Review of Interview: Director Martin Campbell Discusses The Protégé

The latest action film from legendary director Martin Campbell is out now in theaters. The Protégé features a star-studded cast that includes Maggie Q, Samuel L. Jackson, and Michael Keaton in the lead roles.

“Rescued as a child by the legendary assassin Moody (Samuel L. Jackson) and trained in the family business, Anna (Maggie Q) is the world’s most skilled contract killer,” says the official synopsis. “But when Moody – the man who was like a father to her and taught her everything she needs to know about trust and survival – is brutally killed, Anna vows revenge. As she becomes entangled with an enigmatic killer (Michael Keaton) whose attraction to her goes way beyond cat and mouse, their confrontation turns deadly and the loose ends of a life spent killing will weave themselves even tighter.”

RELATED: Interview: Maggie Q Talks The Protégé, Working With Michael Keaton & Samuel L. Jackson

ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke with The Protégé director Martin Campbell about his star-studded action film, the James Bond franchise, and more.

Tyler Treese: What really made you want to work with Maggie Q? Because it’s hard to even imagine somebody else in this role. She’s so great.

Martin Campbell: Well, she was cheap. That was [laughs]. No, no, no, no, no, no. First of all, we needed someone who was Vietnamese and she’s half Vietnamese. Secondly, she’s a terrific actress. Thirdly, she’s brilliant with action. She’s been trained and she worked with Jackie Chan. So in terms of the action she is extremely experienced.

I know you just worked with Jackie Chan on the Foreigner and like you said, he kind of found her and brought her up. Did he recommend her?

No. I didn’t speak to him because really Jackie had gone back to China, so I didn’t ever talk to Jackie about it. It was just, I happened to see a clip of Maggie, where I really loved her performance. So it was based on that. I didn’t even know she did the action. I had no clue about that. I just saw her performance and really liked it. So that’s why I cast her.

The chemistry between her and Michael Keaton is great. He has this great line and he’s like, “Are you going to kill me or fuck me?” It’s very funny. Can you just talk about that chemistry? They’re electric on-screen together.

I think they are two equally balanced. They are both assassins, both pretty lethal assassins and there’s a kind of sexual chemistry between them. It’s almost sort of like they get their rocks off by sparring with one another. Finally, in the scene where they confront each other and they have a fight basically, which is in a sense is foreplay, you know what I mean, before they end up together. Right the way through, and neither of them will really take a step back from the other. They are equally matched all down the line, which was the idea. There’s just this sort of chemistry between them, there’s sort of the sexual chemistry. If you see what I mean, it’s all there, which of course culminates in the scene in the restaurant.

As you mentioned, they’re all assassins. That’s such an interesting interplay here because you don’t kind of have that morality thing. Like maybe a special agent isn’t going to want to do something too dirty, but you don’t have to worry about that here.

No, you don’t.

How fun is that sort of sandbox?

You’re absolutely right. There’s no moral kind of line that they’ve crossed there. With Maggie, for example, she’s there with Moody in the office underneath the barn and she says something about, “We’ve never put anybody away that didn’t have it coming.” Well, that’s a kind of broad statement. So you get the impression that they are professional assassins, but they only take on jobs where the people deserve what they are about to get. Michael Keaton, on the other hand, his character has this enigma. You’re not quite sure, who he’s working for. That kind of becomes apparent towards the end of the movie, but there’s a slight enigmatic quality about him for about three-quarters of the movie. We don’t quite know what he is, you know he’s an assassin. He has that big fight in the alleyway, in which he proves pretty lethal. So yes, I mean, these characters that are absolutely sort of evenly matched.

Maggie gets to share that she’s a total bad-ass straight from the start. The action scene at the very beginning is just phenomenal. How important was it to just strike with a bang right from the beginning?

Really important. There’s this sort of moment where she plays that scene by the swimming pool. She plays it like a frightened schoolgirl basically, but of course, we learn it’s all an act and that it was important to sort of set her up [and show] exactly who she is. That was the point and exactly how lethal she is. That was the scene and it’s interesting. We wrote about four different scenes for that opening and that came up for best that scene. It was originally set in an office. It wasn’t a swimming pool. I just happened to find a location that had the swimming pool. So I adapted it all for that. But yeah, it was important to set her up right from the beginning of the movie [of] who she was.

The action scenes are so great throughout. They’re complex, but I never got lost in the action. How do you find that balance between not going too fast and viewers kind of missing out?

