Notes from a 'Bullet to the Head' set visit in New Orleans
Sarah Shahi and Jason Momoa discuss star Sylvester Stallone
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NEW ORLEANS - Sylvester Stallone can't talk.
That's not exactly right. Actually, Sylvester Stallone is an exceptionally good talker and prolific writer.
However, the "Bullet to the Head" star is unable to talk to the group of journalists gathered in the August 2011 heat in the Crescent City to visit the set of his new Walter Hill thriller.
Stallone is busy trying to avoid an explosion, which puts the need or desire to speak with a motley assortment of bloggers in perspective. Dodging this explosion requires quick reactions, strong swimming and powerful lungs.
It also requires a killer imagination, because we're sitting inside Harry's Dive Shop next to what is, for all intents and purposes, an indoor swimming pool. On one side of the pool, a stage has been set up to simulate the deck of a cabin on the bayou. Because it's roughly 100 degrees outside and the pool area is largely unventilated, the swamp-like humidity has been perfectly simulated. Instead of the murky smell of flora and fauna, of unchecked nature, there's the lung-blanching smell of chlorine, which is almost the polar opposite of unchecked nature, if you think about it. Instead of water moccasins and possums, wildlife is represented by a mural of characters artlessly reproduced from Disney's "The Little Mermaid." Some days, this pool features kids learning to swim. But today, it's life-and-death for Sylvester Stallone.
What we're seeing shot will be matched with footage shot on location. Stallone's character survives an attempt on his life by diving into the deep end of the pool... errr... the swamp. Members of the crew are treading water in SCUBA suits and Stallone's main task is to swim underwater in the direction of a camera. He repeats this action several times and playfully splashes a dry colleague standing on the side of the pool.
Co-star Sung Kang contextualizes the scene: "It’s his secret getaway house where he keeps all his guns and stuff," Kang says of Stallone's character. "It gets blown up. So, he’s right on the water, so we end up swimming away. And once we get to shore, he actually has a remote control that blows up all the bad guys. So, this is post-blowing up and swimming to shore."
It's unlikely that Sebastian the Crab and the rest of the under-the-sea company will be appearing in "Bullet to the Head," but I look forward to watching the movie and pretending that instead of a fireball, Sylvester Stallone is trying to avoid Ursula.
In lieu of a conversation with Stallone, we pester his various co-stars for details on what it's like to work with the "Rocky," "Rambo" and "Stop, Or My Mom Will Shoot!" legend.
We start with Jason Momoa, who plays Stallone's primary adversary in the film.
"We have, I think, three encounters and he always gets the upper hand on me," Momoa teases. "I'll like bring a knife to a gunfight. Obviously he shoots me in the chest and it just pisses me off, so I steal his daughter and kill his partners. There's the one where I kill his partner and then we fight in this bathroom and he ends up shooting me in the chest. And then I kidnap his daughter and that's the next time we me is at this power plant in the end. So he's kinda the guy that always... I kinda kill everyone except for Stallone and I really like the fact that he's been living. So that's why I do the axe. I pull out the axe. I don't want' to shoot him. I actually just want to cut him open."
Yes, there's a fight that features an axe. One issue we raise with Momoa is that the "Game of Thrones" veteran and Stallone aren't especially close in either age or physical stature. So how does that impact that action scenes?
"That's what's kinda cool about it... I know that Sly's in greater shape than I am. We're 30 years different, maybe 33 years in age, and probably a good nine inches in height and it looks great," Momoa promises. "I saw cuts of it. Obviously I'm the one that's gonna be waving the axe a lot more and taking the attacks, but there are some great spots where he wanted to do this homage to 'Rocky' and he's like, 'Hey, got this idea, you know. I'll lock you up and I'll throw a couple in the ribs' and I was like, 'Oh, that's be great! Man, it'll be awesome.' And he's telling stories about him and Dolph and there are production still of him just sinking it into his ribs and I'm like, 'Well, I can put a pad in here' and he's like, 'No, no. I'll pull the punch. I'll pull.' I'm like, 'Alright. OK.' I've got this f***er on tape, too. He comes in and he lights me up three times. It's like BOOM, two, three. And it's just that pace. One. Two. Three. And the third one, I was like, 'Awww. I felt it.' I'm like, 'That ain't s***. That ain't s***. 65, man, that ain't s***.' And he does it again and he's like, 'Alright, alright.' He comes in and he goes, ONE. He takes a beat. I'm like, 'Aw, f***er.' And he just goes [he's pantomiming the whole thing.] He rocks me and then he switches to his right hand. And then he he nails me in the right. I was like, 'Awww.' It was great. He's having fun. I'm having fun. S***. The other day was like, 'I'm fighting with Rocky. It's the coolest thing in the world.'"
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