Colombiana, starring Zoe Saldana opens today nationwide and we had a chance to sit down with director Olivier Megaton about the film. The French director spoke to us about the challenges of making the film, the future of the Transporter franchise as well as his relationship with writer/director/producer Luc Besson. Check it out below and enjoy!
Question: What attracted you to Colombiana?
Olivier Megaton: Colombiana is a long talk with Luc [Besson]. We were speaking for more than ten years about making The Professional remake, which was supposed to be called Matilda and because of a lot of things, we never could do it. Every year, we’d talk about this project. After Natalie Portman’s career, she wouldn’t be interested in making Matilda. So, we had to move on to another story and try to return with a revenge story.
We talked with Robert [Kamen] about Colombiana. I liked it because she was the first black action hero girl from the ’70s since Pam Grier. She had a life. She was human. She was fragile and so on. That, for me, was the challenge. It’s not very difficult to make an action movie. It’s very mechanical if you know how to do it if you have good organization and a good team. The most difficult thing to do is drama. In the script, everything was there. The drama was written. In the script, we had the action, the drama and the comedy. For me, it was a chance. I plunged into it and it was a pleasure.
Question: There’s killing, but it’s not gory. Was there a conscious choice to make it PG-13?
OM: You have the PG-13 movie here. You’ll have the unrated version on DVD and Blu-Ray. In Europe, we have a longer version and it’s the original version. The thing is that PG-13 is getting tighter and tighter every day. I was just saying that Transporter 3 today would be R rated and that’s just two years ago. You make the same movie today and they would’ve asked you to get rid of half of the things. On Colombiana, we had this problem. We had to tone down a lot of things, but when you go see the international version, it’s a little stronger.
Question: What was it like working with Zoe?
OM: She’s so fucking professional and she ‘s very Latin. She’s very close to our French way of thinking and she’s not American in her mind. She’s Dominican, so she’s very free. She likes to have fun. She’s worked a lot for this movie, before the movie, during the movie.
When all the American actors arrived with their own stunt coordinators, I said “Wait a minute. I have one of the best in the world. He’s from France and he made the first Bourne Identity’s fights. He’s one of the most creative guys. The only thing is that he doesn’t speak English. I said maybe it could be a good idea to meet him and he can show you what he can do. He’s fucking creative and one of the best ones. Then she [Zoe] said “Ok, when are we beginning?” and she worked with him very, very hard. I like her very much and I think she will be a huge star. I’m sure of this.
Question: How did you discover Amandla Stenfeld and were you surprised at the connection between her and Zoe?
OM: When I read the script the first time, I was astonished because the big actress [Zoe] was supposed to arrive on page 35. I read a lot of scripts and you never see this. There’s usually the adult actress in the beginning and a flashback in the middle. Even Luc said maybe it’s too long. If it was this girl giving to Zoe, the touching things, the fragility, it has to be after.
The lucky thing is that Amandla was very close psychologically and physically to Zoe when she was young. I have a picture of Zoe when she was was ten and they look almost exactly the same, so we were very lucky. Amandla was very shy but she had something very pure. I thought the point of this movie was to make her very human, very fragile so the connection was perfect. They worked well together.
Question: Explain the comfort level of working with Luc Besson again after Transporter 3.
OM: I’ve known him for 20 years. I was a painter before, a spray can artist. I never wanted to be a director. I made my first short story, another one and another one. I don’t know why. I was just lucky. After seeing my second short, Luc asked me to work with him as a second unit director. I didn’t want to do it, because I didn’t want to work as an assistant. I’ve always been a director and I couldn’t do it. I don’t like to do things that I’m not good at. That was our first meeting.
He asked for me to work with him on The Professional. I said “No, I don’t want to do it,” and he said “how can you refuse it? It’ll be cool.” Ever since, we’ve never had the same relationship, because we’re both directors. We don’t always agree on everything and when we don’t agree, it’s like two trucks crashing. Afterwards, it’s like “let’s calm down” and everything is fine.
I’m very lucky to be in the industry today. My lucky stars said I’m going to do this. I never wanted to do this. So, working with him, I stay as I am. Very frank and very loyal, but I like to protect my own identity. I am fearing about not being a creator anymore. I am fearing everyday about having no ideas. That is my real fear, is one day to say “Why?” and just making things by reflex and not having the little thing that makes it special.
Question: What logistical challenges did you have in making this movie? In Transporter 3, you filmed in Europe, but this was primarily filmed in Mexico and the U.S. as well as France. How was it different?
OM: I like to discover new things. I’ve shot a lot in the U.S. but not as much as this project. When I arrived in Chicago, the location manager was showing us some locations. I was looking at [his choices] and said I don’t want this very touristic [group of locations]. I want to find little roads and typical things. So, the second day, we rented some bikes and we traveled through Chicago.
Then, I discovered everything by bike. Sometimes you have to escape and it’s a new way of looking. Some people would say “You’re arrogant” and I would say “No, it’s just that I don’t have much time in your country, so I have to be very fast.” I know how to find these things. I have the nose to find the locations. I know how to find the good street, the good house and so on. So, I prefer to do it on my own, because it’s much faster. It’s the same thing here, because my team is there to scout locations for Taken and we did exactly the same thing.
Question: What’s next for you?
OM: Taken 2. We’ll work on Taken 2 for two months and begin shooting in October with the same cast.
Question: Will there be a Transporter 4 with you as the director?
OM: There is a Transporter series that was just shot for HBO. I’m 99% sure that there won’t be a Transporter 4. I think Jason is in a mood to make other things, but the series will be out at the end of the year. My editor directed the second unit though, so I think the car things are going to be great.
That concludes our interview with Olivier but we’d like to thank him very much for talking with us. Be sure to check out Colombiana, in theatres this week.