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Rating: R for strong bloody violence throughout and language
Run time: 107 minutes
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Cast (Character): Arnold Schwarzenegger (Ray Owens), Forest Whitaker (Agent Bannister), Johnny Knoxville (Lewis Dinkum), Rodrigo Santoro (Frank Martinez), Jaimie Alexander (Sarah Torrance), Luis Guzmán (Mike Figuerola), Eduardo Noriega (Gabriel Cortez), Peter Stormare (Burrell), Zach Gilford (Jerry Bailey), Genesis Rodriguez (Agent Ellen Richards), Daniel Henney (Agent Phil Hayes), John Patrick Amedori (Agent Mitchell)
Directed by: KIM Jee-woon
Written by: Andrew Knauer
Produced by: Lorenzo di Bonaventura
Executive Producers: Guy Riedel, Miky Lee, Edward Fee
Executive Producers: Michael Paseornek, John Sacchi
Director of Photography: Ji Yong Kim
Production Designer: Franco Carbone
Edited by: Steven Kemper, A.C.E
Costume Designer: Michele Michel
Co-Producer: Hernany Perla
Casting by: Ronna Kress, CSA
Action icon Arnold Schwarzenegger makes his much-anticipated return to the big screen in Korean director KIM Jee-woon’s hard-hitting U.S. directorial debut, THE LAST STAND.
After leaving his LAPD narcotics post following a bungled operation that left him wracked with remorse and regret, Sheriff Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger) moved out of Los Angeles and settled into a life fighting what little crime takes place in sleepy border town Sommerton Junction. But that peaceful existence is shattered when Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega), the most notorious, wanted drug kingpin in the western hemisphere, makes a deadly yet spectacular escape from an FBI prisoner convoy.
With the help of a fierce band of lawless mercenaries led by the icy Burrell (Peter Stormare), Cortez begins racing towards the US-Mexico border at 250 mph in a specially-outfitted Corvette ZR1 with a hostage in tow. Cortez’s path: straight through Summerton Junction, where the whole of the U.S. law enforcement, including Agent John Bannister (Forest Whitaker) will have their final opportunity to intercept him before the violent fugitive slips across the border forever.
At first reluctant to become involved, and then counted out because of the perceived ineptitude of his small town force, Owens ultimately rallies his team and takes the matter into his own hands, setting the stage for a classic showdown.
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
Action icon ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER is back – and headed full-throttle for an all-out showdown in The Last Stand, KIM Jee-woon’s high-speed, high-mayhem action-thriller.
The good guys have never had it this bad, but they’re ready to give it everything they’ve got in this hard-charging, car-chasing, fist-fighting wild ride that takes an amped-up spin on the classic good vs. bad battle.
Schwarzenegger stars as relentless Sheriff Ray Owens, who left behind the LAPD following a bungled narcotics operation that still wracks him with remorse. Now he’s leading the quiet life in the border town of Sommerton – but that quiet is about to be shattered, big-time. When Gabriel Cortez (EDUARDO NORIEGA), the most lethal, not to mention wanted drug kingpin in America, makes a spectacular escape from an FBI prisoner convoy, he’s hell bent for the Sommerton border – in a specially-equipped Corvette ZR1 capable of blowing past 250 MPH.
U.S. Federal Agent John Bannister (FOREST WHITAKER) might be hot on his trail but Cortez has no fear of the Feds. Cortez only has to fear what he doesn’t see coming: Sheriff Ray Owens. Owens might be out-manned and out-gunned, but he won’t be out-smarted or out-lasted when Cortez threatens the only thing that matters to him now – his new home. Owens and his small but fiercely loyal force are all that stands between Cortez and his freedom.
