Lorenzo di Bonaventura interview – Red 0
Lorenzo di Bonaventura is the producing mastermind behind the likes of Transformers, Salt and G.I. Joe. This week sees the UK release of his latest action picture Red, in which Bruce Willis teams up with Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren to take down a government conspiracy. IGN caught up with him to discuss the project.
You’ve assembled a great ensemble cast for Red, and you’ve just shot Salt with Angelina Jolie. Are big stars still an important part of the process?
I think so. Not every movie requires it, but Red absolutely requires it. Part of the joy and the experience of watching this movie – and one of the unexpected pleasures – is that every 10 and 15 minutes or so, up until the end of the second act, you get to meet a new member of the team and it’s always someone you love or admire. It’s really fun to give the movie a juice that you couldn’t have any other way. You start with, “Oh hey, there’s Bruce Willis!” And then it’s, “Oh, there’s Mary-Louise Parker, there’s Morgan Freeman, there’s John Malkovich, there’s Helen Mirren!” You go on and on and on. It really gives the movie an energy that I think is very different from some of the other cast movies, because normally those movies introduce the cast all at the beginning. We do it all the way through.
Spending time on set with these guys must have been fun.
[laughs] It was a lot of fun! Let me tell you, I wanted to organise a dinner party every night of the shoot to pick somebody’s brain. You can say, without hyperbole, they’re some of the finest actors of our time in the movies. Everyone is acknowledged as a brilliant actor, whether it’s Brian Cox or Helen Mirren or John Malkovich or Morgan Freeman. And lest we forget Ernest Borgnine in his 206th feature film!
You have some experience with big casts…
Yeah, I was the executive responsible for putting Ocean’s Eleven together, so I have an experience similar to this, but I think the depth of this cast is extraordinary. They are such well-defined roles that it really gives them all something distinct to do and allows you to trade on the baggage they have. Helen Mirren, The Queen, is shooting a 50-calibre machine gun in this movie! That’s pretty good fun.
Is it important to find the right balance between the action, the drama and the comedy?
What was really tricky was adding comedy to the mix, because there’s a tonne in the film. It was a very tricky balance to find, because to really be satisfying as an action scene you have to play it as if there are real consequences that something truly bad could happen. When you try to play that off against comedy, sometimes they can fight each other. It was interesting to try to balance all three elements – really three genres in a way – and to combine them. It was a very tricky balance that [director] Robert Schwentke pulled off exceedingly well. There are some laugh-out-loud silly moments in the movie, and there are some very serious action beats in the movie, and there’s some very real drama in the movie. It’s not often you get to take a swing at that, and actually for it to work has been very rewarding.
The cast does provide a certain scale, you suddenly see a simple, small scene – like an introduction scene in a small bed-and-breakfast – and then Helen Mirren shows up, and it’s already a bigger scale than that scene would be with anyone else. But it does require a certain amount of action on that scale because you have to match the scale of the cast; frankly, with Bruce’s resume in action pictures, you’d be disappointed if the action beats weren’t up to snuff. A lot of that hopefully comes through the script, where you’re feeling that balance as you go along.
So would you consider making Red 2?
You never look at a project as a sequelizable project. I have once or twice and that’s usually when I’ve lost, because you start looking ahead and there’s an arrogance or some sense of self-entitlement if you start thinking that way. But if Red got a sequel, that would be great. The audience has to vote first, and if they vote in big enough numbers, Summit would want to make a sequel. What would be fun, in this case, is there’s a lot of under-utilised older actors that you could have a lot of fun with. When Borgnine comes l didn’t imagine the reaction we were going to get, but you get an audible reaction from the audience. When Richard Dreyfuss comes on the screen, you get an audible reaction. These guys are great talents who aren’t used very much. That would be a fun thing, if we got lucky enough to get to the second, to explore – how to build out the team with new members.