Timur Bekmambetov Wanted Interview



Russian director Timur Bekmambetov has made quite the impact in his native country with his box office hits Night Watch and its successful sequel, films that managed to cause quite a sensation in the US. The director brings his own unique vision the studio blockbuster Wanted, which features crazy stunts, a naked Angelina Jolie and a sardonic view of contemporary humanity in this rather unique assassins group that recruits a downtrodden accountant whose father was apparently murdered by a rogue member. Bekmambetov talked exclusively to Paul Fischer.

Paul Fischer: What did the producers see in your work that made them want to go after you to direct this film?

Timur Bekmambetov: I think because I kind of get to make human stories, dramatic stories, look like big action movies.

Paul Fischer: Were you familiar with the comic books that this movie is based on?

Timur Bekmambetov: No, no, no. I never read it. The first time I saw the comic book was a week, two weeks before I read the scripts. And I didnt find how to make this movie. And then I found the comic books, and it became clear.

Paul Fischer: What was required to adapt the comic books into the screenplay? How much did they have to compress?

Timur Bekmambetov: Compress? Oh, no. You have to add. Because comic books, the onus of the comic book is much more narrow. And to make a big summer blockbuster, you have to find you have to make it more - how to say this? Broader.

Paul Fischer: How many comic books were there to begin with?

Timur Bekmambetov: No, no, its just one graphic novel but there were several chapters. But for me, it was one book. I read it once, as one piece.

Paul Fischer: So this was basically an adaptation of the first book.

Timur Bekmambetov: Yes. Yeah.

Paul Fischer: Im wondering whether or not it was important when you were casting this to have a balance of movie stars and actors, as opposed to just being movie stars. Angelina Jolie is the big movie star in this movie.

Timur Bekmambetov: I will tell you a secret. Shes a great actress. Shes very good a very, very deep, talented, ancient Greek tragedy actress. And the movie star is her status. Its not who she is.

Paul Fischer: But James McAvoy, who is also a great actor, seems to be perfectly cast as this kind of trodden down Everyman figure. Is that what your intention was, when you were trying to figure out what to do about casting Wesley?

Timur Bekmambetov: Yeah. Thats exactly right. It was very important to find two stars, like Morgan Freeman and Angelina Jolie. They represent the world of the legendary authority otherworld. Yeah? Like, the others. And then to find an actor like James McAvoy, who is a great actor, and has never been in these kinds of movies. Because then, for the audience, it will be unpredictable, and it will be easy to identify with him and to follow him. And unpredictable in the whole movies journey and adventure. You dont know how it will end. Its the only way to create the arc of his character, for the audience.

This is a movie that - if you take away all the action sequences, which well talk about in a moment - you referred to Angelina as having the qualities of a Greek tragic actress. Do you see this movie as being, in some ways as being a kind of a Greek tragedy?

Timur Bekmambetov: It is. For me, it is. 'Action movie,' its just runner. Its just a dress coat. Its just dress. Its an ancient tragedy, dressed as an action movie, because the core of the movie, its a drama. Its really deep and interesting, and touchable story. Unusual for action movies.

Paul Fischer: Theres also a degree of sexiness about this movie that you dont find a lot in American films. Was it hard for you to persuade Angelina Jolie to do that - theres a nude scene in this film, which I wasnt expecting, either. Which Im sure will please a lot of her fans.

Timur Bekmambetov: Yeah. But its very delicate, because when you have an atomic bomb in your hands, like Angelina Jolie, then you have to be very careful with that. You cannot show too much. Because - dangerous.

Paul Fischer: And also, shes a very private person. I was wondering how she felt about doing those. How much discussion you had with her about how that was going to be done?

Timur Bekmambetov: Well, she was very excited to do this. And it wasnt punishment for her. And she was good in it. So there was no dilemmas, and dramas around it, because its part of her character, and its part of the story. And she knows why, and what the purpose why she did it, or whats the purpose. Its part of the story. Its not just a scene with a naked girl.

