Imagine you are in a film school and you make a student film. Then that student film get's seen by Steven Spielberg and he calls you into his office to offer you a deal to direct a feature film version of that short. Well, that is exactly how today's guests go his start.
On the show, we have the legendary writer/director Kevin Reynolds. Kevin directed the worldwide blockbuster Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, the epic Rapa Nui, and the infamous and misunderstood Waterworld.
Kevin Reynolds made his big career leap from election lawyer and political speechwriter to pursue his childhood passion for writing – enrolling into film school at the University of Southern California.
In 1980, Reynolds’s debut film Proof landed him a shot right out of USC to work with Steven Spielberg. The film was later produced as Fandango in 1985, written and directed by Reynolds.
Five college buddies from the University of Texas circa 1971 embark on a final road trip odyssey across the Mexican border before facing up to uncertain futures in Vietnam and otherwise.
In 1991, Reynolds directed the $48 million action-adventure film of the time, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, that grossed $390 million worldwide. This action-filled fan favorite follows Robin and his Moorish companion’s adventure to England and his fight back against the Sheriff of Nottingham’s tyranny.
He followed up Robin Hood with the epic Rapa Nui. The film the love between the representatives of two warring tribes changes the balance of power on the whole of the famous Easter Island. The film failed to find an audience in its initial release but has since become a cult favorite.
His next directorial outing is the legendary Waterworld starring Kevin Costner. Waterworld was labeled the most expensive movie ever made ($175 million) until Titanic dethroned it a few years later. The press said it was the biggest flop of all time as well but nothing could be farther from the truth.
When the film was finally released it made $264 million worldwide. The film went on to become one of the most valuable IPs in the Universal Studios library. The company created a theme park out of the film that has last over 25 years in multiple parks around the world and has generated hundreds of millions of dollars for Universal.
In a future where the polar ice-caps have melted and Earth is almost entirely submerged, a mutated mariner fights starvation and outlaw “smokers,” and reluctantly helps a woman and a young girl try to find dry land.
Reynolds’s critically acclaimed historical adventure film adaptation of The Count of Monte Cristo novel in 2002, which starred versatile actor James Caviezel, was a remarkable comeback project after a five-year hiatus. The film is about revenge after a man, falsely accused by three jealous friends, sought to avenge his wasted years of somewhat imprisonment serving a wealthy Italian cleric.
Kevin and I discuss the highs and lows of directing in Hollywood, working with Steve Spielberg, his ever-changing relationship with friend Kevin Coster, how he dealt with directing Waterworld and so much more.
Enjoy my conversation with Kevin Reynolds.
Alex Ferrari 0:37
Now guys, today I have a special treat for you we have legendary film director Kevin Reynolds. Now Kevin started his career with the classic Fandango starring an unknown little actor by the name of Kevin Costner. He later created the worldwide box office Smash. Robin Hood Prince of Thieves followed up by the misunderstood Waterworld, which many people think was the biggest bomb of all time. But it actually was very far from it and became one of the most profitable IPS in the Universal Studios library. And he was responsible for directing one of my favorite films of all time, The Count of Monte Cristo, among many other films, he is directed. Now it was an absolute joy and honor talking to Kevin because we got into the weeds about one of my favorite films growing up Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves, as well as Waterworld Count of Monte Cristo, how he got his start with his short film proof, and how he came up with the story for the 1980s Classic Red Dawn, we also discussed politics on set, a lot of the stuff that goes behind the scenes of directing one of the biggest hits of the 90s, as well as one of the biggest perceived bombs of the 90. And so, so much more. So without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Kevin Reynolds.
I like to welcome the show, Kevin Reynolds. Kevin, thank you so much for being on the show.
Kevin Reynolds 3:57
Alex Ferrari 3:59
I am a big fan of your work for many, many years. Some of your films that specifically in the late 80s and early 90s had very big impact on my life. Because I was I was working at a video store back then. I remember putting together this standee for Robin Hood.
Kevin Reynolds 4:18
Why are you dating yourself, Alex?
Alex Ferrari 4:20
I am I am I will the gray hairs date me more and more every time.
Kevin Reynolds 4:25
Alex Ferrari 4:27
So before we get started, how did you get into the business?
Kevin Reynolds 4:32
Ah, well, that's a bit of a long story. But I you know, originally I was a lawyer. I always loved film I what I really liked was to write I wrote since I was like a kid.
But you know, a career in the film business just seemed too far fetched. So, I followed a responsible career path and went to law school, even though I didn't like it and I practiced for a couple of years. I was in Austin, University of Texas, which had a fabulous facility and the nice thing about being a lawyer was I had some money. So I could, I could go in, they had a great facility, I could pay for film, I could do stuff I could I could pay to do movies. So that's really where I kind of educated myself. Initially, it was at University of Texas. And while I was there, one of the visiting professors was a, an old Hollywood character named Edward Demetrik. He was one of the Hollywood 10 and talked to him and said, look, I think this is really what I want to pursue, because I was practicing the daytime, I was staying up till two o'clock at night at UT, working on movies, and after about a year that I said, I gotta make a decision here. So I talked to him. And I said, I want to I want to go to film school at USC. And he said, Why? And I said, Well, I want to be a director. And he said, it's the toughest job in the world. And I said, No, no, no, I said, I really want to do this. You know, I've been practicing. I really wanted this. He said, You don't understand. It's the toughest job in the world. He said, You got a good career here being a lawyer. He said, don't do it. And, you know, I said, No, I want to. So anyway, he gave me a letter introduction. I flattened it, mort zarkov, who's the chairman. And I applied, and I got accepted. And the next day, I quit my job.
Yeah. Like a month later, I packed everything up in a car and moved to LA, and started film school. I had like $3,000 to my name. And it was, you know, taking a big chance. And I was there for two years, I loved every minute of it. I realized this is really what I'm meant to do. It was 24/7 for two years.
Alex Ferrari 6:41
Was it? What did your parents say? I don't mean to interrupt people. What did your parents or five.
Kevin Reynolds 6:47
I'll never forget the look on their faces. I got my car to drive away to LA. You know, but they didn't say no, you can't do this. They were just deeply concerned as well. They should be now as I would have been, you know, with my kid. Anyway, so I get there. Like I said, for two years. It was great worked on movies. My goal was to leave USC and have a screenplay I could sell and a movie I could show people. So at the end of the two years, I was very fortunate, I get to do what's called a 580, which was the highest level of film at USC. It was this little movie called proof. And at the same time, I was writing my thesis screenplay with something called 10 soldiers, which ultimately became the movie Red Dawn. And I finished the film. And I the next week, I got really lucky I met this guy who had known at UT he was working as an agent at William Morris on somebody's desk. And he just been promoted agent. So he read my script and said, Sure, I'll represent you. And I was his first client. name's Mike Simpson. We're like, best friends. Anyway. So I said, Hey, would you send us movie saving since Steven Spielberg says, okay, so like two weeks later, I'm still at USC. And I'm out in the courtyard one day and Mort Zarkov comes out in the courtyard. He goes, can you come here and and walk in zombies puts his arm around you guys, Steven Spielberg's offices on the phone, they want to talk to you. Right. Okay. So it was Kathy Kennedy, and she was even watched your movie and he really liked it. He'd like you to come in and talk to him. I think I can find time for that. So I, I went in the next day, and met with Stephen, he couldn't have been nicer. He was in the mess he was shooting at at the time.
And we talked for a long time, and I went back to my crappy little apartment Studio City. And the next day, I get this phone call from Kathy Kennedy. And she goes, hi, Stevens making arrangements for you to expand your student film into a feature.
Alex Ferrari 9:02
Oh my god. Okay.
Kevin Reynolds 9:05
Literally, I just sat in the chair for like a half an hour and I picked it up and I called her back and I said, could you say that again? I did not bling and she just laughed. And he did. He did he, when he you know, he went to Warner's and got him to make what became Fandango. And it was the expanded version of that short film at USC proof and that plus selling my script that became Red Dawn, that's how I got started. It was a you know if it was a things like that don't really happen.
Alex Ferrari 9:44
No, you are that is a man that is that is a lottery ticket. That is a lottery ticket times two. Because you you sold your first script out of film school and a short film you made Got the eye of Steven Spielberg? arguably the biggest at that time, easily the biggest director in the world, now one of the most legendary directors in the world. And he calls, he calls you out of film school. Hey, can you come in? I mean, it's an insane story. I mean, I'd heard this story a little bit, because I, I love hearing these kind of origin stories of, you know, accomplished directors. But this is, you know, this is I think what people hold on to so much sometimes film directors hope for this and it doesn't happen
Kevin Reynolds 10:28
I said to myself, I just, I couldn't believe it. It's like, How could this happen? I never expected to be that fortunate. And, you know, my whole philosophy about success in the film business, I guess, in any business is it's it's about a third talent. And it's about a third hard work. It's about luck. And not necessarily in that order.
