THE LAST STAND
Ignition: Schwarzenegger Returns
He's long been among the toughest, most iconic action heroes of cinema legend, but lately Arnold Schwarzenegger has been serving in another high-adrenaline role -- as the Governor of California. Now, at last, he makes his much-anticipated comeback with his first leading action role in a decade in THE LAST STAND. Taking on the role of a small-town Sheriff with a hard-edged past, Schwarzenegger resumes his screen hero status with a character who is familiar in his fierceness, yet brings a new twist. This bold, badass veteran lawman has seen plenty of action -- but he thinks he's moved on to more peaceful pastures until bad guys show up in the very town where he's come to escape them
"In this film, we see the Arnold we have missed, and the Arnold we have never seen before," sums up the film's director Jee-woon, whose Hollywood debut makes a surprise collision with Schwarzenegger's return to the screen. One of the most lauded and watched of the Korean cinematic phenoms, Jee-Woon won acclaim with his stylish noir thriller A BITTERSWEET LIFE, his award-winning outlaw comedy THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE WEIRD, his hardboiled horror movie I SAW THE DEVIL and his haunting ghost story A TALE OF TWO SISTERS. But he had never made an action film in America before -- and would get his first chance to do so with the biggest Hollywood action star of them all.
Jee-woon was instantly drawn to THE LAST STAND's mix of breakneck speed, rollicking humor and colorful characters on both sides of the law, but he was compelled most of all by the chance to have Arnold lead an awe-inspiring defense of justice, even when he and his town have been counted out as nobodies.
Says Jee-woon of their unusual pairing: "Arnold has done everything in Hollywood and I am just starting out in Hollywood. We are so different, but when I met him, our thoughts on THE LAST STAND and his character coincided. Sheriff Owens has left behind his violent past for a quiet, peaceful small town, but ironically, he must now put everything he has on the line in order to protect this new home. I think we both saw it as story about how a villain armed with high-tech machinery that even governments cannot stop is thwarted by small town people who are inspired by justice."
For producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, whose films include all three TRANSFORMERS, SALT and The G.I. JOE series, THE LAST STAND was a great match for Schwarzenegger's desire to make his first film back something as thunderously exciting as ever but also fresh. "I thought it would allow Arnold to come back to the screen in a different way; and yet, there is a lot of what we always love about Arnold in this role," says the producer. "I think this is a moment where he can redefine who he is. He's always going to be that strong hero, but in this movie, he also has some vulnerability along with his inner fortitude. It's a role that is less about him being an individual and more about him being a true leader."
Di Bonaventura was also exhilarated by the chance to work with Jee-woon, who though renowned by action and horror film enthusiasts around the world, had not yet made an English-language feature. "He has a body of work that is really astonishing. When you see all of his different movies, you see his versatility -- every one of them has both entertainment value and emotional pull," observes the producer. "He knows how to shoot action, how to shoot comedy, how to shoot drama -- and in this film, he brings all of that to bear in a unified way."
As soon as Jee-woon saw the screenplay for THE LAST STAND, he was drawn in. "THE LAST STAND is a very American story, but it also had many elements that intrigue me, so I decided to go for it," he recalls. "I found its underlying theme of finding value in the people of a small town and protecting justice very attractive, and I was also inspired by the idea of a story in which bad guys using high technology are stopped by good guys in low-tech ways."
Though the director had a lot to learn, diving into a very different filmmaking culture from that of Korea, he says that Schwarzenegger made it a pleasure. "Arnold is so smart that he could always figure out what I was looking for," he says. "Even when I would fumble because I'm not that familiar with the Hollywood system of doing things, he would say 'the director is an artist, he needs his time.' There was also a real camaraderie between us because Arnold is an immigrant and I am a foreigner. But I grew up on Hollywood cinema and that is reflected in my work."
While Jee-woon had fun with the villain Cortez's need for speed and state-of-the-art firepower, he was also interested in driving the action with character -- as Schwarzenegger's Sheriff Ray Owens finds himself on a very personal collision course with the most lethal criminal of his long, storied career.
Di Bonaventura concurs that this is the core of the adrenaline-pumping story. "Ray Owens was highly successful with the LAPD, but then he was involved in a raid that forced him to walk away, back to the town where his immigrant parents settled. In a sense, he has been hiding from the responsibility of being a big city cop. But when our villain Cortez decides to come right through this town that forces Owens to face the things he didn't really want to face again, in order to protect the town and the people he loves."
He goes on: "I think Arnold brings kind of a quiet confidence to this role, like one of my heroes, John Wayne, always did. When we see just how outmanned he is, we begin to wonder if this might not be his last stand. But you can always count on Arnold."
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