IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Director Dean Parisot Talks 'RED 2' and 'Bizarro Superman' movie

Tuesday, 16 July 2013 15:19 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Director Dean Parisot Talks 'RED 2' and 'Bizarro Superman' movie

It’s never easy when a director helms a sequel to a movie that he didn’t originally make, but there are certainly many examples of successful directorial transitions such as Irvin Kershner with Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, or James Cameron with Aliens. Now director Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest) can add his name to the list of filmmakers to successfully take over a franchise with his new film RED 2, which is the sequel to 2010’s RED and opens in theaters on July 19th. 

In RED 2, retired black-ops CIA agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) reunites his unlikely team of elite operatives for a global quest to track down a missing portable nuclear device. In addition to Willis, the sequel once again stars Mary Louise Parker (R.I.P.D.), John Malkovich (Warm Bodies), Brian Cox (X2), and Helen Mirren (Monsters University), as well as franchise newcomers Catherine Zeta-Jones (Broken City), Byung-hun Lee (G.I. Joe: Retaliation), Neal McDonough (Captain America: The Fist Avenger), and Anthony Hopkins (Thor). 

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with director Dean Parisot about his work on RED 2, as well as his idea for a Bizarro Superman movie based on the popular DC Comics villain. The accomplished filmmaker discussed his new film, joining the popular franchise, directing a sequel, the graphic novel the series is based on, the movie’s animated sequences, collaborating with Bruce Willis, the comedic trio of Willis, Mary Louise Parker and John Malkovich, directing Byung Hun Lee’s action scenes, the two Hannibals, and whether or not his Bizarro Superman movie could ever really get made.

Here is what he had to say:

IAR: To begin with, what was it like for you as a filmmaker to join a franchise and helm a sequel to a movie that you didn’t originally direct?

Dean Parisot: I was a little nervous about that to tell the truth because I had never done it before. But then it turns out that in some ways it makes things a little bit easier because you’ve already established these characters, and you’re not starting from scratch. You’re at least trying to hold onto the tone and the atmosphere of the original. I liked the first RED, so it made it easy. In fact, that tone is something that I like in my work. That grounded, reality based, character oriented, action-drama makes the comedy more absurd because you’re creating a real world the best as you can, and as close as you can. It gets difficult, but it actually turned out to be kind of fun. 

You mentioned watching the original film, which is based on a comic book mini-series. Did you look at the graphic novel as well as seeing the first movie?

Parisot: Yes. We had all three comic books. We had the entire collection. The comic doesn’t really have that much to do with it, but I still utilize them. That is from the comic, what you see in the opening credits. 

I’m glad you mentioned that because I really loved the opening credits and the animation transitions that you used throughout the film. Can you talk about coming up with that idea?

Parisot: It all came from the comic book really. The original had transitions and it’s part of the series, or at least they’re trying to make it that, so we were trying to come up with transitions that felt a little more modern and maybe a little splashier or bigger. We took the comics and we started with a credit sequence that was panels from the comic book. We just did it as a way to hold onto the credit sequence until we figured it out and then we realized wait, we like this! So then we did 2D animation on the comic book credit sequence and we thought, well, why don’t we just build this into the transitions as well. So we turn them back into those characters and then wished ourselves into something else, so that’s where it came from. 

In addition to being one of the most popular movie stars in the world, Bruce Willis is also a great actor! What was it like for you to direct him?

Parisot: He’s an amazing actor. I had almost done a project with Bruce before. The tone of RED comes from Bruce basically. He’s very adept at playing both sides at the same time. Being both a comic wiseass in some ways, although in this movie he’s a little more comically befuddled by romance, but also being a tough guy at the same time. He’s also a brilliant actor and if you saw Moonrise Kingdom, I mean he’s playing the complete opposite, this sort of befuddled sweet character. I was telling someone the other day that the first time I saw Bruce was on stage before he was Bruce Willis. I remember marking my program because I used to underline the actors I liked when I saw play. I underlined Bruce’s name before he was Bruce. He’s first and foremost a great actor, so he absolutely gets this tone. 

I spoke to Marie Louis Parker a few months ago at the Sonoma International Film Festival and she mentioned that what she likes about this series is the comedic trio of her, Bruce Willis, and John Malkovich. Can you talk about their dynamic and directing that comedic threesome in the film? 

Parisot: It’s fantastic because John Malkovich is basically their marriage counselor, so they’re trying to have this relationship and as we talked about it. We all realized that if you were in the CIA you probably went into the military at about eighteen. So you couldn’t really establish or try to have a serious relationship on any level. For your entire career, any kind of relationship you have compromises you. Probably these guys are pretty lonely and inept at having a relationship. Now all of a sudden at the end of his career he falls in love with this girl and it’s a disaster in many ways. All he wants to do is protect her. He’s worried all the time, and all she wants to do is become part of his life and share the adventure. It’s a great story to watch these two have their relationship become unglued because they’re now in an actual operation. That was the basis of this discussion. The three of them together are like the couple that aren’t getting along and the best friend who is now a marriage counselor even though they’re shooting and killing everybody.  

There’s a very quick scene in the film between Anthony Hopkins and Brian Cox. I couldn’t help realizing that it marked the first time that the two actors who played Hannibal Lecter in films have appeared on screen together. Was that ever mentioned on set while you were shooting?

Parisot: Oh yea, absolutely, we all talked about it. The two Hannibals! It’s like both of them meeting. That’s the only point they meet in the movie, but both Hannibals are on screen together.

Was it scripted that the characters would meet, or did you realize when you cast Anthony Hopkins in the film that since Brian Cox was returning from the original, you had to make this historic cinematic moment take place?

Parisot: It was scripted that way, but we didn’t realize it or think about it until a couple of days beforehand. We all of a sudden went, wait a second, they both played Hannibal Lecter and they’re both meeting, should we do something? But we didn’t. We held back. We restrained ourselves. 

Byung Hun Lee is also great in the movie and has some amazing stunts and fight scenes. What was it like for you directing an actor as experienced with martial arts as he is? 

Parisot: First of all he’s also an amazing actor if you’ve ever seen the movies he’s made in Korea. He’s a really talented actor. The fact that he’s this good at martial arts on top of it is astounding to me. He is so good at martial arts that we had to slow it down because we couldn’t capture it on film because he’s too fast. Even Bruce was backing away from him because he was nervous. He’s incredibly adept and he can jump. As he’s kicking he can jump up on the other foot that’s on the ground about two feet in the air. I don’t understand how. Still we’re trying figure out how. In the edit we kept stopping it to figure it out. He’s quite amazing. He did connect once with Bruce, which was painful for Bruce

The film’s screenwriters, Jon and Erich Hoeber, are currently writing RED 3. Would you be interested in returning and directing that movie as well?

Parisot: Absolutely is possible. I love this group. I really like working with them all so we’ll see how that all goes, but we all go from one movie to the next and you never know what it’s going to be.  

Finally, I heard that years ago you had developed a script for a Bizarro movie that would take place in the Superman universe. Now that Man of Steel is a big hit, do you think there will be any more movement on that project, or is it pretty much dead at this point?

Parisot: Oh God, I wish that one could be made. The studio told me that if I made that film I’d ruin the franchise. No, the problem is it eventually can’t help but mock Superman. Well, at least we couldn’t help ourselves. I don’t know how they’re ever going to say yes to it, but it was a pretty funny script. 

RED 2 opens in theaters on July 19th.

To read what Mary Louise Parker had to say about RED 2 and R.I.P.D., please click here

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