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Renny Harlin on his vision for action epic ‘Deep Water’: “I feel like a kid again”

Source: Arclight Films

(L-R): Kiss co-founder Gene Simmons, Renny Harlin and Arclight Films chairman Gary Hamilton in Cannes for the ‘Deep Water’ buyers presentation.

Action director Renny Harlin has shared his excitement over the upcoming survival thriller Deep Water from Simmons/Hamilton Productions, the new venture launched here by Kiss legend Gene Simmons and Arclight Films head Gary Hamilton, declaring: “I feel like a kid again.”

Talking to Screen, Harlin, whose credits include Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger and Deep Blue Sea, said he had not planned to make another film so soon after wrapping production on Lionsgate’s The Strangers reboot trilogy and The Bricklayer for Millennium Media.

“I felt like I was in the strongest position of my career in 20 years,” the director said, “and then this bastard [Hamilton] sends me Deep Water. My wife [a co-producer on the project], told me I had to do it. Big, epic action.”

The filmmakers have earmarked a fourth quarter start in New Zealand ahead of a summer 2024 theatrical release for the story about international passengers whose plane makes an emergency landing in shark-infested waters. Deep Water will shoot partly in Europe and post-production will take place in Australia.

“It’s a real drama about real people in this unbearable situation. The hero is this co-pilot with two little kids and one has cancer and he’s unable to spend time with his family [because of work],” said a visibly moved Harlin, who recently became a father again.

”The tragedy is tearing him apart and he takes these long flights around the world to escape that tragedy. He’s the only one who can save people on the plane. At the end he calls his wife to say he’s coming home. That’s how I related to this movie.”

Miami-based Harlin, a die-hard advocate of theatrical who had lived in China for six years making Jackie Chan films until the Covid outbreak, will use in-camera effects and said the plane crash, sharks and scares “will be taken to the highest level”.

He continued, “People are missing the reality. I want to rig the actors to the wires and yank them out of the plane. I want explosions to be real, the action to be real. It will be more like watching Die Hard 2 and Cliffhanger. I want to give the audience the real flesh and blood feeling of the film.”

He continued: ”If you don’t make the audience cry or feel something you’ve failed because people want to feel something when they go the movies,” sad the director. “They want to laugh, cry, be scared and that’s the beauty of theatrical. To be able to make a movie with all this work we’re putting into it, we want it to be theatrical. Do you really want to see it on your phone? No matter what anybody says, you really want to be sitting in a theatre.”

“Auckland’s a great place to make films,” said Hamilton, who produces the New Zealand-Australia-EU co-production with Simmons, Harlin, Arclight Films’ Ying Ye and Rob Van Norden. “New Zealand’s exchange rate makes it very appealing and the people are incredibly welcoming. We’ll get a lot of support.”

Simmons added that key casting will be announced imminently. “We want to make elevated genre movies,” he said of the company with Hamilton. “We only want to work with the best directors, the finest actors. And it begins with the script.

The rock legend added, “People work so hard on films. Movie-making is such a fragile thing. You take art, acting, scenic design, music and somehow put all these pieces together. I have the highest regard for the people that do this. There’s no reason why you should not and cannot work harder to give people quality so in 10, 20 years’ time it will be remembered.”

Arclight Films is pre-selling rights in Cannes.

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