Nick Powell [Interview]

 

Hello, Folks! And welcome back to another week of wonderful showcases here at Trainwreck’d Society. We kicked off the weekend last Friday with a great interview from an absolute legend in the world of stunts. And, well, we enjoyed it so much, I thought why not have at it again? That’s right Folks, we have yet another legendary figure from the world of stunts, and a cat who happens to be a filmmaker in his own right, as the evolution seems to happen. It’s Nick Powell, Everyone!

There has been quite a bit of talk over the years about the fact that stunt work is not celebrated at all in regards to the film world’s highest “honor”, which would be the Oscars. The art of creating realistic and appealing stunts is just that – an art. And it’s absolutely criminal that it is not showcasing to those outside of the world itself as to show just how important of an art it truly is. And it is suffice to say that should the Academy retroactively celebrate one pioneer of the industry, it would be Nick Powell. Not only has Nick worked on some of the finest action/adventure films of all time, he has worked on some of the finest FILMS of all time. This includes Best Picture winners like Braveheart and Gladiator. These films were celebrated for their cinematic achievement. Well, what was one of the most compelling aspects of these films? That’s right, the stunt work. So what is the deal?

Beyond the world of stunts, Powell is also an accomplished filmmaker. As we discuss below, thanks to some incredible research by our friend Chris Eaves which we will be sharing soon, Powell holds the distinction of being only 1 of 2 filmmakers who have worked with screen legend Nicolas Cage on more than one occasion. Check out his wonderful responses below for more details.

So Folks, please enjoy some wonderful words from the legendary Nick Powell!

 

******

 

What inspired you to get into the world of entertainment? Was it something that you had yearned to do since your youth, or did you just happen to find yourself in this world one day?

I was actually more into sports as a kid and played for a couple of 1st division schoolboy sides so I was very interested in becoming a footballer upon leaving school (soccer if you’re not from England) but was persuaded by careers teachers that I should get a ’solid career’ to fall back on in case it didn’t work out. As a naive 16 year old and maybe not being quite as skilled as I’d like to think I was, I  went to engineering college for two years where I trained and qualified as a design engineer.

At 18, engineering qualification in hand and not really having been active enough as a footballer to get scouted for a pro team, I had a place lined up to study for a masters in engineering at Sheffield University but really couldn’t see myself doing that for the rest of my life. One of the things I’d always loved the idea of was acting but where I came from it wasn’t really something you’d ever tell anyone about, at least not without risking being called a lot of very unflattering names. Anyway, having my university place already guaranteed I took the risk and, without telling anyone at home, I went down to London and auditioned at a couple of Drama Schools hoping that I could learn to be an actor. Maybe I could do well enough to get roles that would pay the bills whilst at the same time inspiring people or at least moving them emotionally the same way I was moved whilst watching a lot of movies as a kid. As I write this I realize just how naive it all sounds and what a long shot it really was.

Anyway, I was lucky enough to get accepted at a Drama school and studied acting for a couple of years. I did everything I could to get work after graduating and whilst I was actually one of the lucky ones and managed to find enough work in theatre and TV to pay the bills, just, it was always a hard slog. Whilst I was doing a theatre job I met a guy who was training to become a stunt man and he explained the requirements to get accepted on the British Stunt Register, it sounded like a lot of fun and even if I didn’t succeed I figured I’d learn a lot of things that might help in my acting career. After a couple of years of hard training I qualified as a probationary stunt man and what was intended to be the extra string to the acting bow gradually, over the next 6 or 7 years became the main string.

Stunt work was exciting and well paid, at least in comparison to a lot of the small theatre jobs I’d been doing so I’d take the stunt work over the acting and after being asked to choreograph all the fights and sword work on Braveheart, I figured I’d found what I was meant to do.

What was your first paid gig in the world of entertainment? And were there any sort of lessons learned from this experience that still affects your work to date?

To be completely honest, I can’t recall the first few extremely minor jobs I had as an actor after graduation, I think they were in profit share theatre but the first real acting job I do remember was a small role in a BBC TV show The Diary of Anne Frank where I played ‘NSB Man’ with a few lines of dialogue (I think it was a year after I graduated) and I was extremely excited and happy to have gotten the role. I also played the role of Jim Hawkins in Treasure Island in theatre at the Edinburgh Playhouse around the same time and recall one of the actors in the show was a friend from the same drama school I went to and who I and everyone else thought was probably the most likely to succeed, he was a standout at the school and I followed his career which didn’t go very far which was a real shame as he was so talented. I learned from that that it’s not always the most talented people that are successful.

