A-Team Interview: Director Says Film is ‘Nowhere Near A Remake’

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About 30 seconds after we got off the phone with The A-Team’s Murdock, er Sharlto Copley (see the interview), we rang up director Joe Carnahan to check out the story. It was a quick conversation – but such a good one that we thought we’d share it with you.

Our review of the movie will be coming up in just a few hours – and be sure to come back Monday morning and let us know what you thought of all the explosions and punch lines. For now, our four decent questions with the good director:

It has to be intimidating to come into a remake, or reboot, like this. There’s a whole lot of baggage to be dealt with man – a lot of toes to step on.

I know some are calling it a remake, but come on, this is nowhere near a remake. I mean, if this was actually a remake, then you’d have to go back through the 80-odd episodes that ran through four years and take one episode to blow out into a feature film. But this isn’t a strict remake. It’s an adaptation; we’ve identified 6 or 7 themes that are very important to the fans – things like B.A.’s fear of flying and where that comes from – and found a way to bring them all together in a way that would augment them and show them off.  I thought the worst thing we could do is stub a cigarette in the childhood dreams of the fans, and so the right thing to do was to get the tone right in a whole new adventure, rather than trying to copy what’s been done before.

So are you just generally anti-remake?

Well it’s more about the spirit of the whole thing. Even conceptually, the idea of a remake feels stale – like you’re reaching back. To do it right, you have to go to greater lengths, and know the audience, and be honest about the fact that what we’re making is a big, mass summer popcorn entertainment. And then do that in a way that’s honest. And you have to make the enterprise seem new again, which is why we went about creating the origins story. Those were our real marching orders, to make something fresh. And you can’t get all caught up in the allure of the title The A-Team – it was a goofy show in the ’80s, with a great cast that had great chemistry, but it’s that chemistry that really jumps out at fans. It’s funny, you talk to those who really loved the show, and they can’t point to a single episode. I think that’s very telling about the culture, that it’s the characters they loved more. So we tried to use that and run with it. (More at Techland: The five greatest movies adapted from video games)

I think you can feel that in the film – this focus on characters first and foremost. I’m wondering how that affected the way you worked with the actors here. You have quite the lineup of talent to tap into.

It led to some long discussions with the guys, about what they wanted to bring to the table. Liam’s not going to do a George Peppard impression – that’s such a waste of your talent to put it all in such a boxed-off spot. I don’t think Liam actually saw any episodes. His take on Hannibal is more like Lee Marvin. But I think people have responded incredibly well to the way we’ve made it our own; Creator Stephen Cannell actually thought the way that Bradley played Face should have been the way that the character was portrayed in the TV show. You start hearing stuff like that and it’s pretty fantastic. Clearly people are responding to our take on the franchise.

And you really made the action your own too. I mean, there are some crazy sequences here, where the guys are literally plummeting from 20,000 feet in a tank and they try to start flying the thing. I take it you like pushing the envelope into crazy territory…

We actually weren’t trying to think too hard about anything. In fact, it was sort of the opposite: We just tried to go with what felt a little more creative and unexpected. In the early draft of the script, they find a helicopter in that plane, and that’s all well and good, but it’s not that big of a challenge to get a helicopter flying. But an airdroppable tank? Now you’re talking A-Team stuff. So throughout the movie, that’s what we try to do – just keep upping the ante and taking things to some unexpected places.

But that said, if a flying tank doesn’t appeal to your sensibilities, what can say I say? If you don’t think that a guy can curve a bullet, then you shouldn’t see the movie Wanted. And if you don’t want to see a couple of schmucks flying a tank, then The A-Team probably isn’t for you

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