Alex Ferrari 10:52
Kevin Reynolds 10:53
I was extremely lucky. Now, I'm going back to your short film proof, which I saw, by the way, and it was fantastic. I found I found it on YouTube. I found it on YouTube. And I'll put links I'll put links to it in the show notes so people can see it. It was I could there was like this one shot that I was like, how did you get the camera in the cockpit? to look up at the at the pilot? Like because the cameras were not that small back? So it must have been interesting how to how you did that?
I'm not sure what you're referring to. But I mean, we were shooting 16 millimeter.
Alex Ferrari 11:26
And so you might have that little like a little ball left or something like that.
Kevin Reynolds 11:30
Small. It's a smaller camera. But I mean, if it was on on Truman, pilot, it was probably, you know, it was not. It was a saint camera. So it was a little bit bigger. But I mean, we we broke all the rules.
There were several times when, you know, we were lucky, nobody died. It was one of those kind of deals. I mean, the guy who was in my production manager who, you know, I was very close to at the time, he was a pilot, you know, he was 21 years old, and he was a pilot. So we would go out in the desert, outside of Lancaster, California, in this old airfield. And we didn't, we would go and rent a plane. Each weekend, we drive up there, we stayed in a Winnebago. And he would go over and rent a plane not telling them what we were doing with it. And we would fly and he would have landed on this dirt strip. And we would paint the plane. You know, we would spend half a day painting this plane, taking the seats and stuff out so that it looks like Truman's plane, and then we'd shoot all weekend. And then like on Sunday night, we'd have to put all the stuff back in a plane wash it, and then he'd have to fly it back to this place and turn it in. And we'd never tell him what we were doing with it. And he was doing stuff like diving down on the thoughts and stuff and all illegal. And we're very lucky.
Alex Ferrari 13:19
It's the insanity of youth, isn't it? It really is. It's the it's it cuz I did dumbest things when I was, you know, teenager in my early 20s things that you just like, what, I didn't do that. But I didn't say insane. But let's just let's just you know, call a spade a spade, you quit your law practice to go to be a film director. So you're not altogether there at that age. Is that a fair? Is that a fair statement?
Kevin Reynolds 13:47
That's a fair statement. And and I think one of the problems especially when you're younger, you know, think you're immortal. In a movie, you think nothing bad can happen because this is make believe. And because we're doing make believe, you know, all the Jeopardy is make believe too, but it's not. And you forget that. So again, we were very we were very lucky.
Alex Ferrari 14:13
Now what was you know, I was like asking this question, what was the biggest lesson you learned from that first short film because that was the first time you directed really right.
Kevin Reynolds 14:23
I had done smaller films at USC. But that was the first big one. They have to stab two levels gone. I don't know what they do now. But it was called for 80s in 580s. Before he did a 580 You were supposed to have directed a 580. And to do a 480. We're supposed to have worked in a crew position on the short film as either an editor or production manager or something cameraman and they gave me a waiver. They gave me a waiver and let me go ahead and direct a 580 having only edited a 480 again, you know I was I was very lucky but they like the script for USC, and I mean, that was such an amazing place to go to school. Again, I don't know what it's like now, but it was just, I learned so much there. I still remember when I, when I first went to see more markup, and I'm sitting there in his office, and he's telling me, you know, all the classes you have to take, and you were supposed to start at shooting these non sync little movies.
And I was at trying to get him to wave me. And let me just skip those and go on to the next level of film and stuff. And I'm talking to him, and he just stops me. And he goes, look, he says, we'll teach you how to make movies here. He said, We want people that have something to say. And that's always stuck with me then.
And I realized, finally, the strange collection of personalities that were going to school there, they were all from all different walks of life, I was an attorney, there were people that had been doctors, and stuff. And for whatever reason, they just looked at their resumes and said, this person might have something to say. And they're they're all attitude is will teach you the technical side, which they did. But then once you got there, you had to figure out how to how to have the wherewithal to say it. In other words, you had to be able to work the system to make your movie. And it was so frustrating at the time, because you're competing with all these other people with limited resources and limited slots for the movies that were allowed and stuff. And when you get out, you finally realize it's the studio system. What they're teaching you is the studio system that you have to fight other people, and you have to battle other potential filmmakers, for those slots. And you learn all the tricks, you know, like, every weekend, when you're making a student film, you had to sign up for equipment out of the out of the equipment room. And it was always limited. You know, you could always get the cameras you wanted or the grip gear and stuff like that. So I figured, okay, well, here's what I'm gonna do for my Chairman, I hired the guy that ran the equipment room
Alex Ferrari 17:11
Kevin Reynolds 17:13
So we got whatever we wanted. And it's just stuff like that, that you learn, okay, this is how you have to work the system to get what you want. And it goes beyond film school, it goes on to professionally too. And to me that was that was, you know, the most important thing I think I learned at USC was how to game the system.
Alex Ferrari 17:37
A very useful skill in Hollywood to say the least.
Kevin Reynolds 17:40
Alex Ferrari 17:43
Now, how did you come up with the idea for Red Dawn, because that was a pretty awesome idea. Just a concept was very, it's very cool. Yeah, the original, it was titled 10, soldiers, TN. And, you know, I did it for the no, in fact, there were 10 people involved, but I also liked the idea can tie in, so. But I don't know, I don't really know where it came from. I think at the time what it was, was in the early 80s, we were, you know, there was a there was a lot of drum beating against the Russians and stuff. And B, we're gonna let's go to war with Russkies. And I thought how stupid and people didn't understand why the Europeans weren't behind us and stuff. And I was like, Well, the reason is because they just had a horrible war about 40 years ago, and they know what it's like. And, you know, had been over 100 years since we'd, Americans had had a war in our own backyards. And so we were sort of removed from that experience. And I thought, Okay, what would it be like if we actually had to fight a war on our own turf? What would it be like for people to really have to go through that to fight a guerrilla war like they did in World War Two in Europe. And that was really the genesis for the for the screenplay, where the idea came from. And so I sort of incorporated that into what was going on at the time with the with the Russians, and all in it came out the way it did.
Kevin Reynolds 19:10
You know, John melius took it and
Alex Ferrari 19:12
Kevin Reynolds 19:13
I think he made it a little more jingoist at I don't think he did he did he made it more jingoistic than what I intended it to be what what I wrote was more like Lord of the Flies and john was trying to make more of a political statement. And I just wanted to show this is what war does to people. This is what it would do to you if it happened here. Anyway.
Alex Ferrari 19:35
Yes, john. John has that does? Does that to say the least? God bless him, man. God bless him. Now when you when you were doing your first feature, Fandango, you hired a little unknown actor at that time. I think Kevin something or other I don't even know if he's doing anything anymore. Mr. Koster, Kevin Costner, you hired him and he did he actually is become, in your career? a collaborator for a lot of a lot of big films that you worked on? How What? How was it working with, like putting Fandango together? And because I remember watching Fandango, there's such a youthful energy. It's created by young filmmakers acted by young filmmakers. And you can sense that energy there. How was it like putting that whole thing together? And also having big daddy Spielberg? Like, in the shadows, must have been terrifying?
Kevin Reynolds 20:33
No, it was an interesting experience. I mean, it was just kind of handed to me, okay, go make this movie. And, but I knew it had to be an expanded version of proof. So I had to write a movie backwards, you know, I had to write, how do I take this one sequence and make an entire feature around it.
And, I mean, unfortunately, I think Stephen expected it to be more like Animal House, which is sort of the quality, a little bit of proof. But I guess at the time, I wanted to do something a little more soulful. And like so many filmmakers, you know, it was that sort of my first film was a sort of quintessential coming of age story that everybody has to get out of their system before they can move on to something else. And that's sort of where I found myself as I sat down to write it. And I think it was more soulful, which I don't think was a bad thing. But I think it was not necessarily what some people expected it to be.
And as for Costner, I actually met him when I was in film school, because when I was making proof, he came in and read for the part in the student film, he was. He was the stage manager at Raleigh studios. In Hollywood. He was in floors, trying to get gigs as an actor. And he came in and read for the part, and I really liked him. But I guess somebody else, as you can see, improved, but I called him and I said, Look, man, I'm sorry, I thought you were great. I really liked you. But I don't know why. You know, I've cast this other guy. Then he was, you know, very gracious and thanked me and all. And then, like, a couple years later, when we were actually making Fandango, casting it, he came in again to read for it. And we remembered each other and we talked and, you know, I remember him very well. And he sat down to read for the party gardener Barnes and literally within the first two lines out of his mouth, I know he was the guy. And
Alex Ferrari 22:32
Did he switch? Did he switch something from two years earlier? How, what is what what made no difference was
Kevin Reynolds 22:37
I don't know what it was, it was just I don't know, if the in those couple of years, you know, he'd he'd done a couple of smaller parts. He was, you know, cut in the Big Chill and stuff. But he was in that if
Alex Ferrari 22:47
I remember correctly, he was a dancing extra and night shift. Ron Howard's night shift
Kevin Reynolds 22:52
He was he was he was, but there was just, you know, he had he had the quality of the character. And I think it was more we had the quality of the character in the expanded version, because Gardner Barnes and Fandango is a much more complete character with a much deeper arc than the character in the short. And maybe that's what it was, was that the character himself had changed a lot in those two years, then he just, he just fit him. That's why I asked him.
