Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard director explains the secrets to wrangling an all-star cast
In 2017's hit action-comedy The Hitman's Bodyguard, Ryan Reynolds played Michael Bryce, the titular security expert who is tasked with protecting Samuel L. Jackson's assassin Darius Kincaid. Australian director Patrick Hughes' just-released sequel, Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard, foregrounds the talents of Salma Hayek who plays Kincaid's, yes, wife, a con woman named Sonia, while also adding Antonio Banderas, Morgan Freeman, and Frank Grillo to the cast.
"With the first film it felt like the comedy was in this man-child, who is Michael Bryce, with these validation issues, and then you've got Darius Kincaid, who's the disapproving father figure," says Hughes, who directed both the 2017 movie and the sequel. "That just felt like a family dynamic, and then to move into the sequel it's like, we've got to get Salma in the mix here and put her front and center because she completes that family dynamic. Michael Bryce's suffering fool has to deal with Kincaid and Sonia and there're both crazy, in a good way."
Below, Bryce talks more about Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard and why being an Aussie helps him wrangle all-star casts.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was Salma Hayek like on set? In the best way, she does seem to be trying to steal every scene she's in.
PATRICK HUGHES: Oh yeah. She's like a bulldozer. [Laughs] It's like a freight train coming through and it just plows through everything in its way. It is a balancing act in the edit. It's like, how much is too much? What's the tipping point? Because we shot stuff that's just so outrageous, and it's incredibly funny, but for the sake of the film as a whole, you've got to go in and kill the babies. The challenge is balancing the tone of it because it can quickly become a complete and utter farce, and at that point it's like, well, there's no conflict. So it's trying to find that balance and that rhythm of the film.
I laughed a lot watching the movie. As a horror fan, I was particularly tickled when Ryan Reynolds tells Salma Hayek that he wouldn't trust her character to look after the Chucky doll. Was it in the script or an improv?
I work very closely with Ryan. We have this ongoing conversation. If you could see our text chain it just goes on and on and on. We both think of the craziest ideas. The most beautiful thing that has come out of this franchise is my friendship with him, but also the respect I have for him as an actor. He's a creative force, he really is a storyteller, and he's an incredible writer. So we're constantly just bouncing ideas. That one's his 100 percent. The Chucky doll line is his. That's got Ryan all over it.
Antonio Banderas plays the film's villain, a Greek shipping magnate. How did you come to cast him?
I'd worked with Antonio before and he's incredibly funny. He could do stand-up. We took inspiration from that exuberant wealth. I actually put a file together of this billionaire lifestyle that these people live. I'm not sure what it is, but when you become a billionaire you start wearing weird clothes. So we just went out on his wardrobe and his hair and his spray tan and the whole bit. He had a lot of fun with it.
You seem to be the man they call for huge action movies starting incredibly famous people with long track records, which seems to me, from the outside, to be the toughest kind of movie to make.
I imagine that people like Frank Grillo and Morgan Freeman have strong opinions about things. What is the secret to being a movie star-whisperer in that fashion?
I guess I've got a reputation in town. I love working with actors, it's my favorite part of the job. My dad was an actor and I grew up in that world. I think the trick is being able to deal with so many different personality types. Their different personality types bring a different rhythm to the set, and they've got ideas, and it's incorporating those and managing that whole aspect of it. In some respects also I think it's the Australian attitude, strong-headed, strong-willed, strong bullshit radars. I'll cut people down. But also I like to bring a lot of energy to set and that's certainly how I like to work. I think as a director you can set the tone on set, and for these kinds of films you've got to come in hot out of the gate and be really clear and really decisive, because there are so many elements in play that there's a lot of management in solved. All it can take is a little bit of "Hmm, I'm not sure, what do you think?" Then, boom, that five minutes you've just lost means we can't do that stunt, means you've now lost power in that generator, means that helicopter has to go back and refuel, and you've run out of sunlight, and you've lost your job now because you're overscheduled, you're fired, you'll never work again, and you're off to director jail. That's a real place!
Clearly this idea doesn't haunt you at all.
[Laughs] Not all all! Not at all, mate!
If this movie is successful, do you have any ideas for a threequel?
There's a discussion in place, so let's see what happens.
Watch the trailer for Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard above.