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The long awaited XXX: Return of Xander Cage is now showing in theaters and it’s a fun action packed ride.  We had a chance to interview the director of the film, D.J. Caruso, about working on the movie and here’s how it went.

Interview by Louis Love (Luis Lecca):

Louis Love: The cast is huge and it’s versatile. You’ve got people from many different countries and actors from cult favorite films. That must have made your job difficult. Getting everyone organized. Can you talk a little about that?

D.J. Caruso: It’s a blessing to have a cast this dynamic, this diverse, this sort of renowned. From a logistical standpoint, getting Donnie Yen to come in from Rogue One and figuring it out. Tony Jaa is coming in from Thailand where he just finished a movie. Michael Bisping is gonna have a fight in two weeks. Like, that logistics of getting them all together. Neymar and Sam Jackson can only work on a Sunday, okay… let’s do it on a Sunday! To get into the logistics of all that was really difficult but the gift that you have as a director is that they’re all so diverse. They’re all so wonderful. When it’s Nina, Ruby, Deepika, Vin … you were blessed every day to have them but to schedule that and to make that all work was like holy cow!

Louis Love: Were you relieved when it was all done?

D.J. Caruso: On you’re very last day of wrap you’re kind of like still riding adrenaline and like 3 hours later your body just shuts down because you realize you’ve been going at that extreme energy the whole time. But you know it’s real fun because, again, in talking about them (the cast), they each take a different direction. They all don’t take direction the same way and each one brought something different to the table so it all took … Like with Nina, I’m kind of mining comedy, with Donnie I’m mining amazing Donnie Yen fights, with Vin we have it all. We have the tension and the sexual tension. So it was a lot of fun in the movie.

Louis Love: How was it working with Vin? He has creative input as well. How do you guys collaborate in everything? How does that process work?

D.J. Caruso: The collaboration was really good because I’m a big firm believer and so is Vin on this, which is good, like you spend time before you start shooting and so we spend a lot of time pre-production sort of not only rehearsing some of the skateboarding (scenes) but talking about the characters and tone and so it was really important to get on the same page before we started shooting. I think some of the problems that I might have had in the past is that everyone’s not quite in sync so it was important that he and I were in sync from the get go because we were setting the tone and having him as the lead actor in front of the camera and also the producer behind it, it was really helpful because he’s the kind of “producer,” like I said before, he’s not counting the money. He started to figure out how do we make this as good as we can be. So it was a really great collaboration.

Louis Love: Speaking of collaboration, the franchise has been on hiatus for a bit which, kind of like wine, it got finer and like now is the time to drink it… right? So how long has this been in your mind and how does that process work and why now do you think now is the time to drink that “wine?”

D.J. Caruso: Well… I think the “why now to drink that wine,” is the political climate, the culture, the one-world, the shrinking world culture of bringing this world global cast together I think that’s one reason. I think the fact that our leadership … We’re questioning our leadership and we realize someone needs to be watching the watchers. And Xander Cage 15 years ago was a rebel who sort of became this reluctant patriot, right, and was doing the right thing even though he was true to himself and I thought all these Xander and his new kind of characters that are around him are all very rebellious and they’re all really unique individuals which we want to celebrate today as individuality because there’s such polarity, you know, amongst us all, that if we can bring this group together and show that even though they’re staying true to themselves their collective power of the individual can do amazing things. So that, to me, was one of the reasons and the second reason was insane action. Like, I get to direct insane action. Like ridiculously insane action.

Louis Love: That leads me to my next question. There’s some insane action in there. Now that I’m here talking to you, you seem like a person that loves action. You can probably be part of it. Do you want to join the action some day ?

D.J. Caruso: Oh yeah. No, I do. It’s really funny cause I have this thing. Like, there’s certain things like on the motorcycle in the water where I would kind of ride it and have the stunt guy show … I can show Vin like look it’s okay for me to ride it so you can kind of do this. So I always like to push it a little bit that far. You know, I can’t tell Donnie Yen how to throw a kick or a spinning back kick and things like that but of course I love to be involved. I’m always big on, like , especially if I’m putting an actor in a situation that’s safe but dangerous, like, that’s scary, that I can sit on the edge of a building or I can be when I climb that tower I wanted to show the actor Vin like, hey I can climb this tower too. I got my safety line on and so if they see you do it as a film-maker they feel more comfortable.

Louis Love: Was there a particular action sequence where you, you know, you guys thought of it and then it was like, man, how are we gonna pull this off?

