Between "District B13" and "Taken," French director Pierre Morel has been incredibly influential in shaping the direction of modern action cinema, but he rarely directs a sequel to one of his hits. Maybe his latest, "The Gunman," starring Sean Penn, Idris Elba and Javier Bardem, will be different.
After the success of "Taken," how often do established, Oscar-winning, respected actors come to you and say, "Do that for me"?
They don't come to me and say, "Do that for me," it's not about that at all. I like action movies when it's not all about action. It's all about guys killing each other for two hours for no reason? It's entertainment, it's fun, there's a guilty pleasure to that, but is it satisfying? Not quite. But if you want to tell good stories, you need more than just action actors. You need good, fantastic, high-level actors. It's all about having the right script to attract the actors. It's not like them coming to me. It's me trying to get them to play in action movies — that are more than just action movies.
There's been a changing perception of what used to be dismissed as genre movies. Do you think that's just changing audience tastes, or is it something in how they're being made?
People want difference experiences. Maybe the public is changing. The ways people are consuming movies are different, the way kids are consuming movies are different — although this isn't really a movie for kids.
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Depends on the kids.
Yeah. (laughs) I mean, movies are changing. I'm not smart enough to analyze this, but the world evolves, it's as simple as that. Movies from 10 years ago are not movies from 20 years ago are not movies from a century ago. We're just moving on. If you want to have what were pure action movies, they still exist — but because people consume movies differently, you have provide a different product.
You don't usually direct the sequels made of your successful films. Does that just not interest you?
Sometimes it's just a schedule issue, sometimes it's just not feeling capable of reproducing two hours of the same thing. I didn't do the sequel to my first film, "District B13," because I would then start redoing just a compilation of cool parkour moves and guys jumping all over the place with a story that would not necessarily make sense. And then with "Taken 2," I honestly didn't feel like I could reproduce the same emotional connection that we developed in the first one. I just passed on it. The first one worked so well not because of the action but because it was a cool story. Everybody could connect to it: "You f--- up one of my kids, I'm going to f--- up you." The second one, I didn't feel that. I read the script, I didn't get that, so I didn't know what to do with it.
Given how influential those two films have been on action in other film, do you find yourself feeling a little slighted or ripped off sometimes?
Not quite anymore, I don't think. I do remember watching the opening scene of "Casino Royale" and thinking, "Hmm, I wouldn't have done that shot. OK, OK." (laughs) I met with the producers a few months later and told them, "I'll take that as an homage, thank you."
What would you do if you got a Bond film of your own?
I don't know. I don't want to think about it. (laughs) I'm very curious to see who they're going to cast as the next Bond, because there are so many rumors about people I've actually worked with — very recently. So we'll see. James Bond is such a very specific genre on its own. You can't try to push it in another direction or it's not James Bond anymore. Bond cannot be Bourne, basically.
Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter: @nedrick