In 2008, Josh Peck, star of the Nickelodeon series "Drake & Josh," earned positive reviews for his performance in the coming-of-age drama "The Wackness." After the success of "The Wackness," Peck signed on as the lead in a remake of the 1984 Cold War relic, "Red Dawn." As Peck recalled, the films gave him a chance to make a name for himself in Hollywood with a "one-two punch." The problem is that "Red Dawn" never came out; it's just now being released on Nov. 21, 2012.
Caught up in the MGM bankruptcy fiasco that also delayed "Cabin in the Woods" -- a film that coincidentally also starred Chris Hemsworth -- "Red Dawn" has been sitting on the shelf since 2009. So, it's hard not to think that, just maybe, Peck lost at least some career momentum in the last three years -- something that Peck admits was a fear for him as well. In "Red Dawn," Peck plays Matt Eckert, a member of a resistance group called the Wolverines. (It's a role that Charlie Sheen played in the original film). Gone are the Russian invaders (well, kind of), instead replaced by North Koreans, who overthrow a large section of the United States. (Originally, the invaders in the remake were Chinese, but the change to North Korea was made during the delay in an effort to make the film more palatable for China's expanding film market.)
Here, a refreshingly honest Peck -- he admits that the invaders could be zombies at this point for all he cares, just as long as the movie is in theaters -- talks about the frustrations of watching a movie sit in limbo and discusses how such a problem can affect a career.
So, your movie is finally coming out.
I know! You're here. We're here.
Did you ever lose hope that it would ever come out?
Inherently, making a movie is tough because there's so much anticipation when it happens -- even if everything goes well. Sometimes you have a year that you have to wait for something to come out -- and that's with post-production and everything. For this to take three years, there's been so much anticipation. Not only for the cast and whatnot, but the filmmaker, Dan Bradley -- he worked on it for two years with post and pre-production. So, I so want people to see it for him. But, yeah, dude, there were some days -- the dog days of April 2011 -- where I was like, "Oh my God, I really hope this thing come out."
There were a lot of release-date announcements that never happened.
Right! So, at this point, I don't think they can pull it back now. I mean, we're here.
Come on, would you be 100-percent surprised?
Surprised? Oh, yeah, a little humanity in me would die. Slightly.
The beginning of this film opens up with the financial crises -- then the studio behind this film goes bankrupt. That's poignant in a way, right?
Sure ... Good one, universe.
Were you bothered at all that the attacking country in this movie was changed from China to North Korea?
What was hard about doing this film -- especially because it's not in 3D and there's not a lot of green screen -- in many ways, it's a throwback to the action movies that I grew up with. And it's always walking that line of, "How do we root this with some real stakes in reality while having total, fantastic circumstances that probably would never happen?" You know, I think that there was definitely a thought process behind initially having China as the enemy. And I think there was a whole new thought process when they decided to change it to North Korea. But, after waiting for the movie to come out for so long, I think I was a fan of whoever they decided. [Laughs] Because it meant that it was going to come out.
"Martians? OK, that's fine."
Yeah, I mean ... zombies, whatever.
Admit it, speaking of dying a little, if you had to re-dub your lines for "the zombies," you would have.
That would have been rough.
Did you have to do much re-dubbing of your dialogue to change it from China to North Korea?
I did do a little bit of ADR as far as that goes. But then the bad guy in the film, General Cho, he [laughs] had to do a whole new language. That was intense.
Does he know Korean?
I don't know! I'm sure they gave him some help.
You mention the stakes in the film. When I saw the original in theaters, I was 10 and it scared the shit out of me. And the threat of the Soviet Union was real. How do you recapture that?
I think you're right, when the original came out, kids were doing drills where they had to hide under their desks. So, it was sort of a thing that was on everyone's mind, inherently. With the new film, it's sort of the idea that it's universal of, "What if the fight was brought to your front door?" Be it something as fantastic as an invasion to a natural disaster. What if an unforeseen circumstance forced you to react? And if it threatened your home and family, what would you do?
You've seen the original, right?
In your opinion, what are the major differences?
[Laughs] Besides that I'm half the man that Charlie Sheen is?
I'm not saying that. I would say that it's less grim. In the original, a lot of characters died.
Yeah. I mean, I think the difference is the original movie, there's more breathing that goes on. It takes its time more. Whereas this film, you have about eight minutes of setup and then it doesn't stop for 90 minutes ... I think this one speaks to a little bit more of the ADD generation. It keeps you interested the whole time. Not that the other one doesn't, but it's just a different approach.
In the original, the Wolverines execute one of their own? Would that have been too grim for this version?
Maybe. It's definitely possible. I mean, I feel like we go right up to it.
I was thinking it might happen.
I think either way, Daryl is done for. He's cooked. We may not see him in the sequel.
I really enjoyed "The Wackness."
So, I felt like you had this momentum from that movie -- and then "Red Dawn" was your next project. Was that disappointing, career wise?
Yeah, I mean, you like to believe ... Listen, acting is very much like sales: you're only as good as your last one. And then "out of sight, out of mind" is definitely a fear. You know, that you'll go away for too long. Totally.
Was that frustrating?
It was tough. I mean, you always hear it like, "the one-two punch," in film and whatnot.
Is that real?
I don't know. I don't know what's real. Listen, you always hear "a meteoric rise" for people. Like, "Oh my God, where did he come from?" But for so many of the actors I love and respect, they have that movie. But, if you go back, they've been doing quality work for 10 years before that. So, there are those sort-of-rare people that do come out of nowhere, but the actors that I love and respect sort of have the other track records. So, if that's mine and I'm able to accumulate great work for over a good amount of time and maybe there's one thing that kind of clicks, then that's great. But in doing "Red Dawn," there's a part of me that's ... "The Wackness" is actor's food. It feeds you on every level. But the tough thing with independent cinema is that not a lot of people see it. So there was a seductive quality to the idea of doing something that's on a really wide-release level.
