We chat to Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana and Idris Elba about their down and dirty new action movie, The Losers
An explosive action tale of betrayal and revenge that comes to the big screen from the pages of the popular DC/Vertigo comic book series, The Losers centers around the members of an elite Special Forces unit sent to the Bolivian jungle on a search and destroy mission. But the team – Clay (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), Jensen (Chris Evans), Roque (Idris Elba), Pooch (Columbus Short) and Cougar (Oscar Jaenada) – soon find that they have become the target of a deadly double cross, instigated from the inside by a powerful enemy known only as Max (Jason Patric).
Making good use of the fact that they are now presumed dead, the group goes deep undercover in a dangerous plot to clear their names and even the score with Max. They are joined by the mysterious Aisha (Zoe Saldana), a beautiful operative with her own agenda. Working together, when they’re not arguing amongst themselves, they have to stay one step ahead of the globetrotting Max – a ruthless man bent on embroiling the world in a new high-tech global war. If they can take down Max and save the world at the same time, it’ll be a win-win for the team now known as The Losers.
We sat down with Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana, and Idris Elba at the Los Angeles press conference for The Losers. They talked to us about their characters, the challenges of shooting some very intense sequences in a very action-driven story, and the possibility of a sequel.
Zoe, what kind of training did you do to own the title ‘bad ass chick’? Do you think that she’ll definitely be conflicted all the way up until the end?
ZOE SALDANA The stunt coordinator that worked on The Losers was the stunt coordinator on Avatar so I’ve known Garrett Warren for 3 or 4 years. He trained me so he’s the one that has beaten me up and knows exactly what my body can do at times when I didn’t even know I could do it myself. By the time we got to Puerto Rico, we basically just changed a couple of things because I had to substitute the bow and the arrow for the guns and the knives and things like that. Throughout the entire summer while we were shooting, I was still training with Garrett, especially because we really wanted to get that fight scene to be amazing. Sylvain [director Sylvain White] wanted it to be violent but he always said to us, “While they’re beating the crap out of each other, they’re also getting to know each other. So, it’s sort of like a conversation, a very violent kind of conversation.” And Jeffrey and I really wanted to capture that. In terms of the conflict resolution, if there is going to be any between Aisha and Clay, I think at some point they’re going to have to have that dance. At least, that’s just me…
You tend to play really strong female characters. Have you ever thought of playing someone the complete opposite of this?
SALDANA Like the damsel in distress? Of course. You want to play great characters but right now I feel that Hollywood has made a living out of portraying women to be such canker sores. 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. It’s kind of like my mom.
For each of you, what was your most challenging scene? Was there anything that was tricky for you that you looked forward to or had a little trepidation before the scene?
MORGAN I think all the physical scenes, the big fight scenes in particular, the stuff with Zoe and the stuff with Idris. We spent a lot of time choreographing those fights. Invariably, they change on the day and it’s hard stuff. We didn’t have the luxury of spending a week doing a scene. The hotel scene we shot in a day and a half. The conclusion stuff with me and Idris we shot in a day and that fight got changed at the eleventh hour after we had choreographed something for two months in Puerto Rico and then we shot it in LA and it was a completely different fight than we had anticipated. So, that stuff was a big challenge. It’s hard getting up off the pavement 20 times and doing it again!
Idris, what made you want to make this film?
ELBA I didn’t have too much information on The Losers. I’d read the script. There was an original version of the script which was about 4 years old. I read that. There were different directors attached to it. When I read it the first time, I wasn’t even aware it was a graphic novel. Then when Sylvain and Joel ( producer Joel Silver) approached me on it, I did some homework. I did my research. So, it was very much surface research though. I read some of the novels and on the internet. I didn’t really check it out too much because the script was so full of them. It had lots of information. It was a good read. I just got into it that way.
Zoe, you’re riding high at the moment after the huge success of Star Trek and Avatar. How does it feel?
SALDANA I know that I don’t only speak for myself when I say that, as artists, you can only ask for one thing and it’s just to be able to pay the bills! When you get to do that, and also you’re recognized by amazing producers and directors for all the work that you put in. [And it’s great] to get to work with actors that challenge you every single day, because through love and respect we did get along. We would go at it on set when we did not agree with a certain beat of a scene, but it was always the most healthy, constructive thing and you learned so much. We’re in constant schooling, every film that we do. That’s actually meant to be purposeful for our careers.
We all imagine there’s going to be a sequel to Avatar so when James Cameron is ready to do that, will you have that down or are there different things you’ll want to do with that performance?
SALDANA Oh god, it’s whatever the boss says! He already knows how I like to approach [it].I need at least 6 to 7 months of training and stuff to get into Neytiri again and whatever’s going to happen is going to happen and the good thing that we all know about Jim is that — it’s not so good sometimes because we sometimes have to wait like 10 years for it but – by the time he does come around, he gives you something that sort of changes your life or at least touches it in such a way. So, I do know that ‘Avatar 2’ is going to be just as great as the first one because Jim’s the S-H-I-T!
Idris, how would you compare the emotional connection that you develop with a character like Roque that you played over a matter of months to a character like Stringer Bell that you played over a number of years?
ELBA It’s all in the writing or the words. The writers, the creators of The Wire — and rest in peace David Mills by the way who just passed – but the writing – and all my actors here will tell you – offered the actors choices. It is about the choices and the director helps you guide those choices into what the screenplay says. So, what James wants from this, you have choices as an actor to make and the director helps you guide those choices to what James wants. Jeffrey and I had a huge challenge to make our relationship believable so that when we do have that fight at the end, you’re seeing not only two men going at it that are professionals at what they do tactically, but two men that have been together as – not Brokeback [Mountain] but…!
MORGAN Much to my sadness.
ELBA And his friends and his comrades will die for each other and in that fight. So, it’s all about the words. I was very lucky to have a great scene to work with him in and, of course, Sylvain to subtly guide me and Jeffrey in that journey.
Zoe and Jeffrey, you always hear actors say that love scenes are not easy, so what was tougher – the love scene or fighting each other?
MORGAN The love scene, that was hard. I had a rough day that day. “I need another take! 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!
SALDANA It helps when you get along with the actors. 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! 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.
How are you going to market a film based on a graphic novel in today’s multi-platform arenas that we now have because it seems like it’s perfect for that?
ELBA The important thing is it’s a great movie that has a feel good factor that takes you back to some of the film’s that we’ve known from the 80s that encompassed action and charismatic characters like the Lethal Weapons and Die Hards. The stunts were larger than life. The characters were larger than life. But ultimately, everyone had a good time. It’s a popcorn film and you enjoy it. So, in terms of marketing, I think we look at the kids. We look at the adults. It’s almost like a family movie. It’s like a game in a movie form and everyone can enjoy it.
MORGAN First of all, we never went in thinking about the A Team at all. We’ll let them think about us!