Despite mixed responses from critics and moviegoers, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra scored over $300 million at the global box office. As a result, it did not come as surprise when Paramount Pictures announced that a sequel was on the way. However, for G.I. Joe: Retaliation, producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura went back to the drawing board – enlisting the help of Step Up 3D director, Jon M. Chu for a half-sequel/half-reboot with a gritty military tone.

Chu made drastic cuts to the original film roster, retaining only a few key players, filling the cast with fresh faces in iconic Joe and Cobra roles. Instead of a traditional sequel (such as Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen) or reboot (like Man of Steel), Chu and Bonaventura went back to basics for Retaliation – attempting to remedy criticisms from Stephen Sommers’ original entry while at the same time bringing back the elements (and characters) that were well-recieved the first time around.

Last year, we had a chance to chat with Chu and Bonaventura during group interviews on the Retaliation set. You can read our full G.I. Joe: Retaliation set visit report as well as interviews with Dwayne Johnson (Roadblock) plus Ray Park (Snake Eyes), Byung-hun Lee (Storm Shadow), and Elodie Yung (Jinx) right now. Make sure to check back in the coming days as we post further interviews including Ray Stevenson (Firefly) and DJ Cotrona (Flint).

Check out the latest trailer for G.I. Joe: Retaliation below:

Fans initially balked at the notion that Chu, best known for directing the 3D Justin Bieber concert film Never Say Never, could lead a gritty and violent G.I. Joe adaptation. However, even though Retaliation is Chu’s first foray in directing blockbuster action, the filmmaker might be an ideal choice – since, unlike veteran directors and producers, he actually grew up watching the iconic 1980s cartoon series. As a result, Chu genuinely understands what made the characters so memorable on TV and in the comics – with a vision for how to make them equally impactful in a modern live-action film.

NOTE: The following is an abridged (and more concise) version of the interviews. You can read the entire transcript from our conversation with Chu and Bonaventura:

Jump into how you got on this gig?  Was it something you went after?

Chu: Yea, I was finishing up my other movie and I always loved action adventure. It (the genre) is something I always wanted to do.  Obviously, I played with Joe’s as a kid and loved them.  To me, it was an opportunity to do something cool with Joe.  I was talking with  Adam Goodman at the time and it happened to be the moment they were looking for a director.  He asked what I liked about it and I told him how when I was a little kid I would take them out into the backyard and play in the mud, dirt, and the water.  I loved the aesthetic, which was week long adventures in my backyard and I love the idea of making a movie like that cause I don’t think we have a lot of those movies, like fantasy style with hard action.


You aren’t known for being an action director so was selling yourself to the studio difficult?

Chu: Yea, going after any movie there is a lot of competition to try and get it.  To me, it was more about “I’ve always loved movement”.  Storytelling and movement without words.  Even when watching John Wayne on the porch or Cyd Charisse taking off her jacket and she reveals her red dress all those things communicate so much more than paragraph dialogue could, and that’s what I’m fascinated with.  Convincing them to hire me for the job I guess was just my expressing my passion for the characters and how we want to make it human while also grounding the characters.  Make them individuals because that’s what I love. My Roadblock is MY Roadblock.  He was a person with a personality and with a different uniform then everyone else who had an arm missing and that shipment in was really cool to me.

Is it difficult to step into a world that another director has defined, with some of the same cast and iconography, to define it in your way as well?

Chu: Again, Yes and No. There are some things we definitely knew which we couldn’t abandon.  My idea of what GI Joe is is a little bit different than that and how I have always fantasized about how Joe would be.  Since we are starting from a different part of the universe we were able to make it fresh.  Of course, when you put someone like Dwayne, Willis, and these guys in there, it changes up the whole vibe.  So no matter what, where we started it the tone was going to be different.  I never really thought we had to tie into anything visually from the first movie.  Not that I had anything against it, just isn’t my style.  So like the costumes and stuff we were able to refresh everything.  Also, in the tradition of GI Joe every time they release a new version the characters would get a new costume.

Bonaventura was quick to back Chu’s vision for Retaliation – asserting that, more than anything else, the filmmakers have focused on adjusting the series’ tone. Where as Sommers’ Rise of Cobra was a cartoony, CGI-heavy, adventure, Chu’s Retaliation is presented as a down and dirty military film – set in a world where the lines between science fiction and reality are blurred.

Can you talk about the difference between this and the first film?

Bonaventura: I think tone is probably the biggest difference. Paramount came to me with John as the way to do it and looking at his past work I wasn’t sure what that meant in terms of what he’s done and how that would apply to what this was. And so we really talked a great deal initially about, one, he grew up with Joe and he really understood it and so I knew immediately that he had an internal grounding in it that was really good. It wasn’t a fantasy to him. It was part of his childhood. So there was this innate understanding and we talked a lot about tone and what he liked and what he liked about Joe growing up and what he would try and apply to it today – versus what we had done originally. And so we kept talking about how do you give this thing as much intensity on a physical level and still play within the boundaries of what it is. The script we had developed prior to him joining on, which pretty much stayed the same, we kept making it better but we played a lot more Kung-Fu in this movie. The storyline between Snake and Storm is… there’s two storylines that are going on: the Joes as well as Snake and Storm and these storylines then converge.  So you spend a great deal of time in that world as you can see. It was great to get The RZA to be the Blind Master – one of our favorite casting choices. And I think we had a hell of a lot more time to prepare this movie than the last one and so the costuming and the sets have reflected the amount of time we had.


You’re walking a fine line between rebooting and sequelizing this round – how do you walk that line in terms of trying a different tone this time but you really want people to enjoy the first movie?