D.J. Caruso: Well I think the most difficult in the pulling off was the motorbikes in the water. Motorcycles aren’t made to go on water but Robbie Madison is this amazing sort of Evel Knievel motorcycle stunt rider. I’ve seen a movie he’d made called The Pipe Dream and he was getting that motorcycle. His dream was to get it into that wave, into the pipe in Tahiti and so I thought I want to put this in the movie. Xander Cage is a great motorcycle rider I want to get him and Donny Yen. I want to get those two [inaudible 00:05:31]. I want to get that motorcycle on the water. So that was particularly the most difficult just because smooth water’s cool. Ocean water not so cool. We got out to the wave. We almost got in the pipe and the bikes kept wiping out and the bikes were sinking and when the bike sinks you have to pull it out of water, it has to dry for 5 hours. So that was the most difficult and that was the sequence that I felt like felt like the most extreme.

Louis Love: Did you get to watch the film yet on IMAX?

D.J. Caruso: Yes. Oh yeah!

Louis Love: Do you get blown away just like we do as an audience? I understand the premier is tonight. My favorite movie theater is the TCL Chinese theatre. That’s gonna kill it, man!

D.J. Caruso: Yeah, it’s gonna kill. You know what’s really interesting about the IMAX process is it’s the final step we make in sort of our, as a film-maker and my delivery requirements so I got to the IMAX Digital and I got to the laser and I got to the 3D and these new projectors, in particular, like the one that they have at The Chinese is just phenomenal. I mean they’re phenomenal. They’re like million dollar projectors and it’s almost 60% more light coming out of that projector and so the color, the dynamic range, the coloring just so huge and the blacks are true black and whites have detail in the whites and so to finish there at the end of the process and to see the movie like that is something that just blew me away and tonight too, it’s always like I find myself looking at all these other things that I haven’t been looking at for a long time.

Louis Love: There’s also the thing where you can actually tilt your head and it doesn’t blur.

D.J. Caruso: Right. Right. Exactly. With that 3D, yeah.

Louis Love: Can you talk a little bit about filming this type of film. I’m not sure if the last two were not on 3D.

D.J. Caruso: No, I don’t believe that last 2 were in 3D and you know, so we did a conversion here and what the good news is we had such great time that Corey, my stereographer, and I spent so much time getting this conversion right. So I’ve always been like, earlier on in my career, not early, even years ago I felt like, oh this 3D thing kind of the gimmick, you know, and people are using it in a way, oh this is coming at me and then I thought, okay how do I … I told Corey I’d like to just use the 3D to kind of immerse the viewer into the sequence and to kind of put them into it. Obviously there might be somethings that come out of the screen, cool, but let’s see if I can use it to be more immersive and so we did that and worked on that as far as negative and positive and where your eye goes and so it was for me the first 3D movie I ever did and the other two in the franchise haven’t been that way so I really really had a great education on this one.

Louis Love: Here the 3D is not a gimmick … it’s a must. So one thing that fascinated me too and fascinates me about films is the props. I love props and you had some good props. Do you get to keep some of them? Cause I know there’s a lot of computer actions going on.

D.J. Caruso: Yeah, there’s a little handheld computer actions. There’s the Pandora’s box. There’s some really kind of cool things. Yeah, you sometimes get to keep … The one prop that I’m most proud of that I have and he signed if for me was Neymar, the napkin holder that Neymar kicks in the beginning with Sam Jackson. That’s the one prop that I kind of have sticking up on my desk right now.

Louis Love: You have to ask for permission?

D.J. Caruso: Well, yeah you gotta go… No, you just kind of go “Hey, I’m taking this.”

Louis Love: Another thing that was awesome too, we’re in lovely Los Angeles but the locations on this, in this film. Do you miss them?

D.J. Caruso: Oh, no, there’s certain times when you’re sitting in the Dominican or you’re kind of in the Philippines and you’re kind of going, okay, and then we do the little thing with Ruby, where we had a little unit in Africa. You go, yeah, it’s really a blessing to kind of get all over the place and shoot but it’s funny because it’s just like anything else. It’s like once you’re there and you get that camera up it’s all about accomplishing your goals and then it’s not until you wrap at the end of the day, sometimes you look around and then go “Whoa! Look at this place. It’s amazing.”

Louis Love: Now my next question is a little bit off but my nerdly readers want to know about you directing the next G.I. Joe … Sorry, had to do it.

D.J. Caruso: No. No. I was working on G.I. Joe prior to starting on xXx and Dwayne was there developing. We’re developing with Dwayne and then he went off and did Baywatch and so we got to a point where we had a pretty good script. We hadn’t quite licked it. We kind of did a little, like as you probably have been hearing on the internet, we did a little merging and then we’ll see what happens but hopefully we can put something together.

You can listen to the interview below!

XXX: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE is now in theaters!

After coming out of self-imposed exile, daredevil operative Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) must race against time to recover a sinister weapon known as Pandora’s Box, a device that controls every military satellite in the world. Recruiting a new group of thrill-seeking cohorts, Xander finds himself entangled in a deadly conspiracy that points to collusion at the highest levels of government.

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