THE MAN FROM TORONTO Director On Working With Kevin Hart & Woody Harrelson, THE RAID Remake & More (Exclusive)

Ahead of last weekend's debut of The Man from Toronto, we were granted an exclusive opportunity to sit down with director Patrick Hughes to chat about helming the Kevin Hart/Woody Harrelson action-comedy.

With The Man from Toronto now streaming worldwide on Netflix, we recently caught up with with director Patrick Hughes (The Hitman's BodyguardThe Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard) to talk about helming his latest action-comedy and working with stars Kevin Hart and Woody Harrelson, amongst other things.

He was kind enough to break down some of the biggest action sequences, reveal how COVID affected production, entertain the idea of a possible crossover between his Hitman's Bodyguard films and The Man from Toronto, and he also confirmed that his remake of The Raid is still very much in the works at Netflix.

Check out the full interview below!

ROHAN: What is it like working with actors like Kevin Hart and Woody Harrelson? 

PATRICK: Oh, mate, I love it. I think the number one component of my job is working with actors. So, I love working with stars of that caliber and they’re stars for a reason. That's one thing I've learned working in Hollywood is they're all incredibly hard working individuals and it's something that's really inspiring to watch. To have the chemistry between Woody and Kevin was just dynamite, it was a lot of fun on set.

ROHAN: You have a tricky balancing act of action and comedy... what would you say is more challenging to pull off?

PATRICK: Action is physically grueling, it’s actually physically draining. Just when you're on set, you're shooting a lot of action, and, often in the schedule, I’m trying as much as possible to space out the action sequences, because they just knock you sideways, and look, I can demystify the glorification of working as a Hollywood director on an action film is, at the end of the day, you're on your feet, 16 hours a day, and you're working six days a week, and it goes for six months.

So, by the end of it, I'm always sort of emotionally and physically drained, and it is really lovely to - when you get to the schedule, when you're shooting, you'll come off a big action sequence, and you're kind of cooked from that, so when you can look at your schedule and say, ‘Okay, well, tomorrow we're shooting a vomit scene with Kevin Hart - *laughs* - that sort of mixes things up and makes it fun.

ROHAN: With Kevin and Woody, who are both gifted comic actors, was there a lot of room for them to just riff and play around?

PATRICK: I'm always very open to improv, I think you do a lot of hard work on the script and develop that and get it into the right shape, and you’re having those individual dialogues throughout pre-production, with all the actors involved, and then I think I really love the idea of the set is like, we've got the sandbox here, and it’s open. If we've got a flow state on the day, and we've got great ideas and often, I’m shouting them out, or Kevin's got an idea or Woody’s got an idea, and sometimes all the ideas start piling on top of each other, and I really think, with a comedy too, is you want to shoot more than you actually need. Certainly for once you get a good roll going on.

I'd love to get to the edit and say, ‘Okay, well, I'd rather have too much in the edit, than not enough, because I can always deduct, but what I can't do in the edit is add stuff that I haven't shot.’ So, we do sort of push things to an extreme, and there are things that once you start cutting the film together, you realize things might be pushing things too far, there's too much comedy now, we've got to find that balance again. So, and I would say in the action-comedy genre, it is, in terms of directing these films, is finding that consistency of tone, and it is a very fine balancing act, because if you have too much comedy, then you can lose the stakes, and then it becomes farcical, and then, if there's too much action, if it's too hardcore, and there's not enough laughs, then, you start leading the audience in a different viewing experience, and you really sort of have to sort of pace it out. There's a lot of work that's done in the edit.

ROHAN: There's a really fun action scene near the beginning when Kevin and Woody's characters meet on the airplane. Can you tell me more about realizing that?

PATRICK: We actually got access to a C-1 for exterior shots and then, we built - that was a 22-ton set on stage on a gimbal and a gimbal is like a motorized engine that can move the entire set. So, once everyone's on there, you pull away the ramps and you lock the doors, and then, that set would physically rock and roll and shake, and if you're on it too long, you start feeling a bit seasick to be honest. That was a lot of fun to shoot, we had a big fight sequence inside the hull of the aircraft, and then, to me, it was like, ‘Okay, well, how do we make this dynamic and find how does Teddy just ruin everything?

