Interview: Directors of "Gamer" Talk Games, Hopes For Rockstar-Developed Crank Game

by Tim Turi on Jan 18, 2010 at 08:22 AM

We recently had the opportunity to chat with the directors of Lions Gate Entertainment's Gamer, Brian Taylor and Mark Neveldine. The Crank creators' most recent film is the gritty tale of our future society, where violent and exploitative video games are replaced with flesh and blood humans. Brian and Mark have a lot to say about their video game-inspired action flick, and talk about everything from their experience with games to where they think gaming will take our society. We even talk about Ron Jeremy.

Game Informer: First and foremost, are you guys big gamers?

Mark Neveldine: Long ago. Quarters at the arcade. I used to go with two packs of quarters from my pops. I was there the whole time. I didn’t stick with it past Duck Hunt (Nintendo), but I am on the internet so much that it’s just like playing a f***ing game.

Brian Taylor: Yeah, I’ve been getting way too into Modern Warfare 2 these days. It’s kind of embarrassing. It’s a total time vampire, that game.

GI: So Brian, you’re the bigger gamer?

Brian: Definitely at this point. Mark kills real animals. I just kill pretend people. I’m going for my first tactical nuke and then I’m going to quit the game. That’s my pledge to myself. I’ve gotten a 20-kill streak. So close.

GI: I wish you luck in that.

Brian: Thank you.

GI: Are you guys looking forward to any games coming up on the horizon? Do you have your eyes on anything right now or do you even have time to think about video games?

Brian: Crank the game is going to be incredible.

GI: There’s going to be a Crank game?

Brian: Well there should be. I’m looking forward to it.

GI: Do you know who you’d like to develop that game?

Brian: Rockstar? That would be amazing. We would love to do a Crank game. Talking about real games that are coming up, Dead Rising 2 looks pretty good.

GI: Alright, I’m going to have to keep that in the back of my head. Crank the game, developed by Rockstar. I like that.

Brian: Don’t keep it in the back of your head. Push it.

GI: It’s going to be the headline of this interview.


GI: Moving on, Brian, you said that you’ve played some games. You’re playing a lot of Modern Warfare 2 right now. I know a lot of games are making a push toward being more cinematic such as Metal Gear Solid, Heavy Rain, Uncharted 2. I’m curious if you guys find yourselves being influenced beyond the subject matter of these games and looking at the cinematography of games? Have you borrowed anything from games out there?

Brian: Well, are you talking about the – games have the cinematic, sort of cutscene elements and then it goes into the actual gameplay? I find that games are pretty much influenced by us and we’re pretty much influenced by the gameplay part. It’s kind of like a symbiotic relationship. The games are trying to be more like movies and movies are trying to be more like games. We’re trying to – with something like Crank 2 and Gamer – submerge people in the same sort of experience as playing a super intense game. We want the movie to feel more interactive and more disorienting.

GI: As your audience views the movie, obviously there’s a lot of references to games and there’s been a lot of research done, and Gamer very closely emulates a lot of things from games such as Modern Warfare 2. For those members of your audience that aren’t big gamers, what kind of reaction are you hoping to receive?

Brian: The things that are in the movie resonate through every aspect of life these days, and if you’re not into it yourself, you’re touched by it. If you don’t think you are, you just need to look at the news. We’re touched everyday by the ramifications of what this means to future humans. And the real world is going to become a lot more like the world you see in Gamer. It’s already happening and it’s sort of inevitable. We think that the movie will ring true for people even if they are not heavily involved in that world.

GI: Did you have members of the cast play any games as research? Also, what games would you say you borrowed most heavily from for Gamer?

Mark: A lot of the actors got into Second Life. We created Second Life avatars. And Gerry Butler was playing – what was he playing, Brian? World of Warcraft?

Brian: We tried to start Gerry on Modern Warfare and Halo, but he was terrible. So we just settled on Frogger. [laughter]

Mark: That’s right, yeah.

Brian: He was pretty good with Frogger. That was more his speed. We just had him play a lot of that whenever he could between takes. He kept saying: “I like the music, I like the music.”

