Arriving in theaters this weekend is the pulse-pounding and bone-crunching action/horror hybrid VFW, from director Joe Begos. The film pits a grizzled group of veterans against a ragtag horde of punks who have descended upon the veterans’ local watering hole, resulting in a fight to the bitter end. Written by Max Brallier and Matthew McArdle, VFW stars Stephen Lang, Martin Kove, William Sadler, Fred Williamson, George Wendt, Tom Williamson, Sierra McCormick, Travis Hammer, and Dora Madison.
Last year, Daily Dead had the opportunity to speak with both Joe Begos and Stephen Lang while at Fantastic Fest (you can read part one of our interview HERE), and the duo chatted about tackling the ambitious action sequences throughout VFW and the various challenges Begos faced while crafting his most ambitious feature to date.
Stephen, you're no stranger to the world of action, but there's the different physicality going on here that sets it apart from other things I’ve seen you in. So, how much fun was it to do these action scenes?
Stephen Lang: It was good, dirty fun. Look, you just gotta be prepared for anything. If there’s a sequence where we get guys coming in and I know I've got five guys to take out while moving into a certain direction, then I’ve got to do whatever I can to get this guy’s head over here, get this other guy to go this way, and when it all works out, it’s really good when that happens. Whatever else happens, well, it’s always good to have those happy accidents. I find this kind of work very satisfying, because in some ways, you have to be instinctual. Often times, you have to understand the moves that you're going to make, but then, you basically have to take a leap of faith by forgetting the moves and just be authentic and real in the moment.
If you believe that, you can feel it in your bones and you just go out there and do it. And it is fun because it's exciting and it's challenging and at the end of the day, you know you’ve done well if you can all walk away from those moments and no one has lost a limb.
Joe, you've done projects before that have had action moments in them, but this is on a completely different level. How different was it for you then going into VFW as a filmmaker? Did it challenge you in new ways?
Joe Begos: The films I did before helped immensely. So did working with Stephen. Having such a great physical actor on set who can nail things in long takes like that, it helped the other actors nail the things they needed to for their scenes. Plus, having experience with my effects team, we have a shorthand now, which really helped. But this had more action than I've ever had in my entire life in a script, with the most amount of actors ever on screen, with the most amount of effects, and my shortest shooting schedule on all of my movies. So the challenge was definitely trying to figure out a way to get it all done and focus on the important parts. I had to figure out, "What do we really need to showcase? What can we do that can be elicited in sound and with camerawork?" Certain actions needed their moments, certain things needed to be elevated moments and you just need to have the right concoction where you're going to hit those beats so that it's a constant escalation to the very end.
But at the same time, you can’t blow your wad too early and you also can’t make a movie like this where nothing happens till the end. So it's really like fucking conducting an orchestra, where you've got to hit all of those moments and really figure out what that escalation is going to be, and making sure you get it all right. And Stephen really helped with all of that.
Stephen Lang: The thing that is so interesting about being an orchestral leader is that, as the actor, we're dealing with it on a second by second basis. What do I need now? What do I need them to do? What do I need to? Do I need a drink? Do I need to sit down? Or do I need to kill that motherfucker? That's what acting really is; it’s the lacing together moment, moment, moment, moment, moment, moment. The big picture is something in our lives we only generally see retrospectively, but as a director, Joe was always looking at the big picture, which is the movie, in a different way than we were.
[Photo Credit: Above photo from Joe Begos on Twitter.]