Director John Hyams on
«Universal Solder: Regeneration»
December 13, 2009
Last month, VanDammefan.net caught up with John Hyams, director of upcoming sci-fi actioner UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION to discuss the film which reunites original UNIVERSAL SOLDIER stars Jean-Claude Van Damme with Dolph Lundgren.
John Hyams, Andrei Arlovski and Dolph Lundgren at the 2009 Fantastic Fest screening of UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION. BSR-12
Hyams is the son of veteran director and DP Peter Hyams, the man responsible for bringing us classic films OUTLAND, 2010, RUNNING SCARED, and TIMECOP among others. While Peter acted as cinematographer on REGENERATION, John took over the reins for what is only his second non-documentary film, following MMA documentary THE SMASHING MACHINE (2002) and rodeo documentary RANK (2006).
While there had been two TV-movie sequels made before UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: THE RETURN in 1999, Hyams considers REGENERATION to be the official third entry. Even so, he made a conscious effort during the scripting phase to not let history get in the way of telling what he describes as a suspense film.
“Stylistically, I didn’t want to make a film that was filmed with a lot of expository elements that the whole thing was really bogged down with mythology and scientific ideas,” explains Hyams. I wanted the movie to be much more of a… I guess my interpretation of it is I want it to build more of a suspense film by getting to know more about who these characters are, not by hearing all these things they are saying or others are saying but through action and seeing what they are doing and letting the story be more simplified.
Regarding the look and feel of REGENERATION, Hyams drew on the influence of early ’80s, hard sci-fi, not unlike what his father created in OUTLAND.
“We wanted to come with this thing a completely different aesthetic and in this one embrace a degree of naturalism that is quite different [from what] was in the first films. The first films were intentionally stylized. The first one has a lot of comedy elements.”
“This film, I want to present much more as if it was trying to take some real sci-fi elements and present in a more realistic world. The influences for me are ALIEN and ALIENS. ALIEN, on paper is just a genre movie. It’s a monster movie. That film can be made in so many different ways but Ridley Scott made them act in a unique way, believable and the settings were believable. It wasn’t like something out of STAR TREK. So by placing it in a tangible reality, the movie was much more believable. Our film is not a horror movie but we want to give you suspense. We want to have fights between two superhuman creatures and we want to see what that would really look like. That’s how I wanted to approach it.”
According to Hyams, producers originally wanted to bring in MMA fighters. They ended up getting Belarusian UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arovski.
“Andrei got involved because right from the start Sony and the producers behind the movie wanted MMA fighters and that was the original idea and I think a smart one because you want to reach the proper audience for this and I had a desire to do fights in this movie that were very realistic and using realistic moves. You will see some of these fights end, in these cases, how fights really end. It’s almost [so] violent that you will want to look away,” says Hyams.
As to what viewers can expect in terms of action, Hyams says that the last 30 minutes is almost nonstop action with minimal dialogue.
“We had stunt coordinators. Real experienced. Charles (Picerni) and our Bulgarian stunt guy Bobby (Iliev). Great guys. Bobby’s also a real car specialist which came in handy for the car chase scene in the film. He also had a good idea of what looks good for camera. Between him and his team we would have a system. I would work out what I wanted to happen in a fight. I would choose the locations. I would say, ‘I want the fight to go from here to here, them to fall over this thing, crash through this wall,’ and I would work it out. Between those two, they would work on a bunch of moves, put them on tape and look at it and develop it. Usual collaboration. The end fight, we had the most time to prepare for.”
Hyams is hopeful that REGENERATION will breathe new life into the franchise and possibly spawn more sequels. “Some of the powers that be have certainly talked about doing another one already. Whether that happens or not involves a lot of elements to come together. With what’s happening with the storylines, we could certainly go in a number of directions
To read the entire interview visit VanDammefan.net and head to the UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION forum.
UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION arrives on Blu-ray and DVD on February 2, 2010.
Jean-Claude Van Damme