Interview: Simon West talks potential Stratton TV series

Simon West spoke to me about his new movie Stratton starring Dominic Cooper and why he wanted to turn the books into movies and where he hopes the franchise will go.

Why did you want to turn these books into a movie?

Looking to do a new British action hero. I’ve done films about action heroes and done films with people like Jason Statham but they are really American films and I have worked with a lot of American action heroes but I feel there is a gap in the market for another British hero. We’ve got James Bond, we’ve got Harry Potter but I think we need a third one and when I came across the books of Stratton I thought this was a great resource and met the author Duncan Falconer – who used to be an SBS officer – and picked his brains about what necessarily wasn’t in the books . So the first film is based on one of the books and there are stuff that are from anecdotes that Duncan told me and also other serving SBS officers. It’s a very accurate portrayal of how they really do it. We do have MI6 and Special Services but how they interact with each other is very realistic. I had to do something alternate to Bond because I’m a huge Bond fan and didn’t want to make a copy and I wanted to do something alternate and that’s what Stratton is. He is a darker more realistic version.

Would you ever want to do a Bond film?

Who wouldn’t? I grew up on Bond films. They are brilliant. I can’t imagine anyone turning down a Bond film. Just for the soundtrack/music alone it’s brilliant. You’d be crazy to turn down a Bond film.

Was Duncan on hand when the script was being written?

During the script stage yes. We had a long conversation and meetings about the books. I updated some of them because some were obviously written 30/40 years ago when he was in the forces. Although the character’s the same, I’ve updated a lot of the technology because they have moved on a lot. So when I was talking to contemporary SBS officers, they would tell me what equipment they use now. Duncan was on hand a lot of with the character and more of what SBS guys were like. So I could work with Dominic Cooper and make him a realistic character.

So you had to do a lot of research yourself before starting the film?

Yeah, the research is quite hard because the SBS are so secretive, you sort of have to talk to one person at a time. You cannot have a big cramming session with a group of ten of them. They don’t collect like that. They are always off somewhere in the world. They have been working non-stop since the Second World War, so they are very rarely in the UK. There’s only a very few of them and much fewer than Navy Seals and they are always away somewhere. So it’s very hard to get hold of one of them. So when one was in the country, I’d grab them and pick their brains about what they were doing, how they do it and say like look this is our story, if you were coming across this kind of bad guy, how would you solve it? What would you do? And they would tell me realistically how they would do it.

Did some of their answers shock you?

Some of them shocked me because you realise they are all completely different characters. They all have different specialties. They aren’t all getting the same training and they would tell me they weren’t really trained, they were selected. The unit selects people for very different talents rather than getting a group of people and training them the same. So no two are the same really. Very mixed group. That was surprising. They don’t consider themselves trained by the SBS so much as selected.

There are seven books altogether in the franchise, are you hoping to make more films?

Yeah, I would like to do more of them. There are so many stories and so many characters, it’s almost too big for a film series but maybe TV. Thinking which way to go whether to make another sequel or to use the film as an introductory for a TV series. The great thing about TV now is made on the same scale as movies but you can run much longer and get into the characters for longer so I’m a big fan of that now as the standard is so great, why wouldn’t you want to spend two or three years with all those characters rather than a few months.


Interview: Dominic Cooper talks Stratton, Preacher and Mamma Mia 2

I spoke to Dominic Cooper about his new movie Stratton and why he wanted to be part of the film. I also asked him whether Preacher will be getting a season three as well as the upcoming Mamma Mia sequel.

What was it about the script that made you want to be part of the film?

I think it was that I didn’t know a great deal about the SBS. I think it was the nature of the man rather than being an all-out action hero, I felt he was quite an isolated man who had made a decision to do this job which the actual truth is a lonely existence and quite a complex one. One moment you’re at home and next you’re risking your life on a daily basis for the safety of your country. Finding out about the missions and the complexities of what they go through and how they train. I didn’t know about the missions and how a few would be on them and the amount of different techniques they have learnt. It makes you have much more gratitude for the people who do that work to protect us. The first thing I shot, I was underwater in these tubes that you were unable to get out of. So I had to learn how to do that. I have never done proper, deep sea underwater diving before. That was all part of the training. The accuracy is monumental. For scenes with the guns, I didn’t want them to look any way false. I really enjoyed it. All the car chases we did. They are meant to fit in with any surrounding. They aren’t necessarily strong or who would look out of place. These guys can fit in anywhere. Probably one of the reasons why I was asked to do it. I could be from a few different places.