Early in your career, you worked on the stunts for one of my favorite films of all time, which would be the incredible Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. I am such a fan boy of this film, and I have to ask how your experience was working on this project. And while you were making it, did you have any idea that you were making the finest depiction of Robin Hood that would ever exist?

When I was working on it, Robin Hood was just another job that I really enjoyed doing when I was starting out. I only had a few weeks work on it as a general stunt man, running around, climbing trees, sword fighting, shooting arrows, that kind of thing. So, no, I didn’t really know what we were making at that point but it was a real pleasure to be working in close proximity to Kevin Costner and Morgan Freeman and it was around that time that I began thinking I was becoming a real stunt man. I’d done some work on the Tim Burton Batman movie a year or so before and I was doing a lot of television so things were starting to work out nicely for me at this point. Having the acting background was really helpful as I got a lot of work where directors wanted a stuntman that could act or an actor that could do his own stunts. It kind of kept the dream of one day going back to the theatre alive but unfortunately I never did get back there.

Whilst scrolling through your IMDb credits, I noticed that your first “credit” as a director is with the Nicolas Cage fronted action film Outcast, although you did quite a bit of work beyond the world of stunts prior to it. I am curious to know how this project changed things for you? How was your experience in taking on a project like this as your first role in the director’s chair?

Prior to Outcast I’d been approached to direct a few things – features and TV – but I’d had a lot of bad luck, either because of financing, timing or casting, none of them happened, although they had taken up a lot of time that I could have spent doing other jobs. That’s one of the things about directing, especially in the smaller independent world, you need to commit a lot of time prior to the movie actually happening so that takes you out of the running for things in the field you are already in, at least in my case anyhow. In fact, Outcast took over a year from when I agreed to direct it to actually going into pre production and lot’s of things changed dramatically from the time I said yes to when we started shooting including producer changes, script being rewritten, cast changes etc., etc., etc.

It was not exactly the experience I had hoped it would be as we started out making a movie for the world market and ended up making what was essentially a Chinese movie. I worked as hard as I could to maintain the initial vision that myself and the western producers had but it was essentially taken out of our hands. The main benefit I got from the project was that I realized I worked well with all the cast and I learned how to produce, direct and do a lot of other people’s jobs on the most insanely pressurized project I’ve ever been involved with.

 

 

Our dear friend, and resident film historian Chris Eaves, has noted that very few filmmakers have worked with Nicolas Cage more than once. You actually have, you did Outcast, more recently the film Primal. In fact, you are one of two. I am curious to know what you feel as though it is about your working relationship that led to a second outing? And what was it like meeting up with Cage for a second project as a director?

Continuing on from the response to your previous question, none of the western cast and crew had too great an experience on Outcast (for a variety of reasons) but I had developed relationships with the actors and crew whereby they all realized they could trust me and that given the right project and circumstances wanted to work with me again. Nick was especially supportive, and after we had finished on Outcast and realized it was not what we had hoped for he said he’d love to do something with me again under better circumstances. I was sent the script to Primal and immediately thought that Nick would be great for the lead. I reached out to him and within a few days he was onboard. As seems normal from my experience on these sort of projects, depending on producers I’m sure, once again it took a long time to get the project realized. From when Nick said yes it took almost a year before we started shooting. The benefit of working together for a second time is that the sense of trust between us has grown and Nick and I get on even better than before, he is a consummate professional and we have chatted about doing something else together at some point in the future.

If you were handed the opportunity to create the biopic of any legendary figure in world history, in any period, who would it be?

Of course, in the vein of Gladiator and Braveheart etc I’d love to helm a large scale battle pic such as a Genghis Khan movie. Especially since, having done quite a bit of study on the man, there are so many fascinating aspects to his general life story besides the battle elements. I think there are great stories to be told from some of the rock and roll legends such as Mick Jagger, David Bowie and the like whilst I’d love to take on more cerebral characters such as Freud or Jung as well.

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

I’m in the process of putting together a vampire love story very much influenced by Shakespeare with a lot of anachronistic steampunk type visual references that I’m hoping to shoot in Cuba later this year. Things are coming together as I write and if all goes well I hope we will have a complete picture ready for festivals next spring. I’ve also been approached to shoot a strong female led action project early next year that I’m really looking forward to as well.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

My daughter a few minutes ago who is having trouble with her braces, now, in the middle of the coronavirus shut down I can’t get her an appointment and might have to have a go at adjusting her braces myself, not something I have a clue how to do. you’ve got to laugh!

About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: