John Stockwell, the director of the new action release IN THE BLOOD began as an actor in the 1980s. He has starred in some retro classics – none bigger than Top Gun, but cult favourites My Science Project and Stephen King’s Christine have stood the test of time. John began his directing career as the little known 1987 cop in high school drama, Undercover. Since then he has made Blue Crush and Into the Blue, among others that have an action adventure edge. In The Blood is no different except the stakes are higher, a man is kidnapped on a tropical holiday and his partner goes all out to find him only to clash with corrupt cops accusing her of the crime and confronting gangs controlling the island. Professional fighter Gina Carino stars.
Shane A. Bassett – Many of the movies you direct are filmed in exotic locations. Is that something you look for before choosing a project, a pre-requisite?
John Stockwell – (laughs) It doesn’t hurt, I am one of those people who actually likes going on location. It’s good for the crew and you can take the family. It can avoid social distractions. The best was Blue Crush, warm tropical locations and I am fine with that.
Was it always called In the Blood.
That’s a good question because every movie kind of goes through title changes at certain points, but I am sure this was always called In the Blood.
Is it a true story or any components based on fact?
I don’t think there are any non-fiction origins to it, maybe a little bit inspired by stories of couples going on vacation when one spouse has disappeared and the surviving spouse goes all out to find them. A case did happen in Mexico recently where that did happen and the other spouse is the suspect, kinda like our movie, but different. We never mention the name of the country we are in. You see, Brazil got really upset with me after making Turistas, so I didn’t want another country pissed off with me, so I kept it another unnamed Caribbean island.
I did notice that the country wasn’t named, that was sneaky of you.
(laughs) It was shot in Puerto Rico.
Some of the buildings in certain scenes were rundown: demolition ready, good effects or real?
They were existing locations, the biggest problem in Puerto Rico was it’s a very developed country, I wanted it less high concept and solid buildings, more of a village feel. Very practical. Some parts are very dangerous to go in and not really advised. We were filming fake gunshots, then you hear real gunshots and you think are they our gunshots. (laughs)
I am sure you had street crowds gathering, there were many hand held camera scenes.
We shot a-lot with Go Pros and a variety of compact travel cameras. I kinda never go out looking for weird extras to put in the background, I’d rather just let the audience build and go with them, film around them to be in the movie.
I certainly enjoyed the inventive death that Gina carries out with a pen, was she always the first choice as Ava? I couldn’t imagine anyone else?
I think the writers had her in mind, I had seen Haywire, I knew how cool she was at MMA fighting. She may not have been on board when it was written but she was a prototype for the role.
How was she to direct, did she do her own stunts and bring any ideas to the table?
Probably the most difficult thing about working with Gina physically adapting instantly by being such a good fighter, she not only wants to do her own stunts, she is the most qualified person to do her own stunts. That being said, she is not a stunt person, so she is used to connecting with punches, kicks, elbows, so she had to remind herself, OK we are not in a real fight and hurt the other actor. Even a small contact blow causes serious bruises. She did her own stunts, mostly, the only thing she doesn’t like is heights so she was totally not into the flying fox sequence.
Do you prefer writing and directing as opposed to acting now?
I always inspired to be a writer / director when acting. Now I am one, I miss acting. I look back at acting as not as anxiety-inducing or irresponsible for taking the wrong parts or that the whole weight of the movie didn’t weight on you. I have some nostalgia for it, but when I was doing it I always had me eye on being director.
How much have you changed since making Undercover (which I might add was a pretty awesome movie to start off your career)?
Oh boy, I never hear that referenced. I think I have changed a lot. The greatest thing about being an actor being around film sets, working with directors both good and bad, you learn. At one point I dabbled about attending a NYU film school program, then I realised the graduates were mostly only being technical advisors on movies and I was already on sets as an actor and nobody could kick me off the sets after my scenes, I stayed to watch. I learned as much on the bad experiences on film sets as I did from the good. How I didn’t want to be spoken to or treated as an actor is what guides me to do the right thing today.
Undercover should get referenced more. It is an awesome directional debut.
Is action something you want to keep doing because Crazy, Beautiful did expose your dramatic flair and romantic side of directing, it’s one of the great modern tragic romances.
