Go behind the scenes of the mega explosions, the flying trips and the final action… ACTION US. (1989).
If you haven’t heard of Action United, well, that’s crazy. But it’s also good for you, because you read it! Here at the top we love all the exaggerated and amazing action of the 80’s and 90’s and Action USA – a lost classic that should be at the top with Commando, Cobra and the American invasions.
Although Action USA could only be known as a cult classic for most of its existence, it was triumphantly reborn thanks to vinegar syndrome and the Alamo Daphthaus. So if you haven’t read our full Action USA presentation here yet, check out this latest interview with John Stewart, long time tour coordinator and Action Director!
USA ACTION : A classic lost ’80s action classic here!
CMAU: So, what makes you do acts and tricks?
John Stewart: When I was 10 years old watching John Wayne movies, I knew I wanted to be a stuntman growing up. I started driving cars and mini-motorbikes and jumping off rooftops at an early age, so I knew early on that was what I wanted to do. I had a chance to double Matt Dillion in a picture in Boston when I was 18 and moved from there to Los Angeles.
What is the craziest trick you have ever coordinated or performed?
There are clearly a million of them in Action USA, but before that there was a film called Cold Steel with Sharon Stone. I did a few things for that. On the one hand, I put out a 16-storey fire in a building. And then I drove the car from the main road to the circuit where the races took place. The good guys are chasing the bad guys and we jump over the wall and jump back like racing cars – so you have racing cars rolling over the bleachers and taking the cars out, it was just crazy. Clearly crazy things have happened at Action USA – like jumping over a train in a police car.
Action USA starts with a hit and offers some of the best action series I have ever seen. What did you want with the movie?
I learned that it was early when I was making films because, as it worked then, the customers would come to the screening and in five minutes they would decide whether they liked it or not. You have to catch them in the beginning, otherwise they’ll just go away and spoil the sale.
What is the secret of the choreography of the ULTIMATtrick?
Now you see that with computer graphics you can do anything your brain can think, but at the time I was watching other movies and shows to see what they were doing and to try and see how you can do it more and better. How to do it at a higher speed or with a higher slope. Everything has to start with something, these films like Action USA paved the way for Fast and Furious and what they are trying to do today. We were just trying to do things faster and higher and do things that would stand out.
A jump point can be distinguished from the crowd where a police chase vehicle crashes and flies away. We interrupt for a second to let our heroes escape, but then we cut off to watch the officer get out of the still burning car – and I think it’s great that you came back and didn’t just let the scene end with the first disaster.
Yeah, it’s true. We wanted to put a torch in it, and it was the perfect place for it, although of course we could just jump down the throat and keep going, but I held back to give the illusionist Gary Beale his fire! I mean, I was trying to make a cheap and funny action movie – it didn’t make sense if I wanted people to eat popcorn and enjoy it, so I put everything I could into the movie.
Do you think stuntmen are good directors?
Most directors who have left film school can’t handle much less than traffic. But that’s what they have to do and that’s what they all do – like James Cameron, where they hire a good trick coordinator for the action scene and then deal with everything else.
I never intended to be a director, but when I got the chance to get down on my knees, I really felt I had an advantage if I could at least direct the action at all times – as if I knew where to put the camera so it would look good, and I could measure where the car would land after I jumped off the driveway and came within five or ten metres of the camera to shoot the money you see in the commercials where the films were sold.
But 99% of commercial directors don’t know where to place the cameras or where the coverage area is and have to rely on the director of the second department to find out.
What is the best action movie you have seen lately?
I haven’t seen much action these days, especially because of the CGI and all that shit. I don’t just want to say it quickly and furiously, but I don’t think they use many tricks or effects based on real life. I saw the movie Spencer Privacy with Mark Wahlberg, which I liked, but I think the genre is far from its roots.
Action USA 2 ?
Impossible, because we’ve lost too many great people over the years. And everything came together at the right time for the movie, in the right place, with the right stunt team, in the right script, you know what I mean? My friend with the effects was great, and it really was the perfect storm, so there’s no way to do justice to the original.
I’d rather make a new action movie that has nothing to do with Action USA, but in the old style without CGI, but the way we know how to do it.
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