Best known for the likes of 2010, Timecop, The Relic, and End of Days, writer/director Peter Hyams latest effort sees him reteaming with Jean-Claude Van Damme on Enemies Closer; an actioner in which Van Damme hams it up as a vicious vegan heading up a drug cartel. We were lucky enough to grab some time with the director to discuss the movie, JCVD’s fantastic villainous turn, and much, much more.
Starburst: Enemies Closer is almost like a hark back to the actioners of yesteryear. How did the movie come about?
Peter Hyams: I’d worked with the producer before and I’d worked with Jean-Claude before, so they sent me the script and, to be honest with you, the script had Jean-Claude playing the good guy. I said I’d be interested in doing the film if he played the bad guy. So we fashioned the part so he was crazy, lethal and funny. He played this kind of mad character. I said to him, “I promise you, this is the part that will gain the attention; you can be this absolutely crazy presence on screen.” And he bought into it and was terrific.
We take it that he was up for the role of Henry initially then?
Yeah, Henry – the role that Tom Scott played.
You’d already worked with Van Damme on Timecop, Sudden Death and you were involved with Universal Soldier: Regeneration. How was it working with him once more?
Oh, he’s a lovely guy. He’s a very sweet, good guy.
Having worked with him back in the day, and obviously there has since been his turn in The Expendables 2, but back then did you think he had it in him to play such a good bad guy?
Well I haven’t actually seen The Expendables or any of those things. The one that interested me, that made me say that this is what he should do, was JCVD. And then I was, like, he can do stuff, he really can. I just wanted to stretch him, that’s all. Since JCVD, I saw how funny he can be. I didn’t want him to play this malevolent, soft-spoken kind of villain. I had wanted him to deliver something we hadn’t seen before. So we made him a vegan, we made him an environmentalist, and a murderer, which I think was kinda funny.
Did everybody else immediately take to this idea, too?
They loved the idea!
The core trio of characters in the film, played by Van Damme, Tom Scott and Orlando Jones, are quite the impressive group. Now having first seen Tom Scott in Dead Man on Campus and An American Werewolf in Paris, he doesn’t come across as a natural ‘action’ kind of guy. What prompted his inclusion?
Firstly, he’s a really good actor and he’s a wonderful presence. He’s actually a great, big, athletic guy; he’s 6’1”, 6’2” – a big fella. And he can really handle himself. So I thought he’d be great for it, I always wanted to work with him and I was a fan. And I had worked with Orlando before – I made a film with Michael Douglas called Beyond a Reasonable Doubt – and I adored him. When it came time to do the other part , the producers asked what I thought about Orlando. I said that I’d be thrilled.
There’s a great dynamic between the characters of Henry and Clay, with a lot of attitude, angst, bickering and brawling going on…
Well they’re good actors, and good actors will be interesting on screen.
Having a background that involves music, art, even time as a news anchor, what is it about movies that grabs your attention?
Well when I was quite young I was a reporter, an anchor, very, very young, when I was 21… actually, I started when I was 20. I’ve always gone to art schools, then I became getting very interested in documentary film. But then I became more interested about writing something that was interesting rather than writing something that was factual. I became interested in taking photographs that were good looking rather than photographs that were accurate. I’m more interested in writing for effect than photographing for effect, so I left and decided that I wanted to make film. Film seemed to be the synthesis between music and art and all of the things that interested me.
In terms of directing, you seem to have been less prolific over the last few years than you once were…
I don’t just take a movie and shoot it; it takes a while for me. I’m somebody who really wants the screenplay to be a certain way. I’m used to writing my own, then if it’s somebody else’s then I’ll work with them because I don’t just jump at anything or take anything. I’m fortunate enough that I don’t have to and I don’t want to.
And there was a rumour a few years ago that you were being considered to direct Hellboy before Guillermo del Toro got the gig. Is there any truth in that?
Never heard of it.
At the moment you’re currently writing a new project. Are you able to give us any details on that or on what else you have on your plate?
I am, but I’m unable to say what it is. I think it’s a pretty good idea and I don’t, quite frankly, I don’t want to broadcast it.
Is there a particular timescale that you’re hoping to have the script finished by?
I think I’ll finish the script within about a month, then we’ll see.
Having been involved in the film business for over 40 years, is there any opportunities that you feel you missed or projects that you wished you’d have done?
There were a lot of movies I wish I had done - because they’re wonderful movies - except I wasn’t asked to do them. Frankly the world’s a better place for me not having done them because they’re wonderful.
And if you could give your younger self any advice?
I’m not somebody who walks around the world thinking they’re good; I’m somebody who walks around the world in mortal fear of being caught. I think it took me a long time, because any time anybody said anything bad about my work then I believed them. If somebody said something good about my work then I wouldn’t believe them. Then I began to realise a lot of things they were saying about me, even flattering me, were things I had no idea of - I wasn’t thinking of those things. I had to learn that I’m not as good as they say I was and I’m maybe not as bad, that’s all. You just try. I’ve had on my wall for 30 years a quote from Sir Carol Reed, one of the great directors. He said that making a film was all work and all worry, all fear and all heartache, but not making a film is worse.
So have you relaxed your stance over the years in terms of not worrying what other people were saying?
No, I’m harder on myself now because it gets more difficult because I expect to be better. And the more I do, the better I see, and the better I can see then the better I can see the gulf between my abilities and the people who I think are wonderful. The gulf seems to widen not narrow. It’s just me, I’m fairly dark about some things.
The majority of your work tends to have elements of action, sci-fi and sometimes horror. Are there any other genres that you’d like to branch out into? Maybe a musical?
Well I always wanted to do a musical; I grew up in the musical theatre. If I could’ve made any film in the world, I would’ve wanted to make Les Mis. From the moment I saw it, I just was not somebody they thought of. I would’ve killed to do that.
Enemies Closer is available on Blu-ray and DVD now, with our review found here.
SHARE YOUR COMMENTS BELOW OR ON TWITTER @STARBURST_MAG
Find your local STARBURST stockist HERE, or buy direct from us HERE. For our digital edition (available to read on your iOS, Android, Amazon, Windows 8, Samsung and/or Huawei device - all for just £1.99), visit MAGZTER DIGITAL NEWSSTAND.
CLICK TO BUY!
MORE FROM AROUND THE WEB: