Interview: Writer/Producer Stacy Perskie Talks ‘Get The Gringo’ & Mel Gibson

Published 2 years ago by , Updated July 19th, 2013 at 12:38 pm,

Stacy Perskie interview Interview: Writer/Producer Stacy Perskie Talks Get The Gringo & Mel Gibson

Get The Gringo (also known as How I Spent My Summer Vacation) has just been released on DVD and Blu-Ray following a platformed release on DirecTV and VOD.

Screen Rant spoke with the film’s producer and co-writer, Stacy Perskie about working with Mel Gibson – as well as discussed what it is like to shoot a film in a real life Mexican prison.

You can also read an interview with the film’s director, Adrian Grunberg - here.

How did you first become involved in Get the Gringo?

It was one day working with Mel Gibson on Apocalypto. I went to visit him in his office in Los Angeles and he started talking to us about the idea of making a film in a Mexican prison – about an American in a Mexican prison. He wanted Adrian (Grunberg) to direct it. Then a couple of months later we were back in Mexico and he called us up and said that he wanted to talk about the project, so we started actively doing research and then we progressed into inventing and to write it.

The film has an old-fashioned feel to it, did you watch any old films to get the tone right – and what research did you do with regards to the Mexican prison?

In terms of research, we did a lot regarding Mexican prison life. We read a lot of books, newspapers, a lot of magazine articles that had been written about it in the past. We interviewed people who had been inmates in prison and also guards, people who had been part of the system in general.

In terms of the whole feel, one of the things that we liked was Yojimbo, the Kurosawa film. Like a character that came into play, different aspects of the small town. We liked the feel of that as one of many references.

The film was shot on location – did the script change at all when you got to the location?

Yeah, I would say so. Certain aspects of the place we were shooting – a real prison which wasn’t active anymore and that became our set. We did have to adapt the script in some ways to fit the location.

Writing action must be difficult – how do you come up with interesting sequences on the page – and how do they change once they start filming?

Both Adrian and I come from a moviegoer image generation, you know. Where we’ve seen many, many films in different genres. I see a lot of everything in terms of film, so I have a lot of reference points. Then Mel, you know, a lot of his body of work has been action based, so I think throwing ideas and trying to come up with things you haven’t seen before was our main drive – to try and make it as interesting as possible. It’s difficult in terms of you’re exposed to having seen so many action films in the past.

In the past you’ve worked with some of the best directors in the business. What have you picked up from them and how did you apply it to writing and producing Get the Gringo?

Being able to observe their style is a great opportunity because you’re able to pick up on different types of visions and different systems and ways of working. Some are more actor related, some are more image related, some are a combination of everything. So it’s great to see those different ways of working, ways of thinking, and to be able to create your own.

It must be difficult being a producer and a writer – as a writer you want to be creative but as a producer you must be keeping one eye on the balance sheet. How do you manage it?

We had a really great team and a lot of support, so that wasn’t that much of a challenge. Whenever something needed to be scaled down in a sense we had the support of the whole team, and both Mel and Adrian onboard with how that needed to be scaled down – if anything. Fortunately, we had the right budget for what we wanted to do, so that wasn’t a problem either. We had budgeted for the film from the beginning and knew where we were going with it in terms of structure and on everything we wanted to do with the location. I think we were well prepared for what we wanted to do.

You co-wrote the film with Adam Grunberg and Mel Gibson, did you ever feel any pressure to try and fit the film into Mel Gibson’s onscreen persona, or was he willing to let you go off on your own track?

Originally Mel hadn’t decided that he wanted to do the film, as an actor, so we were just writing the story. We did imagine Mel as the character from the get go. It wasn’t until later in the process that he wanted to play the part.

The film is based on a real-life prison, “El Pueblito.” How much of what we see in the film is real, and how much is fiction?

Everything that you see in the film is pieces of research that we picked up in the process of writing the story. In general, the backdrop of what you see in this actual prison, El Pueblito, which is the one we based it on is real. The general rules that we set up were in the prison when it was raided and shut down. The fact that you had men, women and children living together; the fact that the inmates could bring their relatives to live with them inside this prison – it’s all fact.

How do you make a criminal likeable – apart from casting Mel Gibson as the lead?

Well, as Mel put it in an interview about the film – it’s in the virtue of having the other guys be worse than him. Basically, everyone in the film is a criminal, except the kid. That makes him better than the rest in a sense. In the beginning of the film he’s out for himself, he has his own agenda; he grows a heart in terms of the kid and his mom and gets involved with them. That’s also an arc. It gives another dimension to the character.

How much was Mel’s relationship with the boy (Kevin Hernandez) on the page and how much was created on set?

I think everything was on the page; however the fact that in real life there was chemistry between the two of them, the two actors, and that worked. Kevin was such a great actor and picked up so much from Mel and that made it come to life.

Get the Gringo was your first credited writing job – is it something that you want to continue doing?

I’d love to.

What’s next for you?

Both Adrian and I have a project that we’re developing to produce, as well as we’re starting to look at some things to write ourselves. We’re reading scripts that are being sent to us, you know to possibly direct as well.

