Dennis Quaid stars as a Secret Service agent who took a bullet for the President and returns to duty just in time to be put back in the line of fire in the thriller Vantage Point directed by Pete Travis. Quaid and Lost star Matthew Fox play Thomas Barnes and Kent Taylor, two lead agents assigned to protect US President Ashton (William Hurt) during his trip to Spain. In addition to attending a landmark summit on terrorism, President Ashton takes the stage at a public rally in front of thousands of spectators. A shot rings out, the President goes down, and eight witnesses have integral pieces of knowledge about exactly how the event occurred and what happened in its immediate aftermath.
The cast worked with Ron Blecker, a decorated US Army veteran who now devotes his time to helping actors and filmmakers, in order to prepare to play Secret Service agents in the film. Quaid calls his time spent with Blecker indispensable. “We were there for two weeks before we started shooting. We trained as a team, as a Secret Service unit, of these guys. The president never goes anywhere that its not choreographed well in advance. That’s what we would do; we would really rehearse and go over these moves, like a team. We would move the president through this crowd.”
“And, also, just the stories they had to tell, and the psychology behind what they do. It was fascinating. I think we all see them on TV sometimes, especially we get to know them, like during the Kennedy assassination. There was the guy who jumped on the back of the car, the guy that took a bullet in Reagan’s assassination attempt. It’s a fascinating world, which I feel like I really got more than a glimpse into. It was interesting.”
All the little details were important to Quaid and to director Pete Travis. “Everything is for a specific reason,” explained Quaid. “Even the guys, you always see the president, he’s working a crowd, and there is some guy that is right up on his back. He’s got his hand underneath his jacket, with his hand around his belt, so he can just rip him away, like that, and at any given moment. It’s very interesting what you, as a president, have to live with in your life. Those people are in your most intimate… I mean, how intimate does it get? You really don’t have a say about it.”
Quaid hasn’t slowed down any, even after three decades of making movies, and had no problem handling Vantage Point's action sequences. “It was fantastic. They really did it well too, the car chase. I guess this is my car chase of my career that I got to do,” said Quaid.
And the 53 year old actor did most of the driving himself. “Except for the actual 40-mile-an-hour crashes,” admitted Quaid. “I didn’t really want to submit myself to the G-Forces needed for that.”
The intense car chase was just one of the difficult elements of Vantage Point. The cast also had to act out the same 15 minute sequence multiple times in order for the film to spotlight the assassination attempt from eight distinct points of view. “I just played it the same way the entire time,” explained Quaid. “I think because it’s from another person’s point-of-view, then the audience has a different perception - even though I’m doing the same thing. You get to see this 15 minutes, then the next time you shoot that same 15 minutes, you might catch a different angle of that character that you couldn’t see before…what that character was thinking. You see them go around the corner and what really happened, from what they said. It’s what is interesting and what is so exciting about this movie.”
“As an audience member, it’s a puzzle really, and you are trying to put this together within this time clock of 15 minutes. It’s a very compressed time, this assassination, trying to find out who did it, and why it happened. As an audience, you are putting together this puzzle along with the characters in the film.”
Quaid concedes that while he’s intrigued by the idea of piecing together this puzzle, it’s never a guarantee that audiences will feel the same way about a film's plot. “You never know. It just read so well,” said Quaid. “When I read a script, it’s the only time I get to be an audience member. It’s the first time I experience something. It really read so well that I felt if they could just put this on screen, it was going to work. Pete not only did that, but he really elevated it as well, in the way that he shot it.”
After Quaid finishes up doing the publicity rounds for Vantage Point, he'll begin work on the G.I. Joe movie. Directed by Stephen Sommers, G.I. Joe will bring the line of G.I. Joe toys to life on the big screen.
“I think it’s going to be a lot of fun – G.I. Joe. I remember [them] since I was a kid. The character is going to be fun to do, it’s General Hawk, and he’s the leader of the Joe’s. I think he’s a cross between Chuck Yeager, Sgt. Rock, and maybe a naïve Hugh Hefner.”
“The prep for G.I. Joe is to get buff,” said Quaid about his process of getting into the General Hawk character. “That’s about it. Watch the cartoons and get buff. That’s about as deep as it gets.”
When asked about the film’s tone, Quaid replied, “For one thing my character, my aide de camp is a Victoria Secret supermodel – Karolina Kurkova. How serious can it be? I would guess the tone would be more like Transformers, this big action type movie. It’s a Spider-Man-type movie. That sort of tent pole, popcorn, action film. That’s what it’s going to be.”