In 'Free Fire,' Ben Wheatley wants to "meet the audience halfway"
British filmmaker Ben Wheatley has built up a cult following with his hyper-violent, darkly funny movies. His newest film Free Fire is an action comedy starring Brie Larson, Armie Hammer, and a whole lot of guns. The movie has the broadest commercial appeal of any of his work to date, but it's still a Ben Wheatley film, which means, spoiler alert...a lot of people die.
Prolific director Ben Wheatley is known for his intense, super violent movies like Down Terrace and Kill List. His newest film--a dark action-comedy called Free Fire features Brie Larson, Armie Hammer and Sharlto Copley as 1970's arms dealers stuck in a Mexican standoff inside a decrepit warehouse. KCRW's Matt Holzman talks to Wheatley about his attempt "meet the audience halfway" on Free Fire, dealing with casting changes, and whether he'd ever want to direct a big-budget studio film.
Photo: Director Ben Wheatley (R) with Armie Hammer on set of Free Fire (Kerry Brown/A24)
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British genre director Ben Wheatley's first film Down Terrace was made on a shoestring budget and shot in just 8 days. Since that debut in 2009, Wheatley's been making movies almost non-stop -- next up was the horror thriller Kill List, followed by Sightseers, A Field in England and High Rise. He collaborates with his wife Amy Jump, who both writes and edits his films.
Wheatley got his start directing commercials and British television. His movies have devoted fans and critical acclaim, but can be divisive -- they're all super violent, though often darkly funny.
His newest film, Free Fire, is no exception. Set almost entirely inside a decrepit Boston warehouse in late 1970s, the story centers around an ill-fated arms deal between members of the Irish Republican Army and a South African gun runner. The ensemble cast includes Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy, Sharlto Copley and Brie Larson.
Wheatley recently sat down with Matt Holzman, host of the new KCRW podcast, The Document. They start by talking about the unusual structure of the film and go on to discuss why all of Wheatley's movies involve people being killed, if he would ever direct a big studio film, and various release strategies for indies in the UK.