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Interview with Kandahar director Ric Roman Waugh
by Bobby Blakey

Director Ric Roman Waugh has been bringing some great flicks to the masses for years including Shot Caller, Snitch, Shot Caller and Greenland. Now he is reteaming with Gerard Butler once again for the action thriller Kandahar. I had the chance to sit down and speak with him briefly about bringing this true life event to the big screen.

Bobby: How did you get involved with this film?

Ric: I'm always looking for unique point of views and in movies. I feel like we've all seen the different genres. When I read Greenland for the first time it blew me away in that was a very different look at what it would be like to be in a global disaster like that from the family's point of view. I'd seen in a lot of movies on the Middle East and read a lot of scripts that have never gotten made on the Middle East. But for the first time I finally saw something that reminded me of what's the Sicario did to the war on drugs. How it took me on both sides of the border, showed me the human cost on both sides. Well, I went on this great action thriller, right and that's Kandahar.


Kandahar shows us a very different look at the Middle East than we have ever seen, where we're not only in the western point of view, but we're also seeing our adversaries point of view or people that we think are as our adversaries and understanding that they're no different than us. They're not the policymakers. They're not the politicians. They're the people that are sent on the ground and enforce policy and a lot of them are just trying to get back to their families like we are. It was this way of doing the spy world again, this is not a war picture and has nothing to do with wars. It’s what happened after the US withdrawal. How the spy game continues as everybody tries the new land grab of Afghanistan.

Bobby: This is the third time you've worked with Gerard Butler. Was he somebody you instantly wanted for this part or is it just something that kind of happened as you decided to start casting?

Ric: I think the first time I read it, I knew it was perfect for Gerry. After we made Angel this fall, and the whole reason he came to me on that picture was he didn't like where a lot of the characters he was playing were going where they were, you know 10 feet tall and bulletproof and impervious to pain. They can kill 50 people not put a scratch on him and he wanted to start playing human characters that were more grounded that can be an action and have special skill sets and do heroic things like we

grew up on the 70s you know, all the way back to the 50s those characters all have flaws, they were dealing with issues. They were relatable to us, but we got to go explore a world with them. So Mike Banning became a pill popping Secret Service agent trying to you know, defy his own mortality and not hang up a gun and Greenland was his great endeavor for us have taken all the special skill sets away and just making him a guy that all he has is his heart, and how far he pushed his own morality to keep his family safe and alive.

Kandar puts it all together for me and that's why I love Gerry for this. It's a guy that is now addicted to war after 20 years. War and violence has become home. What happens when he has to hang up the gun and go home, but he doesn't know how to? There was these great kind of flawed things that we deal with as a society and they're relatable to us but then also we got to shoot in Saudi Arabia. We were the first major Hollywood motion picture to shoot in Saudi Arabia since Lawrence of Arabia. So you're talking about most landscapes and never been on film before that you'll see in this movie, and that's why it's a great theatrical experience. It's about coming with your loved one or your buddy, get a tub of popcorn and sit for two hours and get immersed in a world you'd ever seen.

You know, when we've seen a lot of the places that we go to shoot for the Middle East. Jordan, Morocco, and Abu Dhabi, and places in the Middle East, they do a lot of filming. We know what those places are and recognize them immediately. So we chose to go into a new environment that maybe is not exactly what an Afghan desert would look like. But it's authentic and that's what matters. It's not about being factual that's what documentaries do. This is about being authentic to a world and giving you a form of escapism and go and having that big theatrical experience again.

Bobby: The accuracy and authentic nature of what you're trying to do, especially in this kind of thing, you're dealing with different kinds of cultures and religions and countries and you're all trying to make it work. What kind of work had to go into keeping it accurate and making it work?

Ric: It's a lot. When you're trying to portray a lot of different characters like they are in this movie you want to be authentic. One to the spy world, how each clandestine operator works from Pakistan, Iran, Taliban, our guys, the Brits, everybody, right? But you also want to be authentic to the cultures as well. The script was written by Mitchell LaFortune tune who was in the Defense Intelligence Agency for over a decade for tours in Afghanistan. So here's the guy that lived it firsthand. He didn't read the book, he was it and lived it. This is all inspired by true events.

