The Raid 2: Gareth Evans on Fight Choreography and the Remake
This is already my second interview with Gareth Evans and The Raid 2 hasn’t come out yet. Evans was in Sundance chatting about the film after its premiere, and this month it played again at SXSW. In Austin we got some exclusive one on one time with Evans to discuss the action of The Raid 2 in depth. Picking up with Rama (Iko Uwais) emerging from The Raid, he goes undercover to get even higher up in the criminal organization, and expose police corruption too. And fight a whole bunch of dudes.
CraveOnline: For The Raid they added the subtitle Redemption. It seems like for The Raid 2 they have removed the subtitle Berandal. Is that how it works?
Gareth Evans: It’s interesting, right? I don’t know, maybe there’s difficulty pronouncing Berandal, although you did it pretty well so it seems okay. It’s a weird thing because the first one we didn’t have anything additional because the film is just about a raid. We came to the second one, for me it’s not really a raid but it’s part two. Berandal in Indonesia means thug, so we kept it because it’s the role that his character has to play in order to become undercover. So it kind of has this little tie-in at least with that, more so than Redemption did.
Certainly the popularity of The Raid means you should call it The Raid 2. Maybe on the third one you and Sony will agree on the subtitle.
Maybe, yeah, who knows? We’ll have to trade off on it.
Why make the transition to widescreen now? Could you have shot The Raid 1 widescreen?
Budget, really. I wanted to shoot on Red Scarlet for the first Raid, but the camera hadn’t come out yet. The entire way through preproduction we were looking at potential cameras we could use. The only thing that was working for us in terms of the lightness and to be able to be flexible with the camera angles was that HD cam that came out that we ended up using, the Panasonic AF100. So that only allowed us to shoot in 16×9. This time it was like okay, we’ve got a bit more money now, and also to be honest, I wanted this film to feel different. I wanted this film to look different and to really get those grand locations and that feel of the scope of it.
Could you imagine when people watch them back to back, it being sort of jarring to go from one to the other?
I think so and to be honest, I kind of hope so too. Especially now in the early stages of my career and stuff in terms of what we do, to have a clear growth from film to film in terms of the quality in play, at least it shows that we’re doing something in the right direction then. If the contrast was that it just kept getting fuckin’ worse and worse and worse, then okay, that’s bad. As long as there’s a step up in quality and what we do in terms of the films, then great.
You had one location in The Raid which was by design a very run down building. Did you have more set design and construction on The Raid 2?
Surprisingly, yeah. We tried to find a lot of real locations for this one. Ideally, I didn’t want to do a lot of studio sets this time because the last one was 85, 95% of it inside of a studio. When you shoot that long in there, you start to miss what the sun looks like because it’s just pitch black when you go in, pitch black when you come out. So for this movie then, I wanted to be on location as much as possible and that’s why we have a lot more exterior locations this time around.
Is all the martial arts in the movie Silat?
I think a lot of times it comes down to what the fighter’s background is. For Iko and Cecep [Arif Rahman] when they fight, obviously we use more pure Silat. Even then, different styles of Silat inside that fight. When it comes to Iko fighting in the prison riot against 15-20 people, those guys all come from different martial arts backgrounds. Once we figure out what their background is, we try to design their fighting skill to be relevant to what they study.
So for The Raid 1 for example, me and Iko and Yayan [Ruhian] worked on the fight scene which was Mad Dog vs. Jaka before we’d even cast Joe Taslim in the role. When Joe came along, we found out that Joe’s skill set was Judo, then we changed the choreography to suit Judo more. That shifts along as we create choreography together. We find out what the skills and weaknesses are and try to always hit their strengths and not their weaknesses.
Do you write detailed choreography in the script?
No, never. The only thing I put in the script is the setting, the tone of the fight, the psychology of the fight and maybe some of the weapons used. For example, when we did the first film, there’s the corridor fight with the stick and the knife. For that one, I’d say to Iko and Yayan who were working on the fight at the time, “Okay, you’ve got a stick in one hand, a knife in the other hand. You’ve got to get an injured cop on your back and he needs you for support to stand up. As you’re going down this corridor, there’s going to be a person coming this side, this side, the front, doesn’t matter, from behind, and every time you beat someone and take someone down, you have to reposition your body to keep him standing up. After a while, he’ll fall down, maybe five, six people he’ll fall down. Then you’re going to lose your stick, then you’re going to lose your knife, then you’re going do hand to hand.” That’s it in terms of the detail for me.
I’ll say, “Okay, go off and give me five people. I want to see five people and how they get beaten.” Then I’ll go off then and start working on something else. Within an hour I’ll come back and they will present to me five people getting hit in various inventive ways. Sometimes they come up with a movement where they’ll stab to the thigh, and I’ll be like, “rip it down as well.” A little action detail here and there. The doorway stab. It’ll just be this creative process where they’re presenting me some stuff and then we figure out how to structure it, how to lay it out in the overall scene. We’ll workshop any little extra ideas. Maybe I might have some twisted little crazy psycho moment in my head. I’m like, “Oh, you could do this” and then we figure out a way to incorporate that in the scene, but it’s never written down.
We’ll always videotape everything that they’ve designed, otherwise I’m just doing the job for them if I write it down. So I let them come up with a bunch of stuff and then we workshop together to get the scene in a way that all three of us are happy. We film it and then we’ll film it again but this time with specific camera angles and edits, and then that serves the purpose of being a video storyboard for what we use in the final film them.
But the choreography always starts with them?
Yeah, always, always starts with them, Iko and Yayan.