GI: One part of the movie that definitely stuck out to me was an exchange between Simon and Ludacris’ character. Ludacris suggests a mod and Simon calls it cheating. Ludacris replies: “a mod, that’s all.” Do you guys have any opinions about modding, cheating or glitching-out in games? Brian, you’ve been playing Modern Warfare 2, have you been at the receiving end of any nasty tricks?

Brian: It’s just inevitable because games become a society. A massive multiplayer online environment becomes a society. So, the things that happen in normal society are going to happen there, more and more. There are people who play World of Warcraft or Runescape or games like that and crimes occur in those games. People are led out to dark places and their things are stolen. [laughter] It’s amazing, but crimes occur, friendships are built and societies spring up out of nothing. It’s amazing. To comment on it is just to comment on people. It’s gotten to the point where the world is modding all the time. Societies are modding all the time. We just went over to Iraq a few years ago and dropped a bunch of daisy cutters and modded their whole f***ing country. This stuff happens, and just like it happens in the real world, it’s going to happen more and more in the world of “games.”
Excellent quote action above.

GI: Another aspect of Gamer that interested me was the non-player characters. Could you expand on the NPCs' role in the movie? What struck a chord with you regarding NPCs in games that made you think these characters had a place in Gamer?

Brian: Actually, there aren’t any true non-player characters. The guys in the gray who walk around, who are not in control of themselves and walk around in patterns, the Genericons, those sort of behave like non-player characters, but it’s actually a human being. It’s hard to consider them a true NPC, but we love that element, the total Russian roulette element of people that are truly just cannon fodder.

GI: There’s been a recent phenomenon, this doesn’t tie directly to Gamer, but last week CNN reported that people watching the movie Avatar experienced depression after seeing it. They called it the “Avatar blues.” People had suicidal thoughts because people felt so attached to the movie. I’m curious if you guys have any comments on that and how it might reflect on the themes in Gamer?

Brian: That’s incredibly bizarre and I hadn’t heard anything about that. Have you Mark?

Mark: I love hearing stuff like that. I don’t know how people are so moved that way, but I hadn’t heard a damned thing about it. Where can we look that up?

GI: It’s on CNN’s website. “Audiences Experience Avatar Blues.” Do you think there’s a link there between people’s connections to media and getting so immersed in it that they look down on their own lives?

Brian: Yeah, that’s one of our basic – that’s one of the themes of Gamer. Absolutely. That artificial or virtual life will start to replace normal life and will become more real to people than their real life. Our lives are defined by the most intense emotional experiences we have, and then there’s just a lot of gray matter in between. If those intense, emotional experiences are happening in this other environment then that’s considered your real life is just the gray stuff in between. That’s what you’re going to gravitate toward, and that’s how you’re going to define yourself. That’s how you’re going to define your experience on this planet. And you’re going to want to spend more and more time there, and less time with the other.

GI: Would you ever consider doing a movie based solely on a game franchise, or doing a film version of a game that exists?

Brian: Yeah, we want to do Modern Warfare.

GI: What would you do with it?

Brian: Well, you’ve seen our movies.

Mark: We would abuse it, is what we’d do.

Brian: We would use it was an opportunity to destroy theaters and leave people on the ground with their teeth chattering.

GI: You guys are definitely capable of that from what I’ve seen.

Mark: We appreciate that comment. We originally never thought that – we had talked about it. Video games have such exposure, our feeling is that they do so well in that medium, why f*** it up? Why make a video game of a movie that’s working so well? If the right thing came along, of course we would…

Brian: We kind of feel like we’re maybe some of the only guys that could do something like that justice. A lot of the attempts to do it in the past have been… unsatisfying – let’s put it that way – and I think it was because perspective wasn’t there and the point of view wasn’t there to really make it visceral. It’s more been an attempt to just cash in. We’ve always sort of made video game movies without even trying. Crank was sort of like Grand Theft Auto the movie without really trying to be, it just kind of was. So generationally, we feel like if it’s going to happen we should be the ones to do it.

GI: Looking at other video game movies that exist, can you think of an example of one that’s done it well?

Brian: Uh, I don’t know. Can you? [laughter]

GI: Yeah, it gets pretty sticky. Maybe the Super Mario Bros. movie? [laughter]

Brian: That’s the only one I was thinking of. Actually, we should make a new Mario Brothers movie with  Ron Jeremy. [laughter]

GI: You guys have anything to say about Mr. Jeremy’s thoughts on video games?

