‘Red Notice’ will be 'Ocean’s 11' meets 'True Lies' by the way of 'Thomas Crown Affair'
Writer and director Rawson Marshal Thurber also talks making original movies in a franchise dominated world
Rawson Marshall Thurber has provided an update on Red Notice, his next collaboration with Dwayne Johnson, which will also star Wonder Woman herself Gal Gadot.
“It is Dwayne Johnson, Gal Gadot, and a third actor that is yet to be announced. We are very excited to make that announcement,” explained Thurber, when I spoke to him over the phone last week.
“It is a big international heist picture, that is tonally in the vein of 'Ocean’s 11' meets 'True Lies' by the way of 'Thomas Crown Affair.' It is very globe-trotting and splashy and fun and sexy and cool.”
“Dwayne plays an Interpol agent who is tasked with catching the most wanted art thief in the world, who is yet to be announced, and Gal Gadot plays a mysterious figure in the art world. It will be a lot of fun. We start shooting May 1, in London, but then we go throughout western Europe.”
After "Central Intelligence" and "Skyscraper," "Red Notice" marks the third film time where Thurber has directed Johnson. Obviously that leaves him in a prime position to know all of Johnson’s work habits, so I asked him how the world’s most popular actor has so helped to develop "Red Notice" ahead of production.
“On 'Red Notice,' just like with 'Skyscraper,' I came up with the idea and the pitch essentially, the beginning, middle and end. In the case of 'Red Notice,' we were shooting 'Skyscraper, 'we went out to dinner and I pitched him the idea and he loved it. He said, ‘I am in.’”
“From that point, while we were shooting 'Skyscraper,' between takes, we’d be like, ‘Hey, do you know that moment in the pitch where this happens? What if we just turned it a little bit.’ And it would be like that. There’s not very many of those examples, but they’re usually right on.”
“So Dwayne pitches in in the early recipe stage, and then I go write it, he’ll read it, and have creative thoughts and notes just like any other producer would. But they’re always presented with such respect to me as the writer and director.”
“Always phrased as, ‘You wrote it. It is your thing. Here is an idea. I don’t know if it is good or not. But this is what I was thinking.’ There’s never an edict from him, which is pretty amazing, because he doesn’t have to present his thoughts that way.”
Thurber is a rare breed in modern Hollywood, as "DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story," "We’re The Millers," "Central Intelligence," "Skyscraper" and now "Red Notice," each of which he has directed, are all based off original ideas.
“I do make original movies,” explained Thurber. “They’re based off original ideas, sometimes mine or sometimes other writers.”
“As you can see based on the release schedule, there are fewer and fewer original ideas getting made. Especially at the budget that 'Skyscraper' is being made at, as it cost over $100 million.”
“Same thing with Red Notice, which will be over $100 million. It is just a rare thing. But I never start from the outside in, I never start from what will the studio buy or finance. Not even what do people want to see. I start from what I want to see and what I want to make, what do I love.”
“Most people experience movies on a weekend, on a Friday or Saturday night or Sunday afternoon. It is 2 to 3 years to lead up to that for the filmmaker and people involved, and it takes a long time, many people working long hours.”
“And if you are digging a ditch for somebody else it can be hard, so it has to come from inside, from intrinsically who you are, what you like, and what you are interested in.”
“Certainly that has been what all of my films have been like for me. 'Dodgeball' was a love-letter to sports movies and comedies I loved growing up, and 'Skyscraper' was the same thing but in the action genre.”
So what does Thurber think you need to get an big-budget original idea green-lit?
“I think you need to have a combination of a great story, with a broad commercial appeal, and big bankable stars.”
“That is rare and rarer combination to bring to the studio.
“There are 11 sequels either side of 'Skyscraper,' there are literally no original movies coming out. Not one. Not a single wide release original film, and that is terrifying.”
"But it can still happen. And in the case of ‘Red Notice’ there was a heated bidding war, and we broke a record for the largest pitch sale in the history of Hollywood. It can still happen, but just less frequency.”
Thurber admits that it also helped that "Skyscraper" and "Red Notice" are set in international locations, Hong Kong and Europe, respectively, which only adds to their international appeal, especially as a film’s domestic box office haul isn’t as imperative as it once was.
“Cinema, and the business of making movies, is no longer just about making movies for United States or New York or Los Angeles.”
“It is a global market place, and the North American box office is a third at best of your haul. So, when you are making an original movie that is expensive to make you are making it for the world. You are making it for everyone.”
“It is really funny, I didn’t really think about ‘Skyscraper being set in Hong Kong and 'Red Notice' being set in Western Europe, it never really occurred to me.”
“I was just trying to write a really fun, splashy heist film, and there is just cooler stuff to steal in Europe than anywhere else.”
“I think the days of original ideas that don’t have global appeal that are expensive to make is just a tough, tough sell to these studios, who can make any number of sequels to something that has already been a success instead.”