Cast: Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Kumail Nanjiani, Iko Uwais, Mira Sorvi
Director: Michael Dowse
Genre: Action, Comedy
Synopsis: Stu (Kumail Nanjiani) is a chatty, mild-mannered, risk-averse Millennial who works in a sporting goods store while moonlighting as an Uber driver trying to make enough money to finance a spin gym business to get with the girl of his dreams - a plan that's about as likely to work as it sounds. He will do anything to save his five-star driver's rating.
Vic Manning (Dave Bautista) is a middle aged, old school, alpha detective. He's divorced from his wife, married to his job, and neglectful of his parental duties to his grownup artist daughter, Nicole. Years of using his hulking body as a battering ram have taken its toll, but Vic still pushes it to the limit. Allergic to both conversation and technology, Vic is quick to get angry and quick to pull the trigger - a combo that everyone loves in a cop!
One day, leaving his eye doctor's office after having Lasik surgery, Vic receives a tip on the whereabouts of the drug dealer who murdered his partner, his Great White Whale. Unfortunately, Vic wouldn't be able to spot a whale if it was right in front of him. Even a white one. Eyes blurry and unable to drive himself, Vic calls for an Uber, and guess who answers. Can these two very different men share a Nissan Leaf while hunting drug dealers across Los Angeles? It's like The Odd Couple but with more explosions.
Release Date: July 11th, 2019
In 2016, screenwriter Tripper Clancy and his manager Jake Wagner came up with the idea of a movie about titled Stuber about an Uber driver named Stu. "I always knew based on the name that this would be an action comedy, and the day after Jake and I discussed it I basically had the entire movie in my head," recalls Clancy. "The buddy cop genre is a personal favorite," he adds.
It wasn't long after Clancy developed the script that it was acquired by Twentieth Century Fox, with Michael Dowse (What If, Goon) set to direct, Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley (Game Night, Vacation) producing and Nicholas Thomas (Let's Be Cops, Scare Tactics), Jeremiah Samuels (Sleepless, Secret in Their Eyes) and Jake Wagner (Killing Season, Evidence) attached as executive producers.
Director Dowse recalls, "After I read this script I thought it was the perfect recipe where you could do something that had a lot of heart and a lot of comedy but I thought the action sequences could work really well and all of these pieces could sort of feed into each other to make a pretty unique film."
He continues, "I think a lot of times action comedies are either very funny and maybe the action is an afterthought or it's vice-versa and the action is really well done, but the comedy maybe suffers, and I thought we could make a film that fired on both cylinders in that sense, similar to what John and Jonathan were able to accomplish on Game Night."
"This is not your typical studio action comedy. Michael Dowse is the perfect director for this because he understands the need to not only be funny, but also to develop human characters that you can relate to and in addition to that he's a super fun guy and that comes across in his movies," says executive producer Thomas.
Adds Thomas, "He's also incredibly smart and knows exactly what he needs to create his films because he comes from an editing background so he's always thinking about the cut when he's shooting," says Thomas.
Grounded in Reality
The filmmakers stressed the importance of making the film feel not only funny but also grounded in reality. Or, you know, as grounded as an edge-of-your-seat run-and-gun car chase across Los Angeles can be. It was important that the average moviegoer could relate to the characters.
Thomas explains, "We start with this cop Vic, whose partner has been killed and he's been seeking vengeance for years. And it just so happens the day he gets Lasik surgery is when he has an opportunity to catch the bad guy. So, not getting the official go ahead from his boss, he calls Uber and Stu picks him up and the fun ensues."
He adds, "There's nothing like humanizing a superhero by giving him blurred vision from Lasik eye surgery which not only causes him this hilarious disorientation but also shows his age and vulnerability which paired with his size and strength is just amazing."
Most of the film's humor stems from the differences between Vic and Stu, two guys who couldn't be more different. Stu is a sensitive beta-male who relies on his empathy and wit. He cries at movies. And at TV shows. To be honest, he cries at everything. Meanwhile, Vic is a muscle-bound alpha who thinks feelings are for women and children ages three and under. Once you're four, it's time to man up. There's also the generation gap in that Stu is a Millennial who lives on social media while Vic thinks 'Snapchat' is when a crackhead tries to bite your nose off during an interrogation.
Production designer Naaman Marshall says, "There's this generational divide. You have Vic who has no idea how to use Uber, so we get to watch him stumble with the concept of it and he jumps right into the front seat and demands to go to a certain destination. Then you have Stu trying to explain this isn't how the app works. It's how I'd imagine it would be like trying to explain Uber to my Dad.
