The tortured, prolonged trek of James Cameron’s blue-skinned alien opus from gem of an idea to the big screen near pales in comparison to the travails of the
Attempting to birth itself as early as the mid 1990s, the film wallowed in production limbo for over a decade before powerhouse siblings Ridley and Tony Scott finally came onboard to give the project the injection of adrenaline that it desperately needed.
“Tony and I feel that marrying this Scott Free project with [
] Joe’s sensibility will result in a fast-paced, exciting franchise, one we hope will be around for years to come,” Ridley said.
They boarded the reboot in January 2009. Just over a year later, the film is almost here – a testament to their present Hollywood heft.
John Singleton didn’t direct it...
But wait, wasn’t John Singleton meant to be helming the
Boyz N The Hood
filmmaker was all signed and sealed, but never delivered on the project. Back in 2008, he was ready to lock and load, though...
“It’s not a comic movie farce like
Starsky And Hutch
,” he said. “It’s kind of in the tradition of the '80s action pictures, the man’s movies like
, or even
– more so than anything else.”
He went on to add that “the action is very serious, but there is humor. That’s what we are going for.”
For his cast, Singelton was keen on Woody Harrelson to play Murdock (“the guy who is crazy but he’s kind of real smart”), while George Clooney was linked to the role of Hannibal, and Ice Cube showed a marked interest in tackling the goliath role of B.A. Baracus.
movie pegged for release in June 2009, Fox then froze the project in favour of developing (of all things) an
Alvin And The Chipmunks
sequel. Singleton walked.
The A-Team has evolved...
With new director Joe Carnahan on board, the project finally had a driving force behind it that could bring the update to life.
But Carnahan wasn’t interested in treating the original formula with a religious reverence. He wanted to bring it kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
“Twenty-five years have gone by since
was on the air,” the director says. “And [
] want to evolve that story that needs to be evolved and should be evolved, and I think we spent a considerable amount of time doing that.”
So what sort of evolution are we talking here? “The approach is gritty and more real world, with everything that is going on in Iraq and the Middle East. Because the show was very whimsical and campy at times, and we wanted to avoid that. As much as
The Dark Knight
avoids the old Adam West incarnation of Batman, we wanted to do the same thing.”
But don’t go worrying that your
will be completely unrecognisable up there on the film canvas. The core elements are still there – namely the quartet of big-gunned guys who are actually really quite soft on the inside.
“What I always loved about the show wasn't so much the situational stuff but the camaraderie and the affection that these guys had for one another,” says Carnahan. “The personality of that show is much bigger than the sum of its parts, you know what I mean?
“It wasn't cutting edge action. It wasn't cutting edge stories. It was just these four guys that really loved each other, and that's what I think came through more than anything else.”
Liam Neeson is Hannibal...
“I think all of us kinda looked upon Liam Neeson with a certain amount of awe,” says Bradley Cooper, inheriting the role of Face from Dirk Benedict. “This is, you know, a Proper Actor. One that knows his stuff, and yet he's having all this fun with us.”
Yes, Liam Neeson is Hannibal, the no-shit Colonel who has “a very unorthodox style”.
Director Joe Carnahan was chuffed to have bagged him for the role. “It was just these very subtle things that I thought we did. The sense of humor and the adventure and exploration, all made Hannibal this fun character.”
So is Neeson’s portrayal an homage to the original (played by George Peppard), or a whole new beast? “[
The old Hannibal
] is absolutely there,” Carnahan insists. “I don't think we sacrificed that one bit.”
It’s not the new Starsky & Hutch...
Being an update of a series very much of its time,
movie can’t help but be compared to the Ben Stiller/Owen Wilson update of
Starsky & Hutch
Carnahan isn’t worried. “I’m not interested in making the easy, breezy
,” he says.
Having thrown out all of the previous scripts that had been circulated for the movie, Carnahan had a very singular vision for the film.
“I thought [
Starsky & Hutch and Land Of The Lost
] were too slavishly devoted to the TV show,” the director says. “While I like the TV show, I didn’t think it was any great shakes in terms of heavy drama. You could take that story and have it translate into the present day with more success.”
