Back in action
Director James McTeigu talks about working on Breaking In, his rapport with the cast, and how he is choosing projects now
Think of James McTeigue and the first thing that comes to mind is his debut film V for Vendetta (2005). The iconic movie in pop culture brought him a lot of fame and also pushed him to take on more revolutionary projects. After finding a good working relationship with the Wachowskis, he collaborated with them on movies like The Invasion, Ninja Assassin and the popular web series Sense8. His recent release is Breaking In, a film about a mother trying to rescue her children who are held hostage inside a house designed with impenetrable security.
Gabrielle Union plays the protagonist. “Gabriella is good to direct. I mean she has done many movies; she is young and very collaborative, which I really like. You tell her a concept and she agrees to it. She doesn’t even need a lot of takes, and does what the director wants,” says James about his equation with the actress. “She is quite a well-known actress, one of the top talents. It was a lot of fun to work with her and she was up for doing the work, up for doing the action and she truly responded as how a mother bear would respond to her cubs,” he adds.
The actress was lauded for her intense action scenes. The filmmaker points out how the movie’s storyboard only had action sequences. “We had one fighting a tornado and another fighting scene later in the film. We went to DT Harvard and put the real action into it. Actors are trained to do these stunts, so we can use them for it as much as possible,” he says, as he recalls some of his favourite scenes. “I have a lot of memories with this movie. But the scene that I love is the one that happens on the roof. The big watch was surrounded by a green screen and initially, we had to harness the actors and tie them to the roof but they were all okay to be working the whole night,” says McTeigue.
Since he made his directorial début with a movie that went on to become iconic in pop culture, does he feel the pressure to work on films with that kind of a larger-than-life appeal? “I don’t think so. What I look for is working on something that interests me. The process of making a film or series is a long process, so you want something that you can go back to and hope that it has some cultural interests. I’ve worked on Matrix, Star Wars, V for Vendetta and a series on Netflix called Sense8, they’ve all had some culture impact. I think that’s the most you can hope for, that you can get some success as well,” he says, adding, “I just finished doing Sense8 for Netflix. I knew there was another project in the middle of finishing off called Masaya, so Breaking In was something I’d be interested in and it came to me at the right time. Since a very long time, I wanted to work with the writer Ryan Engle. I was also working with Will Packer, James Lopez and Craig Perry, who are the producers and who I’d known over the years. And Gabrielle, we were like that package who come together to sync to fit in with what I was doing. I wanted to make a contained action, part psychological thriller and I liked the twist the film had. Normally, you would have people trying to create a panic room kind of a situation like David Fincher’s Panic Room. But the fact that the children were kept in the house, she had to do everything in her power to get them out.”
While the critical thinker dealt with concept of oppression and freedom in his debut, in this film he “wanted to highlight the importance of a strong female and her calcium to tackle such a situation and knowing how to face the difficulties and get out of it.”
With a varied profile of work already, featuring various genres and formats, the filmmaker says that there are many choices for his next but he tends to pick a project according to “the material plus the people you get to work with.”
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Watch the Indian television premiere of Breaking In on July 21, 1 pm, on Sony PIX