The clock runs out this Friday once Saban Films releases the tension-fueled action thriller Final Score in theaters and on VOD and various digital platforms. Directed by Scott Mann, Dave Bautista stars as a US veteran named Mike Knox, who takes his niece to a football (for those of us here in the States, we’re talking soccer here) match in the UK, and ends up stumbling upon a terrorist scenario that involves taking all 35,000 fans inside the stadium hostage. Mike takes it upon himself to thwart this potentially catastrophic event, but with the clock winding down, he faces insurmountable odds as he tries to pull off the impossible.
Daily Dead recently chatted with Mann about Final Score, and he talked about his involvement with the project, how he managed to pull off shooting his wildly entertaining actioner inside a real football stadium, collaborating with his cast, and why Bautista was the perfect anchor for Final Score.
Great to speak with you, Scott. Final Score was a lot of fun and I had a blast with it. I would love to hear about how this project came together. Did the script come to you, or vice versa, and was there something in particular about it that just stood out to you, where it felt like it was a perfect fit for you as a director?
Scott Mann: It was a bit of all those things combined. I knew the producers from my previous film, and they introduced me to another producer from the UK who was a longtime West Ham supporter, who basically had come up with this wacky idea that when the stadium was closed down and going to be demolished for real, maybe we could make a film in there before it went away forever. They had gone about writing a script and getting some ideas together and they presented me with a first draft.
So, I read it and I was just surprised at how much originality and freshness there was in it and how it kind of dared to go to places that a lot of movies tend not to go. Also, the idea of doing a British action movie to me was very exciting and I think the thing that got me was the scene where the guys are being held hostage and they have to read these demands on the television. The typical way that scene would play out in a movie is that they let the guys go and that's it, but the fact that they try to shoot them in the head and kill these TV personalities made me giggle in a kind of naughty way. I loved it.
The guys that wrote that co-wrote that script, the Brothers Lynch, did an incredible job. We hit the ground running from there. I got involved and we did rewrites, and we designed everything around the stadium and the assets that we had. It was a very intense period of development, staging and placing it all together. It was really a crazy time, but a very enjoyable time. These stresses that it kind of puts you through, there's a kind of enjoyment to it, because there's satisfaction on the other end of the process. This was definitely the craziest filmmaking experience I've ever had, but we had a lot of fun making it, so it was all definitely worth it.
Well, you just touched on it, but I had planned on asking about how you guys managed to pull off filming this inside a stadium, because it adds so much to the film. So, they just gave you the run of the place then?
Scott Mann: They did. Basically, it was all thanks to [producer] Marc Goldberg, who's a lifelong West Ham supporter, and he wanted to make a love letter to a stadium that was about to be demolished. The stadium had been sold off, the club was going to a new stadium, and in the interim, the stadium was left empty for several weeks and in that several weeks, Mark was like, “What if I brought some guys in here and we shot a movie and we were able to capture it all in one film?”
So, yeah, it was very unique to be able to film in a stadium like this, because historically, shooting something like this is very difficult because you're dealing with thousands of people in a fish bowl and you're dealing with somewhere that's hard to access, too. The ground on this type of a typical stadium, usually you're not allowed to touch it because it's sacred land. So being able to do what we wanted was a very unique ingredient to Final Score.
I've been a big fan of Dave's career, and I think he has made some interesting choices as an actor over the years. Can you talk about working with him on Final Score, and making him this anchor for everything that's happening in the film?
Scott Mann: It was interesting, because like you said, Dave is such an interesting guy and he does make really daring choices. He's courageous not only in his career, but in himself and everything that he's got going on now. He really strives to do well, and I think that he's a disciplined guy. That's part of what has made him who he is. I had done a film with Dave already and I saw that there was a lot more untapped potential in him, and so when the opportunity to do something like this [came up], I knew that he was keen to do something like this. I knew that it was in his territory, but we wanted to make it a real character as well. We wanted to give him something real to dig into.
What's interesting to me is that I think the best action films always explore a human element, a human condition that climatically ties everything around those themes of sacrifice and love and grief. As you said, he’s the anchor point to all these stories that wrap around those themes, and Dave’s instinct was to make him human, but let him be a player in this slightly absurd world, too. At the end of the day, he's still got to be human, though. You've got to feel for him, you've got to care, and you've got to root for him, and Dave played that really well. It was a great experience building this character with him.
You’ve also got actors like Pierce Brosnan and Ray Stevenson in this, but I also thought both Lara [Peake] and Amit [Shah] really get a chance to shine as well. Was it difficult to balance out these different character beats, but still keep the action propelling the story forward at the same time?
Scott Mann: That was the hardest challenge in many ways, because we had to balance out the tapestry of all of these characters into this big, broad action story. It's difficult, because there’s a fine line; if you get too heavy, it can pull the energy down, and if you go too light, it’s easy to fall out of the story if you don’t have characters you want to invest in.
It just comes down to casting the right people. With Lara in particular, we did character tests where Dave and I did read-throughs with her, and I was blown away by everything about Lara. We read the rooftop exchange scene, which is this moment that becomes the heart of her story and she just gave this incredible read. She's full of honesty and rawness and it was really interesting to marry that against Dave’s character. And with Amit, he brought this comedy edge to the film that really keeps things fun for viewers. So, when you bring those three performances together, it was tricky to find a balance, but they all played against each other beautifully.
We were so fortunate to get such a strong supporting cast for Final Score, and they really bring this story to life. They're the heart and the humor of the film. I think that's worth so much and they were so fun to work with as well. Just as human beings, they're such nice people and we had a blast on set.