Follow Us on Twitter

The Raid - Gareth Evans interview

The Raid, photo shoot

Interview by Rob Carnevale

GARETH Evans talks about making The Raid and how a Welshman came to shoot one of the most exhilarating action movies of all-time in Indonesia.

He also talks about his plans for the sequel as well as how the film has helped raise his profile, as well as how some of the stunts were achieved. And he talks about the possibility of working in Hollywood in some capacity.

Q. How long did the final fight between Iko and Mad Dog take to shoot?
Gareth Evans: Well, the final fight is about six minutes of non-stop action and usually you look to have about two to three days to shoot every minute of action, so ideally we wanted to have 14/15 days to shoot but we only had eight. So, it was a little bit tight. So, the guys had to basically get beaten up relentlessly for 14 hours a day on consecutive days for eight days.

Q. How did you meet Iko?
Gareth Evans: Well, I had to do a documentary in Indonesia and that documentary was all about silat, the martial art we use in the film. I’d never seen that martial art in a film before but became fascinated by the process of it. While we were making the documentary we travelled through five different cities and met five different masters and one of the masters we met was Iko and while we were there he was doing a practice session. I was immediately impressed and approached him to suggest making a film. He didn’t trust me at first… this white guy coming into the country and giving him false promises about films and things.

Q. How do you go about choreographing such elaborate fight scenes?
Gareth Evans: Before we start production properly with the rest of the cast and crew we spent three months just designing all of the fights. So, it was Iko and Yayan [Ruhian, the guy who played Mad Dog, in a room with a bunch of crash-mats and a handicam and we go through every scene in the film. I’ve usually got the treatment nailed down by then and I can give them details like how many opponents they’ll be facing, what weapons will be used, what’s the rotation, what’s the situation and the atmosphere like in the fight scene… are we going really aggressive; well, everything’s kind of really aggressive on this! We were trying to find out exactly what the right tone of the fight scenes should be. So, I’d give them all those elements and then they’d fill in the gaps with things like this elbow, this punch, this block, this kick, or this throw.

We then workshop it together and find a way to get it all in. And then at the end of that three months we do a video storyboard and that video storyboard is a way to put together every single shot as it would be in the final film and that’s beneficial to us because we’re still in our infancy when it comes to doing martial arts films and action scenes, and so that becomes like a back-up and we can give that to all of the different departments. So, camera operators know exactly what’s required in every shot, art know where to put padding into the walls, people from continuity know who bleeds when and how much and all of the fighters know exactly how many times they’re going to get beaten up and then shot. So, when we go into production on the film we have that edited version on a laptop ready for us and as we keep shooting the actual production shots, we’re dropping those shots in and we can see it slowly taking shape into the version we want.

Q. Is there any plan to have Iko fight Tony Jaa?
Gareth Evans: I would love to see it happen. But I’ve no idea [laughs]. We have to discuss that at some point. But we haven’t really talked to them about it and they haven’t talked with us about it. We tend to hold onto our talent a lot. But for sure if there was a way for the two of them to work together I’m sure it will happen at some point.

Q. You’ve mentioned sequels, will there be one and how soon?
Gareth Evans: There is a sequel. We’re starting work on it in September and we’ll start shooting in January next year. Basically, we’ve got PR work that is going to keep us busy on The Raid up until the end of May and then I’m on summer holiday because I need a break [laughs]. But we’ll start working on the sequel then [September].

Q. What do you think about the forthcoming Hollywood remake of The Raid?
Gareth Evans: My thoughts on the remake are, to be honest, I’m really flattered by it. It’s great publicity for the original too and it’s exciting. For me, the storyline on my film is really stripped down, so there’s loads that they can do with it and explore with it. But it needs a fresh pair of eyes to do it. I’ve exhausted my ideas on that one… I can’t think of any more ways to kill people with doors [laughs]. So, it’s one of those things where I’m really glad it’s happening and the approach that Screen Gems is taking is very respectful of the original… they want to get Iko and Yayan on board to do the choreography as well so that’s really great for them because they can go off and learn an extra skill set and bring that back to Indonesia for our next film and I don’t have to pay a f**king penny [laughs and then cringes because parents are present]. But it should be good and I’m really looking forward to seeing what they do with it.

Q. Does Hollywood now beckon for you?
Gareth Evans: We’ve had a couple of phone calls and stuff but nothing that’s kind of jumped out at me yet. To be honest, when it comes to doing stuff either in the UK or the US – and I really want to do a project outside of Indonesia at some point so I can finally direct in English, it’d be nice – but in terms of that project I think it’s got to be the right thing for me to go and do, not just because the opportunity arises. If it was something with a massive, massive budget then maybe I’d lose a certain amount of control over it and it wouldn’t end up being the film that I want to make. It’s a long time we spend making every film, so I want it to be something I can get behind 100% with every line of dialogue and all. So, we’ll see what happens.