Arnold Schwarzenegger stars in The Last Stand, which marks the U.S. directorial debut of celebrated Korean action director KIM Jee-woon (I Saw Devil; A Tale Of Two Sisters; The Good, the Bad, the Weird) and is written by Andrew Knauer. The film is produced by Lorenzo di Bonaventura (the Transformer series, G.I. Joe: Retaliation). Joining Schwarzenegger is an all-star ensemble that includes Forest Whitaker, Johnny Knoxville, Rodrigo Santoro, Jaimie Alexander, Luis Guzmán, Eduardo Noriega, Peter Stormare, Zach Gilford and Genesis Rodriguez.
The film’s behind-the-camera talent includes director of photography Ji Yong Kim (A Bittersweet Life); editor Steven Kemper, A.C.E. (Mission: Impossible II); production designer Franco Carbone (The Expendables); and costume designer Michele Michel (Training Day).
IGNITION: SCHWARZENEGGER RETURNS
He’s long been among the toughest, most iconic action heroes of cinema legend, but lately Arnold Schwarzenegger has been serving in another high-adrenaline role – as the Governor of California. Now, at last, he makes his much-anticipated comeback with his first leading action role in a decade in The Last Stand. Taking on the role of a small-town Sheriff with a hard-edged past, Schwarzenegger resumes his screen hero status with a character who is familiar in his fierceness, yet brings a new twist. This bold, badass veteran lawman has seen plenty of action -- but he thinks he’s moved on to more peaceful pastures until bad guys show up in the very town where he’s come to escape them
“In this film, we see the Arnold we have missed, and the Arnold we have never seen before,” sums up the film’s director Jee-woon, whose Hollywood debut makes a surprise collision with Schwarzenegger’s return to the screen. One of the most lauded and watched of the Korean cinematic phenoms, Jee-Woon won acclaim with his stylish noir thriller A Bittersweet Life, his award-winning outlaw comedy The Good, the Bad, the Weird, his hardboiled horror movie I Saw The Devil and his haunting ghost story A Tale Of Two Sisters. But he had never made an action film in America before – and would get his first chance to do so with the biggest Hollywood action star of them all.
Jee-woon was instantly drawn to The Last Stand’s mix of breakneck speed, rollicking humor and colorful characters on both sides of the law, but he was compelled most of all by the chance to have Arnold lead an awe-inspiring defense of justice, even when he and his town have been counted out as nobodies.
Says Jee-woon of their unusual pairing: “Arnold has done everything in Hollywood and I am just starting out in Hollywood. We are so different, but when I met him, our thoughts on The Last Stand and his character coincided. Sheriff Owens has left behind his violent past for a quiet, peaceful small town, but ironically, he must now put everything he has on the line in order to protect this new home. I think we both saw it as story about how a villain armed with high-tech machinery that even governments cannot stop is thwarted by small town people who are inspired by justice.”
For producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, whose films include all three Transformers, Salt and The G.I. Joe series, The Last Stand was a great match for Schwarzenegger’s desire to make his first film back something as thunderously exciting as ever but also fresh. “I thought it would allow Arnold to come back to the screen in a different way; and yet, there is a lot of what we always love about Arnold in this role,” says the producer. “I think this is a moment where he can redefine who he is. He’s always going to be that strong hero, but in this movie, he also has some vulnerability along with his inner fortitude. It’s a role that is less about him being an individual and more about him being a true leader.”
Di Bonaventura was also exhilarated by the chance to work with Jee-woon, who though renowned by action and horror film enthusiasts around the world, had not yet made an English-language feature. “He has a body of work that is really astonishing. When you see all of his different movies, you see his versatility — every one of them has both entertainment value and emotional pull,” observes the producer. “He knows how to shoot action, how to shoot comedy, how to shoot drama – and in this film, he brings all of that to bear in a unified way.”
As soon as Jee-woon saw the screenplay for The Last Stand, he was drawn in. “The Last Stand is a very American story, but it also had many elements that intrigue me, so I decided to go for it,” he recalls. “I found its underlying theme of finding value in the people of a small town and protecting justice very attractive, and I was also inspired by the idea of a story in which bad guys using high technology are stopped by good guys in low-tech ways.”
