When the shooting of “Bullet Train” began in the middle of the first lockdown in 2020, David Leitch’s declared goal was to one day lure people back to the cinemas with his action spectacle. Several assassins pursue very different goals on a Japanese bullet train and get in each other’s way.
For this, the director, who was previously responsible for films such as “John Wick” and “Deadpool 2”, assembled an excellent cast, including Brad Pitt as the hapless hitman Ladybug, Joey King as the manipulative The Prince, Brian Tyree Henry and Aaron Taylor- Johnson as the “twins” Lemon and Tangerine. ntv.de spoke to them in Berlin about their characters, their hopes for the cinema and the unusual difficulties with this special shoot.
ntv.de: What was the biggest challenge for you on the set?
Brad Pitt: That was definitely the Covid protocol. We were one of the first films to be shot in lockdown. Before that, we had to stay at home for two weeks and also isolate ourselves during filming. We were tested on the set…
Joey King: … and at that time the test sticks were still being pushed into your brain. Every day, including Sundays.
Pitt: I haven’t seen part of the crew to this day and wouldn’t recognize the people. They wore two masks, one on top of the other, and a transparent shield…
Kings: (to Pitt) I don’t even know who you are you … (laughs)
Aaron Taylor-Johnson: There were quite a few challenges, I think. The Covid protocol was definitely part of it, that was all before the vaccinations. We had to keep our distance, wear masks. But the fight scenes in a confined space were also special.
Brian Tyree Henry: We lived in total isolation for those two months, coming into work every day and then kicking each other’s butts. You met people who were completely unknown to you, and friendships developed from that. We just wanted to have as much fun as possible in this situation and for the viewer to see that later.
David Leitch: For me, the biggest challenge was more of directing seven characters in one go.
What do you like about your respective roles?
Pitt: It was just fun playing Ladybug. But I especially love Joey’s character, The Prince. She is the nemesis.
King: Nemisis. I like that. I had always seen her more as a classic villain. But goddess of vengeance is of course much better. Anyway, as Brad says, it was a lot of fun playing this role. Her great accent, her fearlessness. It’s wonderful to lose yourself in her.
Did you learn something from her? Like how best to manipulate men?
Pitt: (laughs) She was good at that before.
King: Well, one thing I definitely have in common with her is that people often underestimate me because of my looks. The prince makes the best of it and strikes at the right moment. Maybe I could take that from her.
In the novel by Kotaro Isaka, The Prince is a boy. A few adjustments have been made…
David Leitch: I got into this project when the script was already done. Isaka’s novel has been adapted for the global market, with the author’s approval of course. Basically, we customized all the characters. That’s why the twins are black and white, “Wolf” has a Latin American accent… In the end, of course, it’s about making the whole thing accessible to a larger target group.
Mr. Pitt, did you learn anything from Ladybug or even his therapist?
Pitt: The therapist idea still makes me laugh. I didn’t really learn much, but I think Ladybug is exactly the role I needed at the time – with all her comedy. And it’s the character we all want to see in cinemas now that lockdown is over. Of course I didn’t answer your question in any way. (laughs)
Mr. Leitch, when did you realize that Brad Pitt is the one and only Ladybug?
Leitch: The moment I read the script. I was really nervous when Sony sent him the book because I didn’t know if he was really going to do it.
What would have happened if he declined? Was there a plan B for the cast?
Leitch: No. Plan B would probably have been to make another film. (laughs)
You want to bring people back to the cinemas with “Bullet Train”. So, was there a time when you were genuinely concerned that streaming services would kill off cinema?
Leitch: Every filmmaker has probably had this concern at some point. But I hope people realize that both can coexist and are important for artists as well. I tend to make content for the big screen and the community experience in the cinema. You have to see this film with other people who feel the energy.
Henry: I definitely had that concern too. It is always a conscious decision to go to the cinema to watch a film. During the early days of the pandemic, I feared we might lose that.
Taylor-Johnson: You thought it was a new era because people can now watch everything at home. But I think cinema is not dying because there are so many blockbusters coming this year alone that will bring people back…
Henry: We all missed sitting in a dark room with a group of strangers and laughing while others kicked each other’s ass on screen. I think Bullet Train offers just that.
Do you all still occasionally travel by train privately? If yes, how was your last train journey?
King: I actually took the Bullet Train from Tokyo to Kyoto once.
Pitt: I rode that one too.
King: That didn’t go very well though. Right seat, wrong train, as an old Japanese woman explained to me with hands and feet. Very uncomfortable.
Pitt: I know that. I once drove from Budapest to Serbia. And I didn’t manage to sit properly either. They then simply uncoupled the last wagons I was in.
Leitch: In Los Angeles we urgently need more local public transport, so there is hardly any possibility. But when I come to Europe, I love to travel by train.
“Bullet Train” will be in cinemas in Germany from August 4th
Nicole Ankelmann spoke with Brad Pitt, Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Brian Tyree Henry and David Leitch