At first glance, it’s hard to believe that the upcoming teenage assassin flick “Hanna” is from the same director who brought you “Atonement,” “Pride & Prejudice” and “The Soloist.” Brimming with beautifully choreographed set pieces, you might think it was directed by a seasoned action director, not a helmer giving it a whirl on his first time out. We caught up with director Joe Wright at WonderCon over the weekend and he admitted that he tried to reach out to one of the most influential action directors for the past few years for some tips, but couldn’t get past his voicemail.
Admitting he’s fairly fresh to the genre, Wright said he doesn’t see it as too much of a departure from his previous responsibilities from at least a creative point of view, explaining, “I’ve never shot any action sequences so I thought, well the closest thing I’ve done to action is dance in ‘Pride & Prejudice’ so I kind of thought ‘just treat it like dance and it’ll be fine.’ …I see action as being the organization of figures in space. There’s no division between action and blocking.” When asked if he reached out to other action directors about preparing for the differences between an action film versus drama, he laughed, saying, “No, I fucking should of. And I should have shown them the schedule and they might have said, ‘Don’t be daft, you can’t shoot an action film in 62 days.’ Actually I did call Paul Greengrass a few times… I’d always get his answer machine. Bastard.”
And is turns out, Wright didn’t really need Greengrass’ help at all. Whether you enjoy the film or not, it’s undeniable that the action sequences are some of the best to hit the screen in the while, tossing out the hard close-ups and fast edits that mark most of the genre’s fare, going for wider shots and longer takes to make every punch, kick and gunshot shockingly real.
With projects like “Anna Karenina” and potentially “The Little Mermaid” on the horizon, one has to wonder if “Hanna” is a one-off genre-wise for Wright. When pressed on this point, he explained, “Your career is what happens whilst you’re busy developing other scripts. I enjoyed action and I would probably like to do it again, but not necessarily next.”
“Hanna” will be released by Focus Features in the U.S. this coming Friday, April 8th. —reporting by Sean Gillane