"“SWELTER is the story of the most notorious robbery in Las Vegas history. Five men, nicknamed the Rat Pack, hit the Luxor Casino for over one hundred million dollars. Four of the men are soon captured, while one barely escapes. Ten years later, after blasting their way out of a maximum-security prison, the four jailed members of the Rat Pack are hot on the trail of their former accomplice and the remaining ten million in stolen cash. The trail leads them to a dying desert town less than a hundred miles from the scene of the crime where they find their former partner is not the man he once was…he’s become a law-abiding sheriff without any memory of his past. The sheriff must now remember his violent history in order to protect all that he holds dear."
"Swelter” sounds more like a mix of genres than a straight action movie.
I enjoy all movies but I’m also a great fan of the old classic westerns, and even the ones directed by Clint Eastwood. But for modern audiences those films do move a little slow so you have to kind of update that. What we are trying to do with “Swelter” is give audiences something new, which is essentially a modern western but to have it move in a way that a modern audience stays with us. It’s an interesting journey from the script level all the way to directing. I set it in a small town, isolated, so that you can believe these gun fights can actually happen today. I’m very happy with the balance with achieved. Our lead actor said that the tight rope to walk on would be having you believe that two guys can actually face each other down in the street and waste gunpowder and I think we accomplished it. That’s what I feel most proud of. It’s kind of unique, kind of its own little subgenre.
Did “JCVD” have something to do with casting Jean-Claude Van Damme?
What happened is that he had read the script probably about a year and half ago, an early draft of “Swelter”, when it wasn’t ready to come together. A year or so later I was kind of going in a different direction for the two lead characters. I had heard of “JCVD” but had never watched it and actually my producer suggested it, so I did and I loved it. After seeing it I just thought Jean-Claude was perfect, not for the two leads but for my ‘Stillman’. My producer said “Do you think he will do it?” and I’m like “I have no idea”, because when he first read it he was thinking about the leads. So I contacted his agent and two or three weeks later we heard that he loved it. He wanted to show people that he’s a serious actor; that he can do what people don’t expect of him.
I started watching some of his other films -I haven’t seen many except for the classics- and I started noticing that he’s actually really good. I saw his two more recent movies I thought he really connected with his characters. When I saw “JCVD”, I just thought it was greatly done and he was brilliant in the movie, so I said “We have our ‘Stillman’!” and when he said “Yes” we were thrilled. We were much on the same page on the fact that this was not a Van Damme movie, that he was part of an ensemble cast. He said he was thrilled to be around these great actors like Alfred Molina, and he held his own. I was pretty excited to work with him, not because he’s “Jean-Claude Van Damme” but because what he was doing with the character. It was a wonderful experience seeing how thoughtful he was and what he brought to this character.
Can you assure fans that his role is relevant to the story and it won’t be just a cameo?
It’s not a cameo and I wouldn’t have done that. He’s an intrical part of this story. The reason why ‘Stillman’ is such an important character in the story and why finding the right actor to play it was crucial is because he is actually the heart and soul of what’s going on. I’m a great fan of supporting characters and I’m not overstating the importance of ‘Stillman’, when you see the movie you understand. Through his character you see the development of the story. He has this very important speech in front of ‘Cole’, our main bad guy, and it was beautifully delivered.
What’s next? Would you like to go bigger within this genre?
This one feels like a big movie thanks to what our creative team did without a lot of money. The plan is definitely to go bigger. I write several different genres and have different ideas. Jean-Claude has expressed interest in another script of mine, and is maybe what we go into next. We are talking about that now. As soon as I’m done with “Swelter”, in the next week or so, I will do another draft of that script. That would be a bigger project, an action movie. Jean-Claude would play a French detective and it would have a “Taken” vibe, with a Hitchcock twist. It will be action-driven but I always like to include some suspense. Working with Jean-Claude was a very good experience for me as far as exploring where he can go as an actor and this film, again, wouldn’t be a “Van Damme movie”. Now is tentatively named “Remember Paris”. That will be pretty deep, I kind of dig into my characters a lot in all of my movies. That’s what I like in movies like “Die Hard”. I have also considered -if Josh Henderson and Daniele are into it- doing a prequel to “Swelter”. That would be a smaller movie, showing what their characters, Boyd and Kane, were like before."
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