Bonaventura: It is tricky. I was trying to think back when we started first talking about the fact we were going to try to, I’ll say, reenergize the cast – if anybody had really tried that in a way. I think either people abandon everything and start over or hold onto everything. I couldn’t think of one and I’m sure you guys probably know better. There’s probably one you’ll figure out but I think in a way the Jonathan Pryce story grounds the movie. Because having the President of the United States, those of us that saw the first movie, know where he’s starting out in this movie – and those of you who don’t have a good surprise. That’s such a jewel, when have you ever had that opportunity to play the White House that way? So we wanted to hold on to that.  Then we also said, you can’t just have one or two of those elements you have to have a few of those elements. So we, by process of elimination or by process of feeling our way through it, came to this sort of balance. It’s interesting because, I’ve watched a lot of the footage, and it doesn’t feel like we’ve stepped away and yet we have. It’s a really interesting thing. I can’t really explain it because it was a sort of ‘feel your way through it.’ One of the things we wanted to do was we wanted to try to bring an uptick of machismo to the cast and with Rock and Bruce we sort of got a lot right there. Boom. But at the same time when you look at some of the secondary characters now, like Walt Goggins who is a great actor and he has a really fun role. Joe [Mazzello] is in there – and the RZA. I think all of those things have brought a different flavor, and at the same time, it’s Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow and we’re fighting the same battle – a new and improved Cobra.

Since you guys are going for a PG-13, can you talk about the level of violence that we might see or not see on-screen? 

Bonaventura: It’s more violent as a movie, sure. You know, like all these big PG-13 franchises, we walk the no blood, little blood, heavy impact. That’s what we did with ‘Transformers’ too. I think it’s interesting, for me having my time at Warner Bros. making all those action pictures, if it wasn’t horror it wasn’t cool. I find it fascinating that this is where we are today, and what you’re allowed to do with PG-13 now is much different than what you could do back then.

Are you going to be explaining away some of the missing characters from the first one, like Destro, since we’re not expecting him to be in this one.

Bonaventura: Don’t be so sure. You never know. I think we’ll explain a little bit and I think also the universe is so big you can’t really deal with everybody.  So, there’s definitely a move in the movie where we reduce the number of people that we are trying to deal with. But you know for instance, Bruce’s character is the original Joe, Joe Colton. So, that’s another Joe that we’ve added to the mix and it’s really kind of a fun intro you get with him in the movie. And that was one of the things with his character in particular – one of the experiences I had on the first movie was… there are those people who grew up with the 80’s Joe and there’s the people who grew up with the Joe before the 80’s – and the people before the 80’s were, ‘What the hell is this?’ a little bit. You know, they liked the movie but they were kind of like, ‘Where’s my Joe?’ Bruce is their Joe. You know, it’s a very conscious nod to my age group who grew up with it. Bruce did too. He had some funny stories about what he did to his G.I. Joe action figures – as do we all I’m sure. In a way bringing him into the movie and by bringing that sort of, I’ll call ‘down and dirty ethic’ of that simple thing called Joe. It also, again, gave it some gravity. It is kind of fun though. You see his house like, you know, he lifts up the stove and there’s all those guns underneath and basically anything you open in his house or anything you lift up, the cushions on the sofa, anything, there’s guns underneath. So, he may be semi-retired but he’s ready for action.


Are past characters obliquely mentioned? Like, ‘Scarlett and Ripcord are off on a mission.’ Or are they just never mentioned?

Bonaventura: They’re never mentioned. One of the things that, when you try to do what we’re doing – which is this weird amalgamation – when you start referring to things off-screen, particularly if you haven’t seen the first movie, it’ll start to be like, ‘What?’ You know what I mean? So we tried to keep everything right in front of you. Because it was enough of a challenge to add so many new members, that trying to deal with the old members would have really been a mind drain for us, I think. We just couldn’t. It was like, ‘this is our world.’

However, just because a number of Rise of Cobra characters do not make an appearance (or even get a passing mention) in Retaliation, that doesn’t mean Chu isn’t open to the idea of bringing certain members back in a possible G.I. Joe 3.

Were there a lot of difficult conversations about deciding who was coming back for this movie?  Some people are discovering this solely from the first movie and really like those characters…

Chu: Totally and I love those guys.  They’re story-lines I’d love to put in with many different characters.  When you focus in on the movie and the journey we were following. There was just too many characters ultimately.  Also, we wanted to discover a different part of the GI Joe world. Throughout Joe history that has always been a favorite of mine to jump around.

Would you bring any of them back?  Or do they not fit with your style?  Some of them were portrayed very campy. 

Chu: Yea, definitely there are story-lines I’d love to pursue in other ones if we get that chance.  For instance, the storyline between Scarlett and Snake Eyes is a classic and such a good story,  It wasn’t really played out in the first one and we didn’t get the opportunity in this movie but it is so beautiful and it can be really cool on-screen.  I’d love to do so in the future.

Assuming that Chu and Bonaventura succeed with Retaliation at the box office (as well as with fans), there’s a good chance that Paramount Pictures will want another sequel. If so, it’ll be especially interesting to see which characters the director and producer might elect to bring back for another tour of Cobra hunting.

You can see G.I. Joe: Retaliation for yourself on March 28th and check back soon for more interviews from the set. However, if you’re eager for more G.I. Joe Retaliation info right now, make sure to check out the G.I. Joe: Retaliation news archive – which includes the following featured articles along with much more:

G.I. Joe: Retaliation releases on March 28, 2013 in 2D and 3D theaters.

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for more on G.I. Joe: Retaliation as well as future movie, TV, and gaming news.

Next Page: The unabridged transcript of our conversation with Jon M. Chu.

Jon M. Chu

Jump into how you got on this gig?  Was it something you went after?

Chu: Yea, I was finishing up my other movie and I always loved action adventure. It (the genre) is something I always wanted to do.  Obviously, I played with Joe’s as a kid and loved them.  To me, it was an opportunity to do something cool with Joe.  I was talking with  Adam Goodman at the time and it happened to be the moment they were looking for a director.  He asked what I liked about it and I told him how when I was a little kid I would take them out into the backyard and play in the mud, dirt, and the water.  I loved the aesthetic, which was week long adventures in my backyard and I love the idea of making a movie like that cause I don’t think we have a lot of those movies, like fantasy  style with hard action.

You aren’t known for being an action director so was selling yourself to the studio difficult?

Chu: Yea, going after any movie there is a lot of competition to try and get it.  To me, it was more about “I’ve always loved movement”.  Storytelling and movement without words.  Even when watching John Wayne on the porch or Cyd Charisse taking off her jacket and she reveals her red dress all those things communicate so much more than paragraph dialogue could, and that’s what I’m fascinated with.  Convincing them to hire me for the job I guess was just my expressing my passion for the characters and how we want to make it human while also grounding the characters.  Make them individuals because that’s what I love. My Roadblock is MY Roadblock.  He was a person with a personality and with a different uniform then everyone else who had an arm missing and that shipment in was really cool to me.