Alex Ferrari 23:22
Now, when you're going into a film, what is your pre production process? I mean, do you do you rehearse with actors? Because I know some directors love long rehearsals, other directors wanted on the day, how do you how do you prepare? What's your pre production process?
Kevin Reynolds 23:37
You know, it's evolved over the years. And for me, personally, I, when I started out, I would have rehearsals and stuff. And a lot of times, it's awkward, because people show up, they don't know each other, and I and ultimately, I, I've come to realize it for me, the most valuable thing about rehearsal is not so much learning the lines and stuff, it's really getting to know the other people. It's, it's creating a rapport, and a bit of a shorthand before you show up on the set. So you're just not like showing up with strangers. It's really getting to know each other. You know, yeah, you'll sit there and you talk about the characters and you explore them, and you'll do scenes and stuff. But I think it's ludicrous to expect that whatever, whatever performance level you achieved in rehearsal is going to be the same thing you get two months later when you're actually doing it on the floor, because things evolve. And that to me is the greatest benefit of rehearsal is simply getting to know the actors and letting them get to know you.
You know, so that your there's a familiarity before you start to do it. It's easier to talk to each other. And that that's what I like about now. There are some actors that that really liked to rehearse to a tee. I respect that, you know, that's what they need. every actor needs something different and others hate rehearsal. They don't want to do it, they just want to show up on the day. And I get that too. And I think personally, that's kind of where I am, I prefer to just discuss the characters, maybe try some things. But don't say, Okay, that's it, that tape right there the way you played it. That's it. That's how we're going to do three months from now. That's BS.
And I've also learned and performance wise, on the set, when you're doing a scene, I don't like to rehearse too much before you shoot. I like to block it. So everybody kind of knows where you're supposed to go. And you kind of get a loose rhythm. And I encourage people, when you're rehearsing on the day of the shoot, to not get up to performance level, I just say, let's just loosely block this and figure out where you're going to be. Because invariably, what I find is you burn out. And you can spend a couple hours rehearsing something and they'll give you their good stuff, and then it comes time to shoot, and they've already given it to you. So I like to hold it back as much as possible until you actually roll cameras, I prefer to rehearse on camera, because you never know. You know, again, every actor is different. Some actors show up and they're just exploding, you know, they've been thinking about it all night, they're ready to go. And within the first three or four take, they've given you the best stuff. So if you rehearse, you know, six, eight times, you've lost it. There are other actors that show up, and they need a lot of coffee, because they're not even remotely there. And it may take them, the better part of the day to get up to a full performance level, they need to do it a lot. And so as a director, you got to recognize these differences in them. And so the guy that's right there from the get go, that's what you want to cover first, you know, and the guy is gonna build into it, you want him off camera for half the day until you turn around, start to shoot him. It's just, you know, it just comes from experience. It's just you learn these things about working with people, and you have to respect everybody's got their own way. And so you're trying to make all those different ways jive for what you're trying to do.
Alex Ferrari 27:12
It's kind of like what the what that the director told you in film school, this is the most difficult job in the world. He was right.
Kevin Reynolds 27:21
He was that, you know, and it's like, another thing I tell people, I think 50% of directing is just having the willingness to subject yourself to the process. Because it's not everybody can do it. And and to get through it, you have to want to do it. You really have to want to go through that process. I mean, you know, like, it's not like combat or anything like that something horrible. But it's strenuous. It's very strenuous. And you kind of have to put yourself in that place and be willing to run the gauntlet, you know, to get there because it is if you do it right, I think there's some people that just sit back and just let it happen and don't put themselves into it too much. But I don't I don't think I think the product is affected by that.
Alex Ferrari 28:11
It's not It's not for the weak hearted, you know, or weak willed to say the least. There's so many directors I've known over the years that I've got my start in post production. So I had directors sitting on my couch while I edited and color graded and did all this stuff. And you see it you see the personalities you see like this guy and going to make it this was the and I've had many directors who got that one shot. They got their Fandango, they got their Fandango, and then they're like, you know what, I'm gonna go back to being a lawyer. This is not for me. And then there's other ones that like, are just just in the mud, and you're like, he's gonna make it or she's gonna she's gonna keep going.
Kevin Reynolds 28:50
It's Yeah, it's crazy. It's you have to be a little crazy. You really do I don't know why this story. I can digress from Oh
Alex Ferrari 28:59
Kevin Reynolds 29:00
All right. The guy who was my producer of Fandango, Tim Zimmerman, great guy, and Tim had been an ad for a long time. He worked on a lot of shows. And I won't say which show but he worked on this one in the South Pacific. That was just a disaster. You know, delaurentis thing. And, you know, the chaos was crazy. And he had actors that we show up in Dino's office and rip your clothes off and scream at him and stuff. And anyway, the director was just losing it. And and he said one day, you know, the call was like seven or something. Everybody shows up, they can't find the director. They're on an island. They're on an island. And they wait and they wait and wait, can't find him. And Tim finally just starts walking around the island. It's not that big. He's looking for the guy. He's not in his quarters or whatever. Finally, he walks around the island like half an hour and on the far side of the island, he finally finds this guy sitting in the sand. Looking through binoculars, it crashed.
Alex Ferrari 29:57
He lost it. He lost that just quickly
Kevin Reynolds 29:59
He lost it. Gone.
Alex Ferrari 30:01
Wow, that's like a Terry Gilliam film. Like, that's something I would see.
Kevin Reynolds 30:08
You just yeah, you know, you don't want to get to that place, you have to be stupid enough to think you're right. And stupid enough to think I'm gonna power through this, I can do this, you know? And that, you know if other people can do it, I can do it. Because if you start to doubt yourself, you're dead. You wrong. But if you doubt yourself, you're dead.
Alex Ferrari 30:32
Absolutely, I couldn't have said it better myself. So as as you're going through your career. Your next film, I think, was the beast, if I remember correctly, which I remember recommending heavily at my video store, because it no one had heard of it. And I don't think Jason Patric was a very big star at that point. He might have just been starting out. But I was like, wow, this is really great. And I got a lot of good, good, good comment cards. For my recommendation of the beast, I remember. And as this is going on, Kevin, the other Kevin Kevin Costner, he's he's kind of growing as a star, fairly high, to the point where it comes to Dances with Wolves, which cements him as probably one of the biggest movie stars at the time. You also did a little part in Dances with Wolves. Can you tell me what you did? Or what you helped with? I mean, from what I from my understand.
Kevin Reynolds 31:34
Yeah, I went out there to the Dakotas for a few weeks and did some second
Alex Ferrari 31:41
Best second unit director, I'm gonna say
Kevin Reynolds 31:46
We knew each other and, and we talk a lot. You know, Kevin, and I spend a lot of time together. And so he asked me to come out, and I did it and tried to help him out. And there were rumors. You know, at the time that I was directing the
Alex Ferrari 32:02
Of course, there's always stuff. No,
Kevin Reynolds 32:04
That wasn't just wasn't true. But yeah, I worked on the buffalo hunt some other stuff.
Alex Ferrari 32:09
That's Yeah, that was awesome. And so that that kind of cemented him is a very big movie star. And then right afterwards, I think it was the next year or so. Were you guys already working on Robin Hood? During dances after dances? That's when Robin Hood showed up?
Kevin Reynolds 32:22
Yeah. I was a This was after the beast. And I'd been on and off a couple of different things that, you know, didn't happen. And I was actually on another picture at Universal, we were in prep. And they they'd asked me to come, they'd asked me to leave another project, come do that. And I was reluctant, because they said, Look, this is a $40 million picture, which at the time was a lot of money. Huge. They went up now it's not 40 man. I said, Look, it's a $40 million movie. And they said, Look, don't worry about we're making this movie. Come do it anyway. So I did a bale and I started doing prep. On the other show. We said production option, everything. And after about two months, finally the budget came in $39 million. And they go we're not doing that. And I'm like, I told you it was gonna be $40 million. Yeah, well, you got to bring it down to 30. Because we're not doing I was furious, because I've wasted all this time. Literally the next day I get this phone call. They said hey, you want to do Robin Hood? Little did I know. There was a there were a couple of competing projects.
Alex Ferrari 33:27
Kevin Reynolds 33:28
John McTiernan. So I said, Sure. If you're making it, yes. Because I was, I was so angry. So I did I, I bail. And the next thing is that I'm out of here. And so I went on to this other route. And the next day after I got onto that, I get this call from Kevin and and he goes, can I talk to you? And I said, Sure. Just come on over. So he comes over to my new office and he walks in he goes, did you know I was on this other Robin Hood with McTiernan? No. He said, Are you serious? He goes, yeah. He said, You know, I was, we were talking about doing this other thing. And I said, I have no idea. And he was like, Oh, God, okay. Well, whatever. Long story short, the producer who was very widely realized costume was doing this. So he asked me to do the Robin Hood. And so Kevin bale on the other one came on to that Robin Hood. That's how it came to be.
