Ethan Hawke is not known as an action hero. But then, neither was Liam Neeson before Taken.
Hawke has done exciting movies like Training Day, The Purge and In a Valley of Violence, but he’s better known as the intellectual lover in Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight.
In his new movie, 24 Hours to Live, director Brian Smrz said Hawke is really the one you see fighting bad guys and crashing cars.
“For the most part, he wanted to do as much as he could,” Smrz said in a phone interview. “But he’s also smart enough to know that certain times we’d put someone in.”
Sometimes there’s a little movie magic, where you can still see Hawke behind the wheel, but a hidden driver actually has control.
“Just because when he’s got to concentrate on driving and acting, sometimes we had a guy driving on the roof,” Smrz said. “We’d use whatever tools we can but he definitely was keen to do as much as he could.”
Hawke plays a hitman killed in action, but brought back to life for 24 hours to finish the job. Aside from the resurrection, Hawke’s character doesn’t have super powers so it was mostly action he could perform.
“He did everything at the end,” Smrz said. “There’s nothing super over the top that his character does so he did most of it.”
“The car stuff’s the most time consuming thing there is,” Smrz said. “You’ve got to close the roads. We could only work on weekends because of the roads. There’s lots of different factors that go into making it.”
All in all, the car chases in 24 Hours to Live took six days out of a 42 day schedule. That’s not long compared to a Fast and the Furious movie, but Smrz got the shots he needed.
“I had half a day just to do the two guys getting hit by the car because that’s a couple layers there: stunt guys, dummies, visual effects, wirework,” Smrz said. “It’s a lot of different things to make that work.”
A big crash scene also utilizes movie magic. It is a real crash, but the building the car crashes into does not actually exist.
“There was no location of course that’s going to let me drive into a high rise fancy building,” Smrz said. “So that building is computer generated. We just had a green screen at the end.”
The visual effect is combined with the real crash.
“We did crash for real into a real building but it was an old decrepit tear down building that we just did” Smrz said. “You use the tools to make things work.”
Given the time and budget constrains, Smrz has a lot to be proud of. His only regrets is he wishes he could have staged longer takes of action.
“I had plans to do much longer takes in certain sequences that didn’t exactly work out for various reasons,” Smrz said. “I would’ve liked to create even longer takes to make you believe it more.”
24 Hours to Live is now in theaters and on VOD. Read our review here.