So, that's where the idea came from, well what if he pulls this lever, because he's looking for something to hold on to, and that inadvertently opens the back doors and now things are flying out. So, it's really sort of an evolutionary process that happens throughout the development,

ROHAN: Does it help your job when you have these actors who are really not afraid to put themselves out there and do whatever it takes to make a scene the best it can be?

PATRICK: Oh yeah, Kevin Hart is incredibly vulnerable, and he's willing to show that on-screen. A lot of big actors, there'll be a lot of actors that won't do that, that want to be the tough guy. Whereas I think, I’m working with these special actors, you know, like I have on a previous franchise as well with Ryan Reynolds, I find he’s the same, and I think that's why audiences are drawn to them and love them, is that they see themselves in their characters, because I think we'd all like to believe that we're all James Bond, and we're going to act really sophisticated and cool if any shit pops off. The reality is, no, you're not, you're gonna scream and cower in the corner and try and get the [frick] out of there.

ROHAN: The film's show-stopping action sequence was that finale, which really looks like one continuous tracking shot? Can you walk me through how that came together? 

PATRICK: That was a handheld camera with a backpack rig and it's actually 32 shots stuck together. That takes a lot of prep work, and we sort of designed it, I wanted them at the end to break away and the fight to continue up the stairs. So, when it transitions from the gym, up the stairs, that's actually two completely different locations, and then it goes on to a rooftop, which is another location altogether, and so it sort of just made it. I wanted it to feel exhausting too, try to find that balance, too, so that that was something that happened in pre-production, where you prevent - so, basically, you just shoot the whole fight sequence on your iPhone, and you edit that together, and you keep reworking and reworking it, because the first fight, I think, almost went for like twelve minutes, and that was just too long.

So, again, it's just finding, with the viewers, you're constantly thinking about the viewing experience, and I think it's like, you try to just find the perfect timing, because the thing with these action sequences is - certainly with a sequence like that - is you can't cut it in the edit, because you're now committed to it. So, we had a lot of fun crafting that.

ROHAN: How did COVID impact filming? Did you have to rework much of the script?

PATRICK: Yeah, it made it incredibly difficult because you had all the protocols, of course, and originally, we prepped the whole film, I did three months of prep in Atlanta and found 43 locations, and we were building sets and we were nine days out from shooting when we got shut down.

Then, everything was down for six months, and we weren't even sure if the film was ever going to come back, to be honest, and then, I got a call when I was back home in Australia that we were going to relocate to Toronto and I was incredibly grateful to be working during that time, because I know there were a lot of people that weren’t as fortunate, everyone was in lockdown and a lot of people's jobs was shut down.

So, we were very grateful to be back and we were one of the first shoots that was shooting during the lockdown. It created this weird bubble and it was really difficult because you couldn't mingle with anyone, I wasn’t allowed. I basically sat by myself for six months, and on weekends, if you wanted to do something, you could go and walk around a forest by yourself, but that was it, unless you're on set.

We weren't thinking throughout that process, and it was a tough experience, but to me, it just felt like, well, the global audience could use a laugh about now. So, let's do that, and that's what we made our mission on set. I remember saying that to the cast and the crew, we said it on Day One. We said, this is our mission and we're going to try and deliver laughs to the world, so I think we achieved that.

ROHAN: The film was also moved to Netflix - did you go back and rework the story at all or was it already in the can when the move happened?

PATRICK: No, no, no, everything was finished. We tested it, and everything was finished. One of the things that is still happening now, is you've got this bottleneck of all these productions because it was - and the same thing happened with the release of The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, I mean, that sat on a shelf, it was finished, I think it sat on the shelf for maybe almost two years before it was released because of what happened with COVID. You still got the bottleneck happening now.

So, when when we learned that we're going to go to Netflix, to me, I couldn't think of a better place, to be honest, because it's just every week, it's just so many superhero movies, opening and huge tentpoles, and it's like you get one week to open. It's really incredibly hard, no one wants to go up against films that have a $250 million budget.

