Director James Wan traveled to San Diego to bring his latest project, the action drama Death Sentence, to the movie-loving Comic Con crowd. The San Diego Comic Con has become one of the premiere locations to showcase upcoming releases, and director Wan joined his Death Sentence cast members Kevin Bacon and Garrett Hedlund at the event to show off footage from the Fox Atomic film which is set for release in theaters on August 31, 2007.
Before heading over to the San Diego Convention Center, Wan sat down for this one-on-one interview to discuss the appeal of directing this star-studded action movie.
Why did you decide to do a huge action film like this?
“Why not? (Laughing) No, I’m a big fan of the revenge genre. I just feel like it’s so classical and I’ve always harbored this desire to want to make a revenge film, right? And after Saw and Dead Silence I felt like it was a great natural progression for me to move out of the horror genre and into something else. I like to think that I’m a filmmaker that can make other stuff, too. I felt like it was a great segue for me to move into something that is different, but yet the fans that love the kind of films I make will still take to this. I like to think they will.
But, you know, one of the things that attracted me to this particular project, Death Sentence, was the fact that I read the script and I thought, ‘Wow, this is so cool!’ It’s a revenge movie, it’s a classic revenge movie but with a twist. It’s different. It’s a story about a father, a soccer dad as I like to call him, and a loving husband, an everyday man. One day he witnesses his son getting killed right before his eyes and he decides to take the law into his own hands and go after the bad guys that did this to his family. But here’s where the twist comes in, what he finds out, is that revenge, vengeance, cuts both ways as well. And they come after him, too. So now you have a story about these two separate worlds, two completely different worlds colliding. That was what really attracted me to the project.”
Were you at all afraid of being pigeon-holed as a horror director? Was that also a reason to get out of them after two movies?
“I’m a big fan of horror films. I love horror films. I grew up watching all of that, but you know, I’m trying to take a leaf out of Wes Craven’s book. Because from what I’ve read from him, like he’s first and foremost a film director, a filmmaker. I feel the same. I feel like it’s never good to be typecast as anything because that will really limit what you can do. I think it’s important to show the range as an artist, to try something different. I think that’s healthy.”
But the fact the posters actually say, ‘From the director of Saw,’ it still ties you back into the horror genre. Does that bother you?
“No, I don’t have a problem with that because I think if anything, if you look at that poster, you see sure, it says from the director of Saw and also the author of Death Wish so right off the bat you know what you’re going to get. You know what you’re in for.
The fans that love my films will know this is another James Wan kind of film, but in a different story. But it’s also got Kevin Bacon, John Goodman, Kelly Preston and they bring another edge to it. The more grownup audience will look at this and go, ‘This might be something that we like,’ as well. I really think this is a film that plays for a really broad audience. I really do believe that because it’s not… You know, your horror audience tends to be very focused. I think this is a very broad story and I think it has universal appeal. I mean, it is the story about a father trying to protect his family. Everyone can relate to that.”
That cast that you just listed off, did you expect to attract that type of talent to this film?
“I believed that I could get a really good cast for this film. The reason why I believed that is because I was very passionate about this film and whoever I pitched it to, I’d just lay it all out telling them how different this film’s going to be to all the other films out there. Kevin really wanted to make a film like this as well. He and I both fell in love with the script. We fell in love with the script because we felt like the script was such a well written, character-driven film. This is a really character-driven film and I think people are going to be surprised when they see this film that it’s not just another mindless shoot ‘em up, action type movie.”
And yet the clips you showed us here at Comic Con were the action scenes and not the more character-driven parts.
“I was going to say, I didn’t show you guys that clip. That’s not me. I did not know what we would see until before it and I’m like, ‘Aahhh!’ I’m like, ‘But what about the emotional stuff?’”
How do you not lose the characters amidst all the action?
“This film is not a wall to wall action film. It is a character-driven film and it’s a dramatic film. It’s a really intense emotional drama film. If anything, I’d describe it more as an emotional roller coaster ride. One of the things, which was one of the things that I tried to do with Saw which was, you know, make you feel emotion. Like one minute you’re down here, then you’re all the way up here, and then you’re everywhere. I tried to do that with this film and with such a brilliant cast, Kevin Bacon, he just anchors the whole film. And that’s very good to know. I think the reason too why they showed this clip is because this is Comic Con.”
It’s that kind of audience.
“Yeah. (Laughing) If this was like a Jane Austen gathering, then I’m sure we’d show more of the crying, heartbreaking moments.”