In short, he’s updated the ‘80s show for modern audiences who would be left rolling in the aisles for all the wrong reasons if the big screen version had strictly adhered to the format of the original series. Examples? B.A. is no longer quite so over the top, simply featuring the words ‘PITY’ and ‘FOOL’ on the knuckles of each hand.
“People are a lot more keen and savvy,” explains Carnahan.”If you tried to put that show out today, you wouldn’t get away with what they got away with.
“I mean, Murdoch, for what passed as crazy 25 years ago? It doesn’t hold up. Nowadays, you have Steve-O on
strapping on a g-string made out of chicken parts and rappelling over an alligator pit. So you have to re-evaluate things like ‘crazy’.”
Mr T isn’t in it...
Fools! (Sorry.) Yes, it’s true, Mr T won’t be turning up in a cameo appearance. Nothing to do with money, apparently, nor is it anything to do with the direction of the new film. Put simply: he just wasn’t interested in doing it.
“I have much love for him,” Mr T says of new B.A Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson. “I do. It's going to become a pressure thing because people are going to come up to him and say, 'Hey, you're not Mr T.' They are going to try to get in his head just to meddle with him.”
The actor goes on the say that he’s “honoured” they’re transforming his original series into a big screen extravaganza, and he’s happy for Rampage to take over the role. No hard feelings.
“I like his style, his toughness,” says Mr T. “He'll bring his own unique personality to that role. Like the guy who plays Murdock or the guy who plays Hannibal, Liam Neeson. I like Liam Neeson. I saw him in
, I was like, 'Man, I like this guy.' So, I'm not mad at anybody.
“Like I told a guy in New York in an interview, when the movie comes out, I'm going to go see it, and I'm going to enjoy it. I'm not one of those who would say, 'Hey, it should have been me.' No, I'm too blessed to be stressed.”
Last word: “I would have to pity myself if I get mad at anybody.” He da man!
It’s sticking to the original story (sort of)...
When you’ve got a perfect formula – four soldiers are arrested for a crime they didn’t commit and go rogue – why mess with it?
movie to start at A, and go on to familiar Bs and Cs that were set out in the series – only with modern day twists and a few bigger explosions.
This Alpha Unit team are no longer disgraced Vietnam war veterans, but covert operatives who worked out in Iraq – and are banged up for crimes they didn’t commit.
“I don't want to give it away because I think it's a really cool device we use to kind of bond these guys in a way,” says Carnahan, “And narratively we don't have to spend these long periods of time explaining why they got so close so fast.
“But listen, I think that if you're a fan of that show and you have any doubts about the movie, you should have none. You have absolutely nothing to worry about.”
He adds: “We’re not making an homage to
. We’re taking the base story of four guys wrongfully convicted of a crime, they’re an Alpha Unit, that’s it. That’s the point of departure.”
Rampage and Sharlto Copley are B.A. and Murdock...
Despite only making it onto many Hollywood execs’ Christmas lists with the opening of
, Sharlto Copley was destined to play the role of Murdock.
“It was my favourite show,” says the actor, who fortuitously had a birthday cake in the shape of Mr T when he was 11 years old.
And there were no concerns over his South African accent. “When you see him in the movie, there's not a shred of that,” says Carnahan. "He's doing this pan-handle Texan twang that is unidentifiable.
“Sharlto is such a great actor. He has the ability to mimic and compartmentalize each accent. He'd say to me: 'I could go more here, I could pull back there.' It's pretty remarkable he was able to shed that so easily.”
Meanwhile, Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson will shoulder the not inconsiderable burden of playing Sgt B.A. ‘Bad Attitude’ Baracus, the role famously played by Mr T in the show.
“Rampage auditioned for a previous version of [
the A-Team movie
] when it was ramping up under a different director; different circumstances,” says Carnahan. “I saw that audition, and thought he was a guy that had some raw skill.
“A good friend of mine, Ed Quinn worked with Rampage. And I saw his audition after he worked with Ed, and it was like night and day. I brought him to Vancouver to screen test him, and the scene is actually in the movie.”
Dwight Schultz and Dirk Benedict will make cameo appearances...
Even if Mr T won’t be making an appearance, you can count on Dwight Schultz and Dirk Benedict to turn up somewhere in the movie.
And, like Mr T, there are no hard feelings about a big sceen re-jig. In fact, they are more than happy with what they’ve seen so far during shooting.