Alex Ferrari 34:24
Yeah, there was a cup. I remember. It's it always happens. Like there's the asteroid movies where there's competing asteroid movies, Robin Hood's in the volcano.
Kevin Reynolds 34:32
Yeah, it's crazy. And you know, it's happened a couple of times to me. And in fact, just recently, I don't know why I had this idea. God, you know, an interesting subject for a film would be Edddie Murphy. And so I read a couple of books on him and stuff. I was like, this would be an interesting story. Literally. The next day I read this thing and in the trays somebody was doing an Eddie Murphy series based on my
Alex Ferrari 34:58
So I had been decimated. On on the show as well, who's the writer of, of Robin Hood for everybody in the audience. And Penn is just one of the sweetest human beings I've ever met. I absolutely adore Penn. And, and I told him the same story I'm going to tell you, I was working on the weekends and movie theater, I was working weekdays at a video store, working weekends, movie theater. I was definitely a glutton for punishment. And that year 91 comes out Robin Hood, me and my friend went to go see it sat in the front row, because it was packed, he couldn't get anything else, looking up at it, got out, walked right back and watched it again. It was it was such we were so enthralled with that movie, and it was so much fun. And it was it was just like such a fun movie. And I have to ask you, like you're taking on a character like Robin Hood, which is a beloved character, you know, obviously, the Errol Flynn thing from years ago. And he's just such a well known character. And I know from what I understood it, I've done research on that movie years ago, Kevin did not want to wear tights. He's like, I'm not wearing tights in this movie. So you can forget that. How do you approach a character such an iconic character? And did you feel any just pressure by tackling that kind of character?
Kevin Reynolds 36:19
Yeah. Yes. You know, I just plunged into that, because I wanted to make a picture, like I said, had been on and off. So a couple things. And finally, I was just like, okay, is this going Is this for real? Um, I'm in. And, you know, I read the script. And I liked the idea of it. I wanted to do some things with it. And the one of the problems was, how do we make this not, you know, look ridiculous, like,
Alex Ferrari 36:44
Kevin Reynolds 36:48
And I'll tell you a couple other things. But first off, when we were two weeks from shooting, and the wardrobe guy, you know, is working on it, and he wouldn't show me anything. I'm like, see, I gotta see what you're thinking about. And so he's Okay, come tomorrow afternoon, I'll have it laid out. So I go into the warehouse, where he's working. And he lays all this stuff on the table. And it's literally like, you know, green tights and the little scalp thing like, little green half with no
Alex Ferrari 37:19
Oh my god. So is there a flood? Is there a flood?
Kevin Reynolds 37:21
Yeah. And I'm like, this is a joke, right? Where's the real stuff? And I could tell from the look on his face. No, this was it. This was the wardrobe. \
Alex Ferrari 37:31
Oh, my God.
Kevin Reynolds 37:32
I was horrified. So I fired him.
Alex Ferrari 37:37
I as you should, sir.
Kevin Reynolds 37:40
And I hired John Bloomfield. And John literal, he came in with less than two weeks, and created an amazing wardrobe. John was a genius. And he saved, you know, he came in, he did something that was classy. You know, that really worked. And I mean, hats off to john, because we were in dire straits. You know, he did that. On the movie itself. And I don't know what it was about it. But you know, as I as I was reading it, something didn't quite, it wasn't enough. And as I started to explore the characters, and I was trying to find something that would get me excited. I realized I didn't want to take things too seriously, in places, and consequently, the sheriff evolved the way that he did.
And it was great, because when I met when I met Alan Rickman, we were both on the same page, that he you know, he didn't want to play him as some mustache twirling villain. He wanted to do something different to and we just completely clicked in that regard. And I think that, you know, that was a lot of what made the picture work was was Alan, you know, and that was a lot of fun. That was a lot of fun.
Alex Ferrari 39:07
Yeah, he he was fresh off of that other independent film called Die Hard. He played another amazing villain. So he started that, you know, you went right from I don't know if he did anything in between, but then Diehard and then Sheriff for Nottingham, it's just like, me, he steals, I don't say steals every scene, but he just eats up. Every scene he's in.
Kevin Reynolds 39:32
It was fun. It was fun. Because I you know, I'd say what if you do this and you go, okay, but then what if I do this, you know, and it just kept building on itself. And it was just, it was it was fortuitous.
Alex Ferrari 39:46
Without question. And then you have Morgan Freeman who's not a slouch. It was it was it was it was a good it was a good time. It was good times. Now that film claims comes out and explodes. I mean, it was a shame huge huge hit that summer, if I remember correctly, was miss a massive, massive hit. And and really, you know Kevin is on us, you know, Dances with Wolves, Robin Hood. And then and then I think the next picture with your next picture Waterworld right after that.
Kevin Reynolds 40:19
No, Rapa Nui
Alex Ferrari 40:21
That's what I'm sorry. I thought that was after. Yes, so rep rapid Nui. So yeah, after the success of Robin Hood, you went, What attracted you to that story? Because that's such an It was so beautiful. It's such a, I've never even heard of that story. It was such a
Kevin Reynolds 40:34
Nobody, nobody had and that that was what attracted me to it was just I'd done some reading about Easter Island. And you know what happened there so long ago. And from what they understand, you know, they think that Polynesians landed there about fifth century AD, and they think there were probably four cases they were fleeing political strife. There, they came, probably a couple dozen people landed there. They were led by a guy named hotu Matilda. And over the centuries, they populated the island. And it's the most isolated island and on the face of the earth, populated Island.
It's 2300 miles west of Chile, 1500 miles east of Pitcairn Island. And they live there, you know, for centuries without any contact that we know of from anywhere else. So I was fascinated by the fact that what they know is that it wasn't even discovered again until 1722 by Dutch navigator on Easter Sunday, and that's where the name came from Easter Island. But what they found at the time, was this just barren place, no trees, and all these toppled statues, and these people living in caves in the ground, just almost like animals.
And I'm like, how did that happen? You know, nobody could understand. But what they what they came to realize historically from the oral history was these descendants of Houma to populate the island they divided ultimately into two different clans, the long ears are kind of nobility in the short ears who were the commoners. And they basically degraded the island, environmental and they cut all the trees down. They overfished it.
Unknown Speaker 42:18
They overpopulated it, they think at one time, there were 20,000 people on this little eight by 11 Mile Island.
Alex Ferrari 42:24
Kevin Reynolds 42:25
And they ultimately fell into internecine warfare. And, you know, the showrunners killed most of the lawyers. There's this one guy named aurania, who's supposed to be the descendant of the lawyers who survived. And they had this huge statue building called nobody can understand really, why did they build them so big they were statue building throughout Polynesia, but nobody can understand why they did them so big there. But they cut down all these trees and, and cut all these statues out of these craters and roll them around the island and erected in their hundreds of each little community. They're called Mui. So my story, what I wanted to do was try to explore why did they do this? And what is it about human beings that no matter where we are on the planet, there's something inherent in us, that makes us destroy ourselves environmentally
Alex Ferrari 43:19
Rght? You take this isolated group of humanity without any outside influence, and they did it to themselves. So that's kind of what I wanted to explore in the story.
Kevin Reynolds 43:30
You know, and coming off Robin Hood, being hot and thinking I could do anything and you know, I can overcome any obstacle. I will go to Easter Island and shoot this. It's the hardest movie I've ever made.
Alex Ferrari 43:45
Wait a minute, let's rapanui is the hardest movie.
Kevin Reynolds 43:49
Alex Ferrari 43:50
That's your filmography? Sir. That is a statement and a half.
Kevin Reynolds 43:54
Alex Ferrari 43:56
Really? Yeah. Cuz I was because I saw it. I was like, I wonder if they shot this. I mean, it looks like they shot this on Easter Island. And I'm like, you, you you were crazy enough to go shoot this on these?
Kevin Reynolds 44:06
Yeah, we were. There's so many ways I won't bore you with it. But it was just it was nuts.
Alex Ferrari 44:12
It was it was insane. And, and, but it's beautiful. And it has that, that that Kevin Reynolds kind of style to it, that you carry throughout your filmography. And I think it's and I remember it coming out. And it did. I mean, obviously, it was it didn't do well. Nothing. It didn't it was it wasn't necessarily as successful as Robin Hood. That's a fair statement.
Kevin Reynolds 44:37
Alex Ferrari 44:40
Yeah, I mean, really, it just like was it wasn't because of lack of, you know, because you don't have any major stars and I mean, Jason, Jason, Jason Scott Lee was just off of Dragon right. It was before dragon .
Kevin Reynolds 44:53
Yeah. And he saw Mirallas and yeah, it was it, you know, cast relative unknowns. But I mean, you know, we had to do it that way to try to cast people look like up a New Orleans.
