Interview: Tripp Vinson Talks 'Red Dawn,' Written by: Karen Benardello
Modernizing a cult classic film from the 1980s that launched the careers of several respected actors with impressive stunts interlaced with emotionally developed characters is a challenge for many directors, particularly for a first-time director. But helmer Dan Bradley, who served as a stunt coordinator on such action series as the ‘Bourne’ franchise and Sam Raimi’s ‘Spider-Man’ trilogy, and was a second unit director on such films as ‘Quantum of Solace’ and ‘Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol,’ easily sustained reality in the new remake of ‘Red Dawn,’ which marked his feature film directorial debut. Being able to create completely unique action sequences and the disillusion of the family structure in the film on a limited budget was something producer Tripp Vinson looked for while searching for a director for the film, which helped solidified Bradley’s hiring.
‘Red Dawn’ follows Jed Eckert (played by Chris Hemsworth) upon returning home to Spokane, Washington on a leave from the Marines, as he reunites with his younger brother, Matt (portrayed by Josh Peck), and their father, Tom (played by Brett Cullen). Since Matt would rather spend time with his girlfriend, Erica (portrayed by Isabel Lucas), then with Jed, as he still blames his older brother for leaving him after their mother died, Jed reunites with an old childhood friend, Toni (played by Adrianne Palicki). But the group quickly learns to bonds when the U.S. is invaded by North Korea. Without warning, the city finds itself prisoner under enemy occupation.
Jed then takes on the leadership role with Matt, Erica, Toni and several of their other friends, including tech geek Robert (portrayed by Josh Hutcherson); Daryl (played by Connor Cruise), the son of Spokane’s Mayor and Robert’s best friend; and Danny (portrayed by Edwin Hodge), Matt’s best friend and the star receiver of the high school football team. Taking inspiration from their high school mascot, the group calls themselves the Wolverines, and band together to protect each other, liberate their town from its captors and take back their freedom. Along the way, the Wolverines are helped by Col. Andy Tanner (played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and his men, who are just as determined to save America.
Vinson sat down during a roundtable interview in New York City’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel recently to discuss the filming of ‘Red Dawn.’ Among other things, Vinson discussed what the casting process for the main characters was like; what he and the other producers had to do in order to distribute the film after its production company, MGM, went into bankruptcy in 2010; and why the filmmakers chose to change the country that invaded America from China to North Korea during post-production.
Question (Q): You have an impressive resume. Why do you choose to produce action films-what’s the attraction? Is it for the money?
Tripp Vinson (TV): Well, it’s not about the money. Doing an action movie, in my opinion, is the most complex movie to make. There are so many different elements that go into making one, and making it well.
It’s also my taste, the things I respond to as a movie fan are usually in the action genre. It’s just a personal taste. But I love the challenge of making these movies.
Q: Why did you decide to feature North Korea as the enemy? They’re not the most belligerent country in the world to other countries.
TV: They’re not the most belligerent? I’m not sure South Korea and Japan would agree with that.
There were some changes that were made to the movie. We looked at who could ultimately invade the United States, and it’s a tough thing to come across these days. We’re not in the Cold War era.
So what we ultimately decided to do was create a fictional timeline of things that haven’t happened, but could. Some of those things did end up happening-Kim Jong-il died, and that’s in the opening sequence credits of this movie. There are other things that we allude to that set the world in a pretty dark and scary place. These things help set the stage and gets the audience ready for something like an invasion of the United States. At the end of the day, though, the movie has to be taken as a bit of a fantasy.
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