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Contributed by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor
for Radio Free Entertainment

August 19, 2006

In the fast-paced, frenetic action thriller Crank, a hitman (Jason Statham) poisoned by a mysterious Chinese drug must keep his adrenaline level up in order to prevent his heart from failing. As he uses every method at his disposal to keep himself juiced--from drugs to loud music to electricity to Red Bull to sex with his girlfriend Eve (Amy Smart)--he cuts a violent, bloody path across Los Angeles as he seeks vengeance upon those who injected him with the lethal "Beijing cocktail."

With its outrageous extremes and over-the-top carnage, Crank is a fun and frequently comedic flick that rarely lets up on the action. In this interview, co-directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor talk about bringing this refreshingly gratuitous free-for-all to life.

The Interview

MEDIA: How did the two of you meet, and how long you have known each other?

MARK: Couple of years. Like four years ago, we were both directors of photography and camera operators. Brian needed somebody to go to Tahoe for this crazy little indie shoot that he was doing, and I went along and we had a lot of beer and shot a lot of stuff. We did a lot of stunt camera work and we realized we've got the style, we should write a script. And we did.

BRIAN: When you're starting out as DPs, you're shooting a lot of indie stuff and first-time directors and things like that, and we pretty much figured out, "We're smarter than you guys, we should just be directors."

What do you see as the "next level" of action movies?

MARK: It goes in waves, and we're trying to go back to the Mad Max style of filmmaking. You know, put the camera in peril and put the actors in peril and do a lot of real stuff and stay away from CG if you can.

Did you map out a whole plan of how someone could sustain an adrenaline rush?

BRIAN: It was a little more organic than that. I mean, our approach to the script was basically the sort of ADD writing where we just want to keep ourselves entertained and interested from scene to scene. If we get boring, the people watching will get boring, so we just continually tried to surprise ourselves through the movie.

How did you approach the mysterious "Chinese herb" angle of the story?

MARK: We wrote this in four and a half days. We did a little consulting with some doctors about the drug and then we just said, "What would we do? Would the movie audience be entertained if they saw this happen?" We just wanted to entertain them. We just wrote what we liked and had fun with it.

BRIAN: We never wanted the movie to feel sort of contrived. Like, "Now we're going to do this device, now we're going to do this device." We wanted you to see those moments where things occurred to the character, like, "Hmmm...I wonder if this will work?"

Was Jason up for all of the outrageous stunts involved in this movie?

BRIAN: We operated all the cameras for the movie ourselves, so we would never ask him to do something that we wouldn't do. So we were there with him the whole time, and his attitude about it was, "In for a penny, in for a pound."

MARK: When he read the script, he loved the script. He wanted to kind of get away from some of the CG wirework that he was doing before, and he wanted to go back to this '70s style of filmmaking. He wanted to do all his own stunts and keep it real, and he was kind of inspired by that. There wasn't anything we asked him to do that he said no to.

Was it The Transporter or Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels that made you think he was right for the role?

MARK: We loved those movies. We were always looking for an LA guy because this was an LA story. We didn't wrap our heads around it [until] one of our producers brought it up to us and said, "What do you think of this guy, Jason Statham?" We thought, "That's interesting. We've got to wrap our heads around the accent." And then we went up to Vancouver and we met with him. And he's got great presence, and he's a beer-drinking cool dude, and that's who Chev Chelios is.

BRIAN: We were looking for a modern equivalent of like the Roy Scheiders, Steve McQueens...The guys who are really convincingly tough, hard guys. And a lot of the actors that were being brought to the table were soft, pretty American actors. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that, but we just didn't think they could convincingly play this part. So we kind of had to go 6,000 miles to get the guy who could pull it off. We got him.

Did the studio shy away from any of Crank's over-the-top elements, like the public sex or excessive violence?

MARK: You have fun reading the script, and when you see the movie, the tone of it...It's kind of tongue in cheek. We're winking at a lot of movies. We're winking at a lot of things in LA, so I think the tone is what enabled them to wrap their heads around it and want to do this.

BRIAN: I mean there were scenes that they didn't really know how it was going to come out until they saw it. And once they saw it, [they got it].

Amy Smart was a cool choice to play Eve. Was it hard finding the right actress for this role?

BRIAN: It was a really hard part to pull off, yeah. She was the right girl. I mean, you could tell. She's got that face--that sort of like, there's a purity and sort of this ray of sunshine to her, right? But at the same time, she's got an edge. That's exactly what we needed.

