Warner Bros.’ WonderCon panel kicked-off on Saturday afternoon with an extended look at Sylvain White’s take on the Vertigo Comics series The Losers, created by Andy Diggle and Jock. Most of the actors playing the title characters were on-hand to talk about their roles.
For those who haven’t read the original series in comic or trade form, it’s the story of a team of government special ops who were presumably killed by their agency that hired them after completing their mission. Years later, they’ve returned from hiding to get revenge on the man who gave the order to pull the trigger on them. Jeffrey Dean Morgan is Clay, the leader of the group, Chris Evans is Jensen, the group’s tech support, Columbus Short plays Pooch, and Oscar Jaenada is Cougar, the team’s silent sharpshooter. Zoe Saldana plays Aisha, the X-factor in the group because she’s very dangerous but no one knows whose side she’s on, because she has a lot of secrets. (The only “Loser” absent from Wonder-Con was Idris Elba, who plays Roque.)
“It has a great sense of humor that comes from the comic, but it’s paired with these really great action set pieces and these great idealisms I love so much,” White told the audience at the panel when asked about the source material. “It’s really a great combination of humor and kick-ass action that makes it such a unique graphic novel initially, but I think specifically now, the sort of genres of action that we’ve seen lately in the last few years. It’s combining, in such a unique way, cool visceral action with this incredible and fun selection of characters.”
“I was really impressed by the design work of the graphic novel that the artist Jock did, particularly the use of primary and secondary colors is so amazing,” he said when asked about capturing the tone of the graphic novels. “Every time you turn a page and there are new environments, just different city to city as you follow the Losers wherever they go. That particular quality I really wanted to transfer to the movie and give it a unique sense of the comic without necessarily replicating the frames, but getting the tone and the atmosphere that the graphic novel had. And again, the best thing to me about the graphic novel is the unique combination of humor and the action, it’s really impressive, and that was the key of being able to translate that.”
Before the cast came out to answer questions at the panel, they showed a clip from the movie as well as an extended version of the trailer that includes more footage and longer versions of the scenes we’ve seen so far.
Oddly, the clip was something we haven’t seen in the comic which is an encounter between Clay and Aisha in a dingy hotel room, as they walk in and she comments sarcastically that it’s everything a girl could ever dream of and asks him what brings him to the country, and he says “A cruise ship,” to which she responds that they’re in a land-locked country, and he says something like “it’s an amazing cruise ship.” He asks her why she contacted him, and she says she has a business proposition for him, but he doesn’t think he can trust her.
“I don’t want to hurt you,” she says and then the camera goes around her back and we see that she has a gun in the back of her pants and her hand is resting on it ready to pull it out.
“You’re not going to,” he responds, and they start tussling violently while destroying the room, as she hits him with a chair and then kicks him, their fight knocks over a television set that starts a fire in the room. He slams her against the wall with her leg over his shoulder and she sexily raises her leg up and purrs “hi,” before they end up on the floor with her on top of him, and he says, “I’m listening,” before she tells him, “I can help you find Max.”
This went right into the extended trailer that was very different from the previous trailer, and included longer sequences we’ve seen, a few new ones, and lots of action and explosions.
Noticeably new footage included a scene of the bad guy Max, played by Jason Patric, being told that the Losers are back and trying to get him. “What am I looking at here?” he asks his assistant, and he’s told “Clay and his unit.” “Clay and his Unit?” he asks, “Sounds like a porno. Kill them.”
“I have the power to get revenge on the man that framed you,” Aisha says to Clay in what could have been a continuation of that earlier scene, to which he responds, “If you’re lying to me, I’ll kill you.”
There’s another scene of Idris Alba and Columbus Short trying to get in through a door. A voice asks, “What’s the password?” and Alba responds, “Let us in or I’ll kill you.”
In what looks like a later scene in the same hotel room earlier, Aisha has the Losers at gunpoint in a stand-off and Jensen complains that she has her gun pointed straight at his dick, and he looks very worried. One of the other guys asks him, “Would you rather have it pointed at your face?” to which Jensen replies, “I know it makes no sense, but yes.” She then points the gun up at his face and he’s asked if that’s better. “Not really,” he replies. That’s one of a couple of funny scenes Evans has in the trailer.
It includes the scene of Aisha blowing up the truck with a bazooka and later we see Columbus Short doing something similar and claiming to be the “Black MacGyver.” We also saw the scene of the chopper carrying the armored truck underneath it, a shot taken straight from the comic even if the dialogue is new.
Towards the end of the footage, there was an extended version of Jensen taking out the guys that have him trapped in the elevator, but there was more dialogue. He says, “I’m warning you. I’m a lethal killing machine. It was a secret government experiment. They did stuff to me. Spooky stuff… anal stuff.” Then he points a fake gun at one guy, pretends to shoot and says “Pow!” and the first guy falls to the ground, does it again to a second guy who also goes down, then he says to the third guy, “Face down or I’ll make your heart stop beating.” That guy runs off and Jensen puts up the “okay” sign and the camera goes through his hand up to Cougar who is stationed at a building behind him with a sniper rifle.
After the panel, ComingSoon.net had a chance to talk with Sylvain White and his cast in a smaller press roundtable setting.
