why they felt they “had” to do this movie. Karl Urban answered that it was the people involved in the film, saying “it is very rare you get to work on a project with so many extraordinary talented people.” He also said that he like how Red is a character-driven film, describing his character’s struggle with being a CIA hitman and having a family life.
Bruce Willis said that he first talked about the movie with di Bonaventura two years ago and that at the time “there was never anyway you or I could have ever imagined the richness of what a film could be when a film with a huge cast of characters is played by actors you know and love.”
Helen Mirren’s answer was much more succinct and consisted of four points. To much laughter, Mirren said “not The Queen, Bruce Willis, evening dress, machine gun.”
Warren Ellis spoke a bit about the process of adapting Red for the big screen and how amazing it was to see the names that were attached to the film. Ellis said “when things got rolling and my agent told me who was signed, I asked her if she was drunk.” Ellis rightly remarked that there has never been a comic book film with as notable a cast.
Warren Ellis expanded on the process of adapting the film saying, “right from the start I said it’s gotta be an adaptation not a translation.” He knew they would have to expand his graphic novel to fill out the length of the movie and that he wasn’t worried about “protecting his baby.” Rather, Ellis simply said “have fun” and that he “couldn’t be happier” with how the film turned out.
Someone asked Bruce Willis and Helen Mirren if they were scared of anything in their careers after so many years of acting. Willis answered with a deadpan “no” before honestly answering that he is scared everyday that “someone is going to throw me the ball and I’m going to mess that up.” Willis then clarified that it’s not fear exactly, but excitement. He enjoys the challenge of creating something out of “115 type-written pages.”
Helen Mirren interpreted the question more broadly, saying “I’m frightened all the time. Right now, I’m frightened of all the rubbish in New York. Where does it all go?”
When asked about possible sequels to Red, both in print and on the big screen, there were differing answers. Cully Hamner said that he has completed a Red prequel book with Warren’s blessing called Red Eyes Only. It examines how the main character in Red wound up retiring in first place.
As for a film sequel, di Bonaventura said that “the audience has to vote.” He is hopeful that they will have an opportunity to do more, but it all depends on how audiences respond to the film.
With that, the panel ended and the stars were swept away from the flashing bulbs of the press. The panel was low-key overall, but Willis, Urban, and Mirren’s open and honest answers were more than enough to keep me interested in Red – which hits theaters on October 15th.