Five On Film is an occasional feature on “Hey You Geeks!!” where directors, writers, actors or just plain awesome advocates of geek culture are asked five questions in line with the theme of their current work. In this edition, I chat about action films and Arnold Schwarzenegger with The Last Stand screenwriter Andrew Knauer.
Knauer wrote The Last Stand to celebrate the action film as it should be; explosive, witty and R rated. Once it was chosen to be the vehicle for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return to top billed action star, the film quickly became one of the most anticipated of 2013. The Last Stand has already received some promising pre-release praise for its 80’s action sensibilities and use of practical effects. Ahead of its release this Friday, I asked Knauer to speak about his favorite action films and what it means to have action’s most iconic star cast in his film.
Hey You Geeks: You get the call saying “Arnold has been cast in The Last Stand.” As a writer in a genre Schwarzenegger basically pioneered in the 80’s, what goes through your mind at that very moment? In your mind, do you instantly revise sections of the script and create one-liners you’d love to have him say?
Andrew Knauer: I had already finished all my steps when I got that call. Honestly, once reality set in I went to the gym. I figured, if I’m going to meet Arnold the only thing left to do is get pumped.
HYG: In terms of “great” action films, what does Arnold bring to the genre that other actors maybe don’t?
AN: He has screen presence. I don’t know how to define that, but he has it and you can’t be an action star without it. Also, he’s legitimately funny. He knows how to deliver a one liner as good as anybody. If you think about it, a one liner is basically a punch line. It’s a tag that when done right, instantly makes the scene you just watched that much better. It gives it memorability. You can’t just throw a one liner out there without properly setting it up. The other thing is, and I don’t think enough people appreciate this, but Arnold worked very hard behind the scenes to develop some of these iconic roles. He has a good sense of character development and knows what works on screen. That is a tremendous asset to have and that’s why he’s had such a long career. He didn’t just walk into these roles, he helped create them. Speaking specifically, and again, it’s hard to choose, but I think my favorite Arnold one liner is from Total Recall. After Michael Ironside’s character gets his arms torn off he says “see you at the party, Richter.” In the context of the film it’s pretty awesome.
HYG: Who did you originally envision or hope to play the lead in The Last Stand?
AN: I had no clue. Never in a million years did I think it would be Arnold, but I hoped it would be somebody that an audience would want to see. I think being a legitimate action star is a lot harder than people want to admit. Obviously you have to be entertaining, but you also have to be believable. You have to be consistently good and you have to put asses in seats because action movies aren’t cheap. There aren’t very many actors who can shoulder that responsibility.
HYG: Top five action films of all time…Go.
AN: That is impossibly difficult to answer, and if you asked me tomorrow the list would probably look a little different. To make it easier on myself I’m going to limit this to American movies and I’m not counting any Westerns or Rockys.
The only ones that are perennially in my top 5 and will never come off are Die Hard and Predator. After that, things change depending on my mood. I went back and forth between Aliens and Road Warrior and I settled on First Blood. Honestly this is too hard. I just gave you a top 5 action list without Enter the Dragon on it. That doesn’t even make sense. I know I can’t put Out for Justice in there, but I want to. Do you know how many times I’ve wondered out loud why Richie did Bobby Lupo? I wanted to surprise some people and put Double Impact on there too, but that’s not really fair because it’s twice the Van Dammage.
HYG: In the canon of action films, where would you like The Last Stand to, well, stand?
AN: More than anything I hope it reminds Hollywood how much fun a good action movie can be. Action movies are allowed to be good movies too. They don’t have to be formulaic or over the top or loaded with special effects. I don’t think audiences ever lost sight of that, but I think, at least in recent years studios have. It’s been a long time since Hollywood has made something like this. If you want to have fun at the movies and The Last Stand is what you choose to see, you’re going to get what you came for.
The Last Stand hits theaters this Friday.