Director Timur Bekmambetov is well known for his wildly successful Russian vampire epics "Night Watch" and "Day Watch," two of the biggest films the history in Russian Cinema, which made big in-roads in the United States and around the world. Based on the Top Cow graphic novel, "Wanted" brings the director, for the first time, to English language filmmaking. Bekmambetov believes, however, that the comic book film is not that different from his previous work. "It's a similar idea because there is a purpose for everything, and it's the same for 'Night Watch' and 'Day Watch.' We're living ordinary lives and we don't know what's happening next to us," Berkmambetov told CBR News. "And it's very intriguing for people because everybody thinks there's something important happening next to us and we don't know about it."
"Wanted" and the director's previous projects also share a similarly dark sense of humor. "It's the same," he said. "It's my language. It's how I see things. And I was surprise with how consistent this project was. I was surprised myself."
Before Bekmambetov came onto the project, the super-villain aspect of the Mark Millar and J.G. Jones's original comics had already been eliminated in the film's writing stage. To Bekmambetov, the decision to tone down the book's nastiness was "smart." He continued, "I don't think it's good for millions of people to see a movie about a person just killing people for fun." As for the Injustice Gang-style setting of the book, he said, "This idea is good for comic book, but doesn't work for a movie." The changes, however, illustrate the difference between the two mediums. "It has the same vibe, the same ideas but it's different because you cannot repeat. Comic books [are] different. You study pictures, you have time to think, and a movie has to run."
Bekmambetov still feels, however, that the film is true to the story of "Wanted," particularly in regards to the main character of Wesley Gibson. "It was very important because I was trying to protect the original source, make it as close as possible to the original character. Even it he's different, looks different, there's a different scene, but tonally he's the same."
In casting James McAvoy for the role, Bekmambetov sought an unusual presence for an action movie. "It was really important to find an actor who will be very unpredictable for this role because to create this journey, to create this art from an early man 'til he's a super assassin, dangerous, fighter ï¿½" it was important to have somebody unpredictable," he said. Bekmambetov also needed someone who would appreciate the spirit of the comic. He explained, "The actor has to feel the tone of the comic book because this comic book has a very unique tone. Its irony, its smartness. It's a little bit smarter than other comic books [films], except the great character in 'Iron Man.'" Bekmambetov also believes that richness of character is informing the comics themselves. "And it's kind of the same direction--what's happening in comic books now. Heroes become more dramatic, more real," he said.
McAvoy's willingness to do his own stunts added to the verisimilitude of the production. "Of course it takes more time because a stunt double can do it in a second but he wants to do this himself," Bekmambetov said. "[But], what's important is that he was an ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances, and it was good it he was not perfect sometimes. You feel it's a real person, it's not a machine, it's not CGI model flying." For Bekmambetov, the action scenes in his films are integral parts of the story and not just flashy eye candy. "Drama drives the action, entertainment. It's ancient Greek tragedy dressed as a movie," he explained.
Asked if "Wanted" is the next step in the visual language of John Woo or the Wachowskis ï¿½" known by some as "gun-fu" -- Bekmambetov said, "I think every director creates a new language because every director is different. If I try to repeat something I will be unsuccessful because I can't do it."
Bekmambetov began his journey to the biggest name in Russian cinema as a painter, studying the art for seven years. "I didn't have to find a reason to be a painter because a painter paints something and nobody really needs it," he said. However, "the business of the galleries and selling art" soured Bekmambetov to the art form, as well as the lack of immediate response to his work. "I didn't have an audience," he said. "I like the movie business because you have an audience."
With that background, Bekmambetov believes his films are more than just the total of their elaborate action scenes. "I really believe that movies [are] so powerful, so influential. It needs a message, it needs something, what you want to tell people and take with them in their life. Or they'll come back and see it again to understand better, to rethink. In this movie it's the case. We had it and it was very important for me," Bekmambetov said, referring to the film's theme of self-reliance. "[It is] the same for 'Night Watch' and 'Day Watch,' [or] like '300,' for example. It was big event because there was a message. You can agree with that or not. It's a different question, but it's something you can think about later, and we were lucky that we had this."
The message appears to resonate with Universal Studios and Spyglass Entertainment. "Wanted" was originally slated for a March release, but delaying it till June was a vote of confidence, given the summer competition. Bekmambetov is pleased with the decision. "It's a big event and I really appreciate their decision to move [the film]." He also appreciated the extra time to refine the final cut. As hard R-rated action films are rare in the summer months, Bekmambetov is also hopeful the studio's choice will lead to more films of "Wanted's" nature to return to the season. Said the director, "I think it's very interesting what will happen because if the audience will accept this movie, will enjoy this movie, we'll be in a different world because this kind of movie was never released [in summer]. It was a brave decision and I think it will be successful."
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