Gareth Evans is a Welsh born film writer and director best known for his film Merantu which follows a young Indonesian martial arts expert, played by Iko Uwais, leave his village and head for Jakarta, where he ends up an orphaned girl and her younger brother with his fighting skills. Back with another Indonesia based crime thriller, The Raid also stars Iko as a one man fighting machine, as he and a SWAT team become trapped in a tenement building that has become a haven for a notorious drug lord and his gang.
Talking to View’s Matthew Turner about their time on the set, Gareth and Iko spoke about just how dangerous the film was to make, why sometimes acting out a fight just isn’t enough, and the possibility of throwing people out of car windows in the sequel.
Could you tell us a little about the challenges that the shoot posed, both on a technical level and on a physical level – were there many injuries on set?
The one thing with shooting the action scenes was we wanted to make sure you could see the detail. When shooting in the corridors and things, we needed to use a camera that was wide enough for you to take everything in. Spatial awareness was needed too, because the geography of the place was super important. So one of the things we did, which was a bit of a cheat, was that when we needed to move the cameras to be wide enough to see the action, we’d shift the choreography to be near one of the doorways, so that as the camera is coming round we could have an art guy ready to open the doors and back round the corner into them, just so that we could come that little step further in, just to widen the shot.
In pre-production, we did an audition for most of the fighters, and one of the guys - his name is Godfred, with the machete and the kind of bug eyes - he’s actually an architect, so he cuts people in his spare time and designs buildings in his work time! He’s a really nice but he’s the one guy we auditioned who had this kind of fearless quality to him. Everyone else came in to audition, they’d treat [me] like the guy they couldn’t hurt, and mustn’t injure during pre-production, whereas Godfred just came in and kind of swung for real, coming in very hard and fast with each hit.
So when it came to a bit where they had to throw [me] over their shoulder, I landed funny on [my] leg, and [my] kneecap went. Usually in a film, if you’re doing a throw like that, you control the throw and let go so that the person falling has control of the fall. What Godfred did was basically to throw [me] over, but treat it like a real fight – it was a full, aggressive movement. We were definitely going to cast him!
After hurting his knee he had to rest for like three or four weeks, for the first week he couldn’t stand on it, it was just a mess. He also had chicken pox, this all happened like a month before the shoot. We were planning to shoot the training scene on the first day, where he has his shirt off, but he just looked like fucking bubblewrap! So we had to do that later in the shoot. With the knee, it got better and we did the fight scene in the corridor with the stick and knife. He had to turn, but his boot got stuck in the floor and he wrenched his knee, and was out again. There was one guy swinging a machete at him, and he has to shield with his arm. It wasn’t a real machete, but was made of metal and it kept hitting it on his forearm. You can still see the bruise - it’s been there since May!
The guy who got stabbed in the face …
Oh yeah, what happened was that he gets his head pulled forward and the knife goes into his throat, with the camera position and the blocking, it works. Instead of his head coming straight down, it went to the side, right into the path of the knife. It was just a soft wooden knife but if it was just one inch higher it would have gone straight through his eye. It pierced the skin and Iko could feel it hit cheekbone. We put a plaster on it and a cup of tea and he was fine. The worst injury we had was the guy who breaks his back over the wall. The way we did that was to chop it together in post.
That wasn’t a dummy?
Nope, not a dummy, it was a real guy! We took the wall out, the guy’s on a wire, and he lands on a bunch of crash mats. First he landed on his back and put his legs down, then we put the wall back in, raised him by an metre, and he landed on his arse and tipped his upper body back so his legs would go down, then put it all together afterwards into one shot.
What went wrong was that the guys who were pulling the wires to make sure he landed on a safe spot, pulled too hard, and he ended up banging the back of his head into the wall, and coming back down. So then, they’re off balance, because of the impact, and lost the wire. He just shot over, missed both crash mats and ended up falling another five metres onto concrete. We were watching on the monitors and just thought, “He’s fucking dead!” So we rushed out and the paramedics - we have paramedics on our shoot - checked his neck and he wanted to go again after ten minutes of being unconscious, but we were like, “No, you’re going to hospital!” But he came back in the morning and was fine, so we did the shot again.