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‘Red Dawn’ Interview: Adrianne Palicki and Josh Peck on Wolverines, Getting Shot At, and… David Bowie?

Red Dawn
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Red Dawn,’ a remake of the ’80s classic, follows a group of teens who must band together to save their town from a North Korean invasion. We sat down with stars Adrianne Palicki and Josh Peck to discuss how the cast got a little too familiar with each other and the physical challenges endured while filming the movie, which opens today.

And maybe we talked about David Bowie, too.

I really enjoyed your performances in the movie — it’s surprisingly fun and embraces the camp spirit of the original. What drew you guys to the project?

Adrianne: Well, they asked us to come in and read for it… [laughs]

That’s usually how these stories always go.

Adrianne: Yeah, but it’s true! I’d heard through the grapevine that this was happening and met with the director, as you [Josh] did. And we went from there. Thankfully we made it in the movie.

Josh: They offered me the part and that’s when I was like, I think I want to do this. No — once they said I could be in it, I was like, I definitely want to do this. I met Dan [Bradley, the director], and he seemed to have this great balance of like, you know he comes from the stunt world and he’s been second unit action directing — that’s been his entire life, so in many ways he was self-assured and confident in that respect, but then would sort of acquiesce to us having had experience solely in just performance. So it felt like it could be a great collaboration. I was excited.

Bradley does have quite the impressive resume when it comes to action — knowing how demanding this was going to be, what was your training like to prepare?

Adrianne: We had quite a bit of training. We obviously had to do physical training, but we did a military camp — actually, that was the first time we all met, which was really cool, ’cause we all of a sudden became the Wolverines. Just a bunch of kids thrown into a situation where you have these military guys shooting at you, and it hurt, so we had to band together and be a team! It was pretty hardcore.

Josh: I worked out with Navy SEALs for a month and they were… not impressed… by my physical prowess in any way. I just had to butch myself up for this performance. It was something new. I’m trying to hold onto it.

Adrianne, you mentioned being shot at and your characters use some pretty serious guns throughout much of the film — was your gun training very extensive?

Adrianne: Yes, a lot of it was with guns. How to hold them accurately… It was hard, trying to find that balance between looking like you knew what you were doing but not looking too much like you knew what you were doing because we’re a bunch of kids who are literally getting thrown guns like, “Here ya go! Go shoot some people!” You had to know what you were doing but not look too good at it. It was like a little happy medium, fine line.

The action sequences are just packed with violence and movement and energy in every square inch of the screen. How did you handle shooting those sequences, with so much going on around you at any given time?

Adrianne: Dan Bradley is the best of the best at what he does. He really is a genius when it comes to all of that stuff. One of the prerequisites of this movie was that he really wanted actors who could carry the film but also who were willing to do their own stunts because really, that’s what he likes to do. So we were really immersed in all that stuff. And actually, it really helps because all of a sudden you realize you’re not acting, you’re really like, reacting to guns being fired at your head and explosions. It’s fun, it’s like playing war in your backyard. You know what I mean? It’s like all of a sudden you become a kid again.

Had either of you seen the original film before you began shooting?

Josh: I didn’t see it until after we finished shooting, and thank god because had I seen it before I would have been too intimidated by Charlie Sheen‘s Sheen-dom. Having seen it after I was impressed with what it was and understood why it sort of had this cult following, and people hold it so near and dear. But I was also confident in our new take on it and what we were able to do with the resources that we were afforded 28 years later.

Adrianne: I literally saw the film right after I got cast for the first time. I’m glad I watched it — it’s a really incredible movie and I can see why people were obsessed about it. Obviously, the content was a little different because I wasn’t living in that time where it was actually happening — you know, the Cold War — so it was a little different. It was cool to see, it was really honoring to see all those people had become such huge stars and we got to kind of follow them.

The cast spends the majority of the film together as a group on screen — was it the same on set? I imagine you guys grew pretty close.

Adrianne: We did. We got really close.

Josh: Really close.

Adrianne: We did.

Josh: Weird close.

Like a little uncomfortably close?

Adrianne: A little awkward. Like commune close.

Josh: Show up at her door at three in the morning, you know, sorry about that. You also get sort of — it’s the whole movie mentality, crew members as well, it’s like, we’re a weird breed man, we’re gypsies and we go off to these random locations and it’s like the ultimate camp experience, except like, people are cheating on their wives and s—. No, I’m kidding.

Adrianne: What camp were you at?

Josh: Basically, you all bond over this one goal, this one common goal. And then it ends and you go back to real life, and it becomes this weird memory. When you’re doing it you couldn’t be any closer because you only have each other to rely on, I guess.

Adrianne: Exactly.

Josh: I went to a weird camp.

Adrianne: I know, obviously I was like, I was not living in that same camp that you were.

Josh: Sleepaway camp.

Adrianne: The Josh Peck camp.

Let’s be honest, you guys probably got hurt quite a bit while filming this. Any injury stories you’d like to share?

Adrianne: You’re actually talking to the two people who got pretty badly injured on set.

Josh: Got smashed up.

How did this happen?

