The Los Angeles Film Festival’s annual Coffee Talk series began this year with the panel of directors. Ruben Fleischer, Philip Noyce and Richard Kelly shared their experiences with an audience of fans and aspiring filmmakers. Afterwards, the hung out in the hallway speaking to anyone who had a question.
Fleischer stayed over an hour and when I asked him for an interview, he was happy to continue talking about his upcoming movies, this summer’s 30 Minutes or Less and his next film, The Gangster Squad.
Ruben Fleischer: Yeah, 100%. I’m lucky because I’m not a writer but I’ve happened to come across these amazing scripts. I think Zombieland and30 Minutes or Less are what they are because of the scripts that started it. Now with Gangster Squad, it’s seriously one of the best scripts I’ve ever read. So the fact that I’m getting the opportunity to bring it to life is just super exciting.
Q: When you’re not a writer/director, how do you connect with someone else’s material?
RF: I guess it’s just a matter of taste. For me, Zombieland was just an original take on a genre that I wasn’t even that big of a fan of but just the sensibility and the sense of humor about it was so fresh that I guess that’s what I responded to. With Gangster Squad, it’s a genre that I love, like the classic gangster movie. This is just a really amazing version of it. It’s based on the real cops that worked to bring down Mickey Cohen in Los Angeles in 1949. It’s a really cool world, a really dramatic world, iconic movie genre. I just can’t wait to get started on it.
Q: What is location scouting like when you’re looking for a period too?
RF: It’s challenging, especially in modern Los Angeles because they’ve torn down so many of those buildings. But we have the benefit of visual effects so if we have a street that’s pretty good but there’s a McDonalds in the middle of it, we can get rid of the McDonalds. Some of the places like Union Station, City Hall, Olvera Street, they haven’t changed that much from when they were originally built. It’s just the environments maybe around them have changed so we’ll avoid that through visual effects or just creative camera angles.
RF: Well, on a personal level I want it to be a successful movie, just because I feel like that’ll help me continue to get to make movies. But I also really am proud of the movie. I think it’s super funny so I want as many people to see it as possible. This summer there’s a lot of comedies, especially R-rated comedies. There’s The Change-Up Friends with Benefits Horrible Bosses Bad Teacher and our movie. I think we’re lucky because ours is the last of the comedies so hopefully it’ll stay around longer. I’m not sure but I just hope Sony promotes it and does a lot to get people into the theaters.
Q: Was the heist genre one you were fond of also?
RF: Yeah, it’s a bank heist movie and there are a lot of references to Point Break and Heat and some of my favorite heist movies in this film. I think it’s definitely an original take on a bank heist just because with the exception of I think Quick Change, there’s not that many comedy bank robbery movies. Quick Change is like the only other comedy bank robbery movie so it’s distinct because of that.
Q: Were references to Poin Break and others in the script or did those come from the actors?
RF: Point Break was definitely in the script. Heat was one just that I think anybody who loves movies just loves Heat, so we got to do our own version of Heat in a funny way.
Q: I love when movies refer to other movies because I’m thinking it even if no one says it. Why do you think a reference can be such a dirty word to people?
RF: I think there’s different versions of it. There’s people who are derivative. I guess that’s bad. Ours is almost postmodern because ours is an action comedy and we have references to Die Hard, Point Break, Beverly Hills Cop, Lethal Weapon, you name it. They’re all embedded in the movie. It’s not like Hot Fuzz in that we’re so directly referencing those movies but there’s an acknowledgment that we’re the same genre as these other movies.
Q: What prep do you have to do before you start shooting Gangster Squad?
RF: We have 12 weeks of prep. We’re going to be doing all the location scouting, finding all the actors to play all the roles, figuring out the shots, figuring out the costumes, staging how we’re going to do the action sequences. There’s just an immense amount of things to figure out.
Q: What are the action set pieces in that?
RF: It’s basically an action movie in period clothing. There’s car chases, gun fights. It’s like a classic action movie.
Q: What kind of movie would you want to do next?
RF: It’s really open. I want to see how 30 Minutes does. I want to see how Gangster turns out. Because I don’t write, I kind of just have to see what’s out there and what’s available and what script I respond to when I read it. I’m trying to make a career where I’m not just one kind of director, like I’m not just an action-comedy guy. I would love the opportunity to be able to make any sort of movie. Hopefully Gangster Squad will put me more in that direction of not just being thought of as a comedy director.
Q: Is there a genre that’s a tough sell that you’d want to use your clout to do one?
RF: Well, there’s a lot of them now but I love westerns a lot. I’m so excited for Tarantino’s. I loved True Grit. I love Leone so that would be a fun genre to explore.
Q: It seems like a lot of filmmakers want to do a western. Maybe it’s the classic Hollywood dream.
Q: Is there one article of clothing or period prop you’re looking forward to keeping from the set?
RF: I can’t say until we’ve done it but whether it’s the guns, the hats, the trench coats, there’s going to be so many cool things to choose from. It’ll be exciting to see.
30 Minutes or Less hits theaters August 12.