And another part of the problem is the vast majority of public has no idea what happened on Easter Island. I mean, we would show it at screenings. And people would ask, Well, where is this place? And like, what what century was this? And, you know, they had no concept of what we were trying to portray. It could have been on Mars, for all they knew they didn't they just didn't grasp it at all, then I don't think I think in a lot of ways, the picture just simply didn't work. You know, it didn't translate from from screenplay to screen we had hoped it would.
It's the most, in some ways, I think it was the island itself, because that's the most haunted place I've ever been to.
Alex Ferrari 45:46
Kevin Reynolds 45:47
Yeah, it's almost like the island didn't want us to tell the story. It was. I know, it sounds ridiculous.
Alex Ferrari 45:54
No, no, I get you. I get you.
Kevin Reynolds 45:55
It's a creepy place. I mean, God knows what happened in that island.
Alex Ferrari 45:59
I mean, God knows what kind of I mean
Kevin Reynolds 46:02
A lot of bad things. A lot of really bad. You can just feel there's a malevolence there that I've never felt anywhere else. And
Alex Ferrari 46:11
I'll tell you know, I actually, when I went to New York the last year, as if it hadn't been to New York in probably a decade, I went to to ground zero. And when I was literally walking onto Ground Zero, you could just feel I mean, I don't want to get hokey hokey pokey on everybody here, but you felt you felt something, there's definitely a heaviness there. So I can imagine. That's kind of like the only thing I can equate it to.
Kevin Reynolds 46:43
Or you have to you have to realize these people are isolated. They had no concept about what was out there. To me. It was like, our concept about where we are in space, because they had to wonder what's out there. They've been so isolated for 100 years, they had no idea what was in the rest of the world. You know, and so they they conjured up these notions themselves and this religion that they had. And I remember one day there was a guy who was a word with Jacques Cousteau, and he lived there on Adelaide Marietta, Rapa Nui, and girl Monday, he was taking me around on a tour, we went up to one end of it called the pinkie peninsula. And I'll place it like an open archeological site. But we we just pulled off the road near where we'd been shooting recently. And he said to me, I want to show you something we walk over and he just lifts this rock off the ground, there's a hole about this big. He says, Come on. So he gets a lamp, and we just crawl down in this hole, probably about 15 feet down. And I'm like, where are we going, and it's just so tight. And finally, we get down there to the bottom and crawl into this chamber that opens up and He shines his light. And there are 20 human skeletons in there.
And it's like this family place where people had buried their dead, you know, for centuries, you know, and the islanders know, is here, but you're not even aware that it's like everywhere. And
Alex Ferrari 48:04
Because there's nowhere else to go, like you're not shipping this off somewhere, nowhere else to go.
Kevin Reynolds 48:09
And I remember the first time I went, I mean, well before shooting a couple years before, just explore the place and there were no rules. And you could just walk all over it. I mean, there's, you walk up to the ahoo, which are the platforms that the mo is set on, and you look down inside, and there'd be human bones and stuff. And there are no paved roads. So we hired a jeep and we're driving around, we hired the Jeep, you know, from the guy and and he said, What are you gonna bring it back and I go tomorrow? He goes, Okay, we'll just park it there and leave the keys in it. And I'm like, Well, what if somebody steals it? Because where are they gonna take it? Like, it's good point.
Alex Ferrari 48:51
What is it eight miles by 10 miles?
Kevin Reynolds 48:52
Alex Ferrari 48:55
Kevin Reynolds 48:56
Yeah. So we were driving around the island off road, come to this amazing ahoo look inside and it's just, it's stunning. You can walk up in there all these human bones and being the asshole that I was I took this little piece of bone.
Alex Ferrari 49:11
Kevin Reynolds 49:13
Yeah. It's like,
Alex Ferrari 49:15
it's like, it's like The Brady Bunch. It's like the Brady Bunch. It's like the Brady Bunch episode when they took the totem. And now all the bad luck starts.
Kevin Reynolds 49:24
We get over to the other side of the gun later that day, and we come over this rise, and it's you know, it's like windy and stuff. We're the only people there's nobody around us. And we come over and we're trying to get to this other giant ahoo. And, you know, it's amazing. But as soon as we come over this hill and down the hill, everything goes still. There's no sound. All the insects stop the wind stops. You can see the ocean and it's like a millpond. It's completely caught as just like creepy. We get out we're walking around and I'm looking around and saw who and out the corner of my eyes. I look up and I see something like a finger something dropped down behind this. Ah, who am I? What was that? And I walk around behind it. There's nothing there. Was it a dog? What was it but just chill just went up my spine. So I said, My buddy that I'm with Mikey, my agent Mike and I said, Let's get out of here. So we get back in the jeep and we drive away. And as we go back over the hill, all the sound starts again, the wind comes up, the insects start.
We get back to town and this little place that we're staying that night, the hotel, you know, it's after dinner, and we're talking to the lady that runs the place and describing our day. And I tell her about this, you know what had happened? And she goes, when I finish, take anything.
Alex Ferrari 50:46
Did you take anything?
Kevin Reynolds 50:49
I said, Yeah, she goes, put it back.
And she explained to me that every month, they would get packages from all over the world sent by people who'd taken things it said, I took this rock or I took this bone and ever since I did terrible things have been happening to me. And I know it's because I took this and the Polynesians had this thing called mana, which is this power that exists in things and they believe in it. And I thought it was just BS. This is why it's the most haunted place I've ever been to. So yeah, I put it back.
Alex Ferrari 51:26
So it was literally The Brady Bunch episode where they took the total
Kevin Reynolds 51:32
but I I must.
Alex Ferrari 51:35
Yeah, they had it was a lot It was Hawaii. They took a totem and and then they start all this bad stuff started. Wow, I'd heard of stories like that. In Hawaii then like you take a rock and you anchor the the Hawaiian gods. Yeah, there too.
Kevin Reynolds 51:52
Alex Ferrari 51:53
It's really wow. I'm glad I didn't take any rocks when I was in Hawaii. So So after Rapa Nui the you know, because of the massive success of rapanui. They decide to give you one of the most expensive because Hollywood. Hollywood knows what they're doing. Apparently they're like, you know this? No, I'm joking. But, but you you you get on to Waterworld. And how did that whole project come together? Was that Kevin leading the charge? Julie the charge? How did that whole thing fit together?
Kevin Reynolds 52:28
Well, Kevin and I weren't getting long after Robin Hood I don't want to get into it, but more. And so somebody sent me the script, man. And I really liked it. And it was Larry Gordon, who at the time was the head of Fox and he asked me to come in and talk to him. And I did and said there and I was telling me I really like this. You know, I think it's a really cool script is Peter Rader script. Yeah. And Larry as well, there's a huge movie star that's really interested in it to really wants to do this. I'm like, Oh, yeah, who's that? And he goes, Kevin Costner. I'm like, I don't want to do that. And anyway, long story short, Larry gets back together again. And we agreed to do it. And that was
Alex Ferrari 53:20
Kevin Reynolds 53:20
There were stories. You know
Alex Ferrari 53:23
No. I know. I mean, we everyone's heard the stories of, you know, the legendary stories of Waterworld. And I've had Peter on the show as well. So I heard a lot of a lot of stuff from his point of view. He was like, Alex, I was on set for two or three days. I don't know, you know, however long he was a week or two or whatever. He goes, I just got to sit and watch some of the stuff. But again, just like Easter Island, like, hey, let's go shoot on Easter Island. You said hey, let's go shoot this in the ocean. Which I get it makes sense. But I guess you underestimated the power of nature. And, and everything. How was that? Like being in the middle of that storm? Literally and figuratively?
Kevin Reynolds 54:02
Yeah, it's, uh, you know, when I first decided to, again, you're still in that mode. As you know, young filmmaker, like I can overcome anything you throw at me, I'll figure it out, and I'll make it work. But I called Steven Spielberg when I decided I want to do this. And I asked him, I said, Look, there's a project Waterworld. It's all set on the ocean. And, you know, you did Jaws, and do I do I really want to do this. And he goes, you may use that I would never work on the water again. Okay. And, you know, I didn't heed his advice. And I went and saw Sid sheinberg, who was the head of universal did the show. And I'm talking to him and I'm like, you know, we're talking about the budget and all this stuff. I go said, you know, we're gonna be responsible stuff, but, you know, I was talking to Steven and Steven tells me that the original schedule on Jaws was five days. And they ended up shooting 155 days. Instead just sit there for a second. Yes. I don't remember the schedule, but I do know they went 100% over budget.