What about the stunts, did you do them yourself?

I loved doing the stunts. If you trust the stunt team and you invest in the stunts and believe they are believable. These were all very specific and well researched. Leaping from driving car into a bus – nearly went wrong – but was good. It gives you the adrenaline to move onto the new scene. I was very privileged to be playing people who are looking out for the country.

Henry Cavill was original attached the film but dropped out just five days before shooting. How was it taking over from someone?

It’s just one of those things that happened. It’s sad because he invested so much time and effort but they disagreed with what he wanted and what the creative team wanted and it was too late for them to change it. I got asked to see whether I would want to do it.

Bond-esque feel, would you ever do a James Bond movie?

You can’t not want to be James Bond! Has anyone ever said no, no, no.

Season 2 of Preacher is available to watch now, will we get season 3?

I think so. I don’t want to say that yet because I’m not sure. But it is looking pretty certain. It’s great fun and again that TV show has so much scope. I hope they do because it has been so daring so far and the wealth of disgust and intrigue that we have left to show on the screen, I think it will be real shame not to let everyone see that.

Mamma Mia 2, are all the original cast returning?

Mamma Mia 2 is in the works we are all dancing. All the original cast are returning. We are all there. All a bit baggy around the gills. We are all a bit more sunburnt.

Interview: Jack Raynor and Hannah Murray talk about their new film Detroit

Hey everyone! Been a while since I last did a blog post but tonight (16.08.17) I got to meet with Jack Raynor and Hannah Murray – two of the cast of the new Kathryn Bigelow movie Detroit (review coming soon) and here is what they had to say about the film.

Jack Raynor:

Detroit is a pretty moving and powerful movie, why did you want to be part of it?

That very fact. I read the script and thought it was going to be something that might hopefully have a profound impact on the audience. It’s a film about a very difficult systemic issue and doesn’t only exist in the US but all around the world and something that should certainly be addressed and Kathryn Bigelow is definitely the filmmaker to begin that conversation.

The interrogation scene in the Algiers Motel was pretty hard to watch, how was it filming for you?

It was quite a harrowing experience, not the kind of character you enjoy inhabiting. It’s something you have to be methodical in your approach with and try to understand your feelings about other people and assume the identity of a person who is least susceptible about feelings of supremacy and inequality. We spent weeks on it. At least six weeks shooting. It was very difficult.

The film, which is based on the Detroit race riots in the 1960s, seems to have come out at the perfect time after everything that happened in Charlottesville over the weekend.

It’s certainly a hard push to find a more topical film right now with what is happening in the states and also in the UK as well. We are seeing a resurgence of very right wing ideological beliefs and it’s not good. It’s condemnable and it has been condemnable since WW2 and it remains that way now. White supremacy is not something we can even consider as being acceptable in society neither is neo Nazism or the KKK. It’s very important that we are absolute in our refusal to allow these things to insidiously creep back into society and take control over our political systems again and I think this film is something that hopefully raises some part of that conversation.

When I was watching the film, I wanted there to be some sort of punishment given to the white police officers who murdered the three men but obviously, based on true facts and court reports, it never happened.

How did you feel about that when reading the script?

If it was already resolved it wouldn’t have happened anyway. This is the US we are talking about police don’t get prosecuted for killing African Americans. Largely they get away with that. It’s something that has been happening since the foundation of the state. It’s a heinous thing, it’s an awful awful issue, and has to be addressed and hopefully this film will once again raise that conversation.

Hannah Murray:

How did you feel when you first read the script?

I felt physically sick reading the script and afterwards as well. It was harrowing that these people went through what they did. It’s really shocking. That’s one of the reasons why Kathryn wanted to do it.

Is that why you wanted to get part in it? Was there a part of you that had to be in this movie?

I wanted to get involved in the film for many reasons, Kathryn being the main one but also the story it tells. It is about real people and real events that happened and it was great being a part of it.

As the film is sort of a social commentary on what happened and what is still happening, do you think it will have the impact on society that it deserves?

I hope the film has the impact that it deserves. It’s a really difficult question on how do you change people’s minds but hopefully this film will have some impact on it.

Detroit also stars John Boyega, Will Poulter and Anthony Mackie and is released on Thursday.