On April 23rd, Oscar winning writer and producer Akiva Goldsman and legendary producer Joel Silver will attempt to bring the extremely popular DC Comics/Vertigo graphic novel, The Losers to the big screen. Goldsman is no stranger to comic book adapted films as he is also producing this summer's DC Comics' adapted western film, Jonah Hex, as well as developing film adaptations of other DC characters including Lobo, Sgt. Rock and the Teen Titans. Not to mention that Goldsman is also the man responsible for writing Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, but try not to hold that against him. Silver, of course rose to fame as the producer of such groundbreaking '80s action films as Lethal Weapon and Die Hard no too mention the extremely successful The Matrix trilogy but Silver is also familiar with comic book adapted films having produced both V For Vendetta and last years Whiteout. But now the two super-producers have teamed up, along with a script by Hancock director Peter Berg and James Vanderbilt the writer of the Untitled Spider-Man Reboot, to finally bring the story of The Losers to the big screen.
The film is based on the first arc of the popular comic book by writer Andy Diggle and artist Jock about a CIA Special Forces team that is burned by their handlers, left for dead and forced to seek revenge on the people responsible in order to get their lives back. Originally created for DC Comics in the '70s by Robert Kanigher as a WWII Special Forces group who fought along side other WWII DC characters like Sgt. Rock and the Haunted Tank, Diggle updated the story to give it a contemporary flair in 2004 when his new series was published by Vertigo, an imprint of DC Comics that markets its books for a late-teen and adult audience. The film boasts an impressive cast of actors who all come with their own comic book or genre film credentials on their resumes. The cast includes Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Watchmen, Supernatural) as Franklin Clay, the leader of the group, Idris Elba (28 Weeks Later, Thor) as William Roque, the second-in-command, Chris Evans (Fantastic Four, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) as Jake Jensen, the team's hacker, Columbus Short (Whiteout, Armored) as Linwood "Pooch" Porteous, the team's pilot and newcomer Óscar Jaenada as Carlos "Cougar" Alvarez, the team's sniper. Rounding out the cast is the beautiful Zoe Saldana (Avatar, Star Trek) as Aisha al-Fadhil, a mysterious woman with ties to the same people that burned Clay and his friends, and who wants to help the team enact revenge on their enemies. Veteran actor Jason Patric (The Lost Boys, Rush) plays the evil Max, the man responsible for the team's current situation.
Last fall we had the opportunity to travel to Puerto Rico and visit the set of The Losers and talk with the films cast and crew about the exciting new action film. We arrived on set, which this day was a shipping yard over looking the water filled with abandon crates and giant cargo containers. We watch as the crew films an important and intricate action sequence. A Para-military group is about to execute Columbus Short's Pooch when Zoe Saldana's Aisha fires a bazooka from a top one of the large shipping containers, causing a large fiery explosion, which allows Chris Evans's Jensen and Óscar Jaenada's Alverez to rescue Pooch. At this point in the story the entire team had been captured with the exception of Aisha and her firing of the bazooka creates a distraction that allows the others to escape including Clay who steals a van and rescues his team. After the getaway, the team regroups with Clay between two large stacks of containers. Aisha sneaks up behind them and confronts Clay and the others resulting in a Mexican-standoff between the woman and the four men.
Actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan explains in more detail the scene we just watched. "We were filming a moment when Aisha confronts Clay," he explained. "It's kind of towards the end of the movie and there's kind of a big, final showdown. I just escaped this van being held by guards. We come around the corner and Aisha is on my tail and she confronts him about the killing of her father and asks me if I did it. So we have a little tense standoff there."
Zoe Saldana then gave us her interpretation of the days events. "This is after the revelation of who she really is and what she's been trying to do the entire movie," the actress admitted cryptically. "She has that confrontation with Clay. They have a lot to deal with right now because there is a very strong attraction between these characters. Because of the circumstances that are going to bind them for the rest of their lives, I don't know where the possibilities of them making it as a personal relationship... It's pretty fucked up," said the actress.