Alex Ferrari 55:20
Kevin Reynolds 55:23
Okay, is that I, you know, I hope you remember that he goes, Oh, I do. And they were they were aware of the, you know, the danger, dangers of what could happen shooting on the water. And the thing that annoys me about people, you know, criticize movies and stuff is a you know, there are a lot of people felt like, we were just being profligate that we just went out there. And we were just, you know, all sitting around eating bonbons and drinking, you know, pina coladas. And we weren't, it was, it was very tough, you know, yes, we were, you know, very well taken care of, but it was a very, very difficult picture. But anybody that shoots on the water like that is going to encounter it. And consequently, you know, 25 years later, that's why people do CGI. I don't know if that people ever do something like that, again, because so much of what we did was in camera, it was nice. And you just don't appreciate the difficulty. It's just stuff you take for granted where, you know, you set up a shot, you got a camera boat, you've got somebody on a boat in front of you, and then you've got background loads, you got a horizon behind because you're always having to shoot so that you've got a clean horizon, to maintain the notion that, you know, there's no land. And so we pick the west coast of the Big Island of Hawaii, where there was like 160 degree view out to open water, relatively little traffic. That's what we chose to shoot. But when you set up a shot that looks very simple in the in the film, like I was just describing, you don't realize their currents. And so your camera, and your subject boat here in the background, they're all drifting differently. So you can't hold a frame. So ever to try to move things back into frame just to hold the frame, ultimately, ever times where if the currents really bad, you can't turn a sheep towards land, you always have to shoot out toward the water. And sometimes the sun would be low, and it's looking, right, you're looking right into the sun. So you have to find all these variations for how you can get around that. There were times where we'd have to send divers down, attach a line to the boat or trying to shoot, anchor it to the bottom on a pulley where they could move it and pull it to try to maintain some control over the boat that was in front of camera.
And so when you see it on film, you go big deal. Yeah, it's a boat. And there's some background behind it. You don't realize what it took to do something that would be relatively simple on land to do it on water like that. And every day was like that every day.
Alex Ferrari 57:59
And and everything you just described can be done in about five or 10 minutes. It doesn't take a long time to send the divers down, lock in the boat. It control you know, it just what when when you're talking about Steven and Jaws, I mean, he had one boat and a mechanical shark. You had like a floating city. And it seemed to me I know, it wasn't hundreds, but it seemed like you know, 20 3040 support vehicles, whether it be you know, land, water skis or boats, or that it was it was what Peter said, it's Mad Max on the water. It's that
Kevin Reynolds 58:34
We had a Navy department that did nothing but run boats. I mean, if you think about it, we had this a toll was anchored about a mile offshore outside of a harbor called Kawhia. Literally, The Big Foot floating a tunnel and there were multiple lines from that went down to the bottom was about 100 feet deep and they anchored it on the bottom they had to otherwise it would drift away. And it would rotate on those lines. But when you go out there when you're doing a big scene, like a battle scene where you've got hundreds of extras, and you've got special effects and stuff, you don't realize, okay, you've got a whole barge is nothing but porta potties, you know. And so you get up in the morning, you have to run all those people through wardrobe, you have to feed them. You have to put them on boats and ferry them out to the a toll get them in position for whatever shots you're doing. And then once you shoot for a little bit, it's lunchtime. And so then you have to ferry all people back into shore to feed them and then go back out for the afternoon. And that's it. It's just incredibly cumbersome.
Alex Ferrari 59:42
I I'm just baffled that the studio agreed to go down this road. I mean, if everybody knew like there's no way you can make a day. Did you ever make a day? Like it's it's out of your control?
Kevin Reynolds 59:56
A few times? Yeah. Original I think our original schedule was I think we finally agreed on it, like 120 days, and I think we should, you know, almost shot 170 days.
Alex Ferrari 1:00:07
Jesus, that's actually impressive,
Kevin Reynolds 1:00:11
though, I mean, you know, I defy anybody else to, you know, overcome it, dude, do what I think we did. It was it was tough, like I said, and it's all most of it's in camera. Yes, there are effects in the show, but most of what you see was shot in camera.
Alex Ferrari 1:00:29
And and heard if I remember correctly, there was a was there a hurricane that destroyed a whole bunch of sets or something happened like that?
Kevin Reynolds 1:00:37
You know, that was that was the rumor that the whole a toll sunk? That's true. Yes, we had, we had we had an earthquake off the coast of Japan once one morning, we had to like, move everybody in shore up high, because we didn't know if there's gonna be a tsunami or not. It will happen. They have we not lost another half day just on that. But the thing that did sink, there's one sequence where the mariner approach is just it looks like this big. Oh, I don't know. It's like a big mushroom sticking up out of the water. It's a trading post. And the smokers and Dennis Hopper have arrived there and they've killed everybody. And they've rigged their arms to wave and stuff. And we shot that that sank. That sank. That was not the a tool.
Alex Ferrari 1:01:22
Okay, so alright, so I remember at that time, that the press and the town, crucified the movie before a frame of it was even shown to people, you were being. I mean, it was and I remember being I was I was there. I remember just from a distance looking at it and going, Oh, my god, they're pounding on poor Kevin Reynolds on this like, so how? How do you direct? Because I'm assuming you were aware of this? Yeah. So how do you direct? How do you deal with that kind of stress.
Kevin Reynolds 1:02:07
It's, it's very difficult. It's not it's my least favorite filmmaking, because there's so many forces working on you, you're you're you really can't be flexible. Because when you have a shooting day that costs $300,000. You know, you can't change your mind about things is really, you have to kind of stick with the plan. Even if you get on set, you know, that doesn't work that well. But if we change that we lose a half a day, and we can't afford to do that again. So you can't be flexible. And you've got all these people looking over your shoulder. You know, and I understand because it's a hell of a lot of money. But it's it's not a fun way to work. It's just not a fun way to where I'll tell you one story that kind of summed up the whole press thing for me because we had you know guys who show up speedboats and try to combine shoot it and stuff and all these inflammatory things and exaggerations. One day, the we were shooting a sequence outside the harbor on the catamaran and I had a camera, the camera guys up on the mast at about 40 feet up to guys and it was trying to do a shot, we were looking down and on the activity down below and then tilt up to the horizon.
And we're anchored offshore in the swell comes up and the catamaran starts kind of going like this. And I look over and the mast is kind of bending a little bit like that. And so I turned to the boat guy, boat master and said Bruno, is this safe? He looks at but it goes now.
Okay, well, we have to wrap out of this and go inside because we can't have these two guys fall off here. So we did we had to wrap, go back inside the harbor, shoot something else lose another half day. Okay, the next day, our publicist from the States, some journalists who goes, Okay. I've had this confirmed by two sources. So don't lie to me. I want you to tell me about the two camera guys that were killed in the accident yesterday. Because what? You don't lie to us, we know this happen and you guys are covering up. So tell us the truth. We know you lost two people in an accident strategies. It didn't happen. That was the kind of stuff that went on.
Alex Ferrari 1:04:25
Oh my god, I can't look. Directing a film is arguably one of the most stressful things a human being can do. And that again, war and all of that I understand when the creative arts. absolutely one of the most difficult things you can do. Right? Working in Hollywood in the studio system is probably one of the most difficult things you can do working with 150 $175 million budget on your shoulders. And the stress of that is one of the most difficult things you can do and then having to deal with that kind of lunacy. I mean, you must have it's kind of the presidency like when you see one come in, and then four years later, eight years later, they've aged 50 years, I have to imagine that the habits with the end of this process
Kevin Reynolds 1:05:09
Yes, it does, and it changes you, you know, it really changes you, and your outlook. And you know, after that, I don't really like those kind of movies, honest. They're not fun. They're just not fun.
Alex Ferrari 1:05:24
And the making of them, or the kind of story or
Kevin Reynolds 1:05:27
The storytelling aspect of this story is interesting, but the making of them is so difficult, and it's not as organic, I prefer smaller pictures where you have more control. You can be more flexible than then big ones like that. I mean, you still see it that I mean, all these big superhero movies and stuff. They're very much like that, you know, but it's all CG, CG, CG, but it's still it's it's hundreds of millions of dollars in his filmmaking by committee. And it's, it's just not that organic. Some people thrive on that, and they like it. I'm not one of those people. I prefer to do smaller things where you're, it's more your domain.
Alex Ferrari 1:06:07
So the movie comes out. And everyone's like, it's the biggest bomb in history and all this stuff, which was such, you know, for to use a term of our of our time fake news. Because it ended up actually doing well. And then I was talking to Peter. And he said, it's one of the most valuable IPS and profitable IPS in the entire catalogue of Universal Studios. Right. So do you feel a little vindicated?
Kevin Reynolds 1:06:37
Yeah, I mean, I look at some of their pictures that were much people want, they lost a lot more money than Waterworld. It's just once you sort of get tainted with Oh, yeah. You know, you can't lose that. It's very difficult. I mean, Hollywood. It's more interesting that something's controversial, and it's going bad. And to hear that everything's going well, was boring. It's more interesting. Of course, it's more interesting. And so they thrive on that. And somebody told me the first time they screened a picture in New York or something for critics, and they walked out. And this one critic was so disappointed. He goes, Well, it didn't suck. And that was his comment.
Alex Ferrari 1:07:20
Right? They wanted it to be the worst.
Kevin Reynolds 1:07:23
Nope, play. Horrible.
