Casting the perfect Family Dynamic: A Conversation with Drew and John Erick Dowdle
NO ESCAPE features an acclaimed cast including; Owen Wilson (Midnight In Paris, Wedding Crashers) as American businessman Jack Dwyer; Pierce Brosnan (Die Another Die, Golden Eye) as British expatriate, Hammond; Lake Bell (Man Up, In A World…) as Jack’s wife, Annie Dwyer; Sterling Jerins as their eldest daughter, Lucy Dwyer; and Claire Geare as their youngest daughter, Beeze Dwyer.
Jack (Wilson) is a man desperate to protect his family in this intense, fast-paced, action-thriller.
As he relocates his family to Asia, with wife Annie (Bell) and their two young girls, Jack has no idea of the terror that lies in store. Within days of their arrival a violent uprising has swept through the city and the family are on the run desperately searching for safety. With seasoned expat Hammond (Brosnan) as their only ally, time is against Jack and his family as they are caught in the middle of a nation at war, with their courage put to the ultimate test.
The Fan Carpet’s Marc Jason Ali spoke to Brother duo John and Drew Dowdle about No Escape, they tell us about how they got into the industry, the inspiration behind the film and the casting…
Let’s go back to the beginning, was there a defining moment for you both to get into the film industry?
John: Oh yeah, gosh that’s interesting, I would say for me, I mean Drew and me have always written together, we imagined ourselves doing something creative together, but I had a film class in my sophomore year of college and my uncle recommended like ’hey you should take a film class, they are really interesting, it’s a really different way to see movies’ and I went in and I saw film after film after film that just blew my mind and I thought ‘oh my god I had no idea that film could be used in so many ways’. And I think for me that year really influenced me, then I transferred to Yale, go to film school. That for me was really the moment.
Drew: Yeah then I joined John several years later we decided, I was living in New York at the time John was living in LA, and we decided to make a really small film that we could create the money for ourselves, that John had written and I would produce just make it just really small film, nothing would hold us up, made this little 40,000 dollar movie.
Then we had two years in post-production, I moved to LA during post then we finally got it into a film festival and we won a couple of awards, like just enough for us to get on to our second film, we signed with an agency and that really kind of opened the doors we needed to move into real bigger films.
You’re brothers, how is that dynamic when crafting a film like No Escape?
John: I think the important thing for us is to work to our strengths. It’s helpful to have a second pair of eyes when making a film to pull it back if it’s too much.
We sort of help egg each other on, I find that really helpful, a really nice thing.
Drew: Yeah real different with John directing and I produce, there’s a very clear line where John has a really good sense of producing and I have a good sense of directing and we’re able to consult each other as a partner you know, it makes our decisions feel more sound whether they are or not (laughs) that’s anybody’s guess, but at least still.
You’re known for horror films Quarantine, As Above, So Below and Devil, how was it to get out of your comfort zone so to speak for No Escape?
John: It was great, really great. We wrote the first draft before doing Devil and As Above, So Below, so it’s one that we really wanted to make.
It’s not a huge turn, it’s not like doing a musical comedy or something that dramatically different, we got plenty of tension, plenty of suspense.
A lot of the skills we got to hone from the horror genre are very applicable to that, though this film has a lot more drama know, I found it really fun to spend more time with the drama and characters instead of spending so much time just trying to built scares it was a really nice change of pace.
Drew: This one I think with our horror background, this one we had been living with for 7 years, this one was completely original you know Quarantine was a remake and Devil was something we collaborated with M Night Shyamalan, so we jumped on it and we got the budget very quickly.
It all felt like more of collaboration. First draft was written in 2007 or 8, we almost made it 4 times before.
You said the film sat with you for 7 years, where did the inspiration first come from for No Escape?
John: My father and I used to travel through South East Asia and right before we left there was a coup in Thailand and the Generals took over the country and got rid of the Prime Minister and we set off like two days after that into Thailand and it had this like heightened military presence and government rule and that just got me thinking this is ok being here right after a peaceful coup but what if it wasn’t, what if it went badly and right as it was happening if you had kids.
That was the germ of the idea and as soon as I got back to the States, Drew and I just started hammering it out.
Drew: It turned out great too, the first initial idea; you know in 2008 the Arab Spring and then there was the attack on the Taj Mahal and then the hotel in Mumbai, it was all these world events, after the first draft of the script, which here so similar to this and the draft didn’t change all that much based on the events, but we did look at a lot of details we would incorporate, the initial draft tried harder to convince the world that this was possible, whereas after 2008 we understood that this was possible more.
Casting Owen Wilson is an inspired choice, he’s known more for comedy, what made him the right choice for Jack?
John: Thank you first, we really loved the idea of somebody like us or one of our friends, you know, what would a normal guy do in these circumstances versus what would a like an action hero you know from a bunch of other action movies, we wanted somebody who seemed like ‘I don’t know if he gets out of this’ first of all a few scenes that seems like he’s a great father, nice warm father and secondly wouldn’t it be shocking to see him beat someone to death with a lamp.
That’s the sort of person we wanted for the role, and Owen checked all the boxes for us.
The chemistry between Lake Bell and Owen Wilson is amazing, very believable, was that an important thing for you to get right?
John: Oh absolutely, we knew if our family didn’t feel like a real family the whole movie fell apart, I think that you know part of the reason we had hard time getting financed you know people are scared of having two little kids in the movie and what if the kids are not good actors and family doesn’t feel like a real family or you know. People are nervous about that and we were too, thankfully you know Lake Bell showed up and she sort of just adopted the little girls just put them on her lap calling them her ‘little chickies’ she brought a cohesiveness to that family unit.
Drew: Lake Bell is primarily known for comedy and putting her in a really heightened state and panic and was alarmed and we like that similarity to Owen in that regard.
I’m always fascinated by writing and directing duos, did it turn out the way you wanted it to when you wrote it?
John: Frankly it turned out much better. You know when we first wrote it from a directing standpoint we were worried like ‘what if the performances aren’t amazing’ but the calibre of the people who came into this from an acting standpoint we were so blown away with all the actors, everyone of them elevated the script and everything much higher that I would have ever guessed.
Léo Hinstin, our cinematographer brought so much to the table, Elliot Greenberg our editor he helped craft some of our slow motion and the faster motion and Elliot our editor came up with scoring a number of action scenes like dramatic moments, and he was the first one to come up with the idea of bringing them in with the score. There’s all these things that were thought of by other people frankly and really helped elevate the movie way beyond what we would have guessed.
Also obviously having a former Bond in the mix was also pretty cool…
John: Oh my god yes that was one of the things, sitting there talking to Pierce Brosnan thinking ‘oh my god it’s Pierce Brosnan’, those were great moments of life.
My final question, what’s next for you both?
Drew: We have a few things that we can’t really announce right now, we have a feature called Six Minutes to Freedom about a prisoner in Panama in the Noriega regime by the name of Kurt Muse, a really fascinating story, we’re working on that and we have two new projects which are very close to going out to networks, so we have two or three things, we’re not sure what will be next.
No Escape is available on Blu-ray and DVD on 11th January 2016, courtesy of Entertainment One