The star of the intense psychological thriller shares everything from his prep for the role to who the hardest working man in Hollywood is
Amazon studios has been on a tear recently. They’ve been snatching up and producing new innovative movies left and right. The Wall is a perfect example. With director Doug Liman, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and John Cena, it certainly has the celebrity pedigree. Considering there are only three characters in the entire film and a small budget, it also has the innovative indie film feel. The film follows a pair of American snipers who are pinned behind a wall, and the intense psychological journey they endure. At the premiere of the film in New York, we got a chance to speak with Aaron Taylor-Johnson, John Cena, and Doug Liman about the film and what they thought of it. They shed a lot of interesting details about the making of the film and stories from set.
Doug certainly had a lot of interesting tidbits to share from production. For starters, as much as the film looks like it was filmed in the Middle East, it was actually filmed in the Mojave desert, adding “That’s why the longest list in the credits are the visual effects”. He also revealed an crazy insight on the acting style of Aaron. With only three characters in the film and Aaron getting several long scenes of dialogue without someone physically with him, performing is anything but easy. Considering that the entire film was shot in 14 days makes it even more intense. With all this in mind, Doug mentioned one day on set where the wind was too much, so he decided to shoot another scene rather than the one that was scheduled and it happened to be a scene that was 9 pages of dialogue. He was worried Aaron might not be ready, but to his surprise, he was more than ready. Aaron committed the entire script so vividly to memory that he was correcting people on set with scripts in their hand as to what the words were to random scenes. However, the craziest part of shooting he mentioned was how often John Cena and the screenplay writer Dwain Worrell would randomly speak Chinese to one another.
Everyone of the crew members agreed that John Cena is one of the hardest working men in Hollywood. John recalled one instance where he spent one night at the ESPYs and the very next morning, was miles away in a desert covered in dirt from head to toe ready to shoot. The premiere was also days after John turned 40, where he mentioned he’s just happy to be there with such an esteemed crowd. He added “Whether I’m 39, 40, or 50, I’m happy just to be able to play a role” with the greatest sense of humbleness you could imagine.
We also got a chance to have a long talk with Aaron about his prep and thoughts on the movie. He shared a lot about the veterans who he worked with and the long process he took to get into character for the role. Check out our talk with him:
The Knockturnal: How did you prepare for this role?
Aaron: It was a sort of mixture of things. I called up a lot of friends. First person, believe it or not, was Bradley Cooper, considering he had just done American Sniper. I said, well, I’ve got to play a sniper, who did you consult with? And he put me in touch with someone straight away, Jacob Schick, a third generation marine whose a part of the 22 kill foundation. That’s in support of the veterans. It’s a really sad statistic that on average 22 veterans are killed by suicide every day. This was really early on, about a year and a half ago. That’s what these symbols are for [points to black ring]. You put them on your trigger finger and you donate to 22 kill. Then there was Lynsey Addario, whose a war photographer for the New York Times, she put me in touch with a lot of war vets. From there I just got in touch with those people. I was just down on the shooting range in order to kind of get experience with the weapons. I got in touch with this woman. She was wearing this bracelet, it means that they’ve lost someone dear to them. This one is a gold star wife. It means she’s lost her husband to the war. It was KIA in 2011. He was also a sniper, which was so serendipitous for me to bump into her. We went out to lunch and she showed me pictures of her husband, Christopher Walton. We used a lot of references to him. It’s a fictional story with fictional characters, and that’s when it’s difficult, when you don’t have any boundaries or anyone to base it on. I’m pulling from all over the place. She did the most amazing thing possible. She put me in touch with the sniper school in Arkansas. I spent four days with the instructors there while they were doing a sniper course. I went out on range and shot, the farthest shot, almost a mile away. The best part for me was picking up the mannerisms and the camaraderie to make it as authentic as possible.
Was it a lot of pressure working in a film with very few characters?
Aaron: It was intense. You don’t have a scene partner, necessarily at all times, so there’s no turnaround on anybody. It’s intense, it’s a psychological thriller. It’s not a blockbuster, action packed. Then we got Doug Liman, which means it’s got such intensity to it. It’s really more authentic to a military sort of standpoint. There’s a lot of long hours.
The Knockturnal: What attracted you to this film?
Aaron: It was an exceptional script, interesting character and the fact that Doug Liman was directing it was the main draw from it for me. It was a small budget for Amazon and that’s very rare to come by these days, to pull something off. It’s a challenge, and it’s an experiment and as an actor it’s the most rewarding to do things like that. Ultimately, that was the experience for me.
The Knockturnal: You’ve been in the Avengers and Kickass where you’ve played a hero. How was being a hero in this movie different from being a hero in those movies?
Aaron: Even though it’s a fictitious character, it’s more of an authentic, realistic aspect of war and the mentality that happens. My character is really struggling with PTSD. We don’t really go into anything too much, we don’t go into a political standpoint or any kind of standpoint. It’s unapologetic and hopefully that’s what the military will respond to and other civilians.
The film hits theaters on May 12.