LOS ANGELES — Now that the calendar page has turned, it’s time to put away those old “Avatar” ticket stubs and “Hangover” Blu-Rays and look forward to the new year. And to help get you started, MTV presents our 10 to Watch in 2010, highlighting the names that you need to know.
First up is a gritty, cool Hollywood filmmaker who has impressed moviegoers for a while, and now finally has the keys to his very own franchise. He is “Narc” and “Smokin’ Aces” director Joe Carnahan, and he loves it when a plan comes together.
“Boy, that’s a tough question. The first question had to be the tough question,” grinned the filmmaker when we asked him why he’s a person worth watching in 2010. “I think there’s a lot of excitement — I don’t know if it’s for me, so much as there is tremendous excitement for ‘The A-Team.’ I’ve been wanting to make a movie like this for a long time; I’ve had a series of false starts on big stuff, and as far as I’m concerned it’s been worth the wait.”
Recently Carnahan released a high-octane trailer that rocketed around the Web, pleasing both old-school fans of the ’80s TV show and newcomers to the plotline about a group of military commandos forced to go underground. “It was important that we let the fanbase know we hadn’t abandoned the television show and the characters everyone loved so much,” he said of the trailer. “But also to let people know that 25 years have gone by since ‘The A-Team’ was on the air, and [we] want to evolve that story … the approach is grittier and it’s more real-world.”
Starring Bradley Cooper, Liam Neeson, “District 9″ breakout Sharlto Copley and UFC champ-turned-actor Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Carnahan told us that his film’s ending will set up a sequel, and he’s very eager to return. It also sets up a far more realistic existence for the crack commando unit than the “A-Team” TV show depicted. “The show was very whimsical and campy at times and we wanted to avoid that,” Carnahan explained, “as much as ‘The Dark Knight’ avoids the old Adam West incarnation of Batman.”
Catching up with Carnahan in his offices on the 20th Century Fox lot, he took a break from editing the June 11 blockbuster to fill us in on some key trademarks of “The A-Team,” revealing which ones will remain and which will be updated:
Will B.A. Still Be Afraid to Fly? “As far as B.A. was concerned, his fear of flying was a big thing because it was a continual story line. How are we gonna get this guy on a plane? How are we gonna get him from A to B?” he explained, assuring us it would be in the film. “I thought that was important, I thought we could get a lot of comedic value out of that.”
Will the Catchphrases Remain? “Listen, if you make an ‘A-Team’ movie and Hannibal doesn’t say, ‘I love it when a plan comes together,’ you’re cutting your own throat,” Carnahan laughed. “Of course that’s there.”
Where’s the Gold? “The mohawk is there,” Joe said of his tweaks to the “Bad Attitude” [Or "Bad-Ass"] Baracus character. “But the gold chains, to me, were always more of an affectation of Mr. T, not the B.A. character … Rampage and I had a lot of conversations and we were both adamant that this character is B.A. Baracus, not Mr. T.”
Will Anybody Die? “At least one villain will die,” Carnahan grinned, promising more carnage than in virtually the entire history of the TV show, which made a point of showing its bad guys surviving explosions and gunfire. “Right there, we’ve already broken with tradition.”
Does the A-Team Know Each Other? “They serve together, but when you meet these guys at the beginning they [don't know each other yet],” Carnahan said of a break with the show, which always implied a lengthy military friendship between the crew. “There’s one thing that binds these guys, which I thought was a cool touch … a really cool device that we use to bring them all together, and it creates a symmetry among them almost immediately.”
Does Murdock Get Broken Out of a Mental Asylum? “Yes … Sharlto’s whole attitude was, ‘Murdock’s nuts, so I have to be a bit nuts and just go for it,’ ” he said of Copley as the team’s “Howling Mad” pilot. “Sharlto was never lacking for enthusiasm and suggestions … he’s doing this panhandle, Texas twang — it’s pretty remarkable.”
Is the Van New and Improved? “It’s the same make and model. It’s a GMC Dura van, the body style is ’83-’88, which was the same body style,” he explained. “But we’ve done our little tweaks to it, because if you look at the original van the rims are different. We put a low-profile package on it, so you could see it being driven around today … it’s a badass vehicle.”
How Crazy Will Murdock Get? “We did a scene in Iraq where he’s barbecuing steaks for everybody and he’s using gunpowder to season it like you would salt and pepper,” Carnahan said. “We had rigged everything to blow up and told [Copley], ‘Be careful of your eyes.’ And he just didn’t care, man. He put his head right over there, the smoke’s coming up in his face, the fire is in his face!”
Is There a Musical Montage? “Of course,” Carnahan said of the show’s tradition of depicting the A-Team building something while music played over the footage. “Yeah. There’s some pretty wild stuff in there during our montage, some funny bits. Sharlto had some really big, spectacle moments. It’s very much in keeping with the improvisational nature of,’ OK, let’s use this and that [to build something].’ The A-Team really started that whole MacGyver thing.”
Does B.A. Get Drugged With a Glass of Milk? “He does get drugged. I’ll say that,” the director laughed. “He never seemed to realize it was laced [with a sedative] … he does get [drugged], yes. He travels unwillingly.”
Does Murdock Have a Puppet? In the 1983 classic episode “The Taxicab Wars,” Murdock annoyed B.A. with his puppet friend, Socky. Now, fans can look forward to seeing B.A. similarly tortured this time around.
“Sharlto did one of those,” Carnahan revealed, remembering a Copley improv. “We just gave him a series of props, and he started doing a puppet show for B.A.”
Check out everything we’ve got on “The A-Team.”
For breaking news, celebrity columns, humor and more — updated around the clock — visit MTVMoviesBlog.com.