Though the director had a lot to learn, diving into a very different filmmaking culture from that of Korea, he says that Schwarzenegger made it a pleasure. “Arnold is so smart that he could always figure out what I was looking for,” he says. “Even when I would fumble because I’m not that familiar with the Hollywood system of doing things, he would say ‘the director is an artist, he needs his time.’ There was also a real camaraderie between us because Arnold is an immigrant and I am a foreigner. But I grew up on Hollywood cinema and that is reflected in my work.”
While Jee-woon had fun with the villain Cortez’s need for speed and state-of-the-art firepower, he was also interested in driving the action with character – as Schwarzenegger’s Sheriff Ray Owens finds himself on a very personal collision course with the most lethal criminal of his long, storied career.
Di Bonaventura concurs that this is the core of the adrenaline-pumping story. “Ray Owens was highly successful with the LAPD, but then he was involved in a raid that forced him to walk away, back to the town where his immigrant parents settled. In a sense, he has been hiding from the responsibility of being a big city cop. But when our villain Cortez decides to come right through this town that forces Owens to face the things he didn’t really want to face again, in order to protect the town and the people he loves.”
He goes on: “I think Arnold brings kind of a quiet confidence to this role, like one of my heroes, John Wayne, always did. When we see just how outmanned he is, we begin to wonder if this might not be his last stand. But you can always count on Arnold.”
ACCELERATION: SCHWARZENEGGER ON SHERIFF OWENS
On the heels of seven years as Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger had planned to make a slow transition back into the action movie roles that made him an international hero – but that transition happened at a breakneck speed when he ran across the screenplay for The Last Stand.
“It was a fantastic script,” comments Schwarzenegger. “It had intensity, it had drama, it had the action I love and which my fans expect me to deliver, and at the same time it had a lot of comic relief. It was one of those movies where you laugh in the middle of the intense suspense.”
Schwarzenegger was equally intrigued by the chance to work with an up and coming director who he felt had the chops to take classic action for a fresh and fun spin. He had already seen many of Jee-woon’s Korean films and found them exhilarating. “He’s very, very talented and I like to work with talented directors,” Schwarzenegger says. “The first movie I saw of his, The Good, the Bad, the Weird, I loved – the size of it all and the action was just incredible. Then I watched I Saw The Devil, A Bittersweet Life and A Tale of Two Sisters; and with each of his movies, I liked him more and more. What a wide range of talent this man has. He is especially good at working with the universal theme of good versus bad. That comes through in each of his movies and in The Last Stand.”
As the project came together, Schwarzenegger was also excited by the ensemble cast he would be leading. “This cast is unbelievable – Johnny Knoxville, Forest Whitaker, Luis Guzmán, Jaimie Alexander, Rodrigo Santoro, Eduardo Noriega, Genesis Rodriguez and the list goes on and on,” he says. “Each one of them has great acting talent, both from a comedy point of view but also from an intensity point of view.”
Schwarzenegger loved that Noriega plays Cortez as a man as suave as he is bad. “He’s such a good-looking guy, he’s like a sex symbol,” Schwarzenegger comments. “But he also plays a drug kingpin unbelievably well. I saw right away the intensity in his eyes and his face that made him totally believable and a really strong opponent for my character.”
Schwarzenegger also had a great time working with Knoxville. “Johnny’s hilarious,” he says. “If you’ve seen his Jackass movies, you know he’s willing to put everything on the line in order to get a big laugh – and this character was perfect for him. He ends up being the most supportive of Sheriff Owens’ team and courageous in their battles.”