So you must really love this whole silent fight sequence going on?

Chu: To me, that silent interlude is amazing and beautiful and I think the comic book really changed how we saw GI Joe.  So in a way we want to do that for this generation of kids.  I do not know how much kids today know about GI Joe, probably not as much as I did growing up.  To reestablish that and to show this isn’t just a fluffy movie, but that it actually has some meat to it.  Even though there are crazy ninjas flying off things there is a cool sort of darkness to that which is also fun.  And yes, when they do not speak at all it puts all the pressure on how do we tell the story.  You don’t have expressions, you just have their eyes so unless you go to a close up you cannot really tell how they’re feeling.  But it is how they move their body’s and how they jump and creep forward when they are threatening and all those little things that make a big the difference.  It’s a big long sequence.

Is it difficult when you’ve done dance and fight sequences?  Is your camera placement and the choreography for that completely different?

Chu: Yes and No.  Everyone who shoots dance sequences does it in a different way.  Everyone who shoots fight sequences does it in a different way.  I have been really lucky to work with the most incredible dancers.  You don’t have to fake that stuff and you see them do it.  Feeling weight and form especially with the 3D.  Putting them in a space and working the space uniquely, not just rehearsing it in a space and plopping it in.  Working it in a sort of improv style here we were finding things.  We did the same with the fight sequences.  Our guys are so good, Dwayne and all these people know how to actually fight even if they needed to be trained on the sequences.

Is it difficult to step into a world that another director has defined, with some of the same cast and iconography, to define it in your way as well?

Chu: Again, Yes and No.  They’re are some things we definitely knew which we couldn’t abandon.  My idea of what GI Joe is is a little bit different than that and how I have always fantasized about how Joe would be.  Since we are starting from a different part of the universe we were able to make it fresh.  Of course, when you put someone like Dwayne, Willis, and these guys in there, it changes up the whole vibe.  So no matter what, where we started it the tone was going to be different.  I never really thought we had to tie into anything visually from the first movie.  Not that I had anything against it, just isn’t my style.  So like the costumes and stuff we were able to refresh everything.  Also, in the tradition of GI Joe every time they release a new version the characters would get a new costume.

(Interjects):  That makes Hasbro happy!

Chu: Yea right (laughs)!  That does make Hasbro happy!  But more so, it gave us a blank slate to start which was a fun thing to do.  There was a lot of work in all of these design elements and so many versions of all these different things, finding the right delicate tone.

The first GI Joe movie the director said a lot was influenced style wise by the 1960’s James Bond movies.  What action films and filmmakers are you most inspired by for this film?

Chu: In terms of style of this movie, there is so many different GI Joe generations and people who have their own ideas on GI Joe, which is also the biggest difficulty.  You have the original Joe people which are 12 inch dolls during the Korean war and that type of thing which is very real, and then you have the cartoon generation that is all “Cobra Commander and Snake Eyes!” and the original fans are like “who the fuck are those guys?”.  Then you have the comic books which takes those characters and grounds it in a lot of different ways.  While I watched the cartoon a lot, and I thought the first movie was sort of in that realm, we are doing more like the comic book version.  We have the characters but you can see the scratches on their armor.  Like every time one character kills someone, they scratch a mark into their armor.  It has a wear and tear to it.  With the action, its fun since we have all these different worlds that we jump into.  The ninja world and the military world and each one we spend a lot of time in.  We go to Pakistan, Washington DC, the Himalayas, a valley, the desert, Japan, and all over.  With each we employed a different style which has made this process really a lot of fun.  In one scene we use GoPro’s that we can throw around and at people.  In another scene everything is smooth and slick.  It is dictated by the movement and the story we are trying to tell.

I have always loved action adventure like T2 and Indiana Jones.  To me, the martial arts stuff I love, Kung-Fu Hustle, which is one of my favorite movies.  Also, I always watch Goodfellas before I start a movie, just because when you think everything has been done you watch that again and release “shit, something ain’t good”.  It (Goodfellas) shows how normalcy in a talking scene can become this really interesting mental game-play.  That is what we try to do in this movie, because we have such visual eye candy.  Like at one point we are in a cave telling a story and two people are talking, you can actually make that really interesting by being way outside the cave and just hearing them echo through it and not see where they are or just the shadow moments.  We play a lot with that.

Since you are new to the action genre, and you have Willis in the movie who is known to be a force to reckon with directors… How was that working with him and did he come to the table saying “this is what I expect from action filmmakers”?  What was your sort of your overall experience with him?

Chu: Across the board, of course I was nervous starting the movie since I don’t know anybody and they don’t know me.  It is sort of an interesting thing to come into.  What was best was that very early on I sat down with all of them and walked them through the process and designs.  I talked them through my love for the material and some of the not ready yet pre-viz.  We had a camera and did a bit of improv stuff to play around.  With the camera I pretended to be a documentary filmmaker who was doing a GI Joe piece and would ask Dwayne “How did you recruit Lady J and when was the first time you saw her?” and then I’d bring the actress in and then I’d say “OK this is the scene you are trying to convince Roadblock that you can be a member of the Joe’s”.  She would have known already he was a legend and he would start quizzing her so he could know more about her.  She would come back at him to turn the interviewer around, going after him too.  We did this for the first few weeks and in those experiments we shot hours and hours of footage which helped us learn about each other.  We also learned a lot about how the characters worked and how they had changed over the years.  Their version of it was able to be refined and we got to integrate a lot of these aspects into the character development.  They would do things that helped inform the characters and we brought that over onto the first day of filming.  With Bruce Willis, it is Bruce Willis so when he comes in as much as you prepare for it, he comes in and does his thing which is awesome.  You cannot have a more professional guy who knows his stuff.  For his character that is exactly what you want from him.  Even when he whispers you’d think it is a little soft, yet it still works and it is awesome. Stuff I could never direct him on that he just brings to it.  Even when there was something I’d want him to try he would go for it.  That was the best thing about our cast and crew, they are all so collaborative.  Usually it would be weeks of feeling it out and testing but from the beginning everyone was on board and it was a really good experience.