MARK: And she's like the antidote to the brutality of Chev Chelios' world, too, which was cool.

In one scene, Amy just starts hiccupping while Jason is trying to talk to her. What's the story on that?

BRIAN: Those are real hiccups.

MARK: Shooting with HD cameras, you can keep the cameras rolling. It's not like film. And you don't hear the cameras rolling. And we were rolling the cameras, and Amy started hiccuping. Her and Jason were kind of rehearsing the scene, and we just said, "Keep going, keep going!" And she did.

BRIAN: This is the most Eve moment ever!

MARK: And it worked. So it was totally unplanned, and it really works in the scene.

How careful were you while shooting Jason's scenes in the hospital gown?

MARK: Careful? We were not careful.

BRIAN: Oh, the very next day in tabloids in Europe, his ass was all over the front page. We weren't that careful when we were shooting. We got more careful when we were in the cutting room and we had to look at it all day.

MARK: Yeah, we didn't want to put too many shots in there, but enough where the girls like it.

Is having two directors on a movie a benefit or a hindrance? What is the process of how you guys work together?

BRIAN: The good thing is we started directing together. We've always directed together. So it's kind of organic, you know? It's not like one of us talks to the actor while the other one's shooting, or vice versa. We both just kind of pick up cameras and we know what we need to get and we know when we have it. We look at each other, it's like, "We got it!"

MARK: We have little huddles. It's like football. We have a little huddle, we have a conversation. We're like, "All right? Ready, and break! Let's go out there and do it!"

BRIAN: You know, it's funny, because Jason and Amy both tried to do like little kids do with their parents, where they get one of them aside and try to get the one to say different than the other one said. And they could never catch us. "God damn it, that's what the other guy said, too!"

Was the public sex scene in Chinatown difficult to shoot?

BRIAN: It was a day, man! We shot the whole scene in one day. It was seven pages in one day. We had no backup set, no backup plan. If we hadn't got it that day, we were done.

MARK: We had to do the Chinese restaurant and the sex scene and Chev leaving in one day.

BRIAN: Amy was so nervous and just sort of excited, and it was so exhilarating.

MARK: But as soon as the cameras started rolling, the legs went up and she was game.

Are there different versions of this film outside of North America? Are they more violent?

BRIAN: Well, yeah. The Japanese version, I think, is about 10 minutes longer?

MARK: 9 minutes longer, a little more violent, a little more blood. Nail scene.

Did you shoot alternate endings?

MARK: No, we just decided to stick with the plan. We wanted to shoot the script. At the end of this movie, we just didn't want people to be upset and say that we cheated.

BRIAN: And writing the script, the ending was one of the first things we came up with. Almost the whole movie was reversed engineered from the ending. So it would've been a real betrayal for us to change that.

The MPAA seems traditionally more concerned about sex than violence. Did they make you remove the nail scene because they thought it was too violent?

MARK: No, the nail scene we took out to make the movie flow better.

BRIAN: It wasn't cut because of the MPAA. In general, our feeling about the rating is that it's all about tone and context. If the movie had been darker or if it had just had a different tone, a meaner tone...

MARK: would have been NC-17...The MPAA thing's weird though, isn't it? I think like, "Make love, not war." But apparently, our country has a problem with that.

Mark, you started off as an actor. What insight did that background give you as a director?

MARK: Knowing the actor's process is cool.

BRIAN: Neurosis.

MARK: Neurosis, obsessions, insecurity. No, but knowing the actor's process is cool.

What made you give up acting?

MARK: Who said I gave up acting? [jokes] I'm waiting, right now, for a call from Michael Mann to see if I got...No. Brian and I do a lot of things. I mean, Brian was a musician, I was an actor. We didn't give up either thing. We're still continuing all of our interests. But it does help to know the actor process, to talk to them and all that stuff.

Two directors on one film are more common now. How in sync are you guys, since in any type of relationship, you're never on the same page constantly?

MARK: We are quite a bit. We have to be in sync. We wrote this movie together, so we knew the vision of it. We have the same camera style, so we knew what we wanted to do. And it's funny [to] talk about directing teams, saying, "There should be one vision." Well look at studio films. There's like 12 f*cking people that are telling you what to do. So as a team, we're actually stronger, and we have a more unified vision than one director who's being pissed on, so to speak, by 12, 15 different executives because they all want to put their two cents in.

BRIAN: That's right. Together, we can put a little bubble around ourselves where they can't really get to us, where if it was one person, we'd be more vulnerable.

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