It might actually be easier to retrieve a skyscraper from the villainous hands of Alan Rickman than to have avoided seeing an action film produced by Joel Silver, whose blockbuster credits merely begin with The Matrix, Lethal Weapon, and — yes — Die Hard. Silver’s most recent hit was the Jaume Collet-Serra-directed Non-Stop, which stars Julianne Moore, Lupita Nyong’o, and, of course, Liam Neeson in the lead role of an air marshal desperate to figure out who is orchestrating the deaths of people on a transatlantic flight. To mark this week’s release of the film on DVD and Blu-ray, Silver talked to Entertainment Weekly about the movie, the likelihood of a non-plane-set sequel, and why his 12-year-old son probably deserves an increase in his allowance.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was it about the script for Non-Stop which tickled your fancy in the first place?
JOEL SILVER: I just thought it was a cool idea. In all of our research, and everything that we do when we do these movies, we always find people want movies that are unpredictable. They don’t want to see the same old s—. Even in the sequel world, they want to see things that are fresh and original and unique and different. When I read the script, I thought it was something I had never seen before.
In the old days, in television, if you did a dramatic series, sometimes at the end of a season you’d be short on money, so they would do what you call a “bottle show.” You’d do the entire episode inside your existing set, so you didn’t have to build new sets. You’d do a hostage situation, say, just where you could get everything done in a lesser period of time in one location. When we made Die Hard, it was a high-end version of a bottle show. This was an interesting concept, putting these people on this plane and putting them in a situation that’s really kind of tense. But the reason it’s really good is that you don’t know who the bad guy is until we tell you.
You’ve worked with Liam Neeson before. Was he the person you automatically thought of for this?
Absolutely. We had done Unknown together and I was trying to find something else to do with him. This script came along and he loved it. He said he couldn’t put the script down and he wanted to make it. So the deal was made very quickly.
It would seem easier to make a movie essentially on the one set — but I’m assuming there a lot of challenges that haven’t occurred to me.
Well, you have about 300 extras in that set and almost every shot has everybody in it. Lupita, for example, wasn’t in what seemed like that much of the movie. But she was on the stage every single day. So people are just sitting in those seats for 40 days. It was a complicated movie. It was hard to do things like a fight inside that little bathroom. It was complicated.
You seemed to be ahead of the curve in the casting of Lupita Nyong’o.
Well, she had already been in 12 Years A Slave. They had already shot the movie and we were told that she was awesome and great in it. But we hadn’t seen it. We just had met her and said, “Great.”
Key & Peele’s obsession with Liam Neeson, and his guest spot on their show, must have seemed like a marketing gift from the gods.
I didn’t know that they were such fans until we started making the movie. My son — who’s 12 years old, who’s one of my key advisers — he told me about it. I said, “Wouldn’t it be great to get them together?” I tried to do it during the shooting of the movie but it was just impossible. When it was finished, and they said, “Let’s do something,” it was one of the greatest promotional things I’ve ever been involved in.
Do you have any thoughts about a sequel? I would assume the surviving characters would be fairly loathe to all get back on a plane together again.
I need to think of a way to put them in an equal situation. But when I make a sequel I like to replicate the experience, not replicate the movie. I’m not going to put them on a plane again, of course. He has a touch of Sherlock Holmes in that he has to figure out what’s going on and then he has to figure out how to solve it. I think that character’s a great character and we’ll try to figure something else to do. I haven’t thought about it yet. But I have to, sooner or later.
You can check out an exclusive clip from the Non-Stop DVD bonus features below.