In Part 2 of our in-depth interview with Street Fighter writer/director Steven E. DeSouza, we talk about winning bets about Die Hard, working with Arnie, returning to screen writing and what Commando 2 would have been about…
After Street Fighter, you went back to script writing, doing films like Judge Dredd and Lara Croft – did the whole experience put you off feature directing or is screenwriting something you simply enjoying doing more?
Actually, after the movie came out I had a lot of directing offers and wrote a lot of movies that are still crawling forward. Only one has been produced so far, it’s a movie called Possessed, starring Timothy Dalton, which I’m proud of. It’s along the lines of material I used to do for Tales of the Crypt.
There are several projects I’m working on, but it takes a long time for these things to come together. IMDB says I have two movies that are about to be made – Flash Gordon and Sgt. Rock – but they’ve been peculating for a dozen years!
Flash Gordon was going to happen recently, but then John Carter tanked, so the studio dropped the project.
There are also economic considerations – I don’t command the price for directing, that I do for screenwriting! So it’s a case of finding that sweet spot.
So watch this space – my next theatrical movie is Bombay Bullet which I’m doing with Rob Cohen (The Fast and the Furious, XXX) and that should be out next year.
Are you amazed that Street Fighter still has a cult following to this day?
We briefly mentioned you wrote some of the biggest hits of the 80s including Arnie’s The Running Man and Commando. Wasn’t Die Hard originally going to be a sequel to Commando?
No, no, no and no. I don’t know how this story started on the Internet – it’s completely wrong. Die Hard is based on a novel called Nothing Lasts Forever by the author Roderick Thorpe, which is a sequel to his early book The Detective.
In fact, a good bar bet if you want to make some cash is to ask someone: “Who was the first actor to play John McClane and in what movie?”
They will say: “Bruce Willis in Die Hard” and you say: “No! Frank Sinatra in The Detective!” and then run out before you get beat up.
Interestingly, 20th Century Fox had to contractually offer Bruce Willis’s part in Die Hard to Frank Sinatra because it was a sequel to the original book! Fortunately for Bruce, he said: “I’m too old and too rich to act any more.”
As for Commando, I did write a sequel for that which is floating around on the Internet. Frank Darabont even did some revisions on it.
In that movie, I would look at how experiences change people, such as how in Die Hard 2, people reference how famous John McClane is after the events of the first film.
So for Commando 2, we figured that Arnold, after blowing up half of Los Angeles, achieves some notoriety, retires from the army and, by the time the sequel occurs, is running a security firm.
The plot would have seen him hired by a big corporation to oversee their security to protect their executives from being kidnapped, to stop people breaking into their building and to make sure their computers are secure.
So he sets it up and hires the most dangerous people to be guards in the building and then lo and behold – he discovers the people he’s working for are in the illegal arms business and the big corporation is simply a front.
The end of the movie would see Jenny (Alyssa Milano – Arnie’s daughter from the first film) and Cindy (Dawn Rae Chong’s stewardness), who is now a lawyer, trapped in the building and Arnold now has to defeat all the people he hired – all the meanest, toughest guards – as well as the security systems, the guard dogs, everything!
So now, the awareness of Arnold Schwarzenegger trying to break into a building got conflated with Bruce Willis being trapped in a building. If there’s something out there that resembles what Commando 2 was meant to be, it would probably be the recent Stallone/Schwarzenegger movie Escape Plan.
So let’s put that rumour to bed – Die Hard was never Commando 2.
With the likes of The Running Man and Commando, were those one-liners added by yourself later?
Not only are the one liners written by me in the screenplay, but as often happens with these films, we discover in test screenings that the humour plays so well, that we have to add more jokes.
So on both of those movies and in most of my films, after we’re done filming, we go into the editing room to see if we can add more humour.
In fact, if you look at those movies carefully, you’ll see that some of those choice wisecracks are made with Arnold or Bruce’s face slightly off-camera because we found another opportunity for them to record a line in post-production.
So it’s famously done, and for good or ill, many of the jokes are planned and some are ad-libbed. When Bruce Willis is in the air vent in Die Hard 2, I was literally lying below him giving him extra line after extra line, because we noticed it was really slow going watching him going through those vents and we wanted him to talk to himself.
So most of those lines were made up on the set – some were ad-libbed by Bruce, others were done by me via walkie-talkie to him. Literally days before a movie is released, we’re often sneaking in one more Arnie-ism.
Which script of yours are you most proud of?
I would like to say its the ones that haven’t been shot yet, but I’m very proud of the two Die Hard movies, very happy with 48 Hrs, which my first Hollywood picture, Possession – the Timothy Dalton movie I previously mentioned – was a nice change of pace for me.
And Ricochet – a movie that didn’t get a lot of attention when it first came out, but is mentioned in loads of books about ‘under-rated movies’.
And the next one that I hope you’re going to see…
Are you currently working on any projects at the moment?
Well, if you believe IMDB, they’re Flash Gordon and Sgt. Rock, but these movies have been crawling forward for years. Arnie and Bruce were both going to be Sgt. Rock, but it never happened.
What is moving forward is Bombay Bullet which films in India next year. I also have a miniseries for cable TV that I’m working on which is based on a famous set of fantasy novels and has been adapted many times, but never really done right – I think we’re going to nail that.
I’m also working on a TV series of Sheena: Queen of the Jungle – a female Tarzan – as the comic books have been doing well, and there’s a lot of interest in the cable networks as she’s a timely, environmental superhero… who’s also a hot babe.
Hopefully all these will be out next year…
(WATCH THE BELOW VIDEO FOR A SECRET POST-INTERVIEW FOLLOW-UP QUESTION)