In the Future: The Cast of Vantage Point

ON spent much of this morning talking to director Pete Travis and the cast of his new political action-thriller Vantage Point, including actors Dennis Quaid, Matthew Fox and Sigourney Weaver. We’ll have more with all of them in the next week, leading up to the movie’s release on Friday, but they all talked about what’s going on, including a number of high-profile upcoming projects.

In the movie, Quaid and Fox play secret agents assigned to the protect the President of the United States (William Hurt) while he’s in Spain at an anti-terror rally, but after he’s shot, they’re two of the many people who have to figure out what really happened and who is responsible.

At this point, Quaid has shot three other movies, all presumably coming out this year including Smart People in April, in which Quaid plays a college professor who has “lost his fire for life,” then he plays a cop in The Horsemen, which he calls “a horror movie with heart,” and then in October, The Express is a sports movie about Ernie Davis, the first black athlete to win the Heisman trophy, in which Quaid plays his coach Schwartzwalder, “a legendary coach.” “That movie’s about race relations in the country. It speaks historically as well as to today,” he added.

One would presume that all the action in Vantage Point must have been a good warm-up for Dennis Quaid playing General Hawk Abernathy in Stephen Sommers’ live action movie based on the cartoon, comics and action figures known as G.I. Joe, but Quaid admits he doesn’t have a lot of action in the Paramount feature scheduled for the summer of ’09. “Not so much for me in this one. Hopefully, there’s going to be two more after this. I don’t really have a lot to do here in the first one. I really signed up for the future as well.”

He told us that he’s already been scanned for his action figure and “it’s anatomically correct, too,” he joked, but he’s not involved with the romances mentioned at the Hasbro presentation a couple days ago. “I have no romances, but my aide-de-camp is a Victoria’s Secret supermodel, Carolina Kournikova, her name is Cover Girl, so it can’t be too serious. It’s a little bit like the cartoon show and it’s a little bit like a modern action film, and it’s also a little like James Bond old-style back in the ’60s with Specter taking over an island for it’s own criminal country and a threat to the entire world. It’s somewhat tongue-in-cheek and great action and it just seems like a lot of fun. I just wanted to be a part of it.”

Even with the war in Iraq still going on, Quaid doesn’t think the movie is going to be a serious political thriller like Vantage Point that has significant relevance to what’s going on in the world today, as was the case with The Day After Tomorrow. “I feel it’s a straight-up ‘blow things up’ (movie). People gotta have it.”

Matthew Fox is also entering his first big franchise this summer, playing Racer X in the highly-anticipated return of the Wachowskis doing Speed Racer, another cartoon-related movie. “I’m very excited about the movie,” Fox said in his usual deadpan way, trying hard not to gush too much. “I’ve seen certain sections of the film, and it’s going to be amazing. My little boy asks me every single day when the movie is coming out. The experience of making it with the Wachowskis and the entire cast was extraordinary. The whole process that they’re doing is very different. The way that the images are layered in, the way things are even shot. Most of the time you’d end up doing a scene and the actors would be removed from it so you’d be doing it by yourself then images are compressed. Just the experience of discovering what this world is that they are building and trying to find a way into that world as this masked vigilante was really fun. It’s amazing, the whole thing, and it was an absolutely amazing summer.”

With the Toy Fair in town, Fox made sure to stop by Mattel to check out his second action figure (his first is of Jack Shephard from “Lost” of course) and he told us that he didn’t hesitate when he signed on for more than one movie. “I would hope to do more. I would love to do more of that world and work with everyone involved in that project. I’m very excited by the prospect of that but it’s just going to be one at a time obviously, but I didn’t think twice (about signing for more).”

Otherwise, he’s been meeting with directors, but any future film projects will rely on the scheduling for “Lost” which has been drastically altered by the writers strike. “I’m going back to shoot ‘Lost’ this spring. We probably won’t get all of the 8 we owe, but I’m sure we’ll get five or six of them.”

Considering that they set a very specific plan of doing 16 episodes starting every January for the next three years, it’s still unclear whether those episodes would come out this season or over the summer or in the fall. “I know those discussions are going on right now, lot of phone calls flying around, I’m sure, trying to figure out how they’re going to do that,” Fox told us. (Note: There are some potential spoilers for “Lost” Season 3 and the last few episodes of Season 4 and maybe even beyond, so for those who have been living under a rock and/or waiting for DVD or who just don’t want to know, you may want to skip the next five paragraphs.)