Alex Ferrari 1:07:26
And I'm disappointed that it was not as bad as I thought it would be. I actually, I watched it when I watched it. I watched it again recently. It's fun. It's a fun. It's just a fun film. It's just a good, good adventure film. Dennis Hopper, again, chews up the scenery.
Kevin Reynolds 1:07:50
You're being kind I mean, there are a lot of problems with the movie.
Alex Ferrari 1:07:53
I know. But you got it. I know I look I under I understand like it, but it's enjoy. I look, I enjoyed it. It is an enjoyable film. And it's just a good fun adventure. adventure film, but it is, is one of those films that is historically, you know, tainted, but the truth. And that's what I tried to do even in my little way, with Peters interview and not with yours. I'm like, no, it's arguably one of the most profitable IPS that they have. And I think they're working. I know, you can't say yea or nay. But I heard they're working on trying to do something new with it. Because it's a, it's a great IP.
Kevin Reynolds 1:08:27
I, you know, I don't know if they're gonna do their picture or not, you know, they made a fortune off the ride
Alex Ferrari 1:08:32
Kevin Reynolds 1:08:34
You know it's been gone for 25 years now.
Alex Ferrari 1:08:36
It's still it's still there. I've seen that show probably three, four or five times and maybe more in my in my life, and it's still going.
Now, I have to ask you, because you've had both you've had extreme highs in this business, and you've had extreme lows. How do you deal with that as a creative professional, like I said, like, I mean, because it's being being an artist, and being a creative in general is tough. But, you know, I'm just curious, how do you do with it?
Kevin Reynolds 1:09:07
You know, I think you just have to have something inside you that makes you want to continue to tell stories so badly that, as I said before, that you're willing to subject yourself to the process. And I don't know why maybe it's a masochistic thing. You know, they're probably certainly better ways to make a living, but it's a compulsion I guess
Alex Ferrari 1:09:31
I equated to an illness is once you get bitten by that bug, I always say that I've said this a million times. It's like if you're getting if you get bitten by the bug, you are infected, and then we'll never go away, it will flare up. And it can go dormant for 30 years because I got I got guys reaching out to me who are in their 60s, and like like I just retired, but I really want to do is direct, so I and it's like and I'm like how do I start? You know, I've been a doctor all my life.
But I've really just want to tell stories. And like if they got bitten, it was suppressed for 30 odd years and now it's it's flared up. It never, ever goes away. And it's it's fascinating that that whole thing. Now one of the one of the films in your filmography that I think it's not as you know, not as known is 187, I absolutely loved 187. And when I was directing some, some of my directing work, I actually would bring in my DPS, and we would watch 187 because some of the stuff that you did in that, with the color grading choices you did for the time, was pretty this is, was this pre I think this was pre DI right
Kevin Reynolds 1:10:42
Alex Ferrari 1:10:43
It was pre di so there was no, no digital color grading. So you were doing stuff in camera. So it was really remarkable. How did you what what guided you in your color grading choices in that film? Because it's pretty, pretty intense?
Kevin Reynolds 1:10:57
Well, I mean, coming off of Waterworld, as I said, which was not fun, I wanted to do something that was more experimental, where we could just really take a lot of chance, you know, creatively. And God bless him. I mean, it was Mel Gibson's company icon that came to me with the project. And I have to say, you know, males had all kinds of problems. So but he was, he was, maybe the greatest producer I've ever worked with. He was he could not have been more supportive, and nicer.
You know, and though in the way he let me make that picture, he was wonderful. And so we were able to take a lot of chances. And I brought in a young guy named Erickson core his DP. And we just went to town we we looked at every scene is an opportunity to do something different, you know, from color grading, we use a lot of swing and tilt lenses, and the frame or some stuffs out of focus and some stuff sharp. There's a sequence where in a classroom we wanted to, we wanted to show one of the characters like on a TV, like on a TV.
Alex Ferrari 1:12:12
Yeah, TV, a TV monitor, yeah
Kevin Reynolds 1:12:14
TV monitor. So Erickson went out and bought a fisher price toy camera. And that's what we shot it with, and then took that image and translated it to film. And so we just did a lot of stuff like that. And it was really exciting. And it was really invigorating. And it just kind of rekindled. You know, a lot of creative energy that I'd lost doing. Waterworld. That picture didn't do that didn't do any business, but I'm very proud of it. Sam Jackson was great.
Alex Ferrari 1:12:44
That was his first starring role, like you've source like, you know, he was the leading character in it like it was out.
Kevin Reynolds 1:12:51
I mean, he done Pulp Fiction already.
Alex Ferrari 1:12:53
But that but it wasn't. He was it wasn't like, it wasn't the Sam Jackson show. Like it was he was the star of that movie. And I and I like it because I mean, you know, Sam has sort of a persona that everybody knows him for. And he really sort of went against character.
Kevin Reynolds 1:13:10
That role. And he wanted to do it. He came to us, he wanted to do it. And I'm like, great. And he was he was wonderful to work with. He's a total Pro.
Alex Ferrari 1:13:20
Now. There was that one scene, by the way in in 187. That deer Deer Hunter seen. How do you How did you approach that? Because that's intense. intense. I just re watched it the other day. Such an intense he?
Kevin Reynolds 1:13:35
Alex Ferrari 1:13:36
How do you how do you like directing a scene like that? Because both those actors have both Sam and I forgot. Clifton. Yeah, he, so there's just just two juggernauts in acting. How do you direct a scene like that?
Kevin Reynolds 1:13:51
You know, is they I still remember the day we shot that there was so much energy on set. I mean, everybody was amped up for that scene, really amped up, and everybody, I mean, not just the actors, but all the support personnel, cameras, everybody and everybody, it was great, because you could just see everybody kind of sitting back delicately and watching it unfold and trying to be supportive, you know, and their own way me for makeup effects everything. Everybody was really into it. You know, a lot of times when you shoot sometimes people don't care, they just kind of show up do their job, like everybody's really into that scene. And you feel it, you feel it. And it really imbued the moment with that energy. And, and that's why you do pictures is for those kind of occasions, you know, kind of energy to experience that.
Alex Ferrari 1:14:39
That's awesome. And there was one film in your filmography that I absolutely just adore, which is Count of Monte Cristo. I absolutely adore Count of Monte we just my wife and I just watched it I think probably like two or three months ago, we watch it every few years because it's such a wonderfully I mean, obviously the story, Dumas did okay. If you I mean, he's alright he's alright. But um, I'm gonna give you all the credit. No. But that's such a fantastic story. And the way that that the actors and Richard Harris and Jim Caviezel and Luis Guzman, I mean, just so brilliantly done. What about the revenge story? In not only in cinema, but in literature is so satisfying? Why do we love watching that? Because obviously, I think, Count of Monte Cristo is the ultimate, just wonderfully constructed revenge story. What is it about? About it that destroys, but everybody has things that go on in their lives that they'd like revenge for. And so they can sort of vicariously appreciate someone who managed to get it. And that's why I think people empathize so much with characters who've been so wronged. Turn the tables and on the people that have done it to them, because I think everybody feels like I've been wronged in some way. And I would love to do that, too. And I think that's why it's so appealing to an audience. That was a tough, I mean, Jay Walpert, the guy that did the adaptation did a really fine job, he changed a lot of things. And there are a lot of people that complain, because they say, well, this film is not the book. It's not.
Kevin Reynolds 1:16:21
My attitude is it can't be I mean that the book is 1500 pages long. It's like, how long did it take you to read the book? And they'll go, Well, it took me a week. Yeah, well, we didn't have a week to tell the story. So we had two hours. So necessarily, you have to compress and combine and do things to try to keep the spirit of it.
You know, it's just a necessity. And so, because of that, you're going to leave a lot of people's favorite moments out.
Alex Ferrari 1:16:49
Kevin Reynolds 1:16:50
Everybody's different area what you love this out. You love that? Yes, I'm sorry. But we had to pick and choose because, as I said, we only had two hours of screenplays, 100 pages, 120 pages, it's not 1500 pages. So you know of necessity. That's what happens when you take a novel and turn it into into a film.
Alex Ferrari 1:17:09
And then you also did the Hatfields and McCoys which you reunited with Mr. Costner? Well, first of all, I loved it. I saw it on the History Channel, and it came out and I was just like, this is awesome. How, how was it just working with an old friend, I guess, back, you know, back.
Kevin Reynolds 1:17:28
It was great. I mean, you know, we had a shorthand, you know, we knew each other could communicate in a way that you can't always communicate with other people just because, you know, the past and the relationship and all but that was avios McCoy's, ever. That was a special production. It was a great cast.
Oh, Bill Paxton. Oh, God, he was amazing
Bill Park. And I have to thank you know, Fern champion, who was our casting director and the Hubbard's from Hubbard casting in London, you know, put together fabulous cast, everybody was good. And that was what was great. And, and it was another one of those shows that you hoped for. I mean, we shot Romanian Romanian crew, and they were so eager, and so wanted to prove themselves. And they were just wonderful. And, and it was, everybody really got into it wanted it to do well. And it was a real team.
