by Luke Hickman
'Get the Gringo' is a Blu-ray I've been anticipating since first hearing about it. Despite the media drama that Mel Gibson has found himself in over the years, I've continued to love his on-screen and behind-the-camera personas just as much as ever. So to hear that he had co-written and starred in a film that threw him back into the crass and gritty action roles that got him started, I was pumped.
If you read M. Enois Duarte's review of 'Get the Gringo,' you will read my exact sentiments of the film. Through the character (known as "Gringo"), his hilarious narration and the story, we get to see Mel Gibson return to form.
If it wasn't for Gibson's face revealing his age, 'Get the Gringo' could easily appear as one of his movies from "the good old days" of his career. I believe that this is the result of a couple combined things. First, Gibson co-wrote the screenplay. And second, the other minds behind the filming have now worked with Gibson for quite some time. Director Adrian Grunberg co-wrote 'Get the Gringo' with Gibson and producer Stacy Perskie. Grunberg also worked as first assistant director with Gibson on 'Edge of Darkness' and 'Apocalypto.'
I recently spoke with director Adrian Grunberg about 'Get the Gringo.' I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did.
HDD – Luke Hickman: Hello, Adrian! How are things going?
Adrian Grunberg: Not bad at all.
HDD: Are you doing a load of phoners today?
Adrian Grunberg: Uh... yes – but thank God it's only today.
HDD: Well, let's get this over with then. Let's get you onto the next call. I watched 'Get the Gringo' last night and have to say, I loved the opening sequence -
Adrian Grunberg: Was that all you liked?!
HDD: No, no, no! (laughs) I just wanted to say that I was gripped from the get-go because of the action, the visuals -
Adrian Grunberg: (laughs) I'm kidding. I'm glad you did. I think it's a cool, cool scene as well.
HDD: Having worked with Mel Gibson a few times now -
Adrian Grunberg: - as first [assistant director] -
HDD: - how is having the tables turned, being the guy who gets to fully direct Mel in a movie?
Adrian Grunberg: It feels great! (laughs) I can't tell you enough – I love the guy. I've know him for a number of years now and there's an affinity, a friendship, that we've developed over the years. It was good, it was great, it was an amazing experience. This is a film that we brought forth from the idea, all the way through the script and the production, so it was fantastic.
HDD: How did 'Get the Gringo' come to be?
Adrian Grunberg: Mel had the idea … this idea of putting a "gringo" in a Mexican prison. [Mel] had been reading stuff about Mexican prisons, so he called me up and offered me the movie. We started to get together along with Stacy Perskie, who's the other co-writer and producer – all three of us started to get together and throw ideas around. We would come back the next week with research, we would grow the script, get together with Mel, then tear it apart and put it back together. This went on for almost two years.
HDD: How close was the reality of the "Pueblito" (the Mexican prison) that you wrote to the actual "Pueblito" itself?
Adrian Grunberg: It's exactly the way that the real Pueblito was. El Pueblito was closed down in 2002 (SPOILER ALERT) in the same way that it is closed down in the movie (END SPOLER). The authorities came in at two in the morning because it was the only way to close this place down. Now, that was in 2002 and the real Pueblito was even worse than the one in the movie. I had trouble about what not to put in the movie because the movie had to be under two hours. The movie is not about the prison, it just happens in the prison. Nowadays you won't find a prison exactly like that one, but that kind of prison does still exist in much of Mexico.
HDD: And you shot the whole movie down in Mexico, right?
Adrian Grunberg: Yes, all of it was shot there. It was 12-week shoot.
HDD: The way it appears on screen, it looks like there was blistering heat. Was it that hot?
Adrian Grunberg: Yes. We shot during the hot months, during the summer months, in Vera Cruz. We shot 'Apocalypto' there as well, so it was a comfortable place for Mel as well because it's a fantastic place. It's a cool town and the people are great. It was amazing, very enjoyable.
HDD: When shooting a film like this - one filled with violence, torture, rape, language – how do you, as a director, tackle the shoot with such a young actor like Kevin Hernandez?
Adrian Grunberg: Umm … shooting with kids is always difficult, but Kevin – as you might have guessed from talking with him (see my interview with Kevin Hernandez from last week) – he's very mature and he's a very cool kid. He's from El Salvador, but he lives in L.A., so he had never been to Mexico, this was his first big role, so he was really excited. We got along great and he came down there with his parents. He understood right away that it was role that he was playing. He had trouble at first because he doesn't swear, he doesn't speak that way – he would say, "I don't talk this way." And we would say, "I know, but you're acting." And he got that, he got it right away. He was fantastic and he did an amazing job.
HDD: When casting a young actor like this, what sort of things do you take into consideration?
Adrian Grunberg: We knew that the movie's success was largely due to whoever that role was being played by. "The Kid" would make or break this movie. It's such a powerful role and it's so easy to fuck it up, especially because you're dealing with a kid, so I did extensive [cast] testing in Mexico and couldn't find anyone. And it just so happened that he was recommended to me by a casting director who had just seen him for another casting job and I was really luck to get Kevin. I was struggling in finding somebody that could pull this off.
HDD: I had seen Kevin in 'The Sitter,' but didn't know that he could dramatically act until 'Get the Gringo.'
Adrian Grunberg: By the way, he shot 'Get the Gringo' before 'The Sitter.'
HDD: That's what he was telling me. I thought it was great to see this kid acting on the same level as Mel while Mel was going back to a classic sort of Mel Gibson role – kind of like a 'Payback' role. Are you guys working on anything else right now?
Adrian Grunberg: Not together. Mel is working on a couple of things that he wants to direct. I'm reading scripts and writing with my partner, Stacy, deciding what the next movie is. If something comes up in the future, I'd be happy to work with Mel. I love the guy. But right now we don't have anything planned together.
HDD: I've got to tell you before I go – while watching the movie with my wife last night, we both agree that the best line in the movie is in the intro with Dean Norris, whom I love from 'Breaking Bad,' drops the quick clown line. If I wasn't paying attention, it would have flown right over my head. And this movie is filled with witty dialog like that.
Adrian Grunberg: (laughs) I think there's a few of those, lines that I particularly still laugh at when I hear them because they happen so fast. They are little things within the scene that get missed by people on the first watch. I agree.
HDD: Mel's voice-over was filled with them.
Adrian Grunberg: I agree.
HDD: Adrian, thanks for talking with me today. I was afraid that we weren't going to be able to fit this call in, but it worked and I'm glad that it did.
Adrian Grunberg: Excellent.