Schwarzenegger also felt an affinity with Sheriff Owens, who may have once been an action hero in his own right but has taken up a very different kind of life, keeping the peace in a small town that he had assumed would never see much trouble. “He’s had all these experiences as part of a Los Angeles S.W.A.T team, but that time is over,” Schwarzenegger observes. “He’s kind of looking forward to retirement and he’s set in his mind that he’s going to live quietly until his town gets hit by criminals. So it becomes an underdog story of how the town finds a way out of this mess.”
Like Sheriff Owens, Schwarzenegger had to jump into full-scale, physically demanding action after a considerable break from it – and like Sheriff Owens, he was more ready for the challenge to body and mind than he had originally expected. “After the governorship, I felt I would have to ease myself back into action, one step at a time,” he explains, “but that is not what happened.”
He goes on: “I remember visiting a movie set as governor and seeing one of the actors hanging upside down in a harness. A friend of mine asked me ‘Don’t you miss that?’ and I said ‘No, I’d rather be in Sacramento, surrounded by legislators who are not always on your side and can make things very difficult, but I’d rather do that than hang upside down on a harness. I just can’t see myself ever doing that again.’ Well, sure enough, in this movie I hang upside down on a harness. I was back in a harness and back in a movie where from beginning to end I was battling, climbing, running and driving fast cars. And I thought I was going to ease my way back into action! But it was a lot of fun.”
CURVES AHEAD: THE SHERIFF’S DEPUTIES
To play Sommerton’s rag-tag team of deputies – who have never seen much more than petty crime until the ultimate bad guy blows into their town – Jee-woon and the filmmakers went through an extensive casting process to put together an eclectic ensemble of characters.
Says producer di Bonaventura: “There’s a great group of deputies surrounding Ray Owens, played by Luis Guzmán, Jaimie Alexander and Zach Gilford. They’re not the most experienced cops, they’ve never been tested, but they’re great people. And then there’s the town bad boy, played by Rodrigo Santoro, who suddenly has a chance at redeeming his up-to-now less than successful life. And then lastly, Johnny Knoxville plays Lewis Dinkum, the local oddball, who is about to get his chance to be what he always wanted: a deputy.”
Sheriff Owens’ most experienced deputy, known as “Figgie” by his friends on his force, is played by popular character actor Guzmán, who brings a comic touch to the role. “Luis is both very funny and very talented --- and he made Figgie endearing and lovable,” says Jee-Woon.
Adds di Bonaventura: “On the page, Figgie wasn’t funny at all but now, there are moments where he is fall down funny. Luis created this sort of wide-eyed appreciator of life, family and friends. You love him because he always shows who he is and what he’s thinking on his face.”
For his part, Guzmán could not resist the chance to work opposite Schwarzenegger. “I grew up watching Arnold in all these movies and now, here I was, acting with him in all these scenes,” Guzmán muses. “It was a wonderful opportunity.’”
Joining Guzmán as Deputy Sarah Torrance – the sole female on the force – is Jaimie Alexander, best known for her super-hero roles in the action epic Thor and the ABC Family television show “Kyle XY.” Here she plays a more human character who isn’t quite sure if she’s got what it takes to be a hero – until push comes to shove. Jee-woon was excited to watch her in action. “Jaimie is beautiful but she embodies the strength and bravery of a true Texas girl,” the director comments. “She is our only female heroine but she kept up with the men at every turn.”
Alexander loved playing a regular girl who, when the going gets tough, becomes tougher than she ever knew was possible. “My character’s not a super hero, and that’s a good thing. There’s a vulnerability in her that every woman has, she also discovers that she's very strong," she says. “She’s an everyday woman just trying to be something better. There’s a realism to her that I don’t get to play very often, since many of my other characters are science fiction… but it’s awesome to play somebody that could actually exist on Earth!”
Indeed, di Bonaventura says Alexander brought an earthiness to her action scenes. “Jaimie brings a vulnerability and a sexiness to the movie,” he says. “Her character is perhaps a bit over-matched, but when the Sheriff realizes how bad it’s going to get, and says that he’s not going to hold it against any of them if they don’t want to participate, she’s in. She’s the one I think you really relate to: ‘I’m not that well trained, I’m doing my job, but I hope that when I’m asked to do the right thing, I’d be in.’”
