Co-writer-director John Erik Dowdle’s NO ESCAPE tells the harrowing tale of one family’s quest to escape a Southeastern Asian country during a political upheaval. Almost immediately after settling into their new home, John and Annie Dwyer (Owen Wilson and Lake Bell) must weather treacherous attacks in order to get their two young daughters to safety. Helping aide in their safe passage is experienced badass Hammond (Pierce Brosnan). It’s a superbly intense, unrelenting and well-crafted action-thriller.
At the film’s recent Los Angeles, Wilson, Bell and the Brothers Dowdle candidly spoke about the almost literal blood, sweat and tears that went into the making of their passion project. And the stories they told could form the basis for another intense movie – this time a documentary about the fickle nature of the beast that is independent film production.
6. Financing fell through four times. NO ESCAPE was written eight years ago and in that time, it’s had its share of ups and downs. Co-writer Drew Dowdle says, “We had a moment two years ago, the night before leaving for Thailand on a previous version of this, the financing imploded 14 hours before our flight.” John elucidates, “This fell apart four times before it finally got made. We like to say it’s that crazy girlfriend you keep going back to. She just breaks your heart over and over again.” Finally getting there reinvigorated their passion for getting the story made. Drew says, “For a project that was cursed for so long and had such bad luck, the moment we greenlit the movie, everything drove in our favor. Once we started making it, every time we’d have a set back, it would somehow turn into an improvement.”
5. A bidding war ignited after two scenes were shown to distributors. John states, “We weren’t even selling the movie yet and had like five minutes on our laptop. Harvey [Weinstein] saw it and all of a sudden there’s a bidding war. We weren’t even there.” Drew adds, “We were in editorial when we got the call. It was two scenes. There was an extended scene from the rooftop when they enter through the throes. There was a Pierce scene too. It was about 11 minutes that started it.”
4. The script would morph when specific actors signed on. Each of the cast members has a certain style to their characters; comedic star Wilson brings levity to his role. Action super star Brosnan brings his survivalist skills and indie darling Bell brings a fully realized strong character to life. John answers, “Pierce – there’s a couple lines early on that are kinda edgy. We kept being told the whole audience is gonna turn on him when we meet him in the airport because he’s saying these horrible things. We were getting pushed to remove those, but once we were able to talk Pierce into it, we were like, ‘Pierce can say anything. You just love him!’ He could be a dirty dog and you don’t care. Owen and Lake are just so natural, they really brought a lot to it.” Drew fills in, “They are such smart writers that there’s a couple small moments in the movie – when we were shooting – they were like, ‘I just don’t totally believe this for my character,’ and we re-worked a few lines. It’s helpful having actors who are such intelligent writers.”
3. Performing in movie rain isn’t easy. Bell elaborates, “It was at the end of our experience. It was really challenging. It was really cold and it wasn’t clear where the water was coming from, which was the constant…it’s all in my eyes. There’s a lot of unidentifiable mud-like brown stuff in and around that whole sequence. It didn’t smell great – especially when we’re crawling under a shack. That exists as someone’s deep rooted shack with all kinds of surprises – creepy crawly surprises. Owen and I kept looking at the girls. If they aren’t complaining, you’re not allowed to.”
2. There was an increased amount of stunt work. From the pursuit in the hotel forward, it’s fairly noticeable that stunts involving Wilson and Bell also entails them shouldering extra weight when performing. Wilson says, “You’re getting a lot more cardio on an action film than a comedy. It’s closer to sports. When you’ve gotta pick up one kid and take them over there, you try to get your intensity up. One of the little girls, her stunt double was just more dense – heavier or so. When one of them would have to go to school and ‘Okay we’re gonna use the stunt doubles,’ it was like [feigns exhaustion], ‘Ahhh…Okay.’”
1. Lake Bell injured herself during filming. She says, “I threw my back out the second day of shooting. I didn’t work out for this movie. I was like, ‘She’ll be like real people. She won’t look like action stars.’ Low and behold, I was carrying Sterling [Jerins] – she’s leggy and quite heavy. I was carrying her and under these extreme circumstances with that scene on the roof, before we do the jump, there’s a helicopter careening into the side of the building and we have to run to safety. I’m jumping over pipes while holding Sterling and ducking under a safe haven and that’s when I pulled my back out. In hindsight, I probably should have prepared a little more.”
NO ESCAPE opens on August 26. Check out our review here.