Was it nice to get back to a big action film after Holes?
It's always fun to challenge yourself to do something and then pull it off. We didn't know if this wave machine, wave tank was going to work. We built it and we got our asses kicked from Katrina, and then it took us a while to regroup and rebuild the tank. Then we literally pushed the button to see if it would work days before we had to shoot it. The best part was the Coast Guard guys, our swimmers, who were with us when we turned it on, they got goose bumps. They said, 'This is so real.' So we knew we had sort of hit it. Now we had to figure out how to shoot in that environment, keeping the cameras close to the action and still seeing something and not having actors hurt themselves on camera equipment. It was very challenging and rewarding to pull it off.
How did this compare to the difficulty of some of your other films?
Well, let's see. Chain Reaction was pretty brutal because it was so cold. We were shooting some of that stuff in Chain Reaction where the fire department in the city of Chicago had to leave because it was too cold for their work guidelines. So that was rough. The stuff on the Michigan Avenue Bridge in the middle of the night in a storm was pretty rough. They're all different.
The train crash in The Fugitive was a real train crash. We had a lot of people out there and a lot of cameras, and it was a challenge. Being in the jungles, running in the jungles with Schwarzenegger in Collateral Damage was complicated. Under Siege was complicated, but they're different levels of complications and different logistics. This was hard because we had to create terrible conditions in order for the film to work. The wind and the water and the waves and the motion of the boats, it was dangerous. You had to really look out for each other.
Does DVD allow you the budget to shoot alternate endings?
Well, I was unaware of how popular alternate endings were. This was done as a kind of safety valve for ourselves. We didn't really want to use it, but it was one of those situations where it was just [spoiler deleted ]. We wanted something in our pocket so we didn't have to go back and do it. We never even tested it with the audience because the scores were so high with the current ending. But yes, the folks that sell the DVDs love alternative endings.
Has DVD given a second life to your smaller films, like Steal Big Steal Little?
You know, actually it's funny you mention that. The rights to that movie have been sort of jumping around, and one of the things I want to do is put that on DVD. It was only on videotape so I'm going to go back to Universal, or whoever it is who has the rights now, and try to get that on DVD. I'm sure Andy Garcia would love to participate on that. Then my first film, Stoney Island, was the same thing. I haven't been able to find the time to sell that to somebody, and now I think it's worth a lot more money than it was years ago.
They're still advertising this as From the director of The Fugitive
Yeah, they should say from the director of Holes. It depends on the movie you're making.
13 years later, how does it feel to have done something that iconic?
It's interesting because The Guardian, I wish it was a bigger hit because somebody says to me, when they saw the movie, some friends of mine, 'They're going to say now From the director of The Guardian.' But I don't think it made enough money for them to say that yet. I don't know.
The Fugitive is a movie I'm proud of. It came about because of Under Siege and I was able to go back to Chicago and do my thing. I had a lot of support and the script was very loose, and we were able to really create something on the scene there with that movie. So I'm proud of the fact that I had so much to do with it. At the same time, when that movie came out, somebody looked me in the eye and very seriously said, 'You oughta retire. You're never going to make another movie this good.' And I sort of laughed at him. We're trying.
Whats next for you?
I'm looking at a couple different projects. One is sort of independent movies that have potential of being really powerful, and one goes back into more of a family kind of story about a father and a daughter traveling around the world together, discovering each other. There's a novel that I'm interested in by T.C. Boyle.
The Tortilla Curtain.
Whats that about?
It's a story about life in L.A., a Mexican-American couple and a suburban couple, the weaving of their lives back and forth. I've also got some projects at Walden, the company I did Holes for. Sort of a version of Tom Jones and Don Quixote called Tom Quixote, which is a wonderful farce and spoof. I'd like to do a movie about Jean Lefite, the privateer.