Thomas says, "I think we've probably all experienced an Uber driver like Stu. He's got all types of treats. He's got gum, mints, little mini waters, all types of different charging devices. And he is desperately seeking five stars from you. Stu and his fivestar ratings is a whole thing."
Dowse says, "Everybody has been in an Uber and has had a gabby Uber driver, and somebody who sort of rattles on and aims to please and that embodies Stu. Stu is sort of chasing other people's dreams picking up extra Uber shifts to try and finance the spin gym dream for this girl he pines for. He's a hardworking guy. He's a very amicable guy, but he hasn't really found his passion or sort of who he is."
He adds, "We're basically taking sort of an everyday character and dropping him into this gritty L.A. underworld. I think there's a bit of wish fulfillment in terms of what a day in a life like that would be like if suddenly you took your average Uber driver and put him into a crime world and see if he would survive or how he would," adds Dowse In addition to presenting a fish out of water situation, the film plays with the topical idea of what it means to be a man in today's society.
Dowse explains, "The script deals with interesting themes of masculinity where Vic would represent those modern themes of old school sort of Marlboro Man type of masculinity and Stu represents much more of the woke new school of themes of masculinity.
And I thought it would be interesting to explore those different perceptions of masculinity." Ultimately, these two wildly different characters develop a heartfelt bro-mance and each becomes the better man in the process as they realize that the other has something surprising to teach them about life.
"Our characters change so much throughout the course of the night where Stu learns to stand up for himself. He learns to fight. Vic learns to be a little bit more sensitive to others and to be a guy who sort of listens, and a guy who realises he can do things himself. And he needs help, and he needs people around him and he needs support like we all do," adds Dowse.
To play the film's grizzled cop, the filmmakers knew they needed to find someone who not only embodied the tough guy physique and can take a punch but also someone who could follow the character's arc and show the vulnerability that Vic ultimately achieves. In other words, they needed a hard man with a soft side. They found their Vic in Dave Bautista, four-time WWE World Heavyweight Champion and two-time WWE Champion, best known to movie audiences for his role as Drax the Destroyer in Avengers: Infinity War and Guardians of the Galaxy.
"He's a physical specimen to begin with," says Dowse. Excited to introduce a different side to Bautista, Dowse explains, "In this film he looks different than he has looked in most of the other films he's done. I think he looks a little more surly, a little bit more disheveled. It's not the Dave Bautista that maybe audiences are used to and I like that transformative effect on it."
As Vic's hapless Uber driver, Stu, the filmmakers chose Kumail Nanjiani, the Pakistani-American stand-up comedian, actor, podcast host, and writer best known for his role on HBO's Silicon Valley and in 2017's sleeper comedy hit The Big Sick.
Says Dowse, "First and foremost, Kumail is a great actor, very thoughtful, very smart but also very hilarious. He's also a very talented writer as well, so he brings that all to the table, and is amazing to work with and collaborate with. He brings such tremendous skill to the comedy in this movie – his ability to improvise keeps his co-stars on their toes." Nanjiani says, "I had never gotten a chance to do an action movie before. And I love those movies and I thought the script was really interesting, and fun and funny and it was action with a lot of comedy in a very grounded real way, and I'm a big fan of Dave Bautista. So there were a lot of things about it that were exciting and new to me."
Bautista recalls, "There are a few different things that intrigued me about this project. Initially I thought the premise of the script was just really funny and working with Kumail was a huge attraction for me. I had seen some of his stuff and he's just hilarious – a real star in the making."
"What makes this film unique is the odd couple of Dave and Kumail who are pretty great together. They bounce of each other so well. There's a lot of conflict between their characters but they also find common ground," says Dowse.
Nanjiani says, "The dynamic really works because it's two completely different kinds of guys that we all know, sort of forced to spend time together. And these two guys would never, ever, ever be friends – except in the situation where they're sort of forced to work together, so you have sort of the one guy who's the new millennial man kind of guy who's very into talking about his feelings, and is ok with crying, and all that stuff. Whereas Vic, played by Bautista is sort of the traditional, stoic, or angry action hero of the past."
"There are a lot of layers to this movie, but I think at the end of the day, we're just going to make people laugh their asses off. It's just funny," says Bautista.
Supporting the two leads is a solid mix of performers. Iko Uwais, best known for his roles in "Mile 22" and "Raid," plays drug dealer Tedjo. "Tedjo runs heroin all across the West Coast and he doesn't say much, which makes him almost more scary. His demeanor paired with his fighting skills makes for a great bad guy," says Thomas.
"Tedjo is a psycho and really a bad guy and a good martial artist as well so I get to bring my knowledge of that into this character," says Uwais, who also served as the film's fight choreographer. "Working with both Dave and Kumail who are both just really nice guys feels like a new family for me," he adds.
To play Vic's neglected but loving daughter, Nicole, filmmakers brought on Natalie Morales. "Nicole is definitely her father's daughter. They bump heads a lot, and she clearly just wants her father to be present in her life, but the job has always come first. She's strong-willed and has chosen to be an artist which couldn't be farther from being in law enforcement," says Morales. "Nicole keeps trying for her dad to be a normal, cool dad but he's a little out of touch and jagged around the edges."
Betty Gilpin plays Becca, the flighty friend that Stu dreams of making his girlfriend. Thomas says, "It's one of those situations where you're seeking love from someone who's never going to give it back to you, but Betty is such a great actress it's not done in a villainous way. She is fun. She is crazy. She is different. And that kind of energy is what Stu is drawn towards."
Says Gilpin, "I was really excited to be a part of this film. I read the script and was laughing so hard. I had never quite ready anything like it. It is an action movie but it's also really about the relationships and a kind of moving and sweet hilarious adventure."
Playing Stu's boss is actor, comedian and YouTube personality Jimmy Tatro.
"I play a guy named Richie, who is the manager of his father's sporting goods store called Out of the Box. Not the nicest guy. He overcompensates for his insecurities by making a career out of belittling Stu," says Tatro. For the role of Vic's boss, Captain McHenry, the filmmakers chose Academy Award®-winner Mira Sorvino (Mighty Aphrodite, Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion) "I play Angie McHenry who's a career detective chief. She's kind of tough, but warm. She's worried about Vic because he's kind of losing it after the death of his partner," says Sorvino.
She recalls, "I knew I wanted to do this movie as soon as I read the script. I could just imagine Kumail saying all of these lines and laughing out loud because his character is just more finicky and delicate then the partner usually is in these cop-buddy movies and he has this unique perspective on things, coupled with Dave, who's a giant teddy bear, adorable, but obviously this big physical person and Kumail is the opposite in a way. And I just think it's going to be a great pairing," she says.
Karen Gillan, who's appeared with Dave Bautista in Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers: Infinity War, reunites with him as Vic's partner, agent Sara Morris.
Excited to work with Bautista again, Gillan explains, "Working with Dave is just the best. He is this giant man but a really tender, gentle teddy bear. He's totally inspiring as a performer and just draws you in with this understated kind of minimalist approach to everything. He's a great laugh!"
Setting the Tone
For the film's opening where Vic and his partner Sara are in hot pursuit of drug dealer Tedjo, the filmmakers were inspired by the tense, breathtaking action sequences that open the James Bond films.
"This film is going to be fast," says Dowse. "I never wanted to take the foot off the accelerator, so for the opening sequence I wanted something that felt fast and felt like things were coming at you. I wanted to open with a massive sequence that would sort of set the tone that this is going to be a violent, fast-moving film with consequences. And I think audiences are in for quite a ride."
He adds, "The opening was originally conceived to be something where Vic jumps into a pool from four or five stories up on the outside of the hotel, but when I saw the atrium, I thought, oh, this is interesting, there's something there."
"And I just thought it would be great to have one continuous shot of Vic making a decision to get from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible when he hears his partner is in peril. I had seen the pool in a bunch of other movies, so instead, we decided to do the shot of him jumping off the third story balcony and landing on the pavement," says Dowse.
Says Thomas, "In the first 10 minutes of this movie you will know what you're in store for. We're not going to try to pull any cheap punches with cheap jokes. We set this movie up really hard and strong with action."
Stunts Dowse was able to bring a top-notch stunt team together to help with the action. He enlisted Steve Ritzi, who previously worked with producers Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley on Game Night, as stunt coordinator, and Iko Uwais, with a background in the silat fighting style, as the film's fight choreographer.
"I definitely wanted this film to be a lot more rock 'em, sock 'em, and Steve and Iko have sort of taken that direction and run with it with a lot of our stunts. It's been fantastic to work with them both. Total team players," says Dowse, who is collaborating with Ritzi and Iko for the first time.
"Not only is Iko amazing, but his stunt team is amazing and with their help this is going to be one kickass film," adds Bautista.
With a background as a professional wrestler and as a mixed martial artist, Bautista was able to contribute his own experience into the fight sequences as well. "Working with Dave has been incredible, he really knows his stuff and he's great at making the fights look real and intense," says Uwais.
Ritzi says, "Dave has a big input on how his character should be and has a strong opinion on how that should work and what he should be doing. "We really wanted to showcase Iko's smaller, faster, crazy fighter paired against Dave's just brute force. So it was great to get Iko and Dave together and let them go back and forth to create these sequences."
"I don't think Iko is used to choreographing guys of my size, and I think what he gave me was a much more street style brute force kind of power. And not to pat myself on the back but I do have a certain range of athletic ability," deadpans Bautista.
"Dave has been great to work with. He's just such an easygoing guy, great attitude, obviously very physically capable. And he can do it all. He's such a good fighter and moves so well," says Ritzi.
"Steve is fantastic, very knowledgeable. I had a very clear vision of how I wanted the stunts to go. I didn't want them to feel too fancy. I'd rather drive three cars into something at 100 miles an hour than do something fancy with one car and he really got it," says Dowse.
Nanjiani, who sits in the driver seat of the Nissan Leaf for the majority of the film, says,"In these big car chase sequences, I'm in the car pretending to drive but the steering wheel's not hooked up and there's a pod on the roof of the car where someone else is driving. You're sort of pretending while you have cars flying at you. It was definitely a rush to feel completely safe but still get to be in the wrong lane and have cars coming at you. I'd never done that before, and it was a trip."
Explains Ritzi, "The pod car is a small roll cage built on top with a driving pod. Imagine the cockpit of a NASCAR mounted to the roof of the car. It controls all the controls in the car. It's all been wired so down in the car Kumail behind the wheel has no control of the car. He can't hit the brakes. He can't hit the gas, anything. Nothing works for him so he has to act it all out."
Recalls Nanjiani, "It feels like a roller coaster. Someone says 'Action' and then you're just sort of screaming, then you hear 'Cut!' and I'm thinking 'I have no idea what just happened. Did I even remember any of my lines?' I was screaming the whole time. It was awesome."
"Kumail has been great. He's just game for everything," says Ritzi.
Dowse says, "I haven't done a film before with a lot of car chases or sequences like this, so it's been an education for me. It's just fun to let the actors go in the environment and not have to rely on green screen or LED walls, and we can just try to put them as much as we can practically into these situations. And that's what the technology allows you to do these days, which is exciting." To make sure the action feels real to audience members. Ritzi teamed up with Special Effects Supervisor John Baker to create such rigs as the rotisserie rig. "The rotisserie rig mounts on a car like a rotisserie chicken. It's mounted on this big, steel structure that is chain driven with a big wheel. The car would mount on this bracket and then cameras are mounted to the car. So we can take and literally spin the car 360 degrees over and over as if it's rolling down a hill, which as you'll see, is one of the escapades these guys endure," says Ritzi.
"The two guys get T-Boned in the Nissan Leaf which launches them through a fence and off an embankment and the car flies off the embankment hits and rolls down this hill. So that's what we're using the rotisserie rig for, which is one of the many tricks we have up our sleeve on this one," he adds.
Production Design "Stuber" was filmed mostly in and around Atlanta, GA, which it turns out, with a little help, looks a LOT like Los Angeles during a heatwave.
"When I wrote the script in my mind it was always going to be set in LA. I live very close to Koreatown so one of the opening scenes is in Koreatown. It goes down to Long Beach, all around Compton, the Valley. It's really all over the place, " says screenwriter Tripper Clancy.
Early on, production designer Naaman Marshall teamed up with the film's director of photography Bobby Shore and director Dowse to make sure the locations not only looked like Los Angeles, but they could also serve the stunts and camera angles to give the movie the feeling Dowse was looking for.
"This film is a driving movie, so we spend a lot of time in the car, and we spend a lot of time having to sell the locations that we're in and out of. Mike really wanted the film to have a real L.A. feel to it and focus more on the San Pedro, Wilmington and Carson areas to name a few," says Marshall.
"I learned on this film that L.A. graffiti is very specific to L.A., so even my graffiti artists here in Atlanta had to reach out to people in L.A. and artists there to share info and had to actually study what that is," he adds.
Release Date: July 11th, 2019