While properties like Iron Man and Superman are household names, there are other comic book properties being brought to screen that the average viewer would never know came from the printed page. 2 Guns, from Universal, comes from a graphic novel by BOOM! Studios, writer Steven Grant and artist Mat Santolouco. The comic book, serialized in 2007 and 2008, is the first to go from print to screen for BOOM!, a company who has also done the reverse, bringing stories like 28 Days Later and Planet of the Apes from film to comics.
At a press day in New York, NY, Newsarama and others sat with director Baltasar Kormákur, screenwriter Blake Masters and actors Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg, Paula Patton, and Bill Paxton to talk about the buddy cop film that turns the genre on its head. They discussed the twisty plot (no spoilers, don’t worry), the process of adaptation, and why it’s good to just have fun with a movie every once in awhile. And don't worry, we cut out the awkward parts where "journalists" tried to hit on Washington and Patton.
The stars of the film, Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, were the first to sit down for the press conference, coming before the Sunday morning press corps.
The first question was about working together for the first time, what they thought of each other, balancing comedy with drama, and the violence in the film.
Denzel joked “You’ve been working on that question all night!” Wahlberg said, “It’s a five part question!”
Wahlberg continued, “We’ve known each other for awhile, socially, we’ve been friends, and we’ve talked about working together, but it surprised me that Denzel was willing to try anything. Also, how giving he was as an actor. I’ve been a fan of his for a long time, and he was amazingly supportive.”
Washington echoed it, “I loved that Mark helped freed me up, helped me open up.” Denzel also mentioned that he and his wife had just watched Wahlberg’s TED, which he loved, praising his co-star’s range.
The actor, known more for his heavy dramatic roles, said that coming into something that was more focused on “having a little fun” and had its comedic moments was exactly what he was looking for.
The next person asked about a specific scene where they were hung upside-down with a bull coming at them. Wahlberg said “I didn’t think it’d be a big deal being hung upside down. Then once we were up there and the blood starts rushing to your head, man it was tough.”
Washington said he didn’t do a lot of research into the DEA, outside of watching an old TV show. Wahlberg said he really liked that this script had “two really formidable opponents, who earned camaraderie and the trust with one another.”
The physical punishment of the roles was memorable, but outside of the major fight scenes and stunts, both actors went back to that bull scene, where they were just hanging upside down calling it the worst. “Edward James Olmos kept forgetting his lines that day,” said Wahlberg, and both joked that he was getting them back for their first day of shooting with him, where they had him tied up and were slapping him around.
The deeper messages of immigration and anti-drugs were lost on Washington, though Wahlberg said that the setup of a particular immigration scene did make him personally realize more about what people go through trying to come into this country.
How much improvisation went into these scenes? Washington and Wahlberg both said there was a lot. “I’ve worked with Baltasar before so he trusts me as long as it makes sense in the story and the scene,” said Wahlberg. Washington said that he’s “quick” but not “funny,” so the improvising brought stuff out that “might be good.”
What did you guys do to bond to make the chemistry come out? Wahlberg said “I’ve always admired him, we’ve known each other personally for a few years. I’ve always been able to pick his brain personally and professionally.” As a result, the chemistry came very naturally and organically from their personal relationship and the script and direction, the actors said.
Asked about the source material by Newsarama, Wahlberg said that he read the graphic novel as they were filming the movie, but was familiar with the general story of it ahead of time. He was on the film first, and brought it to Washington as something they could finally work together on.
“As with any source material, you can’t fit everything into the movie. I look for material everywhere, and we actually have a couple of other pieces from the publisher that we have in the works now,” Wahlberg revealed, praising working with BOOM! Studios.
Washington said that he was brought in long after the adaptation had already gone to screenplay, but he liked the script so much, and laughed so hard, he was immediately intrigued. “Then I gave it to people that I trust, my kids, my barber (laughs) – no seriously, I have him read scripts for me all the time!”
Wahlberg and Washington both said that they bring a lot of themselves to their roles, but don’t feel it was any more or less than average for this particular film.
Next out was the foursome of Masters, Kormákur, Patton, and Paxton. The first question for the director and writer was about the source material, and Masters said that “the graphic novel came to me, and it pulled from old movies that I loved. I realized that Steven Grant had the spine of a wonderful plot, then it was figuring out how the characters fit in that. Steven Grant did a terrific job, then handing it off to Balt, he took it to another level.”
Baltasar said “it was a great opportunity to do something with a little lightness and character to it. We actually pulled a few things back in from the source material after the screenplay had been written.”
On working with Denzel a second time, Paula said that her first time around was “a master class,” learning from him just by watching him on the set. “For the first time as an actor I really felt like I was in the moment. I had no idea what I did! Denzel is like a jazz musician. He comes at scenes a new way, and that keeps you on your toes. So working with him again was very special to me.”
Kormákur said that working with Wahlberg again “made the whole process easier for me, having someone to trust while working with someone like Denzel, who is quite a challenge,” he said with half a laugh.
Paxton, when asked if his wife let him sleep in bed with her while filming this role of a psychotic CIA agent with a terrible mustache, joked that his wife doesn’t let him sleep with her, and she wasn’t crazy about the mustache. “I haven’t had a project like this for a long time, but I came up in supporting roles.” He showed up to his first lunch meeting with Baltasar in full character, his hair cut, mustache grown, and in a full western suit. “He thought I was a crazy person – but it worked and I got the role.”
Asked about working with Washington, whom the journalist inquiring called “one of the great actors of our time,” Paxton said, “I loved working with Denzel, he’s a pretty good actor (laughs). It’s a shame people don’t get to see his funny side more.” He related the story of a particular scene (no spoilers here, though) where the tension and intensity was at once relieved and made much more real by a simple sly smile by Washington, which in turn made him smile, and made that take (the one used in the film) perfect.
Patton, married to singer Robin Thicke, and with him since they were 15 and 14 years old, joked about an early scene. She was originally supposed to be wearing a shirt, and said it felt really phony to her in that character. So she came to the set and said, “I’m not going to be wearing a top here.” She told her husband ahead of time about it, and he said to “go for it, babe.” However, she didn’t tell him that she’d be straddling Denzel Washington in the scene, and joked that she was worried about watching that part with him.
Paxton said his character Earl was “hard to leave behind,” at the end of a day of shooting, especially the accent. “I loved doing the speeches, I felt like this was a part that Balt would love to play. It’s a tough thing to kick, because I am from Texas originally, and had the drawl, but it was something different.” He said that when the cameras weren’t rolling, his relationships with the actors were great. “Between shots, we’d talk shop and have fun. This is the kind of movie where you can have fun – I think the audience will have fun watching it. It’s in the spirit of a great 70s film.”
While these two actors weren’t quite as physical in the movie as the stars, they did work on getting fit for it. Paxton said, “Well it was interesting, being with the government, he had all this weight behind him, so he didn’t have to be physical, he got to actually be a little falsely cordial.
“I did get a bit physical at the end in the cattle scenes and man, the sweat – all the sweat was very real.”
Patton researched for the role with a retired DEA agent named Brenda who “helped me craft this character. When I show up on the set, what happens, happens, but I felt comfortable enough in the character” to make informed decisions after her research. She makes sure to put everything into the scene, and tries not to chit-chat too much on the set so she keeps her character alive.
2 Guns, from a graphic novel from BOOM! Studios, hits theaters Friday August 2, 2013.