Were there a lot of difficult conversations about deciding who was coming back for this movie?  Some people are discovering this solely from the first movie and really like those characters…

Chu: Totally and I love those guys.  They’re story-lines I’d love to put in with many different characters.  When you focus in on the movie and the journey we were following. There was just too many characters ultimately.  Also, we wanted to discover a different part of the GI Joe world. Throughout Joe history that has always been a favorite of mine to jump around.

Would you bring any of them back?  Or do they not fit with your style?  Some of them were portrayed very campy. 

Chu: Yea, definitely there are story-lines I’d love to pursue in other ones if we get that chance.  For instance, the storyline between Scarlet and Snake Eyes is a classic and such a good story,  It wasn’t really played out in the first one and we didn’t get the opportunity in this movie but it is so beautiful and it can be really cool on-screen.  I’d love to do so in the future.

Can you say which Joe’s are in the movie?  Are there any other Joe’s that we don’t already know are in there? 

Chu: I’m sure they’re some here and there, but I kinda like you guys discovering it.

We all thought that the bald guy in the goatee was Gung-Ho but it isn’t?

Chu: It is not him and you will have to wait and see.

Did we catch you on a coincidental day or is this GI Joe shirt you’re wearing a good luck charm?

Chu: Well I only have three shirts!  (laughs)  No I have had this for awhile and wear it very often.  It helps me focus when I get stressed.

What can you say about the soundtrack?  Have you started conversations on the tone and vibe? No Beiber singing right?

Chu: Yes we have and no Beiber isn’t singing, although RZA would be awesome. Trust me, when he stopped by we were kind of prodding him like “come on RZA…let’s go”.  Really though, we are sort of in transition.  This is like the ultimate mash-up hero before their was a mash-up hero.  Ninjas, military, crazy sci-fi stuff all mixed together.  Now what is cool is that mash-ups in a way have kind of evolved, so this stuff plays somewhat contemporary.  We want to incorporate that into the sound of the movie as well.  We don’t want just a traditional score because that plays almost like a traditional 90’s action movie.  Really I think Joe is cutting edge and more cutting edge than people see it as.  We will try and incorporate that musically and mix in some things.

Can you talk about some of the artists you are interested in and contacted?

Chu: We are in the middle of that right now, so I don’t want to jinx it.  We don’t have anything yet to announce but we are looking for some fun collaborations.  As we put the movie together the tone is continually shifting.  We are seeing that the best part of this is the discovery aspect of how it will sound.  Even from the beginning it has shifted in my brain from what it is now.

Are you thinking about putting together any character vignettes and background stories on the characters before the film releases?

Chu:  I’d love to do that but we aren’t quite there yet. But yea, it is something I’d really like to do.

Switching gears, what about PSA’s being included?  It wasn’t in the first film and a lot of people wanted them.  They’ve been hinted at a bit by Lorenzo.

Chu: Everything is a possibility right now.  We have a lot of ideas and versions of things.  There are a lot of things we want to do before it ends.  PSA’s are tough to put into the movie because it is tonally difficult to strike that balance.  I think that now that we’ve found a lot these characters there is a version of this movie that we could given the opportunity.

The PSA’s may show up online?

Chu: I don’t know about that yet…

Snake Eyes has the visor look, does he have the military goggle look too?

Chu: You’ll have to see and we did a lot of different designs of him to get us to here.  That was one of our biggest things, him and Cobra Commander.  Literally just so many things.  The blue cannot be overly saturated and you cannot go black, just such delicate stuff.  The mouth is definitely off limits but even just the tone of the visor color.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation releases on March 28, 2013 in 2D and 3D theaters.

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for more on G.I. Joe: Retaliation as well as future movie, TV, and gaming news.

Next Page: The unabridged transcript of our conversation with Lorenzo di Bonaventura.

Lorenzo di Bonaventura

Can you talk about the difference between this and the first film?

Bonaventura: I think tone is probably the biggest difference. Paramount came to me with John as the way to do it and looking at his past work I wasn’t sure what that meant in terms of what he’s done and how that would apply to what this was. And so we really talked a great deal initially about, one, he grew up with Joe and he really understood it and so I knew immediately that he had an internal grounding in it that was really good. It wasn’t a fantasy to him. It was part of his childhood. So there was this innate understanding and we talked a lot about tone and what he liked and what he liked about Joe growing up and what he would try and apply to it today – versus what we had done originally. And so we kept talking about how do you give this thing as much intensity on a physical level and still play within the boundaries of what it is. The script we had developed prior to him joining on, which pretty much stayed the same, we kept making it better but we played a lot more Kung-Fu in this movie. The storyline between Snake and Storm is… there’s two storylines that are going on: the Joes as well as Snake and Storm and these storylines then converge.  So you spend a great deal of time in that world as you can see. It was great to get The RZA to be the Blind Master – one of our favorite casting choices. And I think we had a hell of a lot more time to prepare this movie than the last one and so the costuming and the sets have reflected the amount of time we had.

The title Retaliation is that Cobra retaliating or is that the Joes?

Bonaventura: It’s actually both. You’ll see in the movie it goes back and forth between who is doing what. I don’t think you could actually pin it on one or the other. More than anything what we liked about it was the attitude about it – it said ‘there’s an aggressive movie going on.’

You’re walking a fine line between rebooting and sequelizing this round – how do you walk that line in terms of trying a different tone this time but you really want people to enjoy the first movie.

Bonaventura: It is tricky. I was trying to think back when we started first talking about the fact we were going to try to, I’ll say, reenergize the cast – if anybody had really tried that in a way. I think either people abandon everything and start over or hold onto everything. I couldn’t think of one and I’m sure you guys probably know better. There’s probably one you’ll figure out but I think in a way the Jonathan Pryce story grounds the movie. Because having the President of the United States, those of us that saw the first movie, know where he’s starting out in this movie – and those of you who don’t have a good surprise. That’s such a jewel, when have you ever had that opportunity to play the White House that way? So we wanted to hold on to that.  Then we also said, you can’t just have one or two of those elements you have to have a few of those elements. So we, by process of elimination or by process of feeling our way through it, came to this sort of balance. It’s interesting because, I’ve watched a lot of the footage, and it doesn’t feel like we’ve stepped away and yet we have. It’s a really interesting thing. I can’t really explain it because it was a sort of ‘feel your way through it.’ One of the things we wanted to do was we wanted to try to bring an uptick of machismo to the cast and with Rock and Bruce we sort of got a lot right there. Boom. But at the same time when you look at some of the secondary characters now, like Walt Goggins who is a great actor and he has a really fun role. Joe [Mazzello] is in there – and the RZA. I think all of those things have brought a different flavor, and at the same time, it’s Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow and we’re fighting the same battle – a new and improved Cobra.