The newest member of the deputy team is the green recruit Jerry played by Zach Gilford who came to the fore playing quarterback Matt Saracen on the long-running hit “Friday Night Lights.” For Jee-woon, he was the biggest surprise. “Zach is someone I did not know, except that I heard he was acclaimed for ‘Friday Night Lights.’ He did such a great job playing a small-town kid with big dreams and his story becomes the emotional heart of the battles ahead,” says the director.
When Sheriff Owens realizes he has to beef up his fledgling force, he is forced to deputize two locals – who see their own chance to make good. One is museum owner Lewis Dinkum, played with an inimitable sense of comic mischief by popular funny-man Johnny Knoxville. As renowned for his crazy stunts as for his unhinged humor – and for roles in hit films ranging from Jackass to Men In Black 2 -- Knoxville was a dead-on match for Dinkum. Says Jee-woon: “Johnny has a unique sense of humor, but he is not just a simple comic actor. He continually tries to better himself and you see that in his performance.”
The director continues: “Dinkum is a fusion between Johnny Knoxville’s funny personality and a military geek. Johnny portrays the unique quirkiness of a character that makes it possible for our heroes to defeat sophisticated, modern villains using antique weaponry, which adds some fun.”
Knoxville was lured by the combustible mix of Schwarzenegger joining with one of Korea’s hottest action directors. “My agents sent me the script, and told me it was Arnold’s big comeback movie. I think that’s about all they had to say,” Knoxville laughs. “Another big reason I wanted to do the film is that I had seen The Good, the Bad, the Weird, and I know KIM Jee-woon shoots an amazing action film. There are so many elements going on in this story, yet the tone is spot on, and there’s lots of humor as well. I think he’s a really talented and very precise director.”
The least likely of those to get a badge from the Sheriff starts out the story behind bars: Frank Martinez, the local troublemaker who turns direction. He is played in a departure by rising Brazilian star Rodrigo Santoro, familiar to moviegoers as not only a romantic lead (Love, Actually), but also as a fanatical despot (“King Xerxes” in 300).
Jee-woon says he fell in love with Santoro’s acting within minutes of watching a clip of him. “He can be very masculine and very cool,” he says. “And he was very enthusiastic about this part, always trying to get more out of every take.”
Di Bonaventura adds: “Rodrigo threw himself into this part in a way that’s just great. His character has an interesting arc— he was the guy that won the State Championship and then never went anywhere, except to war, which messed him up. So he knows this is his one chance.”
Santoro was especially thrilled to take on an action role. “What’s great about big action movies is that the characters are usually bigger than life. They always push the limits,” he observes. “Where else can you drive a car over 250-miles-an-hour and not get a ticket? And now I’m finding out how much fun it is to do.”
He also was excited to watch Arnold being Arnold. “For me, a great action hero usually doesn’t start out being a hero,” Santoro concludes. “He’s usually an ordinary man who finds himself in extraordinary situations, and he rises to the occasion. Not that Arnold is ordinary, but in this story, he’s a cop who’s come home to be an ordinary Sheriff, away from big crime. Only big crime is exactly what comes looking for him.”
CHECK POINT: THE FBI
As Cortez careens towards Sommerton in his souped-up Corvette, he has some company – a whole cache of Federal Agents who are in hot, if seemingly futile, pursuit. Playing the head of the FBI operation, John Bannister, is Oscar® winner Forest Whitaker. Whitaker plays Bannister as a man obsessed with catching his quarry – and quick to deny Sheriff Owens even a slim chance at stopping the Cortez gang, which he soon comes to regret.
Jee-woon was very pleased to be able to cast an actor of Whitaker’s caliber. “He brings a lot of class to the role,” says the director. “He has the energy of a mountain. When I looked at his copy of the script once, it had more notes written in it than mine. It just goes to show that great actors are not born but made through endeavor and effort.”
