There's no doubt that Peter Berg is a director on the rise. You don't hand over the keys to a Will Smith superhero flick set for a July 4th release ("Hancock") to just anyone.
In 2007 Berg took Jaime Foxx, Jennifer Garner, and company through a frenetic action flick set in the Middle East, "The Kingdom." The flick performed decently at the box office (and phenomenally if you choose to compare it to other flicks that dealt with the Mid East region in some capacity) and now gets a second chance for your consideration on a newly released DVD. We caught up with Berg the other day to chat up the flick a bit.
MTV: To the viewer this felt like a pretty complex undertaking. Was it the most complex project you'd tackled thus far?
Peter Berg: For sure. There was a huge action component to it and I knew that we were going to be filming in the Middle East where it would be 130 degrees everyday so from a production standpoint I knew it would be a tough. We all knew that making a film that had a political component was not going to be the easiest thing. Trying to figure out how to balance traditional Hollywood entertainment and action with something that felt relatively politically current proved to be tough.
MTV: How did you try to find that balance?
PB: For me it's taste. I always knew that the first half of "The Kingdom" was fairly political and cerebral. It was about witnessing FBI agents navigating through backrooms of Washington to forward their agenda. I knew that we'd be asking for more from the audience in the beginning and that in the end we would just let it fly.
MTV: I would imagine there was a lot of back and forth with the studio about the level of political content in the film.
PB: Hollywood studios don't have much interest in educating or being especially provocative. They're obviously driven by commerce as they should be. If we want to educate or provoke people I liken it to tricking a kid to doing homework. We've got to find a way to make it fun for the audience and not terrify the studio that they're going to get something so political they're not going to make any money out of it.
MTV: Were you happy with the reception?
PB: I would have been happier with a slightly larger commercial reaction. At the end of the day what proved to be challenging for critics and audiences is just the combination of politics and entertainment. Some of the critics were resentful of a film that in the first half felt like "Syriana" and then in its second half was pretty traditional Hollywood action. That marriage didn't sit well with some people and I get that. It doesn't keep me up at night.
MTV: What do you make of the sorry box office fates for the bevy of films that dealt with the war and Middle East last year?
PB: It is truly hard to get people to want to look at this region and this conflict today. I think audiences are oversaturated and very skeptical about spending ten dollars for what's traditionally considered escapism to go sit in a dark theater and have these images reinforced. "The Kingdom" was able to break out of that more than the others because it provided fairly traditional action escapism. If the second half of "The Kingdom" had been as political as the first half we would have been in the exact same boat as all these other films.