Are there any Cobra characters that are returning?

Bonaventura: Well you saw Cobra Commander there. That was him.

Can you say who is playing him – because obviously Joseph Gordon-Levitt is not back?

Bonaventura: A guy names Luke Bracey is playing him. He’s an Australian actor – not very well known.

Is he going to be behind the mask the whole movie then?

Bonaventura: Yah he will be.

Is the hood in there?

Bonaventura: The hood is not in there. I’m personally opposed to the hood. I think it’s KKK and I don’t think it’s a cool thing to show kids. So, for me, I didn’t grow up with it in the same way that a lot of people did and I understand their feelings about it but, for me, I can’t put that symbolism into it.

A lot of people are doing 3D. Could you talk about the motivation behind not shooting Retaliation in 3D?

Bonaventura: First it starts with cost. It’s incredibly expensive to do right and I think that it wouldn’t surprise me, if we get lucky enough and we blow out, that the third one would be in 3D. But it’s really expensive, I mean having done it in Transformers, it is tens and tens of millions of dollars to do right and that’s a huge commitment on the studio’s part. And it is also, for the filmmaking team, it is a big hurdle and we have a very short post. So those two things sort of worked against it.

There’s a lot of practical effects in the sizzle reel footage – are you consciously stepping in the direction of practical effects?

Bonaventura: For sure, it’s part of the attitude notion I was talking about where you ground it. ‘Gravity’ is a favorite word of ours in this movie. How do we give everything a sense of gravity? So there’s a ton of special effects and ton of practical things that are done that we’re not relying on visual effects as much. There will be a couple pretty wild, I can definitely say there’s one action sequence in this that you’ve never seen anything like it and that’s going to be a mixture of practical and visual effects – and it is really nuts. So there are a few, couple, scenes that are going to rely on it but, when we do it, we’re blowing it out. Other than that we’re not going to use it that much.

Can you tell us who some of the characters are in the plane we saw in the sizzle reel?

Bonaventura: One of those characters is Grunt and… Clutch. The other guys are sort of “Andy” Joes but those two guys are there and you do meet them in the movie – and Mouse, that’s Joe Mazzello.

Are you going to be explaining away some of the missing characters from the first one, like Destro, since we’re not expecting him to be in this one.

Bonaventura: Don’t be so sure. You never know. I think we’ll explain a little bit and I think also the universe is so big you can’t really deal with everybody.  So, there’s definitely a move in the movie where we reduce the number of people that we are trying to deal with. But you know for instance, Bruce’s character is the original Joe, Joe Colton. So, that’s another Joe that we’ve added to the mix and it’s really kind of a fun intro you get with him in the movie. And that was one of the things with his character in particular – one of the experiences I had on the first movie was… there are those people who grew up with the 80’s Joe and there’s the people who grew up with the Joe before the 80’s – and the people before the 80’s were, ‘What the hell is this?’ a little bit. You know, they liked the movie but they were kind of like, ‘Where’s my Joe?’ Bruce is their Joe. You know, it’s a very conscious nod to my age group who grew up with it. Bruce did too. He had some funny stories about what he did to his G.I. Joe action figures – as do we all I’m sure. In a way bringing him into the movie and by bringing that sort of, I’ll call ‘down and dirty ethic’ of that simple thing called Joe. It also, again, gave it some gravity. It is kind of fun though. You see his house like, you know, he lifts up the stove and there’s all those guns underneath and basically anything you open in his house or anything you lift up, the cushions on the sofa, anything, there’s guns underneath. So, he may be semi-retired but he’s ready for action.

Does Joe Colton serve the same function as Dennis Quaid’s character from the first film?

Bonaventura: No he’s not. We don’t really have a character like that in the movie. I mean he plays the most senior guy and they come to him for advice and help but he’s not the commander. He’s retired actually at the beginning of the movie.

Are you holding onto any of the fantastical elements from the last film or the cartoon? Like The Pit?

Bonaventura: Well we pay homage to The Pit – would be the right way of saying it. We make a kind of fun homage towards it. It’s not the same as in the first movie. It was abandoned at the end of the first movie, if you remember. So, there’s a little bit of a funny nod to it later in the movie.

The last movie had an international theme to it – with a lot of diverse casting. Is this film sort of back to the American Special Forces team?

Bonaventura: I guess that’s probably because of Bruce and Rock but that sort of goes [Boom]. You know, at the same time Elodie Yung, who plays Jinx is the woman from District 13 Ultimatum, remember her? Pretty badass, she’s doing all that. Pretty awesome. You know, Ray Stevenson comes with all his… you know. I don’t think it was a conscious thing one way or another. I think we were just trying to find the best cast for Firefly, for Jinx, for Joe Colton. So I think there wasn’t really real purposeful intent.

In terms of the dynamic, how has it been for Channing Tatum, who was the center of the last film, to introduce guys as gigantic as Dwayne and Bruce into the mix who are such huge forces of charisma when they come into a film?

Bonaventura: I think it’s been pretty seamless actually. He’s got a lot of stuff on his plate so it sort of took a little bit of the pressure off of him and put the pressure on a few other guys’ shoulders at the same time. So I think it’s actually kind of a fun thing for him. He was like, ‘I’m a fan of Bruce Willis. This is great.’ So I think it has turned into a fun thing for him.

Did SAG pass a rule that Dwayne has to be in sequels to every other franchise? 

Bonaventura: We’ll have to ask them. Not so bad huh? If you can get ‘em, board ‘em.

This one looks like it’s heavy on the vehicles as well.

Bonaventura: The difference really between the two movies is, because we didn’t have a lot of time almost every vehicle was either very simple or it was CG. This movie we had time to sit down and say, ‘Alright, what would his fan boat look like and how many guns does it have on it? What’s its armor like?’ All the things you do when you have enough time. So I think we were able to build a lot more, I know we were able to build a lot more things, so we were probably able to get a lot more variety in the vehicle and a lot more detail in particular.

