Michael Davis is the writer/director of “Shoot ‘Em Up,” the upcoming action flick starring Clive Owen and Monica Bellucci. The following is the first in a series of guest columns by Davis for MTV News.
Clive Owen calls me “boss” a week into filming my movie “Shoot ‘Em Up.” This blows my mind. Just two years ago, I was bailing on the business after making five indie movies but not making a living.
This movie begins with Clive’s character, Mr. Smith, delivering a baby in the middle of a gunfight. This action insanity was inspired by John Woo’s “Hard Boiled.” But as Clive calls me “boss,” my life flashes before my eyes. I see how I really got here.
In second grade, while in the hospital getting my tonsils out, my dad brought me a Corgi car of 007′s Aston Martin. I was already an action fan because of “Jonny Quest” and “Astro Boy,” but this was my first introduction to Bond. Cool ejector seat. In fifth grade, on a vacation, my dad took us to a double feature of “Thunderball” and “You Only Live Twice” at New York’s Times Square. So cool. By the end of sixth grade, I’d read every Ian Fleming James Bond novel. With no more Bond novels left to read, in the seventh grade, I wrote my own: “Masquerade of Death” and “Spearhead.” Cheesy titles. But each 100-page novelette was heartfelt, and the seeds for writing “Shoot ‘Em Up” were sown. As there were no VCRs in the ’70s, I snuck my cassette player into the movies to make audio recordings of the Bond movies. I’d listen to them literally hundreds of times. Demented, I admit. I got a part in the high school play version of “Fiddler on the Roof” because my audition monologue was from “Goldfinger.”
The second love of my life was animation. In sixth grade, my teacher let me ditch math class to make my first cell-drawn opus in the school AV room. My first job after art school was for an animation company, Broadcast Arts. My Slamdance-winning film, “Eight Days a Week,” did nothing for my career except for garnishing a Mr. Skin’s Anatomy Award for a wet-T-shirt scene with Keri Russell. I had written the first screenplay about Alfred Kinsey and I was depressed when Bill Condon got his made first (as “Kinsey”). My “100 Girls” flick won Variety‘s Best Live Action Straight-to-Video movie award. I had written 35 screenplays, yet I was still struggling and was in a huge financial hole. As a means of scratching my directing itch and dealing with my career depression, I started animating the action scenes in “Shoot ‘Em Up.” This hobby/therapy ended up as 11 scenes and 15 minutes of animation created with 17,000 hand-drawn sketches — it was a precise vision of the action for the film. (Check out the sketches right here.)
To make a long story short, my Bond-influenced script caught New Line’s attention. The animation convinced them I could direct it. A little later in the shoot, while prepping for a scene by reviewing the script and the animation, I ask Clive about not getting the part of Bond. He tells me he was never actually approached about the part and says, “What do I care? I got my own thing, this — ‘Shoot ‘Em Up’ — and it’s new and original.” That’s even better than being called “boss.” Wow.
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