- Thanks to hit movies like "John Wick," "Atomic Blonde," and "Deadpool 2," David Leitch has become a hot commodity when Hollywood needs a good action director.
- Leitch now proves with "Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw" that he can create an action movie that is so vast in its world building that it opens the door for a new franchise.
- Leitch explained to Business Insider how his style of action helps strengthen the stories he tells.
- He also teased an upcoming action movie he’s producing starring Bob Odenkirk.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
In 2014, the out-of-nowhere hit movie "John Wick" didn’t just put a jolt in the action movie genre with its fresh "gun-fu" fighting sequences, it also changed the life of David Leitch.
After years as a stunt coordinator and second unit director, he and his fellow stunt man Chad Stahelski codirected a movie that would place them in a spotlight they’d never had before, while giving their star Keanu Reeves the kind of international acclaim he hadn’t had since "The Matrix."
As Stahelski has continued directing more "John Wick" movies, Leitch has taken his own path and, in just two years, has become Hollywood’s go-to director when it comes to huge action movies. After showing Charlize Theron could dish out the pain in the gritty "Atomic Blonde," he took the reins of "Deadpool 2" and oversaw an action/comedy that earned over $785 million worldwide.
Jonathan Prime/Focus FeaturesThe last two years have proven to everyone in the business that Leitch can direct something on time and on budget, and also bring an originality to the action sequences that sets his movies apart from most blockbusters.
So it made perfect sense when Universal wanted him to take on the first spin-off to its lucrative "Fast & Furious" franchise.
"Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw" (in theaters Friday) is a globe-trotting action movie starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Jason Statham reprising their roles from the main franchise. It has all the fights, car chases, and explosions you’d find in a "Fast" movie, but with a little more comedy and lightheartedness. That’s something Leitch said was intentionally done to give the movie its own individuality.
"We had to be true to the ‘Fast’ universe, but I wanted to make something that was distinctly my own," Leitch told Business Insider. "There’s an emotional core between all these explosions, and I don’t know if you always get that in these big action movies."
That drive to create something that stands on its own is what Letich has been wanting to do since "Atomic Blonde." Originally, his next project was to be an X-Force movie at Fox. The attraction there was that he’d get to do some world building on a huge scale. But things changed dramatically when the director of the first "Deadpool" movie, Tim Miller, dropped out of the sequel. Leitch got an offer he couldn’t refuse of teaming with Ryan Reynolds to do "Deadpool 2."
But with "Hobbs & Shaw," he got the chance to world build.
"I am proud of what we did in making this world big," he said.
And he means that in multiple ways. The "Hobbs & Shaw" casting is ripe with spin-off potential — whether it be Vanessa Kirby’s character, Hattie, who is the sister of Deckard Shaw (Statham), or beefing up the screen time of the movie’s A-list cameos in future installments — but the movie itself is also filled with massive action sequences that will have audiences wanting more of that Leitch style.
One sequence in particular is toward the end of the movie, when Hobbs and Shaw try to bring down a helicopter by attaching the chain of a tow truck they are driving to it. Sure, that sounds cool, but is it cool enough for someone like Leitch, who with his stunt background has basically seen it all?
"What if we could have something a little more on story?" Leitch threw out to the team. Posing that question led to one of the most thrilling moments of the movie.
On location shooting in Hawaii with a stunt team of 50 at his disposal, Leitch felt they could pull something off big. And in a rare instance, shooting was ahead of schedule. So they took the theme of family, one that the movie takes from the main "Fast" franchise and dives in head first with, and beefed up the helicopter sequence.
Instead of just Hobbs and Shaw trying to bring down the chopper, the scene added Hobbs’ Samoan brothers. Three of them show up driving trucks and attach themselves to the tow truck. It leads to a wild chase sequence all set over a beautiful Hawaiian locale (which you can catch a glimpse of at the end of the movie’s trailer).
"This was all done on the last minute," Leitch said. "We designed the sequence, called the studio, and told them we had a ‘Fast’ idea and we pitched it to them and they said okay. They gave us the extra money and another week of shooting."
It’s what sets Leitch apart from most of the directors making action movies today: He goes the extra mile. But the way he sees it, he uses the action to strengthen the story.
"What kind of physical action can I see the characters partake in that will help plot or character? When you ask those questions and then put in obstacles that’s how you build a great action scene," Leitch said.
How Leitch will follow up his work on "Hobbs & Shaw" is tough to say. This is the first time since making "Atomic Blonde" that he doesn’t have his next project lined up.
The two projects he’s attached to — an adaptation of the comic "Undying Love" and a sci-fi thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Jessica Chastain titled "The Division" — are both still in development, and since Fox was bought by Disney, he doesn’t know when "Deadpool 3" will be made.
So he’s taking some time producing with his wife and creative partner Kelly McCormick.
The two have a first-look deal with Universal to make mid-budget action movies. The first one will likely be a revenge tale titled "Nobody" starring "Better Call Saul" actor Bob Odenkirk.
Joe Maher/Getty"This is Bob Odenkirk’s idea that he talked to ‘John Wick’ writer Derek Kolstad about and then they hatched this pitch that they brought us on to produce," McCormick told Business Insider. "And that’s what’s exciting about it is there’s a lot of Bob in it. It’s action we’ve never seen him do."
And Odenkirk has even been in the gym preparing for the role.
"He’s been doing it for a couple of years now on and off from doing ‘Better Call Saul,’" Leitch said. "He gets in there and is working with the team and getting his action chops up."
Production on "Nobody" begins in October in Canada.
Leitch said that his hope going forward is to show that good action can show up in the most unlikely movies.
"We want to stretch our wings and show our brand of action can work in horror films, thrillers, dark comedies; it’s not just for pure action genre movies," he said.
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