Whitaker was equally compelled to work with Jee-woon. He says, “I think there are two elemental things that make his films so special. First is his style. There’s poetry to his films and a deep search to reveal the insides of character. Second, there’s a visual beauty — even if it’s an action film. There are poetic moments of violence in his films and that’s a special thing to pull off.”
He was also drawn to Bannister and the things he shares with Sheriff Owens, even if he doesn’t realize it: “I think both men are looking towards some form of redemption. Arnold’s character lost his partner and has exiled himself to a small town, hoping he’ll never have to be confronted with his past. But that is exactly what happens -- he’s faced with looking at his own capabilities, what he needs to do. And my character has lost the man that he has sought for so long, and he desperately wants to get him back, so he can seek justice. I think of him as almost an archetype of an archangel, doing his duty to bring about justice.”
Whitaker was taken with the Good vs. Bad theme which winds through the whole movie. “You have a hero going up against large odds— the establishment, society, criminals—and that gets you excited because you have an underdog in peril,” he says “And then you have strong villain who is almost bigger than a human being, sort of a demigod, because seemingly nothing can stop him from completing his task, until he meets the hero.”
For producer di Bonaventura, Whitaker makes Bannister the ultimate intermediary between the small-town Davids and a powerful modern Goliath. “Forest has that incredible power that can project at an almost zealot level but, at the same time, he has a vulnerability, and you see how he’s eaten up with guilt that this guy’s gotten away. That generates a lot of empathy for a character who has a blind spot when it comes to Sheriff Owens.”
The right and left hands of Bannister are his two lead support agents: Ellen Richards, played by Genesis Rodriguez (Case De Mi Padre, What To Expect When You’re Expecting) and Phil Hayes, portrayed by Daniel Henney (X-Men Origins: Wolverine). They soon become only ‘one hand,’ when Richards is taken by Cortez as an apparent hostage.
Henney, a Korean-American, was already a fan of Jee-woon before taking the fun supporting role. He sums up: “Along with the chases and the explosions, he always brings in very interesting darkness and drama. And the way he films action -- he’s one of the best.”
SPIN OUT: EDUARD NORIEGA AS CORTEZ
To play The Last Stand’s sinister villain – the international drug lord Cortez – the filmmakers sought the very opposite of your standard image of a sleazy crime kingpin. On the contrary, they wanted Cortez to be whip-smart, sleekly sophisticated, as skilled with technology as a Fortune 500 CEO . . . and simultaneously, one of the coldest human beings ever to wear a custom suit. They found that combo in the hot and rapidly rising Spanish actor Eduardo Noriega.
Says di Bonaventura, “Eduardo is a wonderful actor. He can pull off that wonderful dichotomy -- that flair that comes from a life of privilege, along with the menace of a bad guy.”
Noriega jokingly calls his character “a bit of a spoiled boy.” He goes on: “I read in the papers once, that a man had bought a school so he could fire a teacher who had scolded his son. I immediately thought this could be a Gabriel Cortez biographical anecdote. My character is someone very powerful who has lots of money and thinks he can buy everything. He's used to getting everything he wants and so he can be really dangerous if he doesn't get it.”
To pave his way towards the escape and freedom he expects will be his reward, Cortez employs a brutal lieutenant, Burrell, who is played with menace to spare by veteran villain portrayer Peter Stormare, also seen this year in Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters.
Stormare had previously collaborated with di Bonaventura on Constantine, and the producer says, “I still remember what he did playing Satan, which is one of the great moments I’ve had as a producer, as Burrell, he’s an exceedingly confident, cynically funny enemy. When he goes up against Owens and his gang, even though he’s a coldhearted mercenary, you can see that he’s somewhat amused by the fact that these small town officers are standing up to him. I think both he and Chris bring a lot to what might otherwise be second tier bad guys.”
