CS Interview: Doug Liman talks The Wall & Chaos Walking
Lionsgate Home Entertainment provided ComingSoon.net with the opportunity for an exclusive 1-on-1 interview with director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Edge of Tomorrow, Mr. & Mrs. Smith) about his hard-hitting and suspenseful war movie The Wall, which arrives on Blu-ray (plus Digital HD), DVD, and On Demand today. We also discussed his upcoming YA adaptation Chaos Walking, starring Daisy Ridley and Tom Holland, which just began production.
Portraying U.S. military sharpshooters, Golden Globe winner Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Best Supporting Actor, Nocturnal Animals, 2017) and WWE Superstar John Cena (Trainwreck) star in this nail-biting game of cat and mouse that keeps audiences on the edge of their seats until the final shot is fired. The Wall is a deadly psychological thriller that follows two soldiers pinned down by an Iraqi sniper, with nothing but a crumbling wall between them. Their fight becomes as much a battle of will and wits as it is of lethally accurate marksmanship.
The home entertainment release of The Wall includes audio commentary with Liman and actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson, a “Facts from the Front Lines: A Visual Journey Through The Wall” featurette looking at the making of the film, and four behind-the-scenes vignettes from the theatrical release of the film.
ComingSoon.net: The Wall was very interesting, it reminds me of something you would have seen in the ’50s on “Playhouse 90” or something like that. There is a theatrical quality, but it is still cinematic.
Doug Liman: Yeah, I like Dwain Worrell’s script. It’s the kind of writing that you don’t see much from Hollywood these days. Where it’s really dramatic and really compelling and it is entirely character-driven, and still totally exciting.
CS: Worrell actually is a playwright, so he knew how to create the characters through the dialogue.
Liman: I have always been drawn to working with playwrights. Since “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” and “Fair Game” and “Edge of Tomorrow.” I’m talking to a playwright on a stage in London right now. Because I’m interested in putting characters in outrageous situations. I like high concept movies and I like making high concept movies because I like watching human characters deal with these outrageous situations; be it Jason Bourne’s amnesia, or Mr. & Mrs. Smith’s lifestyles in suburbia. I am interested in characters going on adventures. Where is the adventure today? Where is it alive and well today? I guess it was alive and well 150 years ago in the West, but where is it today? One of these places is in war, the outrageous situation of the war in “The Wall” is fictitious, but is not that far from the experiences that the modern soldier faces.
CS: I think that part of the problem or the moral gray area of Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s character is that he is there as the war is winding down. The war is almost over and the sniper asks him, “Why are you still here?” but Taylor-Johnson’s character prefers war to being at home.
Liman: What I love about the entire script for “The Wall” is that I like making movies that are smart, but not preachy. And the question of “Why are you still here?” could be applied directly to Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s character: Why is he preoccupied with going back rather than going home? Why does he keep going back and doing more tours of duty? And that also raises the question on a global level of “Why are we still there?” You have a character that is all alone basically, you have two soldiers all alone cut off from everybody except the enemy. They are cut off from all help against the backdrop of a war that everyone thinks is already over, and they are still fighting. It is sort of like someone forgot to tell them that the war is over. So in terms of a movie where you were going isolate your hero, I cannot imagine a more poignant and terrible scenario than Dwain Worrell’s script. Where not only are they isolated and left out with no ability to radio for help, but Aaron Taylor-Johnson and John Cena are in a war that Americans think is already over. They are the only ones who are left fighting and their deaths won’t make the front page anymore. And if they died no one will know it. And by the way, when was the last time that you saw in the front page of the paper a story of an American soldier dying in the combat? But if you dig deeper there’s hardly a week that goes by without it. There’s not a day where an American Soldier is not dying in combat.
CS: Well sure, the war in Afghanistan just keeps going on and on and on ad infinitum.
Liman: So the fact that the characters are alone in Iraq fighting a war in a base to possibly fail and die, no one is going to know it. It is like if a tree falls in the forest and no one can hear it. There is something about that that makes the story all that more poignant, not political, but poignant. And that is very important to me. I have opinions about the war, like most Americans probably, but I recognize that people don’t pay money to go to the movies to hear my opinions. Not my political opinions at least. I am being serious, there’s many a-filmmaker who do this. People will laugh at their jokes and clap at their action sequences, and next thing the filmmaker thinks the audience wants to spend $20 to hear their political opinions. I may not be humble in that many ways, but I am very humble and understanding that audiences want to be entertained by me, they want to be thought-provoked. They want to have an exciting time, they want to be inspired, but they do not want to be lectured too much. So I’m actually really excited to make a movie about the war in Iraq and not make it an anti-war movie. To not make a movie that is decidedly not a Hollywood-left-wing-liberal diatribe against war. I have some law enforcement in my family — my brother worked as a Federal prosecutor — so I may be of the mind that some wars have to be fought and someone has to fight it. And this is a story about two soldiers fighting a war.
CS: Are you already shooting on “Chaos Walking”?
Liman: Yeah, I am shooting up in Montreal. We are two weeks from starting to shoot, so basically we are in production. There is almost no difference between two weeks out and shooting.
CS: Doing “Chaos Walking” now has lots of opportunities for political poignancy. Where are you finding the hook, the intellectual hook to do something like “Chaos Walking” if you are not going to make it political, necessarily?
Liman: If you were a fly on the wall in my office of “Chaos Walking,” you wouldn’t think that I was making a high-octane action film set on a remote planet where Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley are being chased like “The Bourne Identity” with Mads Mikkelsen. I think about my films in terms of what they say and in the case of “Chaos Walking,” it is about the relationship of the sexes. There’s going to be a lot of provocative ideas in “Chaos Walking” because I’m a provocative person, but I will never fall into the trap of making my ideas any more than provocative. I love that people can leave the theater and think about things that were in the film. I’m not interested in making merely entertainment like empty calories or cotton candy. I want audiences to leave the theater having been given “a filling meal,” a nutritious meal with actual substance. That’s what I love about the ending of “The Wall,” that without giving it away, nobody gets up during the end credits. They’re processing the movie they just saw. I like making movies that can be watched more than once, and I try to think about what the second viewing and the third viewing might be like, to make sure that there is enough substance there. This film is designed for the first viewing but if you watch it a second time, I’m really just thinking about it. And there’s additional ideas and Easter Eggs to be found. So the second time that you watch “The Wall” you will have a very different experience than the first time. And the movie is designed for minds.
CS: When you were talking about making it like a filling experience, the concept of “Chaos Walking” with this world without women reminds me of “Children of Men.” Which was sort of about politics, but it wasn’t political, it was more visceral. And when you talk about a world where a whole group of people do not exist — in that case it was children, and in this one it’s women — there is a lot of very visceral things that really hit you emotionally about that idea.
Liman: One thing that was important to me about “Chaos Walking” is you cannot make a movie as nihilistic as “Children of Men.” I mean I love “Children of Men,” but I want audiences to have a little more fun. I think that you can have a little more fun without losing substance. And my world outlook is, like I said, I like more adventure. I am really interested in adventure and Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley might be in a very precarious situation in “Chaos Walking,” but they are going on one hell of an adventure. It may not be an adventure that either one of them signed up for, but it’s an adventure that I would want to go on.
Chaos Walking is set for release on March 1, 2019.