“Colombiana” starring Zoe Saldana opened Friday nationwide and we had a chance to sit down with director Olivier Megaton. The director of Transporter 3 spoke to us about the challenges of making the film, the future of the Transporter franchise as well as his relationship with writer/director/producer Luc Besson.
Examiner: What attracted you to Colombiana?
Olivier Megaton: Colombiana is a long talk with Luc [Besson]. We were speaking for more than ten years about making “The Professional” remake, which was supposed to be called “Matilda” and because of a lot of things, we never could do it. Every year, we’d talk about this project. After Natalie Portman’s career, she wouldn’t be interested in making “Matilda”. So, we had to move on to another story and try to return with a revenge story. We talked with Robert [Kamen] about Colombiana. I liked it because she was the first black action hero girl from the ’70s since Pam Grier. She had a life. She was human. She was fragile and so on. That, for me, was the challenge. It’s not very difficult to make an action movie. It’s very mechanical if you know how to do it if you have good organization and a good team. The most difficult thing to do is drama. In the script, everything was there. The drama was written. In the script, we had the action, the drama and the comedy. For me, it was a chance. I plunged into it and it was a pleasure.
Examiner: There’s killing, but it’s not overy grahic. Was there a conscious choice to make it PG-13?
Olivier Megaton: You have the PG-13 movie here. You’ll have the unrated version on DVD and Blu-Ray. In Europe, we have a longer version and it’s the original version. The thing is that PG-13 is getting tighter and tighter every day. I was just saying that Transporter 3 today would be R rated and that’s just two years ago. We did so many things in Transporter 3 and the MPAA [let things go with Transporter 3]. You make the same movie today and they would’ve asked you to get rid of half of the things. On Colombiana, we had this problem. We had to tone down a lot of things, but when you go see the international version, it’s a little stronger.
Examiner: What was it like working with Zoe?
Olivier Megaton: She’s so fucking professional. She ‘s very latin. She’s very close to our French way of thinking. She’s not American in her mind. She’s Dominican, so she’s very free. She likes to have fun. She’s worked a lot for this movie, before the movie, during the movie. She’s very thin, but she’s a dancer. When all the American actors arrived with their own stunt coordinators, I said “Wait a minute. I have one of the best in the world. He’s from France and he made the first Bourne Identity’s fights. He’s one of the most creative guys. The only thing is that he doesn’t speak English. I said maybe it could be a good idea to meet him and he can show you what he can do. He’s very creative and one of the best ones. Then she [Zoe] said “Ok, when are we beginning?” and she worked with him very, very hard. I like her very much and I think she will be a huge star. I’m sure of this.
Examiner: How did you discover Amandla Stenfeld and were you surprised at the connection between her and Zoe?
Olivier Megaton: When I read the script the first time, i was astonished because the big actress [Zoe] was supposed to arrive on page 35. I read a lot of scripts and you never see this. There’s usually the adult actress in the beginning and a flashback in the middle. Even Luc said maybe it’s too long. If it was this girl giving to Zoe, the touching things, the fragility, it has to be after. The lucky thing is that Amandla was very close psychologically and physically to Zoe when she was young. I have a picture of Zoe when she was was ten and they look almost exactly the same,so we were very lucky. Amandla was very shy. She had something very pure. I thought the point of this movie was to make her very human, very fragile so the connection was perfect. They worked well together.
Want to find out what’s next for Megaton or about his friendship with producer Luc Besson? Check back today to see part 2 of our interview with Colombiana director Oliver Megaton.