Director Chris Fisher talks about Street Kings 2: Motor City, working in Detroit, his new projects and much more
Director Chris Fisher is one of those directors that has found a niche directing in both film and television. He has directed features such as Dirty and S. Darko along with TV episodes for such programs as Warehouse 13, Eureka, and Hawaii Five-0. He directed all those episodes between 2009's S. Darko and his latest movie, Street Kings 2: Motor City, which hits the shelves on Blu-ray and DVD on April 19. Much like S. Darko, Street Kings 2: Motor City is a movie that is much better than the "straight-to-DVD" tag often indicates, with a stellar cast (Ray Liotta and Shawn Hatosy) and a solid story. I had the chance to speak with Chris Fisher over the phone recently about his new movie, and here's what he had to say.
I was curious if Fox came to you for this project after your work on S. Darko?
Chris Fisher: Yeah, shocking but true. It's actually the same producer too, Ash R. Shah, from S. Darko and another movie I did called Dirty. It was pretty much the same team that did S. Darko. We learned some things from S. Darko and we actually did a totally different approach to this movie.
This has the same kind of gritty feel from the original movie. Was that one of the things that you wanted to keep from the original Street Kings?
Chris Fisher: This is the second sequel I made and we really wanted it to live on its own, and not try too hard to do certain things again. I think the grit from this movie comes not from wanting it to be like the original Street Kings, but from the city of Detroit. Our location choice was a game-changer in a really positive way. The action sequences, where we have wide-open streets and blown-out buildings and abandoned apartment complexes, the corruption of our characters, really played well into what's happening in Detroit as a whole.
So the script wasn't originally set in Detroit? Was that something that just evolved throughout the process?
Chris Fisher: It happened very quickly in the process. The script was set in Los Angeles, and, what happened before I got involved, was they started looking elsewhere to shoot it. Of course, the original impetus was because of the tax credit as a way to save money, but once we got to Detroit, it was so perfect for the movie. The writers did a quick Detroit rewrite and we had a lot of freedom to adapt the script on set. The writers were on set for most of the production. As we were location scouting and looking for great spots, the script kept adapting. I think, more than anything else, Detroit is one of the main characters.
It's kind of amazing how Detroit has become this mecca of production lately. I was there on a set visit last year and there were about four or five other movies shooting in or around Detroit at the same time.
Chris Fisher: Yeah, it has a lot of things going for it. Obviously, the architecture is world-class, the tax credit is huge and you have a lot of really talented people. Unfortunately, the state is losing its tax credit, I think. There are a lot of other states that have tax credits, but Detroit has so many other things going for it. It attracts a lot of people.
Of all the cities in tax credit states, Detroit is just so perfectly urban. You can do so much with it. It's interesting to see how Detroit is shown in all these other movies.
Chris Fisher: Yeah. I think within the next couple of years, you're going to see a lot of it. I really feel that, if we did anything successful with the movie, one of the things would be showing the city in a unique way.
I was actually a really big fan of the score also. It had a very unique feel to it. Can you talk about the specific kinds of things you wanted from the score?
Chris Fisher: Yeah. What generally happens is I find a temp score that I really love and I'll bring in a composer kind of late in the process. I wanted to try something different on this movie. I wanted to have a really unique soundscape. I found a really young composer who did one little movie. He's a recent graduate of USC named Jon Sadoff. What I did with him is we used his little temp score in the director's cut, but only when absolutely necessary. I inspired him to do something really unique and completely out of the box. I'm glad that you mentioned that because I think he did a fantastic job. The score really sounds like nothing else I've ever heard.
Usually a score doesn't really grab me, especially right away like that. From the first frame it got me. I looked him up right away and was surprised I didn't know who he was.
Chris Fisher: Yeah. He has done a couple of movies since this. Another thing is our music supervisor, this woman named Tia Fletcher, is this kind of burgeoning Detroit rock star. She found all these bands from Detroit, using all her hook-ups. I mean, the music budget for this movie was under $500,000, and she found these incredible, rare, Detroit bands, that really gave the movie this old-school Detroit soundtrack. She just hit the street, knocked on doors, found bands that have never done a movie before, and worked out deals with all these people. I think it's a combination of that and the score that give this movie a really cool soundtrack.
Nice. That's a really cool story.
Chris Fisher: Yeah. I found her on one of my first nights in Detroit. I was just trying to get a feel for the city and trying to get a sense of what the movie should sound like. I went into this old club and she was playing on bass. I went up and started talking to her and ended up hiring her. It's the first movie she ever worked on.
Chris Fisher: Ray is really what attracted me to the movie. I read the script, I really liked it, and I found out Ray was doing it, and I was on my knees begging to do it. He's one of the few actor's I've just been dying to work with. I love everything he's ever done. He finds the integrity in Dylan and makes Dylan so loveable. That's exactly what the character needed. The credit really goes to the writers for landing him. Shawn is someone I really went after. I think Shawn is a phenomenal actor. The movie that really made me think of him is actually a small movie directed by Scott Caan called Dallas 362. I saw it at a film festival and I remember thinking he was just going to blow up. He's done amazing work and I think Southland is an incredible show. I really wanted someone to play that sort of quiet giant, someone that has that subtext, when you see that storyline go into his head, that it's something really complex and powerful. Shawn has that. He has that quiet power to him and, quite frankly, that had as big of balls as Ray did. I knew Shawn could deliver on that.
I see you're working on a movie called Meeting Evil. There is a really cool cast here with Samuel L. Jackson, Leslie Bibb, and Luke Wilson. Is there anything you can say about the story? Are you still filming that?
Chris Fisher: We wrapped Meeting Evil in January in New Orleans. It's a novel I adapted from Pulitzer-nominated author Thomas Berger. It's kind of like this movie, about grey areas of morality. Samuel L. Jackson plays, I guess you could say, evil incarnate, and Luke Wilson plays your average, everyday guy, this kind of not-in-my-backyard moralist, and the two go on this kind of crazy journey together. I'm editing that, currently, and it's coming together really well.
Are there any release plans for that yet?
Chris Fisher: No, that's a true independent, so I guess the plan is to submit it to festivals.
Is there anything else that you're working on that you can talk about?
Chris Fisher: Right now, I'm a producer-director on a show called Warehouse 13, a Syfy show. I'm up in Toronto right now, doing my last day of prep, and I'll be directing my second episode of the season. It's a show that I just absolutely love. I'm a fan of the dark arts and it's this steampunk show that lets me do pretty crazy things with both camera and character. I'll be up here until mid-July and I'm editing the movie down in L.A. on weekends and days off, so I'm keeping pretty busy.
Are there any notable guest stars you can tell us about for this season?
Chris Fisher: We just had Rene Auberjonois. I directed an episode last season and he was in it and we brought him back. We have a lot of great guest stars, but off the top of my head I can't think of any.
Chris Fisher: It was a pleasure making the film and I think it's a really hardcore action suspense film. It's a thrill ride where you're really on the edge of your seat.
Great. Thanks so much for your time, Chris. I enjoyed the movie.
Chris Fisher: Thanks so much. I appreciate the call.