He Who Dares - Paul Tanter interview
Compiled by Jack Foley
PAUL Tanter talks about some of the challenges of directing He Who Dares, which is released on DVD and Blu-ray on Monday, April 7, as well as his action influences, experiences as a London-based filmmaker and his views on the British film industry.
Q. Your SAS thriller He Who Dares hits DVD and Blu-ray on Monday; can you tell me a bit about the film?
Paul Tanter: Yeah, it’s a film we’re billing as The Raid meets Die Hard, which gives a good description of it. It’s an action hostage thriller in which a team of SAS soldiers go into a 15-storey underground car park to rescue the Prime Minister’s daughter who’s been kidnapped by a group of terrorists. Instead of one guy in Die Hard, here it’s a team of people who have to take the building one floor at a time, facing up against these highly trained masked mercenaries. It results in a lot of hand-to-hand combat and gun fights. It’s a UK action film.
Q. You mentioned Die Hard and The Raid; were those direct inspirations?
Paul Tanter: They were, yeah – I’m a huge fan of Die Hard, it’s one of my favourite films of all time. It’s brilliant that it’s still being watched and quoted 25 years after it was made, and I was blown away by The Raid; it has all the makings of a modern classic. We were influenced by the thought of merging the best elements of those films, so there’s an influence in the look of the soldiers (The Raid) and the humour (Die Hard). We put a lot of in-jokes in there so that if you’re a fan, you’ll get certain references when you watch the film.
Q. What is London like as a city to shoot a film in?
Paul Tanter: London’s a great city to film in. It’s great in terms of anything you could ever want to shoot is generally available in London. I’ve filmed in the smaller studios in Wimbledon and in Pinewood, but He Who Dares was shot on location. It was literally a 15 storey car park in Barbican in Central London. We were filming all through the night; we arrived at 6 o’clock in the evening and filmed for 12 hours until the next morning. We were all getting the tube home when all the rush hour commuters were coming in to London to start working! Whilst most of our films are London based, we bring in that international element too – so with my other films, we usually had a part set in France or America, etc. but because this is SAS, we wanted to keep it on home turf and keep it as a British story. It was a very cold shoot because we shot in February and it was freezing, but it was no less enjoyable. The exterior stuff we filmed in Swindon freezing our arses off.
Q. You have collaborated with actor/producer Simon Phillips right from the beginning of your Jack trilogy right through to He Who Dares. What is the key to a great working relationship such as yours and Simon’s?
Paul Tanter: Mutual loathing… (laughs) In all honesty, I think in terms of our skills, we complement each other: Simon is a very gifted producer and actor and I write and direct, so we have got certain skills that complement the other in terms of working as a team. We’ve worked together for 7 years now and it helps when you get on and over time become friends. It means that work doesn’t really feel like work – it can be fun every day as well. I don’t want to give the guy a big head here, but over time he’s become one of my best friends. I admire his work ethic and the amount of effort and determination he puts into his work. We make a lot of films every year and we can do that because he’s very much a driving force in that process. It’s an enjoyable environment to work in.
Q. Stylistically, having that must make the whole experience a lot different?
Paul Tanter: It does, yeah. Often we’ll come up with an idea together. So, He Who Dares and (upcoming sci-fi thriller) Last Scout we conceived as an idea, worked out a story together and then I’ll go off and write it based on Simon’s strengths. Whether he’s a bad guy in He Who Dares, a more sneaky guy in the White Collar Hooligan films or a good guy in Jack Says, I can play to his strengths. As films go on, we try to put more humour in there as well because he’s a very funny guy. In terms ofHe Who Dares, we based his character on Alan Rickman’s character in Die Hard (Hans Gruber), so I had to make sure he had some of the funny lines. When we’re filming, I know how the guy works and I can trust him to improvise a bit – he’s very good at that. Or I can nip in at the last second, change a few lines and he’ll adapt to that.
So, all the time it’s almost like you develop a shorthand with someone, you can just hit the ground running on every project. I was lucky to have that with certain other actors in He Who Dares too. So, Tom Benedict Knight I’ve worked with before on White Collar Hooligan 2, Lorraine Stanley I’ve worked with before. I did the Jack films with Rebecca Ferdinando. It was good to have a lot of people who I’ve worked with before, so I could just get on with it and not have to worry too much about getting to know people.
Q. What are your views on the current state of British cinema?
Paul Tanter: I think it’s great! There are lots of people behind the massive budget stuff, like Gravity (whether you think it’s a British film or not) but there is so much stuff being made in the mid to lower budget range as well, so I think its current state is good. There’s still that age old problem of so many films being made but not all of them being seen by people, so there’s always that struggle for filmmakers trying to find distribution. There are so many talented people – so many good actors in this country. It’s a shame there’s not more films for them to be in. I feel like we’re in a very good period at the moment, which is why there’s a lot of production companies coming to the UK – they like to bring productions here because of the quality of the crew and the quality of the actors.
Q. In terms of British actors, do you have your eye on anybody to work with in the future?
Paul Tanter: [laughs] In an ideal world, I’d love to work with Gary Oldman. That would be an absolute dream. That’s perhaps something for a few years down the line. There are actors you admire for their range – Gary Oldman has got such a diverse CV, it’s fantastic. He’s an actor you can never pigeon hole; there’s so few role you look up and go ‘that’s a Gary Oldman role’ because he’s so diverse and talented. Johnny Depp has a similar CV in that regard, but in terms of British actors, Gary Oldman would be someone I’d really love to work with at some point.
Q. Can you tell me about what upcoming projects you’re working on?
Paul Tanter: Yeah, we’ve got a few at the moment – so beyond He Who Dares, which is out next week, we’ve actually just completed the sequel, He Who Dares 2, which should be out later on in the year. We are in post-production on a sci-fi film I wrote and produced, with Simon Phillips directing, called Last Scout. We’re just finishing off White Collar Hooligan 3, which should be out in the summer. I’ve probably missed something but that’s only because we do so many things I can never keep up with myself. We should be filming gangster biopic Rise of the Krays later this year, though.
He Who Dares is out on DVD and Blu-ray on April 7, 2014, courtesy of STUDIOCANAL.