It’s a rare privilege to share close space with not one, but six of the best actors working in film today. But then again, it’s not everyday that the White House is blown up and POTUS is taken hostage by North Korean terrorists.

Gerard Butler (Chasing Mavericks), producer and star of the intense action thriller Olympus Has Fallen, along with his gritty and talented director, Antoine Fuqua (Training Day), sat down with a group of journalists, myself included, to discuss the creative difficulties, patriotic responsibilities, and kick ass perks of making this heart-stopping action pic. Oh yeah, there was also that electric supporting cast: Morgan Freeman (Million Dollar Baby) Angela Bassett (What’s Love Got To Do With It) Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Night) Dylan McDermott (The Perks Of Being A Wallflower) and Rick Yune (The Fast and The Furious) each lent their natural humor and movie-star appeal to this informative Q and A.

Is it possible to keep a film with subject matter like this apolitical?

Fuqua: “No, the intention was to first of all entertain, and we wanted to make a fun action thriller, but it’s always good to make (one) that has substance or relevance to our times. Since terrorism is unfortunately a part of our lives and our brains are wired, since 9/11, that something could happen, this is (political)… it punches you in the gut and is something everyone feels.”

Will the President and Secret Service be more paranoid when they watch this?

Fuqua: “No, we’re in good hands. Hopefully though, our president will enjoy it as a movie. Plus it’s always a good conversation starter. We worked with some secret service guys and they’re the best of the best; they actually discuss these types of scenarios. The 9/11 Commission basically said we were able to be attacked because we lacked imagination so there is a part of our government whose job it is now to sit around in think tanks and imagine all types of scenarios. If anything, this film will add to those discussions and they can say, lets make sure this doesn’t happen.”

What was the reception to the film when you screened it at Camp Pendleton?

Butler: “I was seriously worried how they’d react because this film focuses on a day when there is no doubt a big fail in government. At the end of the day though, this movie’s really about the heroism of everybody. People on every level rise in their darkest hour and that’s what the Marines got out of it. They got the heart and soul and the point of the movie, as well as the humor and inspiration. They took it for what it was, provocative entertainment.”

Is North Korea the new go-to “bad guy”?

Fuqua: “Actually this film was written a few years ago before all of the current nuclear stuff, but we went out of our way to make it more about extremist terrorists as opposed to the country itself attacking us.”


Did any of you accrue any particularly memorable moments while filming?

Fuqua: “Every time I would walk on the set and see Angela Bassett, Morgan Freeman, Aaron Eckhart… any of this amazing cast. Gerard and I were together nearly all the time, filming all day and kicking ideas around together till late in the night. Plus, I got to shoot and blow stuff up!”

Yune: “The fight scene with Gerry (Butler). The jovial, always laughing Gerry you see on film is different from who I know; He’s from Glasgow, the man can fight. We really got into our fight and filmed for three days. It was very intense, and what was choreographed isn’t exactly how it went down, but being able to work with a buddy allows you to go harder in a scene like this. We both got some serious swings in that we were able to laugh about after.”

Anybody do any special physical training for the film?

Butler: “I‘ve done a lot of action films, but we really had an amazing stunt team on this one, former Navy SEALS and martial arts experts, so I was constantly practicing my moves and loading guns. You pump weights every chance you can and practice to just get in there and hope you don’t make a fool of yourself. But intention is also important. We really worked hard to invest meaning behind every physical action. Because of Antoine, this is not just an action movie, it’s a thriller and an emotional ride with characters you get involved with.”

Yune: “I’ve learned that the punches and kicks and explosions and whatnot, they really don’t matter as much as the intention behind it.  Gerry was working five different jobs at once and doing his stunts, but everyone had such a commitment to the characters. Antoine wanted this to be reality based much more than just action.”

Gerard, did you like both producing and acting in this film?

“I loved it. Being involved in every part was amazing, but could sometimes be an issue. Antoine would remind me, hey, you’re an actor. I’d be fighting with financiers and then have to switch into Banning (his character’s) mode.”

(Mr. Butler) Do you prefer roles with non-stop action or would you rather have been in the war room using your intellectual powers?

“To be honest, I was very jealous the week Morgan arrived because this excitement came over the whole set. I really wish I could have been part (of Freeman’s scenes in the War Room) because a lot of my favorite stuff in this film is what happens in that crisis room. It’s so incredibly gripping to go in there and experience what is it that those people do that we don’t know when something like this happens. It was fun to go in and kick ass as well though. Antoine and I wanted to make this guy incredibly brutal and uncompromising to give some satisfaction that I believe we never felt that we got in our recent history. After 9/11 it was done and everybody was gone. Here we have a standoff situation with an escalating international crisis but the terrorists are there and we need to see some payback.”

Angela and Morgan, how was it to work with one another?

Bassett: “I was intimated at first, but once we started (filming), he was everything I hoped for, and I could observe, study, and steal.”

Freeman: “One of the great things about this work I do is that I’m still starstruck all the time. I’ve seen everybody here do incredible work and the chance to dance with them is a serious perk.”


Morgan, did you do additional research to play Speaker of the House?

“I think that unless you are playing someone who is living today, you don’t have to do any research beyond learning your lines. I don’t see a need for that. I played a prisoner in a film once, and some of the actors said, we’re gonna spend the night in jail. I said really, and learn what?”

Angela, how do you feel you’ve evolved as an actor since your earlier work in films like Waiting to Exhale?

“I don’t know. I hope I continue to be passionate about the roles and always endeavor to bring honesty and clarity, and different ideas to the table.”

Aaron, what sets your president apart from other celluloid incarnations?

Eckhart: “Antoine did it, making him physical and active with a young family. I added what I thought were the characteristics of an ideal president but it was mostly in the script.”

Fuqua: “Aaron’s an amazing actor. One of the key things was I didn’t want any of our characters to be victims. They are all mentally tough, the ideal leaders we’d want. I’ve wanted to work with Aaron for years, and begged him to do this. Gerry and I talked about the script and we wanted a tough president, a guy you believe has these values and an intelligence but also could fight.”

Butler: “I was totally inspired by the intensity that Aaron brought. Nobody is more committed and prepared. I was very very impressed. You really feel the tenacity, commitment, and brilliance in his president.”


**SPOILER ALERT: The next question contains a crucial plot point.

Dylan, we’ve seen you argue unpopular points as a lawyer on The Practice; did that help prepare you for your role in this film? How did you wrap your head around your character’s point of view?

“That was one of the things that drew me to this. I played a (noble) secret service agent in, In The Line Of Fire, years ago, and I wanted to play the bookend to it. I also loved working with Antoine. We filled in the script at points (where it needed it)  and really worked hard on that whole speech about globalization and buying the presidency because we wanted to justify why my character would (suddenly) turn after working for the government for so long. There were a lot of intricate points we had to fill in, but when Gerry takes me down at the end, I feel we’ve come to some sort of redemption.”