A Wanted man
Best known for dazzling supernatural thrillers Day Watch and Night Watch, Russian-Kazakh director Timur Bekmambetov is about to become a household name thanks to Wanted, the sort of action-packed summer blockbuster you really hoped someone would make. It's got secret assassins, bending bullets, Angelina Jolie and a 5-star review right here.
Neil Davey caught up with the (slightly reclusive) director for a rare chat...
For a man who's made some high-profile movies, there's not an awful lot of personal information out there on Timur Bekmambetov. "I'm not a big fan of interviews," he shrugs, smiling. "I make movies. It is my business to make movies." The smile gets a little wider. "The interviews are a difficult part of my job."
You get the feeling the smile's about to get even wider with the release of Wanted, a hyperkinetic thriller that will be leaving audiences sweaty and white-knuckled. It's a glorious mix of action and Timur's trademark style, with the sort of semi-fantasy action sequences only he could get away with. It is, in a word, insane although Timur has a different word to describe his technique.
"It's witchcraft," he says. "It's not a rational process, you never know how it works. You can know the theory and the tricks but it is still an irrational process. Even with the visual effects planned, even how I work, you can never know how they will look. There are a lot of pieces on the table. There are a lot of shots we do where those scenes are created and developed before we even shoot but then you have all these pieces of the story, those moments, or a song — like the Nine Inch Nails song, Everyday's Exactly The Same — which are all part of the puzzle.
"You have all these different pieces and then it's in the editing room where it comes together. When you are shooting, it is just collecting material. When you are editing you have a chance to create it. That's the witchcraft."
As fans of comic books will be aware, the film is based on a celebrated series by Mark Millar and JG Jones. Timur worked with the creators to understand their vision and how to bring it to the screen. Before that, though, he was a little daunted.
"I read the script and didn't understand how to make this movie," he laughs. "But there was something interesting. Then I read the comic book and then I met Mark Millar, and then it became clear how to make it, what it's about. It's very unique, with a very British sense of humour. [Lead actor] James McAvoy and Mark grew up in the same city, I believe, and that sense of humour helped sell it, that's what worked."
With McAvoy's casting proving so beneficial, was the same true with the rest of the cast? Timur nods. "Morgan Freeman was very important, a key part of the triangle. He's a person who represents trust. People trust him, so it was very important to have him in the movie, it was important for me to engage the audience with the characters. And Angelina was another key part, another part of the puzzle. For me, and for Wesley [McAvoy's character]. She has to attract and provoke him."
Yeah. She can definitely do that. "And she did!" laughs Timur.
Contrary to expectation, Timur had no long term, 10-year plan to make a Hollywood film. Indeed, he's very keen to point out the Russian and other influences in Wanted. "It's cross-cultural. It's a British writer and a British lead, a Russian director and costume designer, an American team. We're also making a unique Russian version of the film, especially for the Russian market. It will have different shots, different music — Danny Elfman recorded a song for the movie in English and in Russian. There are different CG shots, very good Russian actors will dub it. It's not just an adaptation, it's a new version.
"And no, I never planned to go to Hollywood. It's just an interesting adventure for me, an interesting place to go. Maybe next time I'll go to Bollywood. Imagine going there to shoot the dancing girls with guns..." He smiles and looks thoughtful. "Hmm. Imagine that. Shiva with six guns..."
• Wanted is out now on general release. What do you mean you haven't read our review yet?