Jee-woon adds: “Ever since seeing Fargo, I’ve been a fan of Peter and here he creates a scary, yet fun and endearing villain.”
Perhaps Cortez’s greatest ally in his battle is another key character in The Last Stand – not a man but the machine that powers the criminal’s dazzling exit strategy through the Southwestern desert: the Corvette ZR1, the fastest car available for purchase “directly off the line.” The special version seen in The Last Stand is a super souped-up auto show showstopper, with more than 1,000 horsepower and top speeds around 250 miles per hour.
“It can outrun anything anyone can throw at it,” di Bonaventura states, “and at one point, we considered, ‘What if they called in a fighter jet to blow it off the road?’— but that takes a Presidential order, and you’re not going to be able to secure an order to shoot a civilian in a car in two hours’ time. So, Cortez’s plan is basic and simple: make a run across the border. Add to that, that Cortez can buy any engineer, any think tank guy, anyone with a plan to make a part of the border thought to be impassable, workable. And that’s what brings him straight through Sommerton.”
For Jee-woon the car had to come off as dangerous as Cortez himself. “I drove the car before we started filming,” the director confesses. “Driving it was fun, but riding in the passenger seat was scary. It’s more like riding a beast than a car. The engine revs are like growls. Maybe this is what riding a tiger or a lion feels like. And that’s what I wanted to portray: the car’s beastly nature.”
BETWEEN VEGAS AND THE BORDER: THE LOOK OF THE FILM
Jee-woon always saw The Last Stand as divided into several visually distinct worlds: “You have flashy Las Vegas, the earthy small town of Sommerton, the chaos of the FBI offices, and then Cortez’s dynamic super-car,” he says. “I wanted to create a different look, with different colors, textures and camera angles, for each one of them.”
In searching for the perfect Sommerton – the town that transforms into the venue for an epic showdown -- production designer Franco Carbone (The Expendables) hoped to find a locale that aspired to be the quintessential American village. It had to be the kind of tight-knit community with a main street, a diner, some stores, the Sheriff’s office . . . and a neighboring corn field just past the end of town, where Jee-woon had envisioned the start of the final battle amidst the maze-like rows of jagged corn.
Carbone found the foundation of the look that Jee-woon was after in Belen, Arizona, some 30 miles outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and built the film’s Sommerton there. “Our challenge was really to make this town feel alive,” says Carbone, “a place full of back story and a history. We figured it as one of those gold rush towns that came up at the turn of the last century, which it really was, as a stop on the railway out to the West. There were some great turn of the century buildings on one side of the street, and I mirrored those on the other side.”
According to executive/line producer Guy Riedel, “It really was only half a town, with a few existing buildings broken up by vacant lots. We built storefronts, put in a tire store and a church, and pulled the boards of a condemned building -- a former grocery store -- to create Irv’s Diner.”
For Carbone, the diner had to represent the homey appeal that might draw a guy like Owens to choose to live in a place as seemingly quiet as Sommerton – and then to fight tooth and nail for it. “Irv’s Diner gives the town a sense of richness,” says Carbone. “It became a shorthand of why we care out these people in Sommerton and why Owens is driven to protect them.”
Throughout the filming, Jee-woon worked closely with his director of photography, Ji-Yong Kim, with whom he also worked on A Bittersweet Life. “He speaks English, he makes directors feel very comfortable and he has a really ingenious sense of camera set-ups and angles,” says the director.
While the film’s stunts ranged from a spectacular zip-line getaway in Vegas to a human explosion, some of the most heart-pounding work revolved around Cortez’s prized Corvette ZR1. Thanks to di Bonaventura’s healthy working relationship with GM -- due to prior collaborations on all of the Transformer films -- the car manufacturer provided the production with six of the coveted Corvettes. Di Bonaventura notes: “GM had to really believe in the movie and believe that the filmmakers could understand their car like they understand their car. They wanted to see their Corvette go fast and look cool, and so did we.”