Helming the film is director Sylvain White, best known for his movie Stomp the Yard. White discussed how he got involved in the project and what attracted him to the film. "I was developing another comic book property at Warner Bros. called Ronin which is a Frank Miller project, and I heard about this project and then I educated myself on the comic. I went in and applied for the job basically. But I hadn't heard about the comics until I'd heard about the movie," Confessed the director. "Projects get sent to you, and you read them, and if there's something there for you then there's something to be done. For me, it was simple. I heard about the project, I read the screenplay, I read all the volumes of the graphic novel, and I just fell in love with it," explained White. "I'd been looking for something like this for like three years. I found this, and I jumped on it. I just had to do it. For me, it was like a brilliant opportunity because of the tone of the source material. It was a chance to do a really good adaptation of a comic book and stay true to the source material without veering off and making it too Hollywood or something like that. There are certain things you have to do, but in terms of staying true to the characters, the plot and things like that, we're really trying to stick with that and I think this was an amazing opportunity for that."
The comic's original artist, Jock, has a very unique artistic style and the director went on to discuss how he hopes to stay true to that look in his film. "I wanted to reflect as many elements of the graphic novel as possible. Now, I'm not the kind of guy who's going to go and shoot frame-by-frame the graphic novel. It's a different medium. But there are elements of it that I think are key, and I use those throughout the visual motif of the movie," White explained. "Those are mostly the beautiful color pallets that they use throughout the graphic novel. As these guys travel throughout the world, they go from city to city, and as you look at the graphics you go from Houston to India to New York. It's always a very distinct color pallet. It always has a very amazing use of primary and secondary colors. It's so brilliant, and Jock's so great at it that that's how I pay homage to the comic. I keep the colors consistent with the graphic novel. I keep the atmosphere, the tone, the lighting. It's very similar. When the movie comes out, you won't go, 'Oh, I can tell it was from a comic.' I'm not going to do it like the Hulk movie where they did the frames," he joked. "It's a movie. You're watching a movie. But you want to keep the design aesthetic that the artists of the comic came up with and try and reflect that as much as possible in the film."
White, who was raised in Europe explained that while he grew up reading comics, the ones available to him overseas did not revolve around super-heroes like they do in the states and that was exactly what attracted him to The Losers. "The other thing that's great in it is the realism the graphic novels had. I grew up reading a lot of graphic novels in Europe, but a lot of the graphic novels we have there don't have superheroes. There's not a lot of the Marvel and DC Comics family of superheroes. A lot of the graphic novels are more like The Losers. It's more adult-oriented. They're closer to movies, like action films, dramas or thrillers. Erotica. Anything you want. But it's a very different tone. No superheroes, virtually. That's why The Losers appealed to me. It's more like the graphic novels I grew up reading in Europe."
White went on to discuss the phenomenal cast that he was able to assemble for the film. "What can I say about the cast except that I'm blown away by the fact that I was able to get my first choices in a studio film. I was able to concoct a very unique, sort of young and unexpected cast," explained White. "Some people when they read this script at first, they may have seen a much more clichéd, commercial casting. But I thought, no. You have great commercial material. It's fun. It's light. Let's cast these roles with people you haven't seen play those roles before. That's really what's happened. I met Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and the second I met him, I said, this is the guy. He's just that dude. He showed up on his motorcycle on Melrose, and he just had the right energy. Columbus Short...I knew he was the guy for the part because I'd worked with him before, and I felt Pooch was the glue to the group, and he had to have this bright, likable quality. He's also got to be the reasonable guy. He's the family guy of the group, and I thought he'd be perfect. He's very quickly likable. While casting an actor like Jason Patric who's know for his character work as the villain in a commercial movie, I think was just genius," admitted the director. "He was unexpected, and you could've cast the usual suspects in that part and all the usual suspects wanted to be in this movie. It's funny, but I thought we should go fresher, we should go a little younger and finally we went with somebody who was really known in the '80s for commercial work and then went totally off and did super interesting character work. I think he could really breath some layers into Max, and that's what he's doing. With the cast, I think I just got lucky and fortunate that people listened to what my ideas were," concluded White.
Actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan is best known to fan-boys everywhere as the sadistic street vigilante, The Comedian, in Zack Snyder's adaptation of Alan Moore's classic graphic novel, Watchmen. Morgan discussed any concerns that he might have had about making two comic book adapted films in a row and why he ultimately decided to make The Losers. "We talked briefly about that. There was a lot of 'Why is he doing this after he just did Watchmen?' But they're totally different characters," he said. "They come from the same genre of graphic novels otherwise they're completely different. I think the best stories right now are coming from that world. I'm just happy my foot's in the door. I am not scared of a graphic novel. My agent will say, 'Well ... its another graphic novel,' and I don't care. It's better writing than anything else that's out there and the characters are much better. I love this. I could do comic book movies forever."
Morgan went onto discuss the genesis of how he became involved with the project. "I read this script initially almost four years ago. Peter Berg had written it and was directing it at that point. I had just started a movie called The Accidental Husband and this script somehow came to me. I don' t know why? I loved it. It was the one movie that I kept track of for three years. They had initially talked to me about wanting to do Jonah Hex and I sat down with Akiva Goldsman. Warner Bros. really wanted me to do it and Akiva Goldsman was also attached to this," the actor explained. "We started talking about it and I said, this is the movie I really want to do. By chance, I sat next to Peter Berg on an airplane and I was like, hey, man. I really love your movie The Losers and he was like, 'I'm not directing it anymore. But I might stay on as a producer.' Well the next day, literally, I landed in LA and met with Sylvain White. We had lunch and we talked about it and that was it. That was all it took." The actor continued by describing his character and his relationship to the film's villain Max. "Frank Clay is a Special Forces colonel and it's about this group of guys who kind of get set up and it's the story of revenge and I'm the leader of this group. There's a lot of kicking ass," he explained. "He takes the stuff with Max exceedingly hard. He probably makes a lot of bad decisions along the way. I think a lot of this movie has to do with Clay not coming to terms with the fact that he's not doing what's best for his team."
Morgan went onto discuss the graphic novel in more detail and what aspects of his character that he was able to learn from the original source material. "I enjoyed the graphic novel a lot. I think that Danny and Jock did an amazing job. It's a very smart graphic novel and it has a certain flow to it that really moves," he stated. "I think that's a trend in graphic novels that have come out in the last five to ten years. I think that the way it moves is unlike comic books as they were when I was a kid, which I'm sort of used to. But, certainly, as I did in Watchmen, it's a great place to kind of jump off, start going into this and having all the initial meetings. There were all sorts of conversations about the changing of the wardrobe. I'm always a stickler," Morgan explained. "I was like, the guy wears a black suit. That's all he wears. He's got one, maybe. That's it. It doesn't matter the situation. Having a graphic novel like that or like Watchmen is just such a great foundation. Then, as an actor, there's more that you can bring to it and pile on. But I always go back to that. In my trailer, I've got big posters of Clay and other characters. Clay is a hard man and I think that what I've brought to him is a little bit more of a sense of humor. We're trying to do that and I think we're accomplishing it very well," he concluded.
Actor Chris Evans (V), who has seemed to make a career out of working in comic book-based movies, explained why he continues to choose projects in this genre. "I mean it's such a broad category you know? Yes, it's a comic book movie but that's like saying if you've done one drama you don't want to do another drama but it's such a different comic book. All the comic book movies I've done have been so radically different. They happen to all be ... you can find them all in the comic book store but I think they're all incredibly...they're all different families," the actor said. "It really has nothing to do with the comic book, it comes down to...it's a movie. I look at it as a movie. Whatever it comes from a novel or a previously made film; it's about this movie. Who's the director? Who's the producer? Who's the cast? That's all that matters. If it came from a comic book, so be it. If it came from anything else, it doesn't really matter to me," he concluded. The actor went on to tell us a little bit about the look of his character in the film vs. his look in the comic. "Well, if you've seen the comic book, Jensen is pretty crazy. He usually wears very bright colors and likes Hawaiian shirts. He has the bleach blonde hair, ridiculous facial hair and he's definitely a little more wild. I don't think we went as extreme as the comic book," Evans confessed.