Adrianne: I had to fire an RPG in a shot, and the difference with RPGs is that they actually have a live wire that has fire going through it, so they can test it a thousand times, but every single time they have to re-do it, so it doesn’t matter because the time after could be the one that fails. Well, when I shot it, it did — it blew up in my face. Part of my face was burned — eyebrow, eyelashes, hair, whole thing. It was like, maybe that moment as an actress where you’re like, [fake sobs] I’m never going to work again. I’m going to have to wear a mask! Alicia was like… Alicia? Alyssa [Diaz]! I keep calling her Alicia.

Josh: So we weren’t like, a super close family.

Adrianne: By the way, I saw her like, two days ago. But yeah, she would sit there and make fun of me all day. Like, “Yo, why you lookin’ at my mask? I’m like Phantom of the Opera, what?!” It became a joke after a while, which was fun.

Josh: It was not funny the day of.

Adrianne: No!

Josh: It was scary.

Adrianne: It was horrifying. And this guy got stitches.

Go on…

Josh: I got stitches in my head. Behind my sideburn, thank god. If it had been right here [points to face] where the money lives, it would have been Josh Dawn. That’s it. I got two stitches. A gun wound up hitting me in the head and I got taken to Detroit Trauma Center, and the doctor thought I was an extra, so that was really bad for me.

Adrianne: You’re like, “I’m already f—ed man, come on.”

Josh: I was like, listen. But no, he stitched me up like I was a lead.

That’s awfully nice of him.

Adrianne: What would he have done if you were an extra?

Josh: I… nothing. Send me home with a band-aid.

This movie, like its predecessor, is sort of unbelievable. One minute you guys are hanging out, then there’s a montage, and now you’ve got AK-47s — but what makes it work and sells it is the emotional connections between you guys and your chemistry. Was this a primary concern?

Adrianne: Well the nice thing is that we were lucky enough to work with a really great cast, who was able to pull that together as well. But the best part about this movie and what separated it from other action movies is that there was so much heart in it and all of the characters were really important to be developed because you don’t care if somebody dies off if you don’t know the character at all. It was hard, but, I don’t know. Connecting with Toni, I loved her from the get-go, and all of the characters. The arc — to play that arc was super fun as an actor because you get to go from childhood innocence or trying to be something, as we all are at that age, to really growing into what you have to be, which is defending yourself and your country and your home. We don’t know what that’s like usually, unless we’re in the Army.

And you have such a great part late in the film where you just lose it. I’m a big ‘Friday Night Lights’ fan — Texas forever!

Adrianne: Yes!

And it was something you did really well on that show, too. When you lose your cool and start flipping out, it’s delightful. 

Adrianne: I thought that was the most important thing. That right there was a real reaction — it wasn’t Daryl’s [the character] fault that stuff happens. That would be the reaction, to blame, to lash out to the closest thing.

Josh: I just felt like I needed to remember that he [Josh's character] was fighting this inner battle at times, with understanding that he needed to give himself over to the group and no longer be sort of selfish and that, you know, he couldn’t will everything to go his way. Every time he tried to take control and have those hero moments, it just backfired every time, so it was sort of humanizing Matt over the span of the story and making him realize that he needed to surrender to win in a real way. I just wanted to make everything he had grounded in real stakes for me.

And you hadn’t really done an action film before.

Josh: No. Can you tell?!

Is it something you’d like to continue pursuing?

Josh: Sure, if they let me make more, I’ll do it!

You’ll be the next Jason Bourne?

Josh: Sure! Jeremy Renner‘s doing a pretty good job. But, yeah, great. I’ll be the next anything, at this point. Whaddya got?

You could be a superhero.

Adrianne: Ooh, tights!

Josh: I don’t know. I don’t look good in tights.

Adrianne: Not many people look good in tights.

That’s why they have computers.

Adrianne: Exactly.

Josh: I see some people in tights and I’m like, yeah, that’s what’s up, and then I see some people and it’s like, no, that’s not what’s up. So I don’t know.

Adrianne: The only person who looks good in tights is David Bowie.

He was my first crush.

Adrianne: Oh my god, me too. ‘Labyrinth’?!

Yes! When I was 5. 

Adrianne: I went as him for Halloween last year! I have to show you the picture before you leave.

Even when I was 5 I was like, something is going on with those tight pants, and I know it, but I don’t know it yet.

Adrianne: My mom was like, “Honey, it’s not real.” And I was like, that thing is real!

It’s so real.

Adrianne: I’m sure it is. I am sure it is real. It’s David Bowie.

Josh: Where is David Bowie? Did he get chubby?

Adrianne: He had some sort of cancer I think. And that’s why he went away for a while and kind of blew up. But I haven’t seen him. I’m sure he’s still incredibly sexy because he’s David Bowie.

He’s David Bowie.

Josh: I miss him.

[Adrianne shows me a picture of her dressed as David Bowie's Goblin King from 'Labyrinth']

Oh. That is amazing!

Adrianne: And look! Cod piece! I wanted to get a bigger one, but it wouldn’t fit. And I don’t actually have a penis, so…

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