It seems like the American The Raid has been on the fast track. Have you been involved with the selection of Patrick Hughes and potential casting?
Not in terms of casting yet. The guys always ask me, what do I think of this guy, what do I think of this guy. When it came to a director, when they suggested Patrick, I had no problem at all because he’s a super talented director. Red Hill, fuckin’ great film. Such a great movie. Then he just finished Expendables 3 so I’m excited to see what he’s going to bring to it. My involvement in the remake is kind of minimal, but for a reason. I don’t see what I can bring to it. I genuinely don’t see what I could possibly bring to it because I’ve already done that story, already done that film. I think what worked for me was the fact that nobody questioned what I wanted to do on that, the same way I don’t think anyone should question what Patrick wants to do on that. For me, in order for that film to work really well, they’ve got to let him go off into his sandbox, play around and see what he comes up with.
If it is Chris and Liam Hemsworth, I imagine it would not be a martial arts film.
They’re pretty tall, right?
Do you think that would be a good thing to distinguish the movies?
It depends right now. Me on a personal level, I’d fuckin’ love to see them put Scott Adkins in there. I’m just going to say that right off because I just think he’s great and I’ve wanted to work with him before. For him to be able to get a real, good fuckin’ solid role like that in a studio film where it’s all about gearing up towards martial arts, something that he’s fully capable of, it’d be great. Michael Jai White would be great as well, all these guys. I could geek out about all the guys I want to see in these films and hopefully they get a chance.
I don’t think the action discipline is going to veer too far away from what we did. What I hope they do is take the basic premise and then use that as a springboard for him to go off and create his own action style completely. You could still do that deconstruction of weaponry down to hand to hand combat. You could still do that, but they don’t have to follow scene by scene the same as we did. That’s what, for me, what is most refreshing about a remake of this as opposed to a remake of something where it’s all about following the characters and the plot exactly the same to the tee. This is an opportunity to take the bare bones of it, the crux of it and do something completely fresh. It’s like a second pass of doing different action sequences.
Could you potentially have The Raid 3 done before they finish the remake?
Absolutely not, no. I’m not touching The Raid 3 for a couple of years from now. I don’t have any plans to do The Raid 3 within the next two or three years so I’m going to take a break from that franchise for a bit. I want to do some things outside of Indonesia for like two films, then come back to Indonesia and shoot The Raid 3. I have another one I want to shoot with him first. Still in the action genre and it’s something that [Uwais] needs to train for for a fair amount of time. You have to make good with some weaponry, my friend.
Can we find Footsteps if we want to see your first film?
[Laughs] Yeah, I think it was released in the U.S. before it was released anywhere else I think. Unearthed Films put it out on DVD years ago. I don’t know if it’s still available. That was an interesting one for me because it was my first attempt at doing anything. We had a super low budget, around $8000. I took out a bank loan to make it, just paid for the camera with most of it, shot in like two weeks but that was the first time I’d ever done anything where it was just being out on location shooting something with my good friends and cast members. Then realizing that it was 8AM and instead of my normal thing of going to the office and doing my computer programming job, I was out there with a bunch of guys shooting on locations we didn’t have permission for, and then running away before the cops came, doing that over and over and over again. There was something thrilling about it, something exciting about it. There’s things in that film I’m still really proud of. There’s things in there where I can watch it now and I can see I’m trying to do certain things and not quite executing them like I wanted to. I haven’t watched that film in a long time but there’s nothing but fond memories.
As gratifying as it must be to have the reactions you’ve gotten to The Raid 2, there’s also been praise to such a degree that they’re saying you’re the best action director working today. Would a part of you maybe want leave it a little open, that maybe you could just be one of the greatest action directors?
I have a little girl. She’s five this year and she could give a shit what I’m capable of doing as a filmmaker. She said herself the other day she wants to be a filmmaker. When I asked her, “What kind of films do you want to make?” She says, “I don’t want to make films like you, Daddy?” So to have that from my little girl, that brings me right back down to earth.
I love the fact that there are people who have responded to the film to such a degree that they’re willing to say something so positive and strong. It’s flattering and it’s incredibly overwhelming as well. At the same time, there’s going to be another side then where they’ll hate it to a degree where they will speak just as loud about how much they fuckin’ hate it and hate me as well, which is fine too. It’s kind of part of the game of it. All I really give a shit about though is the fact that if we do make a film, that we make it the way we wanted to make it and that by the end of it, we’re not embarrassed by it.
I think it’s great that you anticipate the full cycle of it.
It’s one of those things, going into this one when we were going to Sundance, I was expecting far more divisive comments than we got.
It was one extreme or the other, so I was quite taken back by that. This is the worst as a filmmaker. If somebody loves your film, great. If somebody hates your film, okay, fair enough, it wasn’t for them. But if somebody’s just like meh, that’s the worst because a meh is like there’s no reaction at all. They’re not thrilled by it but they’re not down against it. It’s just kind of like eh, it’s all right. That’s the worst kind of reaction to have. So thank God we haven’t had any mehs so much yet. Mostly, ‘It’s fuckin’ brilliant’ and ‘It’s fuckin’ disgusting!’
Are you releasing a different cut than you showed at Sundance?
From what I know, I think in the end, there’s such a minor, minor amount of censors’ cuts taking place on it. There’s hardly anything cut. It’s really small. I was surprised. I was happy with it. We’re talking maybe three seconds, four seconds total of the entire movie.
Do you remember in which scenes?
Yeah, I remember. You’ll find out when you watch it. The good stuff, the really good stuff, is there.