A large department was created solely to maintain the cars and ensure that they were ready to go when needed. One ZR1 and one ZL1 were kept pristine for the scenes where the metal co-stars were doing what they do best—being driven or sitting parked. Others were rigged specially for their specific stunt use: beefed up suspensions to support extra weight; pipes welded underneath to hook to camera rigs; an engine removed to lighten for placing on a different rig; and gas tanks removed for safe soundstage shooting.
Riedel explains, “Each car had its own purpose. And keeping track of all that was a challenge, because sometimes, the same car was needed by different units, in different parts of the city. It was a big undertaking.”
To execute driving blind through a corn field, an alternative driving system known as “pod cars” were constructed on the roofs of the vehicles. A stunt driver maneuvered the car from the top -- where he could see over the corn -- while the actor on-camera looked like he was in charge of the speeding automobile.
The filmmakers were adamant about maintaining a level of reality to all the chase and stunt sequences. Rather than rely on a large amount of CG, Jee-woon and his team attempted to “old school” it as much as possible, utilizing careful stunt work and physical effects, especially since the story is about the triumph of grit, guts and ordinary bravery over sophisticated bad guys.
Working with both cast and cars was highly experienced stunt coordinator and second unit director Darrin Prescott, with Wade Allen functioning as second unit stunt coordinator. Prescott not only had to work with cars at breathtaking speeds, but with a series of battles, foot chases and bone-crushing hand-to-hand combat sequences, many involving Schwarzenegger.
Prescott had worked with Schwarzenegger years prior, and he found him as ready to go to the limits as ever. He comments of his return: “It’s like he’s never left the business. He stepped right back into it. He was great—he was Arnold, the same guy that I worked with 15 years ago.”
The veteran coordinator was also impressed by Noriega’s dedication to learning the ins and outs of the action genre, throwing himself head-long into intense fight and driving training. “Eduardo came to us and said he wanted to train and be in as much of the fighting and driving as he could be—and that was great for us,” says Prescott. “Basically, he was a blank canvas—it’s such a pleasure to work with someone like that.”
When the driving risks proved too high, the production employed stunt driver Jeremy Fry to double for Noriega, and it was Fryes who maneuvered the 3,200-pound machine through automotive moves that can literally only happen in the movies.
It seems that such magic was conjured on a regular basis for Jee-woon. Prescott recounts, “The director would ask us, ‘Can you 180 a bus in a street that’s just three car-lengths wide?’ And we’d say, ‘Hey, it’s Hollywood, we can do anything! It’s just whether we can afford it or not.’ So effects built casters underneath the bus, so Jeremy could drive the bus down this narrow street, with real businesses on both sides. He’d drive in and hit the button, and the back of the bus would come up, the wheels would come off the ground—just maybe an inch or so—and it would ride on these caster wheels like it was on ice, sliding 180 perfectly into this tiny street. Talk about cool.”
No matter what the stunt, car maneuver or battle at hand, to everyone involved, the most exciting thing on the set was the presence of Schwarzenegger – who inspired all. Executive producer Guy Riedel comments, “He was incredibly professional, friendly to everybody, and he always looked like he was having fun, just doing what he was doing. I think audiences will love seeing him return to action. This character is a great fit, and it’s great to have him back.”
Sums up Schwarzenegger: “What’s great about The Last Stand is that it is a real underdog story, but it is also a story that happens all around the world. When I was Governor, one of my favorite things to do was to give the Medal of Valor to law enforcement for the extraordinary things they did, going beyond the call of duty. I would read their stories out loud and often, they sounded impossible. People would say ‘no human being could do that.’ But people do amazing things and that’s the situation in The Last Stand. You have a little town with one Sheriff and a few deputies and yet when the most dangerous drug lord descends on his town, the chase is on.”
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