So, definitely looking to work with Adrian again?

Definitely, definitely.

Get The Gringo is now available on DVD/Blu-ray.

TAGS: get the gringo, how i spent my summer vacation

23 Comments

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  1. I know Mel has his fault’s but I have always enjoyed his films. I will be watching this. Mel is still one of the best actors out there and directors too in my opinion.

  2. I enjoyed this movie and thought it was well done. Considering how it was released (not in theaters), I am hoping that it was still lucrative for all involved. Does anyone know if it made a profit? I haven’t seen any stats on it…

    • Profits from video on demand are usually unpublished.
      The film had a small budget of 20 million so should
      make a profit after DVD and Blu-ray disc sales.

      The movie was released overseas under
      a different title and from I recall it had
      a limited selective release in the US.

  3. I have been a fan of Mel’s since Gallipoli.
    I have to get a copy of Get The Gringo.

    I hope this marks the end of the hangover from
    Mel’s drunken meltdowns which has lasted too long.

  4. It’s in my Netflix que.

  5. Really fun film. This was pure blind buy for me just for the fact that Gibson is back in this style of film. Loved it.

    Niall, thanks again for always championing all things Mel! Any news on his Viking pic?

    • I hope Mel gets to make that movie.
      We’ve lost almost a decade of his work
      and that should not have ever happened.

      • Not belittling Mel’s bad behavior, but I blame his blackballing on the Hollywood hypocrites, who are prejudicially selective in their tolerance and forgiveness of others. Case in point…the actors in the Hangover franchise were giddy about working with Mike Tyson, a convicted rapist who also bit the ear off another fighter during a boxing match, but they refused to work with Gibson, a drunken name-caller. Hope Mel eventually gets to produce his planned viking epic. I think it will be great, as were so many of his other movies!

        • A fair point!

        • The example you cite, Jeff, is a perfect highlight of Hollywood hypocrisy.
          No one condones Mel’s behavior including Mel who clearly is a man with
          a problem that could and did regrettably cause him to lose control.

          A drunken rant is never a reliable expression of true feelings and
          no man should be held to account as if they were sober reflections.

          • It has become apparent through the years that, with all his charm and talent, Mel also suffers from alcohol and mental health issues, which have seriously adversely affected his life. I believe he himself would readily admit this. It would be nice if his peers in the industry could appreciate and understand this and encourage him along, through his now repeated fallings, to abide by his faith and endeavor to better himself, rather than shun him, out of their own arrogance, elitism, and hypocrisy. Hollywood is, however, largely dog eat dog, and in Mel, they smell blood. Still, I hope he triumphs resoundingly.

            • I think RDJ said it best:

              • Amen to that, Jason. I remember that and I’m moved every time I see it.
                Mel not only cast Robert in that film he insured him with his own money
                because the studio like all other studios refused to insure him period.
                How Mel helped his friend at that time shows who the man he is.

                • It’s unfortunate that we live in a society that clamors for the embarrassment of those who have done well in life. Each of us has our demons and regrets. We’ve also had the overwhelming good fortune to not have them aired so publicly. What good is forgiveness if we only want it for ourselves?

                  • Well said, Jason.

                  • Too true. Jim Caviezel said last year —
                    ‘Mel Gibson, he’s a horrible sinner, isn’t he?’
                    ‘Mel Gibson doesn’t need your judgment,
                    he needs your prayers.’

                    • And lest others assume Caviezel conveyed any arrogance in that comment, being both a devout Christian and Mel’s friend, I am sure he spoke with both humility and love in his heart.

                    • Indeed Jeff, Jim did
                      speak with love of Mel.

                      Jim was responding to the intense
                      criticism of Mel at the time and was
                      speaking to a congregation in a church
                      in the context of how we are all sinners.

    • @ SK47

      Glad you enjoyed it! As for the Viking film – I believe that it’s still in the writing stage.

      When I know more – you’ll know more!

      Niall

  6. Would be nice if he were added to Expendables 3 as well as Steven Seagal.

  7. Great interview! I rented “Get the Gringo” on FIOS last week and really enjoyed the gritty authenticity of the location and the fact that much of the dialogue took place in the native dialect. Despite the lack of a theatrical release in the US, I hightly suspect this film will become a cult classic much in the way “Apocalypto” did for Mel Gibson.

  8. Interesting to read more about the background on Get the Gringo. I’ve heard folks compare this to a Mexican Guy Ritchie film with elements of classic prison break films like Midnight Express mixed in. Either way, it’s a truly engaging movie that merits a larger audience considering the on-screen chemistry between Kevin Hernandez and Mel Gibson.

  9. I loved this movie, plus the realistic side it’s so On!!! I think Mel Gibson made a Great work here… We have to remember Personal and Professional life should never be mixed, and i think you should never ever judge people and more importantly never judge a movie by the personal life of an actor…. They do not go together… He did great here and i would love to see him doing better on the big screen… A big applause to Mel Gibson’s Work!

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