xXx Director D.J. Caruso on the Return of Xander Cage

ON

xXx Director D.J. Caruso on the Return of Xander Cage

xXx director D.J. Caruso on the return of Xander Cage

After 15 years, Vin Diesel is back as the adrenaline junkie/secret agent in xXx: The Return of Xander Cage. X has been laying low after faking his death after 2002’s xXx. (Ice Cube starred in the 2005 sequel xXx: State of the Union.) Now he’s back, hunting down a group of fellow thrill-seekers to retrieve a dangerous device called Pandora’s Box. There are stunts galore and all the famous lines fans have come to expect. We sat down with xXx director D.J. Caruso to chat about filming scenes like the one that included a bike chase over the waves and one in zero gravity, doing a fight scene with Donnie Yen and updating the franchise. xXx: The Return of Xander Cage co-stars Samuel L. Jackson, Rory McCann, Tony Jaa, Deepika Padukone, Nina Dobrev, Ruby Rose, Toni Collette, Kris Wu, Donnie Yen, Ariadna Gutierrez and Ice Cube

ComingSoon.net: You’ve got a huge cast and quite a number of main characters. How did you balance that, allowing everyone their moment?

D.J. Caruso: Well, that was the thing I lost the most sleep over. You have this incredibly great cast and I was always thinking, you have to make sure – obviously Xander has his moments and Serena (Padukone) is out in the forefront and you have Xiang, Donnie Yen, but how do I really get all these other characters to pop? So I worked closely with the writer [F. Scott Frazier] to make sure we could give them character moments and maximize the character moments within those scenes. And then, like, allowing Kris Wu to be Kris Wu and letting his character pop out. Ruby is just amazing and Nina – so it was really making sure the narrative drive of that would allow for them to shine. But honestly, that was the scariest thing. And honestly, they’re all used to being number one or two on the call sheet! [laughs]

ComingSoon.net: You’ve got Donnie Yen in here and there is a scene early on in the film where he is kicking serious ass. You could watch him do that for hours.

D.J. Caruso: I know, I know! I could watch him forever because he’s so much fun! Donnie is such a marvel. And you realize, someone who’s 53 and in that physical shape, but he’s also a master and he understand the art. Martial arts, but also how to shoot and capture martial arts. So for me, it was educational in a way where I would say, okay, my camera is going to be here and we’re going to do this, and Donnie would say, yeah, but what if my leg stopped here? So it was really taking from him a lot of what he knows about camera and how to make things work for camera. But it was really exhilarating. There is that one scene where he breaks through the glass – we shot that in two days, and when you think about that, that’s really phenomenal.

A new xXx video offers a new look at the Return of Xander Cage.

ComingSoon.net: One thing that really struck me about the film is that, unlike a lot of action films, you really had a 50/50 split between male and female leads. Was that a deliberate choice?

D.J. Caruso: I would say it was a conscious choice. It was a real conscious choice to really define and make the women strong. Once Vin was on board with this team, the people he [Xander] would have met over the past, other people that Sam [Jackson who plays NSA Agent Augustus Eugene Gibbons, head of the xXx team], it really just sort of allowed us to write these characters in a way where these are extreme people. They’re equal to Xander. So it didn’t really matter, gender. It just mattered that she was a great sniper or she was a great BMX rider, she was doing this. So we just went off and wrote. I’m a dad and I have two young girls. You just start to think that you have a responsibility in a way, not to – I think the expectation of this movie was macho, Xander Cage, you know, the way he was, and that was sort of campy and fun in the day, but I think that’s the difference between the first xXx and where we are now, is that we’re equal, whether it’s gender, race, whatever. It doesn’t really matter. They all got their due.

ComingSoon.net: Of course, you do have those girls in bikinis!

D.J. Caruso: You still have that element in that, and you have Hermione Corfield [Ainsley] who comes in and is in the bikini and she’s sort of the Bond Girl, but man she has all the information and she can find anybody and she’s strong, but yeah, you have a little bit of that, but I think the featured women–and the guys are pretty good! Vin has his shirt off! But yeah, it was really a conscious effort to make strong women, because I think, to me, there is some perverse nature about, that would be the big surprise of the movie. Because that wouldn’t be expected.

ComingSoon.net: I have to ask you about the scene with the bikes with skis on them, going over the waves. How did you pull that off?

D.J. Caruso: Robbie Madison is a great, incredible motorcycle stuntman who has a great imagination and I’d seen a film that he had done early on for Red Bull called “The Pipe Dream,” where he wanted to ride that motorcycle into that wave. So I immediately contacted Robbie and said I needed to be the first person to put that in a movie. He was like, “Great! We can do that!” So we started from that, and basically started with storyboards and pre-vis for the sequence to see what it could be. Robbie would tell me what was possible or not possible. It was the most difficult because everything was working well until we got close to the wave and the water choppiness. The waves weren’t like the waves Robbie had in Tahiti that were rolling and perfect. We were in the Dominican Republic where they were crashing. It was really difficult but it ended up paying off. It was really Robbie’s dream to ride a motorcycle on a wave that inspired us to push that. We thought that’s something Xander Cage would do. [laughs]

Vin Diesel vs Donnie Yen in New xXx: Return of Xander Cage Clip

ComingSoon.net: I wanted to ask you about another sequence that has Xander and Xiang fighting with groups of people in zero gravity as a plane nosedives. How did you do it?

D.J. Caruso:  It was really interesting because we realized how many people Donnie would be fighting against, how many people Vin would be fighting against. Xander is in the data center and it’s a lot tighter, so how do we build that set? Donnie is out in the cargo bay, so it gives you a little more freedom to fly and do things. It was done with wires and and articulate airplane. We put our cameraman off on zero g wires so the camera operator was also operating in cinematic zero g, so that was really interesting.

ComingSoon.net: There are lines that were common to the first two films, like what a character would or wouldn’t do for his country. How much did you want to put in there for fans that they’d recognize?

D.J. Caruso: [laughs] I really wanted to stay true to – if you were a fan of the original franchise, we’d be paying homage. You know, “I live for this s***,” or “The things I do for my country.” So we really kind of made sure we were there and attached so people would get that familiarity. And then I wanted to make sure that for new audiences, coming to it for the first time, you could still start here and enjoy that, but at the same time, we’re paying the respect to what people loved in the first one.

ComingSoon.net: I won’t mention how it happens, but Game of Thrones fans will recognize Rory McCann doing something you wouldn’t expect. He sings at one point. 

D.J. Caruso: Yeah, having Rory was great! Vin’s daughter had a birthday party and Rory and I went out to the house in Toronto and Rory had an Aladdin costume on because it was a genie party. [laughs] I didn’t dress. I just showed up. He sat down and played the piano and like, Vin and I, everyone were just like – he sang and he was unbelievable! And so, I told him we have to get this in the movie somehow, some way. He was like, how are you going to get this in the movie? I said I have an idea! When he finally went with it, he went with it!

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage hits theaters on January 20, 2017. Are you guys excited to see film? Let us know in the comments or tweet us @ComingSoonNet!

Box Office

Weekend: Aug. 22, 2019, Aug. 25, 2019

New Releases