Do you guys have a few really big action set pieces or a lot of little ones throughout the movie?

Bonaventura: I think we have two really big ones and we have another couple that are pretty big and there’s a lot of little ones. There’s a lot of action in this movie – we’re not short of it. That’s for sure. I think because we swung, I’ll say more Kung Fu, it tends to be a little bit smaller but not necessarily less spectacular – because we can do some wild stuff with the people. Byung-hun is an awesome marshal artist as is Elodie as is Ray. So you’re able to do a lot more things – so we have actually more people who know what they’re doing.

How has the development of the story changed overtime or has it been pretty constant – given that you’ve been developing this for some time?

Bonaventura: It’s actually been a staggeringly constant arrow. We sat down and said, you know, ‘What was the feedback from the first movie that people liked? What were they missing’ and we sort of put all that stuff into a basket and go, ‘Alright, what can we pull out of that?’ And one of the things that we had always thought was interesting was the Snake Eyes/Storm Shadow relationship and what happened in the backstory and why are they such archenemies and is there in fact a reason? Is there betrayal? What is that? So we actually seized on that very early and we explore both the backstory and the result of the backstory in this movie a lot. The movie akin to it the most is probably Empire Strikes Back in that Luke’s off with Yoda and our guys are fighting the battle. This movie does that for quite a period of time actually. Snake Eyes/Storm Shadow’s story goes on down one track and the Joe’s story goes down another track – and I’m guessing around the end of the second act is when the two tracks hit each other.

How soon after the other film does this one take place?

Bonaventura: A couple years – because the President is still in office. We actually had to sort of think that through, ‘Let’s see, let’s see, because I think we said it was in the second term.’ So we had a lot of thinking, but roughly two years later.

How organized is their scope in this movie? Are we going to see thousands of Cobra troops like in the comics?

Bonaventura: No you won’t see thousands but you may see hundreds but you won’t see thousands. We’re not doing a battle scene in the way that… I think in a way Cobra at the end of the first movie is imprisoned, so this movie is a lot about regaining form if you would. And rebuilding. So, at the same time, they have infiltrated the White House and that gives you a certain amount of resources you never could have had in the first movie. So, it’s sort of that balance that we’re trying to play of it. He’s not at full power at the beginning of the movie if you would but, by the end of the movie, he’s pretty close to full power – short of doing that kind of gigantic scene.

Is Cobra a known organization to the public in this film?

Bonaventura: They will be.

This is a different movie for Jon [Chu] and action can be really daunting with giant sequences like this. How has he adapted to it and how are you feeling as producer?

Bonaventura: Look, it was my biggest question when I sat down with him – it’s like, there’s a certain sort of intuitive understanding of action that, if you’ve done a lot of action movies, you either build it or you have it and you recognize it in others. I think Jon had some intuition on it, he just hasn’t had a lot of opportunity on it. We surrounded him with a lot of people who have done a lot of action and he’s got great ideas about action. So he may not have had the full skillset to deal with everything – but he was given the tools to deal with it. Our second unit guy, George Ruge, is awesome. We have a great fight coordinator, we brought in Byung-hun’s double, we call him Doo, Doo-Hong Jung, he’s like Korea’s open-handed fighting champion. So there’s a lot of people on this movie, Herb Gains, our executive producer, has done a lot of action, I’ve done a lot of action. So, I think if you have the instincts, which he does, we as professionals can give him the means to achieve the end.

You’ve also got guys like Dwayne and Bruce who probably have strong ideas themselves about action.

Bonaventura: Absolutely, they know how to conduct themselves and, you know, Byung-hun has a very clear idea about what he wants to do. Jon has a strength that I haven’t seen in a lot of directors… he actually listens to everybody. He has a really uncanny ability to get everything out of everybody around him and the result is, hopefully, that the stew is a little bit better as a result of that. Steve Windon shot Fast Five – so he’s got some really great instincts about where cameras should move and that’s one of the things I liked about Fast Five was I thought the camera work had a lot of energy and intent to it – and that’s why we picked him actually was to give that sort of energy to the DP and make sure it’s not scenic.

What’s the shooting schedule like on this one and how does it compare to the first film?

Bonaventura: It’s roughly the same number of days. It might be the exact same number of days. I can’t remember the first one. I want to say the first one was 72 or 73 days and we’re 72 or 73 days

Herb Gains: With 61 days second unit.

Bonaventura: There’s a little more second unit on this.

That’s a lot of second unit.

Bonaventura: There’s an amazing amount of time-consuming action in this – especially when you start getting into Kung-Fu pieces. They take a long time, to do them right. This movie does mimic the other movie in a way that it starts in South Korea and goes into the DMZ (Korean Demilitarized Zone), it goes to Islamabad, it goes to Washington D.C., it goes to Germany, it goes to South Carolina, Tokyo, and there’s brief stop in India, very brief. So there’s a big sort of scale to it that all that stuff happens more at the end of the shoot than at the beginning. So that’s why you’re not seeing Tokyo and all that [in the footage].

Obviously merchandising is a big component of a franchise like this, how far out have you guys been planning what you want to see merchandising wise? Do you have a video game planned? What kind of talks with Hasbro have you had about new toys?

Bonaventura: You know Hasbro is really in charge of the merchandising and we participate with them and we’ve been planning it for quite a while. I think the biggest change is there are more vehicles, there are more details for them to take advantage of. There’s a very funny Nerf gun thing in the movie. It’s actually in the movie – whether Hasbro had been or not we would have done the gag. It’s a very funny gag. I think it’s a little more evolved because we were able to spend more time getting ready for it. So Hasbro is better prepared as well. The last time was such a rocket ship from – they greenlit us October 31st and we were shooting February 10th or something, February 2nd – so we never even got a rewrite on the script. So we got one draft and then we were going. So that didn’t give much preparation for them or for us.

How many days have you been on the shoot? You’re producing a number of different things, so what is your schedule like?

Bonaventura: I’m here most of the time is how I’d describe it. We just started ‘The Last Stand’ last week, so that got a little more complicated. And that director [Jee-woon Kim] is doing a great job too. He’s amazingly talented.