The Raid, photo shoot

Q. Do you know that the new Judge Dredd film has essentially the same plot as The Raid?
Gareth Evans: Yes, while we were in post-production on The Raid I was telling a friend of mine that we’d just finished shooting and told him what the story was about and how this unit of cops had to fight their way out of a building after their raid comes down on them, he replied: “That’s like the new Judge Dredd movie.” I said: “What?” So, he sent me this thing where I could read the synopsis for it and I thought: “Oh God, we’ve got to get released very, very soon!” [Laughs]

Q. Is this the sort of film given health and safety that could even get made in the west?
Gareth Evans: [Laughs] Yeah. It looks a lot more dangerous than it actually is. When we make these films we do take a lot of care and attention to how we execute the stunts. We make it look way more dangerous than it is. For instance, and I don’t know why I give this as an example because the guy actually did get injured, when the guy flips over and breaks his back on the wall, the way we did it was… when you see it on the screen it just looks horribly violent, but the way we did it was three shots we stitched together. So, the first one is the guy being flipped against the wall. But we’ve already taken the wall out and put crash mats there. So, he’s also controlled on a wire to make sure he hits the target. So, he flips over and lands on the crash mats. And then we lock the camera into position and we put the wall back in and we put him back on the wire and we lift him up one metre off the wall and drop him onto his bum so his back comes down on one side. And then we drop him onto his back so his legs can come down. And all three shots get stitched together by my effects guy who is way more intelligent at this stuff than I am.

So, that’s how it’s done so that he doesn’t actually get hurt. Or that was how we were planning to do it but I know you’re going to ask me about the injury next, so… when he flipped the wall, the guys who were controlling the wire got a little bit over-zealous and they pulled a bit too hard, so they yanked him and instead of him coming down nicely on the trajectory he was supposed to, he just went straight across and smashed the back of his head against the wall and bounced off, and then the guys who were holding the wire lost balance because of the impact of the wire and he fell down five metres and missed all the crash mats that we’d put out for him and landed on the concrete below. But he was OK. He had a bit of medical treatment and then four days later came back on-set and was fine to shoot again. But on a film like this we have a lot of massage therapists, doctors and paramedics because we take the safety of all the stunt guys very seriously because they are – even if it’s a small thing – it’s still risking their health and their life for two seconds worth of people going ‘ooh’. So, we do take it very, very seriously.

The Raid

Q. Is there a death you’re most proud of?
Gareth Evans: Yes! I think the three gunshots to the face [laughs]. The reason why, though, is not because it’s violent but because of the way we found out we needed three gunshots to the face. When we design the choreography, it’s always based on a certain rhythm, so it’s kind of like a percussion. And so when we were working out that moment – and it’s the same with all the blocks and the kicks and the punches, everything’s done on the basis of timing and rhythm and percussion. So, what will decide if it’s a block or punch will be a clap… we clap when we do the choreography [claps three times on his leg], so that becomes the rhythm. So, when we did the movement of pinning that guy down on the floor, it had a one-two-three rhythm and we did the gunshot it was like ‘bam’ [pauses] and it wasn’t enough. So, we did ‘bang bang’ and it still didn’t feel quite right. And then we did three shots and it was like: “Aaah, music!” So, it had to be three gunshots.

Q. Where did the idea of this first come from? It reminded me a bit of Assault on Precinct 13 but in reverse…
Gareth Evans: All of the influences came from films like Die Hard and Assault on Precinct 13, which was a major influence, and Escape From New York as well. But the thing that kind of pushed me to make me want to make this SWAT team film was the Romain Gavras’ video for Born Free by MIA. When I saw that video I kind of fell in love with it and thought it was an incredible video. The way that he shot it, the style of the editing was very informative in terms of how we decided to approach the film and that was the music video that we showed to everyone… every crew member and every cast member.

Q. The Raid was put together fairly quickly because the sequel you’ve talked about and are doing next was meant to go first. Were those stories linked? Or did you think the story on The Raid could continue into Berandal?
Gareth Evans: It was more as we developed The Raid, because we had to abandon that previous project, I didn’t want to have to let it just drift away and not do anything with it. So, while I was working on the script for The Raid I was looking for ways to make these two films work together in some way. After Merantau, we’d done all the choreography for Berandal [the sequel], and we’d already made that transition to more aggressive choreography and so Berandal and The Raid started to share this sort of similar atmosphere and tone and choreography and became linked in that way. So, I was looking at ways I could link the stories together as well.

So, when I was working on the script for The Raid, all the problems I had with the original script for Berandal were the lead character and his motivation. So, then once I kind of switched that round I thought maybe it could be a continuation of the cop story and it all started to fit into place. I’ve got about five per cent left to write on that sequel.

Read our review of The Raid

Read our interview with Iko Uwais