Schultz played Murdock in the show, and got to see Sharlto Copley’s screen test, which he calls “brilliant beyond words”, adding “honestly, if Sharlto is given an opportunity to do what I saw in that [screen] test, Murdock will be better than ever.”
Meanwhile, Carnahan reports that “Dirk Benedict gave [
the biggest compliment [
]: 'This was who I wanted to be'.”
There are girls in it, too...
Alright, so the boys get to blow shit up in the flick, but what about the girls? Enter Jessica Biel as Lt Carissa Sosa, a role that both Amber Heard and Olga Kurylenko went for.
Biel is as pumped for the part as any of the boys. “It's been a complete blast,” she effuses. “It's really fun. I'm getting to work a lot with weapons again, which I haven't done in a long time.
“That sounds kinda weird, but it's the best to learn about that kind of thing. The cast is wonderful. Joe Carnahan, our director, is hitting the nail right on the head. We've got a really interesting tone going on.”
Any concerns about the tone were quickly abolished, she adds. “We've found lots of humour, at the same time that it's quite emotional with dramatic moments. I think it's going to be a lot of different things combined into this one movie. But, there are a lot of throw-backs and a lot of paying homage to the original show.”
Bradley Cooper begged to be a part of it...
"I heard Liam Neeson had signed on and I was like, 'Fuck!' I begged Joe to let me have a meeting.”
Bradley Cooper there,
(and Neeson) fanboy, desperate not to miss out on all of the action.
"I remember reading the script in one night and then calling Joe at 9am,” remembers the actor. “I'd wanted to call at five, and just leaving a message saying, 'What do I have to do to convince you I'm Face?'"
Luckily, Carnahan liked Cooper and thought he was ideal for Face.
“They pretty much took a big chance on me,” acknowledges Cooper. “It's going to be incredible. To take on such an iconic show, one that I grew up on, and to do so besides the likes of Liam Neeson - that's something I would never have dreamt of.”
The trailer ain’t half bad...
“One year ago, an elite commando unit was sent to prison for a crime they didn't commit,” intones Voiceover Bloke. “These men promptly escaped from a maximum security facility. Today, still wanted by the government they survive as soldiers for hire. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, if you can find them, maybe you can hire... the A-Team...”
Um, sold. Though the trailer makers are obviously holding back some of the funnier/explodier elements from the film to keep us enthralled during the movie, the new trailer definitely brings its A game.
And, for the record, Carnahan doesn’t care about the internet haters.
“It's a community of snipers. Who cares. But listen, the people who are enthusiastic and go online with the strength of their convictions, that's great. That's good. We need those people. It's the trolls that kill it for everybody.”
“That trailer in particular was designed to encourage and reassure people that loved that show that we did right by them. I think that was its overall goal, and it achieved it quite well,” he says.
“Is it hopefully going to be reflective of the film? It's like a lot of things; it's a big piece of marketing, and these guys are much smarter than I am. All I know is, anybody that is in any way worried about what we've done with The A-Team, you have absolutely nothing to worry about.
“That, I know at my core. Everybody that loved that show - you're gonna be fine. Trust me.”
A franchise is a possibility...
Whenever a studio builds a direct line between a movie project and its money pit, you’ve got to assume that they’ve got the F word fixed firmly in their minds. No, fools, we mean ‘franchise’.
So has anybody mentioned anything of a sequel to Carnahan yet? “I think any time you acknowledge that, it's like I'd be jinxing the future,” he says. “What I'm content to do is say, let's let this one ride and in five months see how people dig it; if they don't dig it, we'll have our answer then.”
That said, he’s had such a great time with his cast that Carnahan would happily work with ay of them again. “You don't want to sound like a douche but I'd work with those guys in
capacity, anywhere,” he says.
“If they wanted to do
and we had to figure out Potsie, Ralph, Fonz and Richie we could do it. I had a great time with them. They absolutely answered the bell in any way.”
Still, Carnahan will admit to having shot a top secret cameo appearance at the end of the film (ala
’s post-credits corker) that could well pave the way for a sequel.
“We've got a cameo at the end that I can't blow, but it will tell you where this thing is going forward,” the director winks. “It was important that we have a main villain that we could dispose of, and another one that can linger on that we can bring back if we make another one of these.”
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