Sylvain White's adaptation of the acclaimed graphic novel series The Losers opens nationwide in theaters today. The film stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana, Idris Elba, Chris Evans, Columbus Short, and Jason Patric, and it's a spectacular, surprisingly effective combination of buddy-flick conventions, mission movie formulas, '80s action clichés and thoroughly modern set pieces. Cinematical caught up with the cast and crew of The Losers in the weeks leading up to its release, and compiled the seven of most important – or maybe just interesting - things to know about the making of the film as you go to see it.
Sylvain White is a comic book fan, and used the source material to flesh out his filmed version.
"I think for me, as a filmmaker and a graphic novel fan since I've been a kid, it's an absolute delight to be here among my peers and present what I've done with a graphic novel that's so cool like The Losers and that's so original in tone," White said. "There's two things that I really focused on that I knew worked extremely well in the graphic novel. The first thing is the tone. The graphic novel has a unique tone combining really gritty visceral action with a really strong humoristic tone. The characters are really fun to navigate the action with so that's the first thing. The second thing is aesthetically, the graphic novel is amazing and I really wanted to reflect that in the movie. You can't necessarily replicate frames out of the graphic novel. I don't think that helps anybody, but there are certain things that I talked about in terms of the use of colors and the graphic design of the novel that I really wanted to translate into the movie so that you have a comic book aesthetic but it doesn't hit you over the head with it. It's subtle and it eases you into that world."
Jeffrey Dean Morgan found playing The Losers' Clay less challenging than taking on Comedian in Watchmen.
Comparing his work in this film to Watchmen, Morgan said, "I think that was so kind of iconic. That needed to be exactly so close to the comic book or people would've ripped us a new one. This, this is a great foundation to use. For Sylvain it was invaluable. For us as characters, invaluable. It gives you a really great place to start and jump off. Jock and Andy did such a good job kind of defining these characters. Then Sylvain kind of allowed us as actors to take what we gathered out of those graphic novels and bring to life what we kind of thought of those particular characters and their relationships. So we got to play around a little bit more than I did in Watchmen."
Although Aisha is thankfully atypical of some of the portrayals of middle-eastern characters we've seen, Zoe Saldana says she didn't focus on her character's ethnicity when developing her.
"I don't focus on the representation," Saldana said. "I think I just focus on the character, so I'm playing a woman that has issues just like any individual would. If I was a comedian and I just tried to play a comedy, then I'm not going to be a storyteller. Then I think that happens after. After you've laid everything and you've imprinted that on film, then you walk away going, okay, that really represented something powerful - I kind of hope it's seen. But I couldn't focus only on that because I had to be Aisha."
Sylvain White added, "I'll say a lot of the light political commentary and tone that the graphic novel has, and some of the conspiracy theories and that kind of things, we touch upon that very much but it's done in a very light, subtle way so it's always kind of winking at those things. That's what the movie does really well. It winks at the throwbacks of those fun movies from the '80s, but you laugh with it. You have fun with it. It's very postmodern that way."
Morgan and Saldana share both fight scenes and love scenes. They agreed that squaring off against one another was much tougher than smooching.
Morgan jokes, "The love scene, that was hard. I had a rough day that day. 'I need another take!' (laughs) 'Just one more. Sylvain, c'mon! I don't feel like she flipped her hair right on that one.' Technically, the fight was much harder. Zoe and I, the whole cast, were very comfortable around each other from day one. So, the challenging part, that fight was a huge challenge for both of us, physically and in trying also to get the tone of what we needed to accomplish in that scene, which I think we did. Yeah, the love scene, man, bring that on! I had Zoe Saldana sitting on my lap naked. Yeah, rough (laughs).
"It helps when you get along with the actors," Saldana acknowledged. "It helps that Jeffrey was such a gentleman and so respectful because trust me, as a woman, try doing that with a frickin' prick. Been there, it's not a good day at work. You're the only one that's naked and you have to act like you're not aware that you're naked. And then, not only that, you have to flip your hair and have an orgasm (laughs). So, when you work with a good director and a good actor that makes it seem just like a regular Tuesday, then love scenes are like any other fight scene. They're just awesome.
Notwithstanding her sexy scene with Morgan, Saldana says she knew she needed to sack up to spend so much time around this otherwise all-male ensemble.
When you're the only girl in a cast, I almost feel like you have twice as much work to do because you don't want to be singled out," Saldana observed. "You're already the only girl. So if you're the one that says 'I can't do this,' or whatever, it's going to be 'Oh my gosh, she's wimping out because she's a girl.' So, I toughed it out. I really wanted to impress the guys. I like being around men. I've always felt like I can hold my own. Jeffrey was absolutely amazing in the fight scene. There were a couple of moments there where I would have to immediately look at him and say 'Oh my god! Did I really hit you hard on your head?' Or he would look at me and say, 'Did I slam you really hard?' and I'd just be like 'Ugh! Uh huh!' But, it was fun. I liked it.
In terms of how Saldana has seemed to find one strong female character after another, she explained that it's simply the right time for her to be tough on screen. "You want to play great characters but right now I feel that Hollywood has made a living out of portraying women to be such cankersores," she explained. "We just have to be rescued all the time because we're so incompetent, when in reality sometimes art needs to reflect what's going on in real life. In today's society, especially in American society, women are doing so much. I'm from Queens. I'm not from that era where if I was baking cookies, I'd do it. I think that's great, whatever. But I grew up in Queens in the 80s where women were the caretakers and they were the soldiers. I'm in that phase right now so until I burn that, then I'll be the damsel in distress. But, right now, I like holding the gun. I like participating in the saving of the day. I think it's really sexy."
For Columbus Short, co-starring in The Losers gave him a chance to create his own comic book hero.
"One of the real reasons I wanted to do this movie is because as an actor, you want to do things that are grounded in some sense of reality," Short said. "This is one of the graphic novels that I think in the last five years that's one of the best ones I've ever read, and it's grounded in the sense of reality. These guys aren't fantastical. They're not in tights. They're not flying and don't have super powers, but they're antiheroes. They're real guys. That's something I like to do and Sylvain is amazing at grounding material like this. So it helped in our performance having some freedom, some liberties because it's not Captain America or Superman where we know what Superman is. We know what Batman is. We know how Bruce Wayne is. We had some liberal ability to change up our characters and give our own take on it which comes across great on screen with the chemistry with us because we're all close to our characters in this film I think in a real way.
Morgan picked up an unexpected souvenir while on set in Puerto Rico.
"I adopted a little pup there that wandered out of the jungle of Puerto Rico and promptly was hit by a car," he revealed. "We all took care of him for a while, but he is with me. I've got a little piece of The Losers in Puerto Rico with me at all times now.[His name is] Bandit or Bandito. It was Bandido in Puerto Rico but now I've shortened it to Bandit because I'm screaming at him all the time."
Saldana described the dog, saying, "he has one blue eye and one brown eye. He was really shy at first. He had a little broken leg when he came back from the hospital and he would just come and he would bring him to the trailer and everybody – the crew, everybody would just come and go see Bandito in Jeffrey's trailer. By the end of the summer, Bandito was like this wolf-like [deep barking voice] 'woof, woof, woof, woof' and running on set like 'I'm rich, bitch!' So Bandito knew that he won the lottery. Trust me."