And, you know, I'll always remember that one time, like, yeah
Alex Ferrari 1:18:27
And, and, and one thing to be said, I mean, obviously, you've had your ups and downs with Kevin, over the years. When I saw you guys get back together again, for Hatfields and McCoys. I was like, okay, they, they've, they've, you know, they're they're working together again. Is there something to be said about, about just getting older, and just, you know, figuring things out? Because there's things like, I'm, I'm, I'm definitely I mean, I'm, I'm older, but I'm not, you know, I'm not older, older. Let's say, it depends what you say, I'm getting into the weeds here. My daughter's think I'm ancient. So there you go. They're like, Daddy, when Titanic came out, it was 97 was that before you were born? I'm like, Oh, Jesus Christ. I wish it was. I was born in it.
But, um, but how just as a director, the things you do as a young director, you age your filmography changes. There's things that got me excited in my 20s, as far as storytelling is concerned, that I wouldn't even think of doing today because it's just not the kind of stories I want to tell. How can you talk a little bit about that whole process and then just also working? Again, like we talked a little bit about it, but just like, understanding the maturity of an old friend, regardless of the ups and downs of relationships.
Kevin Reynolds 1:19:42
Yeah, you evolve, you know, I mean, like everybody does, as you get older, you kind of mellow and a lot of ways and things as you said that were extremely important to you 30 years ago aren't so important now and you have more perspective and that enables you to approach things, I think in a more objective way. The downside is, I think there's a lot to be said, when you're young of being kind of young and stupid and enthusiastic and blindly going into things and finding stuff out of your own stupidity, you lose that as you get older, you know, you do, you do kind of rely on experience more. And so it's a balance, it's a balance of trying to realize, okay, it's important to remember the prior experiences and to not repeat mistakes, but at the same time, be opento new experiences, and new ways of doing things to just keep yourself fresh. Otherwise, you get ossified, because God knows things change, especially in the film business. I mean, it is so not what it what I started today, it's very different. completely different. It's always evolved. I mean, look, you know, 100 years ago, we're doing silent pictures. It's it's always evolved. I'm a little disturbed by what it's become now. I don't know. And I'm sure I sound like a Keizer when I'm talking about, you know, wow, when I was doing it, you know, it was much more exciting. And we didn't do it that way. And it changes, it changes.
Alex Ferrari 1:21:21
Yeah, no question. And it's changing now, by by the month be like, every, every month, there's something new happening because of what happened with code, what's happening with COVID, and all that stuff. But up until the 80s, really, the business hadn't changed a whole lot. Like it was pretty, the 90s. It was the 80s, VHS showed up when VHS showed up that started to change. It did, it did. But I mean, you know, even the 90s, the studios were healthy. We were still shooting on film, to the agencies and all had not really changed that much. People saw it as a golden time and anything was possible. There's a lot of fear. Now, there's a lot of fear, because things are not as lucrative as they once were. Sadly, I think theatrical cinema is dying. It's, I mean, you can, you can pretend that it's not and, and, you know, God bless Chris Nolan and hisyou know, and his adherence to film as a medium, I mean, real film, but it's going away, you know, it, the digital age is here. And you have to, you have to be flexible enough to realize that technology changes, and this is the way it's going to be in the future. And the actual is just it's dying, there will still be showcased pictures out there. But in terms of the way the vast majority of public consumes their content, that's forever changed. And it's it's going, it's streaming inside the home. That's where it's going now. And I don't think we're going back.
Now I'm going to ask you a few questions. Ask all my guests. What is the one thing you wish you could tell your younger self?
Kevin Reynolds 1:23:08
25 words or less?
Alex Ferrari 1:23:10
even got 26?
Kevin Reynolds 1:23:14
That's a tough one. Boy. Be more flexible, be more flexible?
Alex Ferrari 1:23:25
That's Yeah, I always I always said, My answer is always be patient, because it's not gonna it's not gonna happen as fast as you think it's gonna happen. You You did you actually didn't move as fast as you thought was good.
Kevin Reynolds 1:23:39
Yeah, I mean, it's, look, I've had a great ride. And, you know, nobody does it perfectly. And yes, there are things I wish I'd done differently. As I'm sure everybody does, but I've been incredibly fortunate, you know, to get to do the things that I've been allowed to do. Because there's so many people that would like to be in my shoes and have the same opportunities and they're not able to. So I'm extremely grateful for all it's been handed to me.
Alex Ferrari 1:24:10
Now, what advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?
Kevin Reynolds 1:24:18
It's tougher than ever. It's the toughest job in the world. Like Demetri said, but don't let that stop you. Because you have to take the attitude. If somebody says, look, only 1% of people make it in the business succeed. You have to approach it and believe that you're that 1%.
Alex Ferrari 1:24:39
It's insanity. It's insane.
Kevin Reynolds 1:24:41
You may not be and the odds are against you, you know, but you have to believe you're the guy that's gonna make it because if you don't, you won't. It will get ground up and you may get beaten down. But if you're gonna try to do it, and you want to go down that path, you have an even have a chance at making it. You have to have that attitude.
Alex Ferrari 1:25:05
Can you can you own this? I want to say one thing I always tell two people and I want to see what you think about it. I totally junk filmmakers coming up all the time I go, look, I want to prepare you for the realities of the business. I have a lot of shrapnel, different shrapnel than you but I have shrapnel from 25 years of being in the business. You're going to get punched in the face. I don't care who you are. Everybody, anybody you look up to in the business, from Spielberg to Nolan to Fincher to Kubrick, everybody got punched in the face, not once.
Kevin Reynolds 1:25:41
Over, and over and over.
Alex Ferrari 1:25:43
And I want you to be prepared for the punch. Because a lot of times I see these young filmmakers who have these stars in their eyes, you know it we all I was that you had those stars, and I mean, to a certain extent as well. And they don't see the punch coming. And when the punch comes, sometimes it knocks them out for good. Like I said earlier, I want them to be able to take that punch. And then maybe as you get older, I think you would agree with me. Occasionally you'd learn how to duck.
Kevin Reynolds 1:26:08
You do you get smarter. But it all goes back to as I said, originally, you have to be willing to subject yourself to the process.
Alex Ferrari 1:26:16
Kevin Reynolds 1:26:16
That's what I have to do. And you have to realize, as you said, you're going to get punched repeatedly. And you'll get up and you'll get blindsided because you won't be paying attention because you're focused on what you're trying to do. And you'll get hit again and you'll get knocked down. But you have to get up. And that's the career that you've chosen. If you're going to do this. It's a battle royale every day, the entire career. And you have to ask yourself, Am I willing to do that? Is it worth it to me? Do I really want to tell stories badly enough to subject myself to that? And if the answer is Yeah, then do it. If you if you waver and if you're not sure, don't go down that road because you'll be destroyed.
Alex Ferrari 1:27:00
And last question, and arguably the most difficult one, three of your favorite films of all time. Well, three that come to your mind right now. Three that comes to your mind right now.
Kevin Reynolds 1:27:11
Right now? I always say this because the one I remember had the most profound effect on me originally was Dr. Zhivago. I've always loved I've always loved David Lane, but I still remember that how that picture made me feel. And I guess maybe the second one is probably 2001.
And then the next two that immediately come to mind probably Butch Cassidy Sundance Kid and the I'll say the fourth one. Badlands Terrence Malick.
Alex Ferrari 1:27:40
Yes. Badlands those are good good good choices sir. Good, good propped up my head.
Kevin Reynolds 1:27:47
There's lots of them. But those those four, I can go down a Kubrick rabbit hole with you anytime I saw Jesus. But Kevin, thank you so much for doing this. It's been an absolute pleasure and honor talking to you and talking shop with you. So thank you for, for enriching my life with your films over the course of your career and for everything you do my friend, thank you so much.
Thank you so much for inviting me. It's It's fun to sit down and relive these things with someone that can understand. Thank you, my friend.
Alex Ferrari 1:28:19
I want to thank Kevin so much for coming on the show and sharing his filmmaking journey with the tribe. Thank you so much, Kevin. If you want to get links to anything we spoke about in this episode, head over to the show notes at indie film hustle comm forward slash 445. And if you haven't already, head over to IFH academy.com and check out the new courses we have to help you on your filmmaking journey. Like gym v hearts. screenwriting masterclass my film distribution blueprint on how to make money and sell your film in today's current marketplace. The indie film producing masterclass with Suzanne Lyons, how to raise money, how to pitch investors, there's so much stuff there. You got to check it out. Head over to IFH academy.com thank you so much for listening, guys. As always, keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive. Stay safe out there. And I'll talk to you soon.
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Where Hollywood Comes to Talk
Oscar® Winning Writer/Director
(Platoon, Wall Street, JFK)
(Brothers McMullin, She's the One)
Oscar® Nominated Writer/Director
(Boyhood, School of Rock)
Emmy® Winning Writer/Director/Actor
(City Slickers, Analyze This)
(Smokin' Aces, The Grey, Narc)