ROHAN: I know they're different studios, but have you thought about a crossover between The Man From Toronto and The Hitman's Bodyguard?

PATRICK: There have been a lot of people discussing this, it was something I pondered when we wraped the shoot. I was like, I can actually see a crossover or a combined universe. So, maybe that's something I'll make happen. I'll speak to the good people at the studios and see if we can come to an agreement or arrangement, because I think having those four on screen would be absolute dynamite.

ROHAN: I know you're from Australia, and since he recently just started production on Furiosa, I was wondering if you ever drew inspiration from George Miller? Or did it come from somewhere else?

PATRICK: It's funny that you brought up George Miller, because I got to a real point of frustration. I mean, I made a whole bunch of shorts in high school that did really well, and I got into film school very young, and I did three years there. I was making genre shorts, and my graduating short was an action-comedy, funnily enough, and then that got me into the world of advertising. I was shooting commercials around the world for like ten years, and I got so frustrated trying to get my first film up, because no one lets you make your first film until you make your first film, and by that point, I think I'd made 32 short films, or 35 short films, and all these commercials.

So, I took inspiration, “Well, how did George Miller do it?” And then I realized, well, he just wrote a script and went and raised the money and made a movie for $700,000, and that's exactly how I went and made my first film, Red Hill, and that opened all the doors in Hollywood. So, I think the hardest thing is trying to transition into that big action budget, certainly as a guy who always dreamed of making genre films, and it is a very hard transition, how do you find your foot in the door, and essentially, at the end of the day, you got to go make your own film, and hopefully, that that impresses people, and that allows you to then move up the ladder, and start working in Hollywood.

ROHAN: You recently started your own production company. What has that experience been like, and what kinds of films are you hoping to make moving forward?

PATRICK: I’ve really, really, really enjoyed this year, especially coming off Man from Toronto, and being trapped overseas. It was just a really challenging film, because, when the dust was all settled, I had been in a position where I'd been overseas on two separate occasions, and I wasn't allowed to see my kids for sixteen months because of COVID. So, that was something that I hope I never ever repeat again, because as much as I love making movies, I do love being a dad too. But, look, I'm not going to be the one, at the same time. I was very grateful to be working but everyone was in the same position. I know Kevin had just had a baby and he saw his baby for 24 hours before he was shipped up to Toronto and he was stuck with us for four months. So, everyone was sort of in the same boat.

My company back home in Australia has allowed me, because I've done three writing assignments this year about stuff, my third one is a couple of weeks, but again, that one's for Netflix, funnily enough. But yeah, there's an opportunity for me and certainly with the rebate back home for shooting in Australia, that's what I'm looking to do is to take some of these big action films and take them back home and shoot them, and that's the plan moving forward.

ROHAN: I know you were working on a remake of The Raid a few years ago... is that still in the works?

PATRICK: Yeah, that's in the pipes, that's been part of the writing process this year, and that's a project I'm really excited about. We're doing that at Netflix and working with Michael Bay as well, and so, we're taking inspiration from that. That's a really exciting project. So, the next two, I'm going to be stepping away from the action-comedy genre for a moment and I'll certainly be coming back to it, but I'm really excited by the projects in the future and just really love not being on set this year and just writing - This is the first time in my life I'm just doing these writing jobs back-to-back, it’s enabled me to just essentially have a 9-5 job, which I've never had, and it's been nice not going near any airports. I tell you what, man, empty hotel rooms get old, pretty fun. It's been nice being home.

ROHAN: Outside of The Raid remake, is there any other upcoming project you'd like to tease? 

PATRICK: I'm not sure, there's three potential projects and it just depends which one is going to go first. There's a really exciting project I'm doing with Lionsgate, an action sci-fi horror, which is really cool, and so yeah, we'll see what happens.

A case of mistaken identity arises after a screw-up sales consultant and the world’s deadliest assassin—known only as The Man from Toronto— run into each other at a holiday rental. Kevin Hart and Woody Harrelson star in this action packed comedy only on Netflix 6/24.

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