The first question involved having a movie based on a graphic novel at WonderCon and how gratifying it was to have a movie so well-suited to that audience:
“It’s an absolute pleasure to be here and be in this world,” Jeffrey Dean Morgan responded. “This is a great world to be in and as actors, you get all these scripts. What’s great about the world of comic books is the stories are original. There’s this kind of ebb and flow in Hollywood, and you get the same scripts over and over – every romantic comedy reads exactly the same. In the world of graphic novels, there’s some originality there and some great characters, so it’s way groovy to be here. We’re all happy to be here or we wouldn’t be in the movie.”
The film’s director agreed. “I think particularly for me, as a filmmaker and a graphic novel fan since I’ve been a kid, it’s an absolute delight to be here among my peers and present what I’ve done with a graphic novel that’s so cool like ‘The Losers’ and it’s so original in tone. As I think Jeffrey is saying, there’s a lot of derivative source material out there and graphic novels are now giving and reboosting Hollywood in that sense. It’s giving them more original stories that are untapped.”
“There’s two things that I really focused on that I knew worked extremely well from the graphic novel,” White said when asked about what he took from the original source material. “The first thing is the tone. The graphic novel has a unique tone combining really gritty visceral action with a really strong humorous tone. The characters are really fun to navigate the action with so that’s the first thing. The second thing is that aesthetically, the graphic novel is amazing, and it’s like that in the movie. You can’t necessarily replicate the frames of the graphic novel, I don’t think that helps anybody, but there are certain things I talked about with Jock in terms of the colors and the graphic design that I really wanted to translate into the movie so you really have a comic book aesthetic but it doesn’t hit you over the head with it. It’s subtle and it eases you into that world.”
“This is a great foundation to use,” Morgan agreed, having already gone down the graphic novel path by appearing in Zack Snyder’s Watchmen. “For Sylvain and us as actors, it was invaluable, because it gives you a really great place to start and jump off. Jock and Andy did such a good job defining these characters and then Sylvain allowed us as actors to take what we gathered out of those graphic novels and bring to life what we thought of those particular characters and their relationships, so we got to play around a little bit more than say I did in ‘Watchmen.””
“I’m not a comic book reader, I didn’t grow up reading them,” Evans admitted, despite The Losers being one in a long line of comic book movies for him. “But they’re fantastic for films. They’re great for films in the sense that films are an intangible thing. All these people trying to come together and make something and the director is the quarterback, trying to bridge the gap of all these different artists with words, and a lot of times the message can be lost in translation, not all the time, but the beautiful thing about comic books or even movies based on novels, you have a blueprint. You have a tangible thing to say, ‘This is the world we’re going for,’ and especially in comics because you have a visual homebase to root yourself in, so as an actor, it’s nice knowing that at least the people behind the visual element of the film have this blueprint to work with, and as an actor you have something to go off of to. It’s a treat, it’s always nice working on comic book movies, you know what you’re getting into.”
White denied that The Losers may have been easier because there was less pressure from fans, being that the graphic novels are not as well known as something like Watchmen or any of the Marvel or DC superheroes that have made their way to the screen. “I think the pressure came from the fact that it’s really great source material and you want the translation to movie to be at least as good, if not better, and I think the pressure came from there. In terms of how aware or not people are to the graphic novel, it really was inconsequential for me. I just wanted to make a great movie that reflected the graphic novel as best as I can.”
“One of the real reasons I wanted to do this movie is that as an actor, I personally want to do things that are grounded in some sense of reality,” Columbus Short chimed in. “This is one of the graphic novels that I think in the last five years is one of the best ones I’ve ever read, and it’s grounded in a sense of reality. They’re not wearing tights or flying and have no superpowers but they’re anti-heroes. Sylvain is amazing at grounding material like this, so it helped in our performance, like Jeffrey was saying, having some extra freedoms and liberties because it’s not Captain America or Superman, where we know what Superman is, we know what Batman is. We had some liberal ability to change our characters and give our own take on it, which comes across great on screen with the chemistry with us, because we’re all close to our characters in this film in a real way.”
When asked about playing a kick-ass female character like Aisha, representing women of a specific ethnicity, Zoe Saldana balked that it didn’t play any factor in her performance. “I don’t think I focus on the representation, I just focus on the character. I’m playing a woman that had issues, just like any individual would, but I think you’ve laid down everything and imprinted that on film then you walk away thinking ‘Okay, that really represented something powerful.’ I hope it’s seen but I couldn’t focus only on that. I had to be Aisha.”
Another thing that Saldana brought to The Losers from her time working with James Cameron on the mega-blockbuster Avatar is that film’s stunt coordinator. “I would call Sylvain everyday, I would text him, ‘Do you have a stunt coordinator ’cause my man, my boy, Garrett Warren, he’s the sh*t.’ Then he sits down with Garrett and he really understood and wanted to be a part of the movie and just the fight sequences, everything that Garrett put together with Sylvain worked so awesome.”
“Yeah, it helped make it feel really hard and gritty,” White agreed.
With that in mind, we were wondering about the decision to go with the film’s recently announced PG-13 rating, which is surprising considering the language and violence from the comic book.
“I’ll tell you this,” White told us. “When I came on this project, I think the studio perceived it as an R film and I thought, ‘That’s ludicrous’ because the tone of the graphic novels, that’s really what’s important, it’s not the violence. It’s how intense and visceral the action is, so I really went for that rather than how gory and graphic the violence is. The good thing about it is that it still feels hard as hell, gritty and realistic. The rules were relatively easy to navigate with this film particularly, and it’s not like you watch the movie and go, ‘This is a PG-13 movie.’ I think that’s a good accomplishment, it feels hard.”
The Losers opens on April 23; look for our exclusive interview with Sylvain White very soon.