We also really did talk to and had on set different cultures to really understand how they operate and what's going on there. The most interesting thing I will tell you that the movie portrays that I saw firsthand in the Middle East is the culture clash that’s going on between the ultra-conservative movement that don't want anything but work, pray and sleep the way it's been for the last hundreds and hundreds of years.

There's a new generation that wants far more than that. They want culture. They want to be part of the Western world, the free world and do things on their own and have women's rights, basic rights essentially and that's indicative of what's going on in Saudi Arabia. I think that manifests itself on screen when you see a Pakistan ISI operator which is Pakistan, CIA, and he's meeting with the Taliban leadership and he's in complete traditional garb with a turban on and then he walks outside and throws on Gucci sunglasses, smokes a vape pen and listen to hip hop. That's not a caricature that is really going on in the Middle East. There's a new movement that doesn't want the same status quo lifestyle that they've had for hundreds of years.

Bobby: I love that because at first it felt like he was up to something because you think he must be faking it, but then realize, oh, wait, that's just how he is. I thought that was a very nice element to add in there to see that different element of how the culture is now in a lot of people.

Ric: Thank you.

Bobby: The other side of it is a lot of action here. When you're dealing with the action, especially in today's times, in this film, there's explosions or shoot outs and all this stuff. Did you have a lot of pushback with studios about doing practical action as opposed to them wanting to do more than CGI stuff? How hard is it to keep that authentic, realistic nature of your action now, in the world that we currently have in filmmaking?

Ric: I know what you're talking about. We live in a superhero world now where we can drop a car out of 30,000 feet from an airplane, lands on its wheels and keeps going. I love those movies, but everything has to have its place and tone me tone means everything and my movies are about authenticity.

So the action you see in Kandahar, it's real. We did all this stunts are real, all the action is real. The explosions are real. The helicopter at night is real, but we're we also wanted to really be a part of the character work and to explore those things. I feel like if you can read the audience in character and emotion, the action then become something that they're participating in, versus just watching action for the sake of action. I'm a former stuntman so maybe I have a biased opinion, but you know, my eyes glaze over. I don't care how much money they threw at it. If I'm not emotionally attached to what's going on I'm not interested in it.

Bobby: I know you have some big projects potentially coming up, so are we going to see a Greenland sequel that I've been hearing rumors about?

Ric: There is a Greenland sequel that we are going down the pipe with. It's figuring it all out still. I just signed on to this really little tiny movie called Cliffhanger. So we're going to continue the franchise you know on the way Top Gun: Maverick evolved the story from the original Top Gun. That's what we're going to be doing with cliffhanger and Mr. Sylvester Stallone himself will be definitely involved on camera. We’ll meet a new generation of characters and carry Gabe Walker history forward and we're super excited about that. So that that's very much on the forefront.

Bobby: Before I fully wrap it up since each since you mentioned cliffhanger. As a director, I know you've stepped into different franchises but coming into something like this that was such an iconic film and actor, does it make you nervous or at this point still are you so ingrained in the culture of what you've been doing now that it's just old hat this point?

Ric: Bobby, the day that I say I can pone this in, I'm going to hang it up. I get nervous as hell. Cliffhanger is a very well revered title and something that I love and adore. I mean, you could just say that title by itself and people put a smile on their face because they know what we're talking about. A huge responsibility comes to that with that as well as to the fan base, that I include myself on so I am very nervous. I embrace fear and that anxiety helping me push it over to the next level.

Bobby: Awesome. I really appreciate your time. I'm a big fan of your films.

Ric: I appreciate. We got to keep these movies alive in the theaters. You know, we are dealing with big superheroes and the animated stuff and I'm glad they're there because they're putting people back in the theaters. But these adult driven movies that you and I love, hopefully Kandahar will keep continue that tradition.

Bobby: I tell people all the time that complain about sequels and remakes and then they refuse to go see something original like this. Get off your butt and go!

Ric: Thank you. I appreciate you.

Check out Kandahar in theaters now from Open Road Films.

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