Paul Fischer: Having said that the action sequences mask this very powerful story, the action sequences are truly extraordinary. You seem to want to go places where very few filmmakers within the action genre have gone before. Was that also your intention? To deliver action sequences that were basically very unique?

Timur Bekmambetov: I just think if you do what you like, what you want, and how you can do things, it will be unique. I never had a problem, I never had a second of thinking how to make something unique. Just, the story that we had was unique, and the characters were unique. And the action scenes became, yes, unique, because it was just part of the story. As I know, if Im trying to do something unique, then it will be like everybody. If youre doing something specific, like - whats the part of your story - then it will be unique.

Paul Fischer: How much planning went into those sequences.... for example, the major car chase sequence, which is stunning. How much planning went into all those major set pieces?

Timur Bekmambetov: Well, a lot. We had three blocks. We shot it three times. We shot it the first time, we shot a second unit shooting in Chicago. Then we shot it with the first unit, with our actors, and then we shot another second unit piece. And there was one person who was very, very important for the process. His name is Nick Roger, the stunt coordinator and second unit director for this sequence. And hes a talent. He helped a lot to make this scene unique.

Paul Fischer: Did you do a lot of storyboarding before you shot?

Timur Bekmambetov: Not only the storyboarding. We made animatics. Everything was previewed before. There was animatics, there was animations with every trick.

Paul Fischer: Was there a lot of stuff that you couldnt use because it just didnt work in the movie, and will end up on the DVD?

Timur Bekmambetov: No. Its funny - its a question of the freedom. Like, people are asking me, did you have a problem with the studio? Or, how many restrictions you had? And I feel - I didnt have any restrictions.

Paul Fischer: I presume they told you at the beginning, it was always made clear that even though this is a summer blockbuster kind of movie, that you were only going to do it as an R-rated film, right?

Timur Bekmambetov: Yeah. And - yes, of course. And do you know whats happened when - ten days ago, I dont remember how - two weeks ago, the DVD department of Universal asked me to give them deleted scenes for DVD. We didnt find any. There were no deleted scenes in the movie. Its poor DVD department. They dont have any pieces to sell. And everything that we shot, all these brave and risky and very arty moments, theyre in the movie. We did it.

Paul Fischer: Timur, you grew up in the Soviet Union.

Timur Bekmambetov: Yes.

Paul Fischer: Im just wondering, before Gorbachev, and before the final collapse of the Soviet Union, were you at all influenced by American movies? Or were you able to be influenced in any way by American popular culture?

Timur Bekmambetov: Yes, of course. Of course, we had a chance to see some American movies. Not so many, unfortunately. I remember the movie called Mackennas Gold.

Paul Fischer: With Gregory Peck.

Timur Bekmambetov: Yes! And Omar Sharif, I think.

Paul Fischer: Thats right. Thats right, yes.

Timur Bekmambetov: It was a good movie. Big. And from that time, I liked big American movies. I really liked big American movies. Movies of the big, huge empire.

Paul Fischer: How realistic was it of you as a young man growing up in the Soviet Union, to become a filmmaker?

Timur Bekmambetov: To be a filmmaker? I was an engineer. I studied as an engineer for two years, and then I saw one movie, and I decided that I didnt want to be an engineer any more. And this movie was an Italian movie called Dillinger is Dead. Marco Ferreri movie. All a movie about one person in one room for two hours. And its very powerful. And I was in Italy, now, making press. And Italian journalists asked me the question. And then I remembered this movie. It was it changed my life.

Paul Fischer: I guess it was Night Watch that really established you. What was the journey like for you to make your first major feature film? I mean, Night Watch was 2004. Its not that long ago, really. So, what was the journey for you to get that movie made, and recognized?

Timur Bekmambetov: Night Watch? Its just nothing unusual. Its an audience. I feel like the audience was waiting for that. And I had a lot of things to tell people. And I had a lot of ideas, and I made some commercials during the 90s, and I had a lot of ideas. Visual ideas, and some messages and characters, and everything. And this is inside. And it was ready to be transferred into the movie images.