It is a good movie, I am proud of it and I’d love to be doing another Crazy, Beautiful. Getting that kind of movie made today by a studio is hard, creating a drama is an endangered species in filmmaking today. Disney backed that and I loved it, it did well and other studios do make decent dramas now, just not many. I love action, it’s not my passion and you always feel like in my films you’re doing action on a budget, so I cannot compete with the Bond or Bourne movies with 100 times the resources.
Well In The Blood, could be a stepping stone for a Bond movie for you John, you never know.
(laughs) There you go, all I want to do is a little drama. I would never say I don’t want to do a multimillion dollar Bond movie, but for me In the Blood was a pretty big movie on scale and difficulty. With bigger budgets comes more people and sometimes you just get in the way of each other.
How difficult is it to finance your films? Did legends Danny Trejo and Treat Williams appearing in In the Blood help it get financed?
It was already financed before they came on. Basically the idea of the script with Gina, the focus was how it got financed, she is popular. You can only ask those other guys a week before you’re going to shoot, hey did you want to come down to Puerto Rico and do some scenes. That’s how I asked Luis Guzman. If you ask these big guys what are you doing in five months, they will say I hope I am doing a Spielberg movie or on some other blockbuster, it’s too early for them to say yes I’ll be in your little movie.
Cat Run 2 will be your very first sequel, is there a reason you didn’t do Into the Blue 2 or Blue Crush?
Another good question Shane, I don’t even know why there is a sequel to Cat Run. The producer came to me, wanted me to sign up, go to New Orleans and do it, I had a great rapport with the cast and producer so thought why not it will be fun except it was the coldest winter ever in Louisiana, we froze our asses off. Both those other movies I was working on other things at the time, I was with Halle Berry in doing Dark Tide, when they did Blue Crush 2.
Which movie out of your acting career gets brought up the most, is it Christine, Radioactive Dreams, My Science Project, which one do people ask about?
(long silence, then laughs) Come on, you know the answer to that! It’s Top Gun, it’s always brought up within 30 seconds of meeting me. People love My Science Project and Christine has a big fan base but no one has seen those as many times as Top Gun.
What about Radioactive Dreams, that has a bit of a following too I think, it’s magnificently retro.
(laughs) Oh come on, you are the only person who has seen Radioactive Dreams or Undercover.
I have to ask you one Top Gun question to keep the roll happening then. There has been talk of a sequel for years and it finally looks as if one is now going ahead with Tom Cruise looking at scripts and producer Jerry Bruckheimer back at Paramount Studios, even though your character Cougar turned in his wings. Have you been approached as yet to reprise the role?
No, I don’t think it’s that close to fruition. Sometimes I think it should have been made.
Your little scene with James Tolkan is cool and I believe a 2016 release is on the cards for the 30th anniversary of the original?
Well it certainly was an amazing experience, the director Tony Scott was great, I had no idea of what it was going to become during filming. We went up in the planes, all the cast threw up at first, none of that footage was useable. It was a movie for the time. My Science Project is a staple on cable TV, it’s the reality of new generations seeing our old films making it acceptable again. They get a better experience now than maybe when it was first released.
What do you hope people get from In the Blood, when choosing it as a movie they want to see?
I hope it takes them on a ride, out of their comfort zone, but still a fun visual journey. Ultimately some people may go, ‘No way, come on the story is wrong’ but I love the idea of mystery and suspense, that’s what the movie does well and Gina is a brilliant star.
Finally, any thoughts of making a film Down Under?
Every single movie I have prepped or looked at, especially Blue Crush, which almost went to Australia then something happened. Into the Blue was going there until producers realised how long the boat ride was to the Great Barrier Reef, logistically it wouldn’t work. An Errol Flynn project I am currently involved in might shoot in Australia. I have an idea for a Beach Volleyball movie which might shoot in Australia. Your dollar is stronger, but it has become more expensive than it used to be there to film. The volleyball movie is a girls volleyball movie for the producer who did Hurt Locker and Dallas Buyers Club. I guess we will film it in California.
‘In The Blood’ is available now on DVD from Anchor Entertainment.
Shane A. BassettSydney Unleashed is one of Australia’s premier entertainment publications exploring the latest in lifestyle trends. From Sydney’s finest restaurants, cafes and bars to the hottest in gadgets, products, and home entertainment, Sydney Unleashed is your one-stop lifestyle platform.