Brian:  No, actually. Are you referring to something we haven’t heard?

GI: Yeah, he recently said that video games are worse for kids than pornography.

Brian: As usual, Ron. Right on the money, and that’s why he should be Mario. Super Mario.

Mark: I want him to run for president one of these days.

GI: He’d have your vote?

Mark: Oh yeah.

GI: Regarding your casting decisions in Gamer, were there any other actors that you had in mind for the role of Kable, Castle or Simon?

Brian: We wanted that kid who played Urkel in Family Matters for Kable, but he was out of our price range. Then we heard that there was this big trend of casting Irish, but we couldn’t get an Irish guy so we said: “Let’s get a Scottish guy.” Pretty close, nobody really knows the difference between Irish guys and Scottish guys. So we ended up with Gerry. That was pretty much the way the discussion went. It’s a complicated and very sophisticated process that goes into casting these movies.

Then, of course, Ron Jeremy was supposed to be Simon, but he was already booked for the Super Mario movie, so we ended up with Logan Lerman. Logan, by the way, has got a big movie coming out. Pretty exciting. It’s called The Lightning Thief.

Mark: Michael [C. Hall], we wrote Castle for him. We liked that guy so much – from Dexter – that we wrote it for him. He’s the first guy we went to and was crazy enough to read the script, and wanted to be a part of it. As far as Gerry, there aren’t many guys that are believable in action. There’s [Jason] Statham and Gerry, and less than a handful of guys. We knew Gerry for a couple years and he was the first guy we went to for that role, too. We kind of lucked out getting him.

GI: Between Statham and Gerry you’ve had good fits for your movies. Moving forward let’s say the next film you shoot neither one of them are available, who would you set your eyes on?

Brian: Conan O’Brien.

GI: Another Irishman.

Brian: How hot would it be, Neveldine, to do Conan the Barbarian and cast Conan O’Brien?

Mark: That would be unbelievably amazing. [laughter] I would sign on to that movie yesterday. Holy cow. There’s not really guys, I don’t know. I guess there’s Sam Worthington. We’d take him.

Brian: Yeah, I love Sam Worthington. There’s finally starting to be some young guys that are bad asses, again. We like Chris Pine a lot, we like Sam Worthington. There’s some young guns coming along. For a while there it was pretty slim pickings for tough guys.

GI: Have you considered doing a sequel for Gamer?

Brian: Absolutely. There’s a lot more story to tell.

GI: Can you give us any tidbits?

Brian: Well, we have to make it all up first then we’ll tell you. Actually, what we should probably do with Gamer is wait until that game comes true and then make a new movie that’s 12 years ahead of that.

Mark: Mmhmm, that movie is going to come true, and the sequel will take place in real life.

Brian: Actually, that’s a commitment we’ll make to the Gamer sequel right now. Once 95% of that movie comes true, then we’ll make another one. Guaranteed, we’re locked in. Even if we make it with camcorders in our backyard, we will make it.

GI: So when can we expect the third entry in the Crank series?

Mark: It’s out there. They’re talking about it, we’re talking about it. It’s so early in the process and it’s something we want to – we want to kind of let it breathe for a little bit, you know? We need to get those Crank fans hungry again and get away from it, but we’ll get back to it. There’s definite interest. Studios want to make it and we definitely want to make it. But we want to do a couple things in between.

GI: So you’re interested it sequels for both Crank and Gamer in the future?

Brian: Maybe we could combine them into one movie. That might be the way to do it.

Mark: Cra-mer. [laughter]

GI: So when can people expect to grab Gamer?

Mark: Tuesday, January 19. Buy it in stores, not on the streets. Do not steal it over the internet, or we will f****ing find you and kill you. That’s our message to our lovely fans.

GI: That is exactly the answer I was looking for.

Brian: The Blu-Ray of Gamer, by the way, is unbelievable.

Mark: It’s the coolest thing we’ve ever seen, truth be known, really. It looks unbelievable on TV.

Brian: There’s so much stuff on it. It’s ridiculous. It’s one of the most packed Blu-Rays ever released. Anybody who has ever watched our past behind-the-scenes and commentaries kind of know what they’re in for, but it really goes to another level on this one.