Pierce Brosnan, Woody Harrelson and Brett Ratner on After the Sunset
After the Sunset takes the heist genre to exotic new locations. Italy hosted The Italian Job and the upcoming Ocean's 12 takes the gang to Europe, but the Sunset gang hits the Bahamas. Director Brett Ratner said that the studio was fine with letting him shoot on location in the tropical paradise.
"That's the only reason that I'm making movies, just to go to exotic locations and shoot beautiful actresses in bikinis," Ratner joked. "I had to shoot where the story [took place.] I couldn't have shot in Alaska because it took place in paradise. The island had three elements that were needed to tell the story correctly. I needed a big motel to send Woody's character to the presidential suite and Atlantis had the most incredible one I could find. And a private beach or find a house, or in this case we built it because there was no house on the beach there. So we found a slice of the beach where we could build that, a beautiful house where you could believe that two jewel thieves would live away from society. And then the urban kind of neighborhood, the hood where Don Cheadle's world could be. So we needed three elements on the island. And Paraside Island had all three of those elements."
Star Pierce Brosnan shared Ratner's enthusiasm for the location. "That was half the reason for choosing the picture," Brosnan said. "When you're making a movie, some days you're not sure if you're going to work or not, but the scene was wonderful, the people were great to work with. Everyone has fun and had a sense of occasion of just working together and liking each other."
Only costar Woody Harrelson seemed undistracted by the temptations of paradise. "I don't suppose anybody ever turned down pampering, but on the other hand, I don't really look at a movie that way," Harrelson said. "I don't even remember the pampering or whether it went good or bad. I remember if the movie's good in the end. And then after that, I start to reconcile all the images and remembrances and memory breaches and suddenly I'm thinking, ‘That was a great, great experience.'"
Brosnan plays a retired diamond thief, but in these movies, nobody ever stays retired. When the opportunity for one last score sails right into the island, he is tempted to nab it, with FBI agent Harrelson hot on his tail. Brosnan said he has always been a fan of heist movies.
"I just like them," he said. "I grew up on them. The Anderson Tapes, The Italian Job, To Catch A Thief. That's the ultimate blueprint in many ways. When I doing Remington Steele and Bob Butler was the director, he said, 'We're doing an old movie here.' So immersed myself back in '81into movies with Carey Grant and Spencer Tracy. Maybe something stuck, maybe some sense of performance."
Ratner strove to make After the Sunset more than just a heist movie by adding comedy to it. After completing a first cut, he invited Rush Hour scribe Jeff Nathanson to view it. Nathanson came up with signature comedy moments like Harrelson shooting a shark on his boat.
"It wasn't that there was no comedy, I just took it to the next level I think," Ratner said. "Jeff just saw the movie when it was done and had some little ideas. They were very little, very simple ideas. Like the scene in the opening at the tables, that was Jeff."
Brosnan credited Ratner with pulling the complicated film together. "He really with a Herculean effort brought this to what you see," Brosnan said. "It's because he's got a good finger that's on the pulse of, I think, the pop culture of life and music and what's sexy. He has a passion for making films. You search out all of that and hopefully you have a good time and hopefully it'll come across, like you said, onscreen. I must say that there were moments on days where I was like, 'I'm not quite sure what this is going to be.'"
Ratner had wanted to work with Brosnan for some time, and they had previously met for the possibility of doing a James Bond film together. Ratner recalled, "When I was doing Rush Hour 2, Pierce called my office and said, ‘I want to meet you.' I was like, ‘Okay, well, I'm shooting a movie in Vegas. I'll be done in a month.' And he said, ‘Well, I'll come to Vegas and see you.' And he came the next day and he sat down with me. Flew all the way from LA and said, ‘I want you to direct the next James Bond.' I was like, ‘Jesus Christ, it's like a dream come true.' But he said, ‘Unfortunately, I have no say in who's the director.' And I was just so flattered. Rarely does an actor come after a director. It's usually me begging my actors, like in Family Man with Nic Cage and Jackie Chan to do Rush Hour, to commit them to be in my movies. So when I got offered this movie and he was already attached, I said, ‘You know, I'm not going to miss this opportunity. This is a great opportunity because this guy's a fan of mine. He really wants to work with me and I'm going to go for it.'"
Harrelson was a fan of Ratner's also. "I already knew him but I didn't know him that well," Harrelson said. "I always thought he was a really great filmmaker but I think his best film was the one that probably made the least money, which was Family Man. I thought that was great. And so between Brett Ratner and then the great cast and the script that was unlike any heist film I'd ever seen and so original and had the potential for a lot of humor, I was sold."
If you can't remember the last time you saw Woody Harrelson in a movie, that's because he's taken nearly five years off from the limelight. He's done some cameos and a documentary, but After the Sunset is his first leading role since Play it to the Bone.
"I just was hibernating for a while," Harrelson said. "I'll tell you the truth. A few years back, really more like five, if not more years ago, I was thinking to myself. A couple of things were mulling through my head. One was I was really upset about The People Versus Larry Flynt not succeeding the way I thought it should. I blame that on Gloria Stienem's one woman campaign/crusade, going from city to city across the United States telling people to boycott this movie. Prior to that, it was tracking well and the way it was going, I knew it was going to be a success. That failure really hurt me. The other aspect of it was I playing tennis with my brother, I went to visit him in North Carolina. We're hitting the tennis ball across the court and he says, ‘You know, Woody, you're spending so much time doing all these urgent things that you're not taking care of many of the important things.' What he meant was I didn't have time for playing tennis with my brother, hanging out with my family more, etc. And he was absolutely right. First, I was angry with him. But then I realized he was right. That wasn't necessarily what motivated me, but it was definitely the thing that stuck in my craw. When I read this script, I was like, ‘Okay, this is it. I want to do this movie so bad. I'm really excited about it.' It's great to be working with New Line because I just think as a studio, they're unlike any of the other studios. They're very original and fresh. They try things and also to work with Brett Ratner was great."
One of the film's unofficial stars is the house that Brosnan and Hayek's characters share on the island. Built specifically for the film, even Brosnan reveled in the construction work. "It was an amazing set. Geoffrey [Kirkland] is an incredible designer. He lives behind me in Malibu and he built it down at the end of the beach where we rented a house. So I could just walk to work or swim to work. He's a good friend, and he did an outstanding job in making it look like that. We talked about it and I like that kind of design. So it was great to be able to have that kind of repartee with him."
Ultimately, it's another charming suave guy in the Pierce Brosnan repertoire, after James Bond and Thomas Crown. The actor is happy to dip back into his famous persona as long as it makes the audience happy. "I think it was to please the audience and give the audience a good time. That's ultimately the task at hand whether it be a thriller or a romantic comedy."
After the Sunset opens Friday.
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