There’s been a lot of talk that you are discussing with Hasbro about the next Transformers film is that something that will be announced soon?

Bonaventura: I think, frankly, the amount of success they’ve had has a momentum all to itself. It wouldn’t surprise me if it got announced pretty quickly but it’s always more complicated than you think. I’m sure there will be one – there’s no doubt about it. The question is will there be two or will there be one? And who is all going to be apart of it? Those are really the questions that need to be resolved.

In this one is Firefly working directly under Cobra Commander or is he kind of on his own?

Bonaventura: No, he’s not on his own agenda. He definitely is a character who has his own ideas of what he should be doing but he’s definitely a guy working within the umbrella, I’ll say. Cobra is definitely the lead bad guy but Firefly is such a phenomenally colorful character – and actually he’s one of those characters that, when we wrote the script, he had like six lines and you went ‘this is one of the coolest characters I’ve ever read.’ It’s just a weird thing that something that didn’t have that much initially, everybody went, ‘Whoa.’ He’s got one of the greatest intros I’ve ever seen for a bad guy.

Do the Joes know about him beforehand? Like does he have a history with the Joes at all? 

Bonaventura: No, he doesn’t.

Gains: He’s got a dossier like they used to have in the comic.

Bonaventura: No, you know, we’re trying to strip it down so we don’t do a lot of that halls of power, generals sitting around, that kind of thing, we try to keep that to an absolute minimum. Because, one, I don’t think it’s all that much fun and we’ve seen it. And the other is, for the kids involved, they really don’t like that. It’s like, ‘what the hell is all that stuff?’ For me, I like pace anyhow, so we made a conscious effort to sort of strip it down and try to isolate the good Joes going after the bad guys – so you really focused on that as opposed to seeing all the machinations that are going on behind it.

Is major blood going to be in this movie?

Bonaventura: Not in this one, no. We can’t get everybody in – we try too. That’s funny. We’ll get him in the next one if we’re lucky enough to get there.

Are there rights issues with certain characters that you can’t use?

Bonaventura: I think there are some rights [issues], when you start getting into the background of Joe, some of them are partly owned by somebody else. Marvel has… they had to clean up a few things. And there’s some overlap with some other properties, strangely enough, with names. I want to say with Roadblock’s name we had to clear up some challenge by some small toy company. But, in general, they tend to be fairly simple things if you have a problem there.

Is that why Heavy Duty was in the first one – but was played in a way that was more reminiscent of the Roadblock character?

Bonaventura: I think we just liked the name Heavy Duty, frankly. It sounded kind of cool, so we weren’t trying to play him like Roadblock.

Are past characters obliquely mentioned? Like, ‘Scarlett and Ripcord are off on a mission.’ Or are they just never mentioned?

Bonaventura: They’re never mentioned. One of the things that, when you try to do what we’re doing – which is this weird amalgamation – when you start referring to things off-screen, particularly if you haven’t seen the first movie, it’ll start to be like, ‘What?’ You know what I mean? So we tried to keep everything right in front of you. Because it was enough of a challenge to add so many new members, that trying to deal with the old members would have really been a mind drain for us, I think. We just couldn’t. It was like, ‘this is our world.’

Was Larry Hama involved in the second one?

Bonaventura: Probably not as much as the first, but not for any reason other than he’s really busy and we’ve been really moving. So, it’s not for – Larry definitely likes what’s going on and we like Larry. So, he was really busy when we were first starting out on this.

Can you talk about the humor?

Bonaventura: I’m glad you guys laughed at the Jay-Z line. Please write about it if you liked it because the studio is trying to get that out of the movie because we don’t really have the money for it.

Can you talk about balancing the funnier parts and the serious parts?

Bonaventura: It’s tricky because if you make it too funny than you lose the sense of gravity. You know, it’s funny because that scene in particular, we originally had a version like he’s quoting George Patton. Which is what you expect. It was really good but it wasn’t as cool.

It’s more real, like what soldiers nowadays would actually be quoting.

Bonaventura: I like that you feel that way. That’s really cool. I always find the hard thing is, if you try to find cool, good luck. But you do stumble across it now and again. We were sitting there with this George Patton quote and I kept saying, ‘Come on, we’ve got to have something new or something cool’ and our writers came up with that quote.  They were like, ‘okay, how about this?’ And, you know the first time we saw it, we all laughed, which is what we were hoping – that there’s sort of a pop culture nature to that notion. It does not seem like it’s reaching past who people are today.

Since you guys are going for a PG-13, can you talk about the level of violence that we might see or not see on-screen? 

Bonaventura: It’s more violent as a movie, sure. You know, like all these big PG-13 franchises, we walk the no blood, little blood, heavy impact. That’s what we did with ‘Transformers’ too. I think it’s interesting, for me having my time at Warner Bros. making all those action pictures, if it wasn’t horror it wasn’t cool. I find it fascinating that this is where we are today, and what you’re allowed to do with PG-13 now is much different than what you could do back then.

Just don’t make it wet.

Bonaventura: Pretty much and not too bright red.

Are there going to be regional Joes? Like, ‘We’re in an artic mission, this is a job for Snow Job.’

Bonaventura: We tried doing that and when you put those characters in, they feel laughable. What’s the guy with the bird on his shoulder?

Shipwreck.

Bonaventura: We tried really hard.

Couldn’t get the parrot to cooperate?

Bonaventura: He was on strike. It was funny because we actually had a real debate about that but one of the storylines in this movie is about trying to keep it reduced. So there’s actually a story point to why you’re not meeting all those people.

Budget cuts for the Joes? 

Bonaventura: That would have been timely.

How many Joes are in the film total?

Bonaventura: I’ve never counted it. There’s twelve on the plane – you meet some others in a bar. You’re going to see, I guess, twenty-ish, maybe thirty – twenty to thirty, somewhere in there. But you really get to know the core group of like eight or ten.

Any chance of Public Service Announcements this time?

Bonaventura: There’s a chance.

Will Flint wear the beret?

Bonaventura: That’s interesting that you like the beret. Well, we had a lot of debates about that beret.

I know soldiers actually hate berets because they make no sense to them, they don’t block the sun…

Bonaventura: Well they keep your head warm. The ceremony you saw on-screen, I don’t know if you noticed that, there’s a real pageantry thing – dress would be beret there for everybody.

