In “Olympus Has Fallen,” director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) had many Hollywood stars to work with and he came out swinging. Aaron Eckhart played the U.S president, Benjamin Asher. Gerard Butler plays Mike Banning, a disgraced former presidential guard. Dylan McDermott plays Forbes, Morgan Freeman plays Speaker Trumbull. Angela Bassett shines as Secret Service Director Lynn Jacobs and Melissa Leo hits it out of the park as Secretary of Defense Ruth McMillan. The film is about a North Korean terrorist invasion in the White House and the president is trapped inside. Ex secret service agent, Mike Banning is the last hope to save our Commander in Chief.
Antoine Fuqua sat down recently with Examiner Dorri Olds at the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan. He seemed glad to be there and happy to talk about his new flick.
Dorri Olds: Did you enjoy working on this movie?
Antoine Fuqua: Oh, yeah. I’m extremely passionate. Working with someone like Gerry [Butler] or Denzel [Washington] fits right into my personality. I’m one of these guys who’s 24/7. It’s like a military mind when you’re working with me. I had Gerry doing pushups. If I saw him looking sleepy I’d say, “Jump down and give me 30!” He’d say, “Really?” I like to keep the blood going and he’d do whatever I said.
Was it a challenge directing such experienced actors?
I find it getting easier the more experiences I have. I get used to working with different personalities and what their needs are. Different actors have different needs. You learn as a director that every actor has a different approach and that’s part of the beauty of being a director.
Do you ever get intimidated?
Oh yeah. When Morgan Freeman stepped out of the car and said, “Hello, Antoine,” I was very intimidated. [Laughs] Gerry was always like exploding. I told him, “You’re like my little brother, calm down.” He’d call me in the middle of the night jumping with ideas and I’d tell him, “Gerry, man, go to sleep.”
How was your rapport with the young boy, Finley Jacobsen, who played the president’s son?
He was great. So smart. He’d hang out with us all the time. He was like a little man. We’d start talking to him as if he was just one of the guys.
Was it hard to say goodbye?
Yeah, Finley just wanted to be around everything. He wanted to see and look through the lens. He’d want to sit in my chair sometimes and I’d have to go over and kick him out.
What made you feel that “Olympus Has Fallen” was the right film project for you?
Terrorism brings about fear in everybody. It brings out fear in me. I wanted Gerry to play secret service agent, Mike Banning. Gerry has a vulnerability and I think the audience needs that to connect to the character. It’s easier to connect with a guy like him who’s not just an action hero machine.
The North Koreans are probably poised to blow us all up. Is timing why you were attracted to this script?
No, I was drawn to the idea of a guy who falls flat on his face. In the secret service you’re 100 percent in or 100 percent out and Mike Banning had failed. In the script he says he wants back in but he had to go through hell to get back in. It’s a classic hero’s journey. He comes out a different man. All of the great hero characters have something personal to settle.
Do you like CGI?
I don’t know. It’s a necessary evil. It’s wonderful because you can go into worlds you couldn’t go into before but I feel a step removed. It’s not as organic for me. There are things about it I find fascinating but I tried to use as much of the real thing as possible.
Rated R. 100 minutes. "Olympus Has Fallen" opens nationwide March 22, 2013.