Angel has Fallen comes out tomorrow. You can read my review here, but the short version is: it’s good. But it’s also a bit different from the previous two films. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing thanks to the addition of Nick Nolte as Mike Banning’s father Clay.
I spoke with director Ric Roman Waugh about his thoughts on the history and future of the …Has Fallen franchise:
This is the third entry in a series. I was curious what hallmarks of the franchise were important for you to uphold.
Gerard Butler and I have known each other for a while. He called me out of the blue and asked me to come in on this third installment of the Olympus has Fallen franchise. But he didn’t want to make a sequel, and I thought that was really interesting. He didn’t want to repeat what the first two movies did. He wanted a gear change and instead of them being plot-driven movies - the first movie is about the taking of the White House; London has Fallen is about the assassination of world leaders in London - this time it would be character-driven. It would be about the man Mike Banning himself.
There are new patterns, too. This is the first time we meet Mike Banning’s dad. And we take a man who has been a one-man-wrecking crew in the first two movies, and actually show that this time he’s a man in crisis. He’s addicted to the adrenalin rush, wants to continue his job as a secret service agent; it’s the only life he’s ever known. He’s much like a professional athlete. He’ll do everything he can to stay in the game, even sometimes to the detriment of his own body and health. We’re meeting a man who has always been about truth. Speaking it like it is. But this time, is he lying to himself?
So I thought it was a really interesting way to give a much more in-depth look at the man, but also create a new entry point for those who have never seen the first two movies.
Given all this change, was there any pressure from the studio to make this PG-13?
Never. It was always going to be rated-R. I don’t like the exploitation of violence, but you’ve seen my movies, obviously I don’t detract from it either. Mike Banning’s a man that knows violence, and has never been afraid of violence. It’s a tool; it’s nothing more. You just have to be honest and true to the dangers around the world, so for me the movie was always going to live in that scope. And the studio never thought differently.
Tell me a bit about casting the film. Almost the entire support cast acts as a red herring, which reminded me of the normally evil Cole Hauser ultimately being a good guy in Olympus has Fallen. Were any of these people cast with that sort of bait and switch in mind?
It wasn’t the way I cast it, but it was definitely in the script. And you have a movie where your hero is framed for something and you know he’s innocent, so you’re empathetic to his journey. For the first time we’re seeing Mike Banning on defense. You want to create a lot of twists and turns for a whodunnit. The audience can have fun through the movie trying to guess who the real perpetrators are. Maybe there are multiple people behind it.
As for the actors we cast, you just get this band of actors who are prolific in their own right and have been known to play good and bad, so that you kind of mirror how you want them to play, in that they could go any way.
Was Nick Nolte’s role as big as it was in the script or did you expand it while filming?
To be honest with you, I wish we had more with him. The size of the character was as written as far as how much screen time Clay Banning had. Nick Nolte was the only choice I had, so I was praying very hard that I would get him. You hope that people are going to have chemistry. You never know until they’re in a scene together in front of the cameras. The minute Nick and Gerard filmed, we knew it. We knew we had something with these two.
That’s the fun of this. You get the great experience of this new relationship you’ve never seen in the franchise before. It could be part of the pivot point of where the franchise could go from here.
Is everyone excited about making a fourth film?
You bring an ensemble like this together, it’s either going to go south or they’re all going to become family. And that’s what we did. We just got together for the world premiere in Los Angeles and it was like a family reunion. Everybody would love to come back in and have some fun again.
If we do, it’ll be a character-driven movie. I would love to see Mike Banning and his two fathers together in action. Between Morgan Freeman’s character and Nick Nolte, that’d be a lot of fun.