You put your finger on it. The thing is to stand back and just let the action be seen. So many films nowadays, they’re over cut, they’re too fast. Really we choreograph those fights so you could see them and that you can see the action and it’s grounded in reality, if you know what I mean. All that action, it’s not too far-fetched. It doesn’t rely on any CGI to help it along. It was all done for real, if you will. I mean, yeah, we had to take out a few cables and wires and stuff like that. But beyond that it was all done for real without the use of CGI, which people just overuse now. I think in terms of action, they also film action badly either too close or cut too fast, whatever it may be. So you get no sense of really what’s going on with the action.

I love the connection between Maggie and Sam Jackson’s character because he’s this father figure and like the film title says she’s his protégé, but they still have this respect for each other. They’re equals in each other’s eyes. Can you speak to that?

Sam is really a surrogate father. That’s what he is. I mean, right at the beginning, you see this, you see Anna as a little girl, that’s how they connect in Vietnam and he’s a surrogate father and it’s really a father-daughter relationship. That’s what this is, even though they’re teamed up as a team, which we establish fairly quickly that they work together and successfully. I just saw that very much as the emotional spine of the film, her relationship with Sam as a father figure.

Robert Patrick is such a pro’s pro. How exciting was it to get him on board for this film?

Well, I’ve worked with Robert before, I did a pilot about a nuclear submarine. So I knew him pretty well, and he loves motorcycles. In fact, he has a dealership, I think a Harley dealership. So for him, of course it was like a pig in shit basically. He loved getting on motorbikes and leading a bunch of aging motorcycle [gang], like Hell’s Angels to where they meet Maggie. So he’s a terrific guy. I like him a lot.

Action films are certainly your forte, but you started out doing some comedies. Is there any other genres you’d like to do? Would you like to get back to do another comedy?

Yeah, I would. I like to do a comedy. I think I would be pretty good at it. I mean, I’ve never done one. [Although my films] always have a sense of humor. If you look at some of my past work, Zoro has a sense of humor. This even has a sense of humor, you know, there’s this kind of [comedy] that sort of ripples through some of it, but a straight-out comedy, like Wedding Crashers or something I’d love to do.

martin campbell goldeneye

You got to do two Bond films and GoldenEye has such a lasting legacy. What does it mean for you when out of all the Bond films, many people point that as their favorite?

To be honest, I get a lot of people give me a lot of kudos for it, but, to be honest, we had great scriptwriters, certainly in Casino [Royale] and Paul Haggis, who wrote that script or did the final version of that script. That said the success of those films are sort of spread across really. I didn’t really take authorship of them because Bond is iconic, yes, but it’s also a huge team that you have to in order to make those films work.

Yeah. Speaking of Casino, did you intend for that to be followed by a direct sequel?

No, not at all. The Quantum of Solace, which by the way, is the title of an Ian Fleming short story. No, they came up with that and I had no idea. Mr. White, I think I shot him in the leg at the end of Casino and had him crawling across the driveway until he finally confronts Bond.

Amazon has the rights to the franchise now, and there’s going to be a new actor after this new one comes out. Would you still be interested? I know you always want to work with a new Bond.

Yeah, yeah. If they asked me, I’d certainly consider it.

Are there any actors that you haven’t worked with yet that really stick out as people you’d like to work with in the future?

There’s always the great ones, like DiCaprio and I love working with Anthony Hopkins, for example. I’d love to work with him again. He’s such a wonderful actor. That top echelon. I’m just trying to think apart from DiCaprio. Tom Cruise, I’d love to work with. I think he’s a terrific actor. I know he, for whatever reason, just keeps seeming to do the Mission: Impossible stuff, but he’s actually a much better actor than that. I mean, he’s great in those films, but I’d love to see him do something that really tested him as an actor because the parts he’s done in the past [he’s shined like] Magnolia [and] the comedy he did in the jungle [Tropic Thunder]. He was absolutely terrific.

The name changed from The Asset. Do you feel like The Protégé is more fitting for this?

I think so. I think it’s just more, it fits better. She is a protégé, basically. He’s trained her, albeit he’s a father figure. He has trained her, she’s now a part of a team. So in a way, she is his protégé, whereas The Asset is a little different. It’s a little more impersonal. Yeah, I think it’s better.

Certainly the pandemic impacted the film’s filming, but we are getting to release it in theaters. How exciting is that for you?

Well, it’s good. Obviously, the pandemic is a huge problem with people going back to the cinema and so forth, but it’s great to see it on a screen instead of a TV screen at home. If you see what I mean, because streaming, of course, I don’t know for me, the experience of actually going to a theater is so much better than me watching it on TV.

The post Interview: Director Martin Campbell Discusses The Protégé appeared first on ComingSoon.net.

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