SAN DIEGO — When Summit Entertainment announced it was developing Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner’s "Red" into a movie, fans of the comic miniseries held their breath; it would not be the first time a series became lost in translation onscreen.
"Red," which is code for Retired Extremely Dangerous, revolves around a former black-ops CIA agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) who is forced out of retirement. Along the way he reassembles his former colleagues: Joe (Morgan Freeman), Victoria (Helen Mirren), and Marvin (John Malkovich) in one last mission to clear their names.
"Red" stays true to the typical action-movie formula, but the selling point of this movie will undoubtedly be its cast. In what is simply unconventional within the action genre, "Red" contains a veritable “who’s-who” in Hollywood. With four Oscar winners (Helen Mirren, Richard Dreyfuss, Ernest Borgnine and Morgan Freeman) to its credit, the last thing one would associate them with is high power artillery and complex fight sequences. Yet, that’s what the film promises in the full trailer unveiled at the San Diego Comic Con last month.
There’s a guilty pleasure seeing Helen Mirren, whose career is most notable for playing royalty in "The Queen," gear up for a heavy shoot out. Without so much as a grimace at these explosive action scenes, Mirren clearly embraces the role. Then there is John Malkovich (as Marvin), whose films often reveal the darker and sobering side of human nature. Malkovich plays the eccentric loose-canon of the group who is going to easily steal the scene if Morgan Freeman’s knockout scenes as Joe don’t get people talking first. Then there’s Bruce Willis, who is no stranger to action films; the man is synonymous within the genre after his succession of "Die Hard" blockbusters in the â€˜80s. From what has been shown, Willis will deliver another memorable performance.
With only a couple of months left until its nationwide release, the "Red" cast (Karl Urban, Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren) as well as writer Warren Ellis showed up to discuss the film at the San Diego Comic Con with Blast.
QUESTION: Why do you think comic book characters are such an interesting basis for film and television all over the world?
HELEN MIRREN: I’m wearing a shirt in respect of Harvey Pekar who was a great graphic artist and graphic novelist. He showed me that graphic workâ€¦which in my ignorance I didn’t understand before I was exposed to his work. Now I’m more open minded, but I thought it was about comic heroes and boys kind of stuff. He revealed that a graphic novel can be as deep, complex, personal, and psychological as any other work of art; art like a novel, movie, or painting. I think it’s really exciting to see it burgeoning and expanding into a real total art form.
QUESTION: What are your thoughts on it, and the process?
BRUCE WILLIS: I think these guys wrote and illustrated a pretty well thought out story that already had drama in itâ€¦to take a 66 page (graphic series) and make it into a 90 page script is ambitiousâ€¦there were moments even for us (the cast) where we wondered "Where are we?" in the script. And Robert (Schwentke, the director) always knew the answer, knew exactly where we were, what we were doing, and what the scene was aboutâ€¦I’d be lost. But I think the story was very dramatic. (It was) easy to play, and understand if someone shoves you a little too far, you’ll shove back.
QUESTION: Did you have fun working together? And Helen was it fun getting to play an action star? And did you learn anything from Bruce?
HM: Oh my God, it was great fun, this film! I had fun and enjoyed every minute of it. I always learn from great movie stars, and nothing happens by accident which means there’s a mystery about them, and expertise. A very high level of technique, plus an incredible instinct that they allow to sort of operateâ€¦and it’s always a dream to watch that and learn. I was doing that all the time on the set.
QUESTION: This film is different in depicting older characters as heroes. Can you go over how this film explores that people of a certain age (as in this film) can still be vital and relevant?
BW: It’s been mentioned time and time again it’s about Retired Extremely Dangerous (people.) If you see the film it’s very (current) and hip. Karl Urban and I went at it, in one of the toughest fights I’ve had in my life. And contact was madeâ€¦I wasn’t going, "Ahh buddy, I’m a little too oldâ€¦we can’t fight this hard." It was deliberately crafted on mix martial arts and how violent that isâ€¦we were literally throwing each other around. The things you see (from the people) reportedly to be retired within this film are sexy, hot, romantic, and funny. And it (being retired) is only one little bit of the title.
The movie "Red" is a Summit Entertainment film and showcases Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, Karl Urban, Mary-Louise Parker, John Malkovich, Julian McMahon, Brian Cox, Richard Dreyfuss, James Remar and Ernest Borgnine. The film opens nationwide to theaters in October 15.