Fox is one of the few people who knows everything about what happens to Jack between leaving the island and the flash-forward at the end of Season 3, but whether or not Jack will end up being the hero or something different, he’s keeping mum. “I think the idea of hero or good guy, bad guy is sort of an antiquated notion in a lot of respects. I think it’s more interesting to accept the complexity of all of us and hope that he makes heroic choices in very difficult circumstances. I really feel like ‘Lost’ and what I’m getting to do on that show is pretty complex, and it’s evolving as well. (Jack) sort of started as this idea. Everybody wanted him to be this heroic guy, and actually, he’s really flawed and the island is stripping away this deep compassion in him and bringing out a much darker side, so there’s an evolution that’s happening in the character that’s always been important to Damon and myself.”

And how is he feeling about the current season? When we last spoke to Fox, just after the start of Season 3, he was getting into the idea of working with new actors in more intimate settings as Jack dealt with Ben and the Others as the season began, but Season 4 is back to the big ensemble cast all together again for the first time in a while. “I think the story dictated that,” he told us when asked if that was a decision mandated by what the fans wanted. “I don’t think that was a reaction to people wanting… the season ended with Jack Shepard feeling that he contacted the rescue boat and rescue was on the way in juxtaposition with this future in which he’s suicidal and desperate to get back. I feel like the story really did have to kick off where it was and with the entire group and the question of whether they’re actually rescuing them or if there’s some sinister threat behind the whole thing. It made sense to me.”

“I think the fourth season will close those two moments of time of Jack in the future and Jack feeling like he’s being rescued,” he continued. “The season will be about answering all those questions of who got off with him? Who’s in the casket? Why does he want to go back, this guy of all people? Why is he suicidal and desperate to go back?”

Fox did let slip one big ‘ol hint about the timeframe of everything we’ve seen so far when asked an innocent question about how much time has passed on the island since the plane crash. “If you’re going to talk about from Jack in the plane crash to Jack in the future, that’s about a year and a half, and Jack on the island now would be about 120 days.” This would mean that if Jack gets off the island at the end of Season 4, he’ll have a whole year in civilization to flash back to if and when he returns to the island (presumably at the start of Season 5.) Interesting.

Sigourney Weaver has a fairly small part in Vantage Point, playing a television news producer who witnesses the events, but she’ll be returning to action movies when she’s reunited with her Aliens director James Cameron after 20 years for the sci-fi action movie Avatar, which she shot last summer. “It was absolutely great,” she told us about that reunion. “He’s doing the most extraordinary job. He invented the cameras, and it’s going to be quite an experience for people. I think it’s going to transform the industry because to see a serious film done in 3D is really powerful. They forced me to see my scenes, but I got to see quite a bit of it and quite a bit of where they are with the performance capture in that world, it’s pretty awesome. It was a great thrill to be in something that felt like science fiction, because no one else is doing this. I felt incredibly at home in that world. The whole thing is absolutely crazy, I loved it!” Presumably having signed an oath of secrecy, Weaver couldn’t reveal any further details about the characters or the story when asked. In related news, some new Avatar artwork has popped up here.

As far as Vantage Point director Pete Travis, this is a big movie for the Irish director who made Omagh, but he will continue working in the political thriller genre with End Game, a small budget movie that starts shooting in April. He gave us the rundown of the premise behind the thriller that takes place half in South Africa and half in England. “It just so happens that ‘End Game’ is a true story set in South Africa about the secret talks that brought down the Apartheid regime, and it’s a political thriller dealing with the politics of South Africa at that time, but it’s equally a story about hope and about two men who hate each other at the beginning of the movie, because they’re enemies, who basically have to learn to trust each other or otherwise, the future of their country is in jeopardy. The very fact that they’re even talking to each other is dangerous for them, and their lives are in danger because the ANC at that point were terrorists and the white Africanische government would never speak to them publicly, and the white Africanische, the ANC should never talk to them. These bunch of guys met secretly in England and that was one of the things that contributed to the end of Apartheid. It was just a fascinating story for me about people trying to be more than they were.”

In terms of the casting of what should be a number of highly sought-after parts, Travis didn’t have anyone confirmed that he could tell us about, but he did hint, “Hopefully, some people that are not too far away from my previous work, but I’m still negotiating so I don’t like to prejudice negotiations until everyone’s definitely signed up. Hopefully some very familiar faces, certainly maybe from this film and the one before. I’ll leave that to your imagination.” (Since we have really good imaginations, we immediately thought, “Could Forrest Whitaker possibly be returning to Africa after winning the Oscar for playing Idi Amin?” It’s all our own conjecture at this point, but we could certainly see him playing the Bishop Desmond Tutu without too much effort.)

Vantage Point opens on Friday, February 22.