While Evans' character may be an expert computer hacker in the film, the actor admits that those skills didn't rub off on him. "I can barely check my e-mail. It's so funny doing fake computer acting, you know? There are a couple of scenes where I have to just fake it. I know dick about computers, but I really have to because the props they give me aren't just simple laptops. It's really hi-tech computer stuff. I don't even know what they're called, just kind of like hand-held screens with these little pencils, touch-screens and really advanced shit. I'm just clunking around like I know what I'm doing, but I think I pull it off." Evans, who admitted that he was a big fan of the comic also explained that you have to be careful sometimes when using the graphic novel as a guide for making the film. "A lot of scenes from the script were taken right out of the graphic novel so the hardest thing was if you see a scene in the script that was from one of the comic books and you'd say, well okay. This is the tone I should have, this is the way it's going to be shot and that's not necessarily the case, Evans said. "You'd think, well I have a complete idea of what this scene's going to be, based on the fact that I've kind of already seen it in comic book form almost as a storyboard. When you go out on the set it'd look much different, have a different tone or a different feel. You'd say, okay. I have to stop using the graphic novel as a reference. That was that. This is this. Let me get direction from my director and I'll go from there."
Few actresses are hotter right now in Hollywood than Zoe Saldana who is coming off of two huge hits back-to-back, Star Trek and Avatar. The actress began by telling us a little about her character, Aisha. "She's a snake. You don't really know what she's hiding up her sleeve. She definitely had her own prerogative and it's very meaningful for her. She's trying her best to play her cards right, but Jeffrey's character just gets to her." From the source material the character of Aisha is very mysterious, complex and multi-layered so Saldana discussed how she approached the role. "It's hard because you also have to love that the characters in the scene determine the tonality of how it's going to unfold. So it's definitely been hard because usually female roles are what you see is what you get. But to be granted the opportunity to play something that is very complex and very layered and everything, it's just hard I guess. I'm not used to it," she said. We asked the talented actress if there was anything from the graphic novel that she really connected with and was able to use in the film? "There's one image of her when she stabs this man and she licks the knife. I mean, it just lets me know the kind of person that she is'" Saldana explained. "That even though she has a principal of always trying to make justice for women, children and whatever seems wrong, she's a ruthless fucking assassin. I like that about her. There's a masculinity that she has that she doesn't compromise herself. She's a savage animal and I like that."
Actor Columbus Short had the opportunity of reuniting with his Stomp the Yard director, Sylvain White, on this film and told us that this was something he had been hoping would happen for a very long time. "Well, when we did Stomp the Yard, I said to him, we're going to do an action movie. This is the beginning, this is the birth of the relationship and we're going to have a very long relationship," explained Short. "So this is great, it's exactly what I envisioned for our next movie together, to be shooting bad guys, blowing up helicopters and running through the jungle. It's exactly what I wanted." The actor also briefly discussed his role in the film. "I play Pooch, one of The Losers. Pooch is a family man. He had a wife back home expecting a child. So when his mission goes awry his basic motivation is to just get home before his wife has the baby. You know, he's kind of the heart of the group. The whole group is very witty, very cynical, very sarcastic in tone, so it's fun." When asked if he had read the comics that the film is based on the actor replied, "I did and it's honestly one of the best comic book series to date of recent creation because it just feels so real."
Finally, in walking around the set and talking to the cast and crew we kept hearing similar statements about the tone of this film. That it would be a "throwback to the fun action films of the '80s like Die Hard and Lethal Weapon," so we asked the cast and crew if that was true? "Sure," answered Evans. "Well, that was kind of...that seems to be the tone that they're going for especially with Joel Silver, you know? Die Hard and the Lethal Weapon series, those movies were just great. They had action, but the character chemistry was fantastic and it left room for jokes, laughs and it didn't take itself too seriously," finished Evans. "Originally, when I first met with Joel and Akiva Goldsman, it was kind of the template and the pace we wanted for this movie, to be very reminiscent of those films, which got me very excited," confessed Morgan. "It was really the kind of movie I wanted to make. If I'm going to do this and go on to be a lead in a studio film, that's what I gravitate towards, those types of movies. This is, I think, Joel's movie to bring him back to the movies he made fifteen or twenty years ago. That's the movie we all wanted to make," concluded Morgan. In closing, Sylvain White had this to say about the style and tone that he hopes for with his film. "Tonally, I think a movie like Bad Boys might be like this, but then the action is retarded. It's fun, but it's not believable. This is what I'm trying to do: a fun, believable action movie."
The Losers begins attacking theaters everywhere on April 23rd.