Paul Fischer: Did you expect those movies to be as big in America as they were in Russia?

Timur Bekmambetov: I made a movie only for Russian people. For Soviet Union. For the people who live in the Soviet Union. Because there was very delicate and very specific cultural references in it. And I never think about, I never think, "It will be popular somewhere else." And I was surprised that people understood, and were entertained here, for example, in the United States. Because its so different.

Paul Fischer: What is the state of the Russian film industry? How tough is it to get films made over there?

Timur Bekmambetov: Now?

Paul Fischer: Yeah.

Timur Bekmambetov: When we showed the first Night Watch, there was only 5 percent movies with Russian. Now its 30 percent. Its happened during the four years, and it grows every year. I think in a few years it will be 50/50 with American movies.

Paul Fischer: Will it be important for you to try to find a way to work equally in both Russia and America?

Timur Bekmambetov: I think its fun. But theres a huge India industry, and that will be interesting for me, too, to shoot Bollywood movie, for example. Why not?

Paul Fischer: Are you contracted to do a sequel to Wanted? Do you think a sequel to Wanted is something that would interest you?

Timur Bekmambetov: We had a lot of ideas we didnt realize. But I think the audience will decide. Not me, you, or something else. The audience will decide if we will do this or not.

Paul Fischer: Would you like to do something small and intimate next?

Timur Bekmambetov: Or different. I dont know, something really different.

Paul Fischer: Youre also a writer, obviously. I mean, are you writing any material?

Timur Bekmambetov: Yeah. Yeah. I have a lot of parts in development here in Russia. I just want to hear the reaction of the audience, before I will move forward.

Paul Fischer: What other kind of films do you have a burning desire to make?

Timur Bekmambetov: You know what? Six months ago, I released in Russia, a Russian comedy. A romantic Christmas comedy.

Paul Fischer: Really?

Timur Bekmambetov: Yes. I assistant directed. Its a sequel of a famous Russian TV Christmas comedy. It was on TV for 30 years. And we made a sequel about children. And it had $55 million box office, in Russia.


Starring: James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman, Angelina Jolie, Thomas Kretschmann, Common
Director: Timbor Bekmambetov
Screenwriter: Michael Brandt, Derek Haas, Chris Morgan
Story: Michael Brandt, Derek Haas
Producer: Marc E. Platt, Jim Lemley, Jason Netter, Iain Smith
Composer: Danny Elfman
Genre: Action/Adventure

Based upon Mark Millar's explosive graphic novel series and helmed by stunning visualist director Timur Bekmambetov-creator of the most successful Russian film franchise in history, the Night Watch series-Wanted tells the tale of one apathetic nobody's transformation into an unparalleled enforcer of justice.

In 2008, the world will be introduced to a hero for a new generation: Wesley Gibson. 25-year-old Wes (James McAvoy) was the most disaffected, cube-dwelling drone the planet had ever known. His boss chewed him out hourly, his girlfriend ignored him routinely and his life plodded on interminably. Everyone was certain this disengaged slacker would amount to nothing.

There was little else for Wes to do but wile away the days and die in his slow, clock-punching rut. Until he met a woman named Fox (Angelina Jolie). After his estranged father is murdered, the deadly sexy Fox recruits Wes into the Fraternity, a secret society that trains Wes to avenge his dad's death by unlocking his dormant powers.

As she teaches him how to develop lightning-quick reflexes and phenomenal agility, Wes discovers this team lives by an ancient, unbreakable code: carry out the death orders given by fate itself. With wickedly brilliant tutors-including the Fraternity's enigmatic leader, Sloan (Morgan Freeman)-Wes grows to enjoy all the strength he ever wanted.

But, slowly, he begins to realize there is more to his dangerous associates than meets the eye. And as he wavers between newfound heroism and vengeance, Wes will come to learn what no one could ever teach him: he alone controls his destiny.