Land of Bad – Interview with Film Director/Co-Writer William Eubank

Land of Bad interview - William Eubank
The Avenue
Land Of Bad is an action thriller movie starring Liam Hemsworth, Luke Hemsworth, Russell Crowe, and Milo Ventimiglia. The following interview is with the director and co-writer, William Eubank who has a City of Athens award for best director to his name. Eubank co-wrote Land of Bad with David Frigerio. The film follows a US Army special forces unit that’s ambushed during a mission — their only remaining hope lies with a remote Air Force drone operator who assists them through a brutal 48-hour battle for survival. In the interview, we discussed casting, inspiration, how this film was made and his admiration for filmmaker Ridley Scott. Land of Bad is now showing in theaters and is available to buy on VOD and digital.

Listen to the interview and read the transcript below — edited and condensed for clarity:

I'm Louis Suffill of Borrowing Tape, and I'm here today with William Eubank, who is the writer and director of the new action thriller film, Land of Bad. It stars Liam Hemsworth and Russell Crowe. So, William, first off, what inspired you to make Land of Bad, and why did you want to tell this story?

Truthfully, we started writing this film after one of my first films went to Sundance a long time ago called The Signal. And that movie was so crazy and weird, while I was making that film. I was like, man, I need to make a more grounded film. And this was many, many, many years ago. And so drone warfare was really just beginning. And so at the time, I really wanted to create a movie that looked at, what does that mean to be doing war from so far away? And then mixing that with the action of people on the ground. And then the movie got put on the back burner because other films came out like Good Kill, which sort of tackled some of that perspective on war. But I always loved the movie. I love how it just was sort of this thrill ride and this action-packed adventure. And so I revisited it a long time later and I was like, okay, instead of making the film about the psychological aspects of war from far away — what about we make it like the story of two people helping each other from super far away and making it really zone in on the camaraderie and the connections that can happen from halfway around the world.

You covered the script with David Frigerio, how much research went into making the film?

Quite a bit. In fact, when we first started writing it, we'd started while we were working on that movie, The Signal — we were literally writing it in a coffee shop every weekend while we were shooting in New Mexico. When we got back into California we got contacted by a JTAC instructor from Fort Irwin who was like "Hey, I heard you guys are making a movie about a JTAC" (Joint Tactical Air Controller which is the role that Liam Hemsworth plays.) He said, "Come out and train with us and we'll teach you all about it," and so we went out to Fort Irwin and I remember we were talking to an F-35 as it was flying over — we were given out nine lines which are like actual targeting lines. It was insane, so Kenny the character in the movie — we just named him — it's not based on a true story or anything but we named him after Kenny the JTAC instructor, who actually, even while we were filming came out and advised the guys. So we had real drone pilots, we had real JTACs. There's obviously Hollywood parts to everything but for the most part, it is very true to how things go.

Yeah, it sounds good. What was the casting process like because you have a few big names in this?

Yeah, the casting process — you never know how that's gonna go, on this film particularly. I had written another film a long time ago that I almost got Russell [Crowe] to do and I knew he'd be so great in this role-playing Eddie Grimm 'Reaper', so I contacted him and just said "Hey, I know you're probably super busy, been a long time and would love to see if this is anything you'd be interested in." And he said, "Well, I am really busy Will, but it's great to hear from you and just send it and I'll try to get back to you soon," and then he hit me up the next day and was like "Hey, I really, really like this. If you can pull it together, let's do it." When you have the ability to talk to somebody directly and tell them what the film is about, it always helps the casting process. So once we got Russell, then we were off to the races and started finding everyone else, got Liam and all that.

Are there any specific notes you gave the actors for this film, or was it more sort of natural?

Yeah, I mean, you try to watch a lot of movies with your actors and talk about, in this case, Milo Ventimiglia and Ricky Whittle and Luke Hemsworth, we're always like trying to search for some level of truth, and even if the film is maybe an action-packed adventure that you want "Hollywood" just a tiny bit for some reasons, you still always want to go back to the roots of what makes something real. So, we watched movies like Restrepo — which I'm sure you're familiar with, that are shocking in how obviously that that's a documentary. So, the truth that you find in that film is so intense. And well, it's not always appropriate to bring that directly into an action thriller, it's still a great place to start from. We were watching a lot of movies, discussing a lot of the relationships and things like that to seek some form of authenticity, if you will.