And you got to work with Ben Kingsley.
My favorite actor.
I'll admit, in this job I have interviewed people like Ben Affleck and Nicolas Cage, but when I interviewed Ben Kingsley, I kept thinking, How am I in a room with Ben Kingsley?
I mean, Nic Cage in "Leaving Las Vegas"? Brilliant. But, in some ways -- correct me if I'm wrong -- they, him and Affleck, feel almost like peers in a way. And Kingsley feels like Yoda. So, to me, everyone is a distant second on my list of people I wanted to work with. And, God, it will be a dream to work with so many other people, but, to get to start at the top was, like, the best.
Speaking of peers ... since this movie was filmed, Chris Hemsworth has become a big star.
I'm glad I got to meet Chris and Josh [Hutcherson], going into "The Hunger Games," in the environment that I did. I'm glad that we got to begin our relationship that way. But, Chris and I have stayed close over three years and, like, he's exactly the same dude ... only really famous.
Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.
One of the most prominent works of its time and genre, this 1932 crime film loosely based on the life of Al Capone is a primary representation of cinema from the era of the Depression, Prohibition and the height of organized crime in Chicago. Brian De Palma’s 1983 remake, which changed the period and location, was a classic in its own right. It’s as much of its time -- with its cocaine-fueled plot and incorporation of current events -- as Howard Hawks’ film was of its own.
This classic monster movie features an iconic giant ape that could do damage in any time period. In 1933, however, the Depression era provided a number of ingredients suited to the film’s plot, including a desperate unemployed woman and adventurers looking to make it rich with unbelievable attractions, which are hard to imagine translating to other decades. That’s probably why Peter Jackson’s 2005 version went for the same setting (though his remake didn’t exude all the era-defining characteristics of the original, most notably the subtexts of race and xenophobia). Earlier, the 1976 remake went for an updated setting, tying the expedition to the interests of an oil company. While the film has its problems, the change in year is surprisingly one of the things that works.
Most of Frank Capra’s films are era-defining (though he did remake two of his own movies down the road), yet this 1936 comedy, based on a short story by Clarence Budington Kelland, is probably his most time-stamped work with its relevance to the Depression and response to the New Deal. Somehow, Adam Sandler ended up in a 2002 remake that had no relevance to anything, lacking both substantial context and subtext for a story of a small-town yokel who inherits a huge fortune.
So many science fiction films of the 1950s were very much of and for their time, featuring themes informed by the Cold War and the nuclear age. In 1951, just six years after the first atomic weapons were dropped on Japan, and as hydrogen bombs and nuclear energy were still being developed, this film arrived with a warning from a space alien about man’s dangerous dabblings in atomic power. The 2008 remake appropriately focused on humanity’s damage to the environment as its self-inflicted threat, but this wasn’t as much of a time-defining issue as the fear of atomic apocalypse was 60 years ago.
By the time of its release in 1956, McCarthyism and the Second Red Scare were in decline. But this science-fiction horror film about aliens invading via clones will always be tied to the notion that “pod people” refer to Communists. Never mind that author Jack Finney, who wrote the 1955 source novel, nor the filmmakers, intended either to deliver an anti-Communist or an anti-McCarthyism message. The film has been remade three times. In 1978, it reflected the paranoia of the post-Watergate period and dealt with the rising self-help craze. In 1993, AIDS could be seen as a source for subtext. And the recent 2007 version made very little effort to find contemporary relevance.
The 1962 original, based on a 1959 novel, is about Communists using mind control to manipulate a Korean War hero. It’s one of the most significant thrillers of the Cold War era, though its greatest relevance to the period wasn’t immediate. In fact, some think the film might have influenced the assassinations of JFK and others that followed later in the decade. A 2004 remake was acclaimed for its surprisingly fitting update involving the Gulf War, the military industrial complex and the idea of puppet politicians, but it’s not hardly era-defining.
Not only was this 1967 drama groundbreaking in its treatment of interracial relationships, the film arrived on the heels of Loving v. Virginia and the Supreme Court ruling that it was illegal to restrict race-based marriages in the United States. Nearly forty years later, a remake with the racial roles reversed was not as substantially relevant, but its comedy did nonetheless mine from the fact that social acceptance of interracial couples isn’t at 100 percent.
Released in 1971 and based on a novel from the same year, this blaxploitation action detective film is one of the primary examples of the genre and has remained one of its biggest hits. Also, it’s era-defining soundtrack is one of the most famous of all time. Technically, the 2000 film of the same name is a combination sequel/spin-off/remake that has very little representational significance to its setting or time of release.
Clearly the 1975 original, based on the Ira Levin novel, is a satire for the women’s movement of the time. Slightly akin to the Body Snatchers films, here we have a town in which all the wives are being replaced by domestic lookalike robots in order to keep feminist influences at bay. A 2004 remake, may seem to have greater relevance now that we’ve seen the popularity of series like “Desperate Housewives” and “The Real Housewives of...,” but at the time it didn’t have much significance to the era.
While the 1984 original wasn’t a response to any real cultural move to ban music and dancing from U.S. communities, the film did represent a contemporary clash of values and the rise of influence of MTV on American youth. Mostly, though, it’s a product of a period when soundtracks could rule the record charts. The plot came off as even more antiquated in the 2011 remake, and doesn’t have much relevance of any kind to the present era.