400 Bullets is the latest film from writer/director Tom Paton, and stars Andrew Lee Potts (Primeval) as Noah a soldier and Jean-Paul Ly (Nightshooters) as the Gurkha Rana, respectively, who are stationed in Afghanistan, fighting to keep some missile guidance chips from falling into the wrong hands. We caught up with the former to find out more about the film and get an exclusive reveal of something to come…
STARBURST: This is quite a departure for you - what prep did you have to do?
Andrew Lee Potts: Oh God! I didn't really do any, it happened so quickly. I shaved my head, went up and talked to Tom at the studio, and that’s about it. He told me what we were planning to do and before I knew it, I was shooting it. We had a stunt co-ordinator, Spencer Collings, who's a military advisor, but taught me exactly the right way to hold the gun and make it realistic. He wouldn't let us do it Hollywood style, everything's close and tight to the body. It's all really efficient and you know he's really into it.
So was it physically demanding?
Oh yeah! The physical side of it was. I was used to a lot of physicality, in the work that I've done previously, but this was brutal. We did mostly night shoots and I used to text Tom in a morning with pictures of all my new bruises! My body was covered in bruises. I'm not even joking, bruises like you can't even imagine. So I used to do like a daily update of how you were harming your actor [Laughs].
My first day was the fight scene where I get stabbed in the shoulder and he bust my nose. Literally straight off the bat, in the in the first take and my nose is gushing! So it was all fun and games.
What was it like working with Jean-Paul Ly?
JP is just amazing, he’s such a lovely dude as well. He helped me a lot with the fight stuff and the way to shoot it. I don't think you'll find anybody who’ll say he's not a nice dude. He was so caring and amazingly focused on his job. And when he just switched it on and he did his stuff, you have all the men in the room mesmerised by it. He had to tone it down a little bit, because he's capable of so much more. But we had to keep it as real as we could, with a Gurkha skill set in stone.
What was the shoot like?
It was freezing, it was December, and we were shooting outside, all at night. So it was a slog but the crew was amazing. It was one of the most favourite jobs that I've ever been on because everybody was just gunning for it, they were loving it.
How was Tom as a director?
I loved working with Tom. I knew of Tom's work and he knew of mine. And when we met each other we saw there's a lot of similarities within us; we recognise that we appreciate each other's skillset and each other’s talent. It was a really good partnership in that sense.
There is a great message about honour in the film…
Yeah, it was massively important. That's what I love about the character Bartlet [played by James Warren], he's a bad guy for sure, but there’s a scene where he’s speaking to Rana [Ly’s character] about his disbelief in the system and how it chews you up and spits you out. There's a lot of truth and relevance in that and you kind of start to go ‘I see your point’ and that's why I think the film works so well.
The other thing that’s really important is the story of the Gurkhas, because it's hardly being done on film. They're amazing soldiers, they're so committed to helped us so much.
Your character Noah starts off really cold, a proper hard-nut soldier, but as Noah gets to know Rana we notice a few of your trademark banter and comedy quips coming into it.
[Laughs] I wasn't allowed to do very much. It was a balancing act because there was a few bits where I wanted to go a bit further, I think my first ad lib was in the bit where Rana touches me to get a bullet out, and I say ‘your hands are cold’. Tom let me go so far and then he reined me back in.
What’s next for you?
I've written my first movie, which is called Divided and Tom has come on board to produce it. It's a sci-fi heist, Black Mirror-type story. We were just so close to start pre-production on it, and then COVID happened. It's fine, though, things are still in place. We weren't going to shoot it until the summer anyway. We have Tom and the finances in place, so we should be okay.
I can also reveal that you haven’t seen the last of Noah and Rana. The character’s gained the trust of each other and respect. Going forward with a sequel, it's exciting to see how far they push that.
400 Bullets is available in the US on digital and DVD/Blu-ray from March 2nd - a UK release is TBC. Check out our review here. You can find out more about Andrew’s work at www.keychainproductions.co.uk and director Tom Paton at www.tompatonfilm.com.