Okay, and in your opinion, what is the main theme of the film?

I would say brotherhood. No matter what the situation is and no matter how bad things get, like really having the gusto to step up when it comes time to rescue people that you're close with and defying emotion to just get through something scary or crazy. There's some themes on like, "What is violence?" Like "Is there a better form of violence?" But those are sort of subtle things. The core is probably about brotherhood and camaraderie, but there's some subtle questions of, "Is there a good form of violence or not?" which I'm sure lots of people have different opinions on that, but it seeks to ask, or at least put some of those questions into the universe.

Yeah, because I was noticing a lot of themes and, I just want to know what your perspective on it was. So, what were some of your favorite scenes in terms of filming, and also, the final cut?

Gosh, that's a hard question. I mean, as a filmmaker, I don't know — making movies is always tough. I just love the whole process. I mean I know that sounds like a cop-out answer. What ends up happening is there's always scenes that are hard — we were shooting in Australia, which was a beautiful place to shoot, but [in] some of those jungles we would get crazy rain and flash flooding and so it's almost more like what scenes hurt the least. Because sometimes when you're shooting just things outside of your control like these acts of God like come and happen and you're like "No! We only had this much time" and then, suddenly this wall of water is like coming down and everyone's trying to get that equipment out. And you're just like, what does this have to do with filmmaking?

It's just it's sometimes it's so hard and those are the ones that burn into your mind the really hard scenes that crazy things happened and you just had to get through them and figure out how to change the schedule. Making a movie is like making a really crazy puzzle, and depending on what pieces you have and play at any time, It can either be great or it can be really horrendous. We just had we had a lot of physical environmental challenges on this film that made the scenes that were easy to shoot absolutely wonderful and then made the scenes that environment got the best of us really really hard, so.

Who would you say are some of your biggest influences as a filmmaker and who inspires you within the industry?

Oh man, my greatest influence I would say is probably Ridley Scott — I absolutely adore almost every project that he does. I love how he's able to dig his characters out of these crazy...they're so different; obviously, his range is so wide from Alien to Black Hawk Down. But yeah, I love how he paints with the camera. He's always done such a great job of creating those invisible textures, whether it's wind or smoke or debris flying, he always adds that fourth dimension to everything that he does. And that's on top of unbelievable characters that are just pushing their way up the slope of the story, so Ridley is probably my number one modern influence in that regard. But yeah, I'm trying to think if there's specifically for this, like, yeah, I've watched a lot of movies like Black Hawk Down, of course, which are so interesting to go back and watch, because you see how much style is in them. I didn't remember that movie being so stylistic, but it really is. Yeah, let's leave it with Ridley. He's a huge influence to me and even if you look at some of my past work, like Underwater, you can see it.

Yeah, Ridley Scott's a great answer. So what sort of subject matters, and sort of themes interest you the most as a filmmaker?

Every time I start a film, I think I'm always drawn's weird, I don't even think about it. But I'm always, I think very subjective with the camera. Like it's very, it's very difficult for me, even from a creation of a story to be easily cutting to bad guys doing things. It's very hard. And I realized this over my career. I'm like, wow, I really like to stay in one or two point of views. Because, that to me is the experience of life I understand — myself and my point of views, and how I'm experiencing the world around me. And so it's always hard for me. And yet, the biggest movies obviously will cut to a bad guy, like doing what he's doing. And then, they'll cut over there. And you'll see that happen. And I always have a hard time with that, because I'm always like, no, the story is here, in this person's viewpoint, and then maybe, we cut to this person's viewpoint, but for the most part, it's here. And so I'm really interested in stories — obviously, I guess I've learned over time that really hone in on one or two people's perspectives. And, thematically, what does that mean? And it could mean anything, it could mean like, what is it, how do we survive this ordeal? Or, how do I fix this thing that I've broken that I need to put back together? So yeah, I'm really interested in individual stories, I guess, and how to overcome things.

Okay, that's great. So I'm afraid that's all we've got time for. It was an absolute pleasure.

Hey, thank you, Louis, I appreciate you asking such great questions and for checking out Land of Bad and supporting us.

Yeah, well, I hope it goes really well for you.

Thank you so much, appreciate you, Louis

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