Brunch

Controlled chaos

By Kavishna Wijesinghe

Helming a Marvel movie is probably one of the most coveted jobs in Hollywood for a director nowadays. However, back when Marvel Studios was still in its infancy, only Iron Man (2008) had hit theaters and the audience was blissfully unaware of plans for a bigger universe, Louis Leterrier was undertaking the task of reintroducing a fan favourite character. He would go on to create the second instalment in the MCU, reinventing The Incredible Hulk (2008) for a new audience.

Louis had already made a name for himself in the industry by then, and The Incredible Hulk was another notch on his amazing resume. He joined us on the Junkyard Theory (while driving!) to talk about his journey as a director.

Origins

Louis Leterrier directing Morgan Freeman in ‘Now You See Me’ (2013)

Louis got into filmmaking through his parents; his father was a filmmaker and his mother was a costume designer. He said that having actors, producers, and other film personnel around his home was a normal thing, but that he also loved movies since childhood. He dipped his fingers into filmmaking when he saw an advert for a competition that was awarding a VHS camera, which he won, and subsequently started making films on weekends.

Hailing from France, Louis divulged that he never really connected with movies that were made in his motherland, but rather with those by Hollywood. His parents eventually sent him to New York University (NYU) to study filmmaking.

Transferable skills

When questioned about whether his time drumming had contributed to filmmaking, Louis admitted that it had in fact helped him with building things to a crescendo with rhythm. Being an action filmmaker, Louis admitted that he was not involved in martial arts or any form of practice, but it was definitely the music that aided him to find rhythm and choreograph the action in films like Transporter (2002), Unleashed (2005), and Clash of the Titans (2010).

Media in flux

Louis Leterrier working on the Netflix series ‘The Dark Crystal_ Age of Resistance’ (2019)

Having worked on short films and features, Louis expressed that while short films have a more definitive beginning and end within a limited time span, it still employs pretty much the same tools of storytelling that features or series do – it’s just that the canvas is bigger and more tools are available.

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (2019) and Lupin (2020) were two of the series that he worked on with Netflix, the ideas for the latter which had been pitched even before Stranger Things. Louis admitted that working on Lupin was when he figured out the matrix for TV, since everything is in flux and what people consume vs. what they want is always changing.

He admitted that while it is the best time to be a creator, it is also the scariest, since there is a lot of content being created and standing out is challenging. But with streaming services like Netflix, he believes that people can discover content long after it has been released.

Action films

Louis Leterrier on the set of the ‘Clash of the Titans’ (2010)

Louis’ first movie was Transporter, which he was prepping for Cory Yuen to take over when he arrived, but Louis ended up helming the flick. Louis revealed that he was expecting each day to be his last, so he came on set with the intention to do the best he could and mostly to have fun while doing it. Louis’ preproduction process entails planning as much as possible, while taking a step back and looking at the entire movie before production starts. He stated that this is due to the fact that production is more hectic, he is problem-solving onset so he decides how he wants to film the story during prep, and surrounds himself with the right people to bring that vision to screen. He alluded that filmmaking to be controlled chaos, where everything can be very chaotic on a film set, but with the right prep, it’s controlled.

Collaboration

Louis Leterrier speaking to Akash Sunethkumara

With Unleashed, he described how he utilised different stylistic elements to make the movie very violent but elegant in its own way. He collaborated with Sifu Yuen Woo-ping to make Jet Li’s character fight like a street dog. In the same way, with the rest of his movies, he collaborated with people while encouraging them to bring him the best ideas that serve the story since they make him look good. With every film, Louis stated that everyone becomes a family through the course of production.

As a leader, he wants everyone to feel safe, respected, and valued. He also makes it a point to learn the names of everyone on the crew, research their previous work, and see if they have any mutual friends. Louis calls this his homework, and as a leader, he believes being self-deprecating is also important but never to a fault. When something doesn’t work, saying “sorry, I was wrong guys” and admitting you don’t know something is better than faking it.

Advice

While Louis admits that filmmaking can be tough, he said: “It’s one big long adventure that ends with glorious fireworks or fizzles. I believe that every film is a journey. Be grateful for the experience and try to make the best of each day. Believe you have the best job in the world.”

The full interview with Louis Leterrier is available on the Junkyard Theory YouTube channel.

Junkyard Theory is Sri Lanka’s first and only film education platform that brings on veteran filmmakers from Hollywood as guest speakers. Their webinars, hosted by Akash Sunethkumara, have been recognised on industry sites such as “No Film School”, and the team now runs film courses for upcoming filmmakers in the country.