CULVER CITY, California — While it may sound like just another movie based on a ’70s cop show, the cast of “S.W.A.T.” got a big dose of reality when a real-life police chase came crashing through their set.
Colin Farrell, Samuel L. Jackson, LL Cool J and “The Fast and the Furious” star Michelle Rodriguez have gone to great lengths to make the action in “S.W.A.T.” seem real — even when that meant getting a little too close for comfort. (Click to see photos on the set. )
“I was on the set that day,” LL explained while taking a short break between takes. “Everyone was going crazy. Cars came flying through the bridge, barely missing the Learjet. Because, you know, there [are] scenes with Learjets landing on bridges. I mean, the movie has some real cool scenes.”
Colin Farrell had just arrived that night to shoot one such “real cool” scene — a chase sequence for the end of the film complete with explosions, a limousine and plenty of automatic firepower — when the cast and crew were ordered out of the way. A Chevy Blazer was tearing toward them, with several real cop cars and a helicopter in tow.
“[The truck] flew through between the nose [of the plane] and the wall of the bridge,” the Irish actor explained excitedly, noting there was a margin of error of roughly six inches. “They made it through [with] about 12 cop cars after them. It was on the news. I was wondering what they were thinking when they were driving up the 6th Street Bridge and they saw a plane landed in the middle of the road. They must have been like, ’What the f—?’ ”
“Colin, since he was so tired from working so much, was kind of wishing that [they] crashed,” Rodriguez joked. “[So we could] get some insurance days. But it didn’t happen that way.”
Today, the actors are back to work, decked out in “S.W.A.T.” team uniforms and getting their hands dirty. “We’re searching for some ’bad guys,’ for lack of a better word, going through the tunnels,” LL explained. “We’re going through the drainage, the sewer system looking for these guys. There’s a lot of death traps here and there — land mines, explosions. Machine guns could be around every corner. It’s cool — real cool.”
“A lot of [real-life] S.W.A.T. team members are bored, because there’s a lot of waiting around and killing people isn’t a priority,” Rodriguez said, pointing out that her boots were extra lubricated for maximum butt-kicking. “But [in] Hollywood, you know, we make everything more fun … it’s definitely all action packed. I’m not sitting behind a desk at any point in this film, put it that way.”
Scheduled for release August 8, the movie marks the feature-film debut of Clark Johnson, who has directed episodes of “NYPD Blue,” “Homicide: Life on the Street,” “The Shield” and “Third Watch.” It’s only loosely based on the “S.W.A.T.” TV show, with a whole new story centered on Jackson’s veteran S.W.A.T. officer and a new team he assembles to protect a dangerous drug lord from being sprung.
“We have some complexity and it has a lot of similarities to a martial arts morality tale,” the “Pulp Fiction” actor observed. “I recruit these guys to be part of my team. Then you see us go through training routines that are pretty difficult. And then they have to pass the ultimate test before they actually become a real ’S.W.A.T.’ team. So in that respect, it’s like an old-time Hong Kong film, where guys are being tested all the time.”
The fact that the “S.W.A.T.” movie bears such little similarity to the relatively obscure ’70s show upon which it is loosely based is probably best for at least one of the movie’s stars.
“I’m a little young for the original show, man,” LL said. “I know I’ve been rapping for a long time, but I started young. People confuse it. I’m not 50 yet! But I definitely saw some reruns of it, watched it [and] enjoyed it, you know? That’s the original and you can never discredit the original because that’s what it’s based on, but this is a whole other level.”
LL will also turn up in “Mindhunters” alongside Val Kilmer (“Batman Forever”) early next year, while Farrell has several projects, including the long-delayed “Phone Booth” and a movie about Alexander the Great (see “Colin Farrell Not Worried About Competition From Leo DiCaprio” ) up his sleeve. Jackson has “Star Wars Episode III” to prepare for (see “Jedi Samuel L. Jackson Drops ’Episode III’ Hint” ), as well as the inevitable “XXX 2.” But after “S.W.A.T.,” Rodriguez plans to take a nice long break.
“I’m just driving across America, man,” she said. “I just don’t want to hear about an agent. I don’t want to hear about work for a good couple of months. … I think I’m ready to peel out and just become somebody else. So in order to do that, I just have to take a big vacation and just relax and find myself again.” She looks down at her “S.W.A.T.” uniform. “Because this is totally not me on my off-time, you know?”