Getting back to the PSA’s. On the first film, you mentioned that you didn’t have enough time. Are the PSA’s something that you might do teaser trailers on – or would they actually be in the movie?

Bonaventura: It won’t be teaser trailers. That’s too restrictive, because if you don’t know the show that won’t mean a damn thing to you. And I think, by nature those things are very tongue-in-cheek and they would set the wrong tone, I think, for the audience who doesn’t know what that means. So, maybe down the road you’ll see something like that in the campaign, maybe on the Internet or something like that, but not as a main tool of trying to advertise. Because I think that, for people who didn’t grow up with show, it means very little and they are really corny and tongue-in-cheek and that’s what’s fun about them. So, if we didn’t do them that way, people who like them would be like, ‘Well, wait a second that’s not the thing I remember,’ and the ones who don’t, they’re going to like the ones you guys wouldn’t like – so it’s sort of a non-winnable situation.

Have you already filmed them?

Bonaventura: No we have not.

It would be fun to see Bruce Willis’ forcibly retired Joe has to go do PSA’s as part of his severance package.

Bonaventura: I like that. Well, there’s definitely an element of frustration in his character when you first meet him as a guy who is maybe not so ready to have hang up the spurs.

What is the scope of his character?

Bonaventura: I don’t want to oversell the scope of it but he plays an incredibly important role in the movie, it’s not a cameo, it’s not an everyday player. Like I said, his character plays for the people who grew up with that Joe – an incredibly important thing – and we play to that. In the plot of the story, he has a very integral moment, a couple of moments, that sort of change the course of what’s going to happen. So, probably, he plays a bigger role in the plot than maybe screen time actually.

You had mentioned that both Bruce and you have memories of the classic Joe Colton – can you elaborate on those?

Bonaventura: Well, you know, everyone has those stories about how they blew up their G.I. Joe figure. I’ve yet to talk to someone who hasn’t had one of them. The funny one, what I always find, is when you start getting into that conversation, I’ve always heard the other side which is that they’ve taken their sister’s Barbie dolls and chopped and hacked them up. Which I find really funny – there seems to be a real thing about killing the Barbies first. Bruce had the same kind of things we all did. It was you were into it and then you sort of got to the point where, as you got older, you started to grow away from it but you don’t really know you’re growing away from it – so it starts be a thing you blow up and throw off the roof with an M80 on it and see what happens, right?

How did you end up in New Orleans, was it a tax thing or was it the studio?

Bonaventura: It was a combination of things. One is the city is incredibly welcoming to film production, which makes filmmakers want to come. It’s a big deal for us because we’ve been in cities where you’re not welcome and it’s such a brutal pace at which you work (in terms of hours) that in your downtime, when you’re in a city that’s not really happy that you’re there, it’s really uncomfortable. You know, we talked about it with ‘Transformers,’ Chicago put their arms around us – we just kept shooting in there and we kept moving scenes to Chicago because they treated us so nicely, because it was a nice environment to shoot in. One is it’s a great place to be part of – and it’s a very livable city. Tax credits absolutely take part in all this, it is a huge incentive and studios are acutely aware of it.

How did you guys end up as the first film to shoot at this NASA facility?

Bonaventura: Well, actually, Herb is the one who first thought, ‘Hey, there’s that building over there. Can we get it? What’s there and can we get into it?’ On ‘Transformers’ we had worked at Cape Canaveral so, when Herb brought it up to me, I was like, ‘Well, yah. We know some people.’ And NASA is pretty conducive and Herb really should be the one who speaks to it because he really went through the process of convincing these guys to give us the facility. But, you know, the space shuttle went down and this facility needed something.

Gains: It was really timing. I was familiar with this facility from doing previous films here and was never able to get into it. But with the shuttle program winding down and their desire to bring in private enterprise it took about four or five months of sitting down at the table and figuring out a way to do it. We got it done. Both sides were motivated.

Bonaventura: And you’ll see as you walk around, Herb is going to show you guys around, the scale of this place is crazy and it has helped the movie tremendously – because we’re actually using, we’ll take you to what we call the ‘Nuclear Depot’ which is actually where they stood up the fuel tanks for the space shuttle – so it’s gigantic. And we turned it, in this movie, into something – that fuel tank became a nuclear missile.

Of course it did.

Bonaventura: You know. What else can you do with a fuel tank?

Gains: We’re basically occupying about 200,000 square feet of space here.

Are they allowing you to do a lot of exterior shots?

Bonaventura: We’re doing exteriors here. We’re doing everything here. In fact, what’s happened is, I think it was my ideas to put the DMZ over there, right? So, every time we go to ourselves and go, ‘Uh, where are we going to put dadada?’ And we go, ‘Well there’s that place in the facility down there.’ So what’s happened is, for this movie, it’s going to give this movie far more scale because we’re able to be on a production level that’s incredibly efficient. So the efficiency is actually going to show up in more visual effects, and more firepower, and more action. There’s an area that’s going to serve as the DMZ in North Korea, and we were really scratching our heads because we couldn’t find, it was the weirdest thing, it turned out to be one of the most difficult – that and the prison, right? Those two ones, we were like, ‘What the fuck are we going to do?’ And we kept looking and we kept saying, ‘That doesn’t look like it and that doesn’t look like it.’ And I just went, ‘Well, there’s that thing over there. Let’s go over there.’ And we went over there, everybody went over there, and we went, ‘Well actually this is going to kind of work.’ So, we’re doing North Korea here, we’re doing Pakistan here, we’re doing…’

Gains: We’re probably doing 65-70 percent of the entire film here.

That’s amazing.

Bonaventura: Yah. It is.

How many days have you actually been at this location then?

Gains: Of the 73 days of first unit we had approximately five weeks off site. The rest of it is here.

Bonaventura:: About 48 days. So, we’ve been here a long time.

Gains: And that’s just first unit.

Bonaventura: This is a perfect example. We have a screening room here. We didn’t have to go all the way into the screening facility. So it’s been a great advantage that we could set something up here. There’s just so much space for doing different things.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation releases on March 28, 2013 in 2D and 3D theaters.

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for more on G.I. Joe: Retaliation as well as future movie, TV, and gaming news.