Josh Peck on RED DAWN
by Gene Ching
They say things look darkest before the dawn. Fraught with challenges, RED DAWN almost failed to see the light of day, or rather, the silver screen. Originally slated for release on November 24, 2010, RED DAWN is a remake of the 1984 cult film that starred Charlie Sheen, Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Grey, Lea Thompson and Harry Dean Stanton. The original was about a Russian invasion of America where a band of high school students rebel under the banner of their school mascot, the Wolverines. Initially, the remake cast China as the Reds, but a few months prior to its release, sharp criticism of the project came from one of China's leading newspapers, The Global Times. China's film market has grown into a significant force, enough to influence Hollywood. Two years ago, China was already the fifth largest market outside the U.S. Some of Hollywood's biggest blockbuster franchises are now bowing down to China, including the new James Bond film SKYFALL and IRON MAN 3. So the makers of RED DAWN had to rethink their villains.
If that wasn't enough, just a few weeks before its premiere, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer filed for bankruptcy. The film went on hold, teetering on the brink of a direct-to-DVD release. In early 2011, The Los Angeles Times reported that RED DAWN would be retooled in post-production to convert the villains from Chinese to North Koreans. No American films are distributed in North Korea. RED DAWN was re-edited and all of the Chinese flags and such were digitally swapped into North Korean insignias at a cost just under $1 million. Ironically, the film's main villain, Will Yun Lee (DIE ANOTHER DAY 2002), is actually Korean, not Chinese.
The new version of RED DAWN is finally being released on a choice opening day, just prior to Thanksgiving weekend, and not a moment too soon. It opens with news footage of Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton commenting on the North Korean situation, which might have played out poorly if the president had lost the election. RED DAWN stars Chris Hemsworth (THE AVENGERS 2012), Josh Hutcherson (THE HUNGER GAMES 2012), Connor Cruise (son of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman) and Josh Peck.
I got the opportunity to chat with Josh, a charismatic rising star who has been transitioning from child stardom, most notably the Nickelodeon series JOSH AND DRAKE (2004-2007) to more adult-oriented films like THE WACKNESS (2008).
GC: Before we begin, I have to confess that I have a connection to Will Yun Lee. He's an old friend of our parent company, Tiger Claw, as his father is a local Taekwondo master and a longstanding client. So I was sort of rooting for the wrong side.
JP: Oh yeah? Will's a good friend of mine. He was always taking time to practice his kicks. He's a super talented guy.
GC: So, the original RED DAWN came out before you were born. . .
GC: When did you first see it?
JP: You know, I didn't see it until after we shot the movie. It was one of those things where I got the script and I was immediately intrigued and that was what first attracted me to the film. Then in meeting Dan (Bradley), our filmmaker, and realizing what he was going to bring to the movie, I thought it would be sort of dangerous for me to see it only in respect that I knew I would love it and perhaps try to maybe imitate or copy things about the film or aspects of the movie, subconsciously or consciously. I wanted to give it a fresh approach, but then the day I finished shooting it, I watched the film and immediately realized why people love it so much.
GC: So you felt the love of the original?
JP: It's everything that I love about '80s films. Besides the cast, they were sort of in an interesting time before everyone had truly blown up beyond belief. To watch them all together and you see their chemistry. With John Milius at the helm, I mean he's such a great writer and filmmaker.
GC: And now, you're sort of taking over Charlie Sheen's role.
JP: I am! If that's even possible to take over a Charlie Sheen role. I'm glad to have permission to even be thought of in the same breath.
GC: What's it like playing Thor's little brother?
JP: Intimidating. (laughs) Oh my God, no hammer! It was interesting because when we were shooting the film, he had just booked the part. We were shooting that before THOR. So in many ways, it was like getting to be around Chris before his life was changed so much because you do a movie like that and all of a sudden you're thrust into a totally different stratosphere in a lot of ways. Chris and I got on so well. He just wanted to bring his best to the film and so did I. So we immediately related in that respect. And then what was great was that he was constantly getting in shape for THOR, getting bigger and stronger. I was just trying to stay in shape for RED DAWN, so we became like gym rats.
GC: I imagine he's a tough training partner.
JP: Oh, absolutely. It's pretty motivating.
GC: How do you feel about the politics of RED DAWN?
JP: In what respect?
GC: Well, we're no longer in the Cold War. North Korea is a real country that is very politically charged right now. Koreans aren't Martians, so there is some implicit commentary.
JP: Right. I feel like the movie walks this fine line of having such a fantastic element to it - these extreme circumstances that are in many ways unimaginable. But then, also, we were figuring out ways on introducing some reality and some real states. And so I hope when people go and see the movie that they are able to look at it objectively and just enjoy it for what it's trying to be, which is a pure action blockbuster popcorn movie. And conversely, if you go into it with too much expectation, I think, well, I just hope people are able to keep an open mind.
GC: Ever seen any Asian films that have Americans as villains?
JP: I haven't.
GC: There are quite a few.
JP: I don't think any of us, between the cast and crew, ever wanted to offend anyone.
GC: Well, don't get me wrong. You do have an Asian soldier cast among the good guys.
GC: I'm just curious on your take on the rise of Asian cinema. There are some rather vitriolic anti-America films.
GC: This is your first action film.
JP: Yes. It's been great. I'm glad to see the reaction and I'm very grateful for great doubles that made me look very cool. I mean, I got to a couple cool moments, but you know, Dan, all of his training comes from being a stunt person. That meant that we were surrounded by some of the best stunt teams in the world. So that allowed for more - just knowing that you were constantly getting the best advice and the best insight on how to approach a stunt and how to do the action. And how to look cool.
You got a good voice, bro.
JP: It's awesome. You got those baritone notes.
GC: Thanks. (laughs) But this is about you. RED DAWN was on the shelves for a long time. How does it feel for it to come out now after you worked on it so long ago?
JP: It's pretty surreal and there's definitely moments where you're like, "Oh my God, is this it?" But now we're here, so I'm pretty sure it's coming out. It's great because along the way there have been moments when we were sure that it was going to come out and then it didn't work out, so I'm selfishly excited for myself because I worked really hard on this and I can't wait to see it and allow my mom and my friends to enjoy it. Making movies is such a collaborative effort. And we, as actors, train and work on it for a few months, but then there are people - the director and producers - that have done years of pre-production, so I'm really excited for them because they deserve for this movie to be seen.
|Discuss this article online|
About Gene Ching:
RED DAWN opens on November 21, 2012. Click RedDawnMovieNews.com