You can’t talk about the last ten years of movies without talking about Crank: High Voltage, right? The gonzo action pic was one of the most fascinating sequels from recent years, basically taking structure of the first movie but ramping everything up to 200. Brian Taylor and Mark Neveldine‘s action movie never holds back, never quiets down, and never stops throwing everything in the kitchen sink. No hijinks or action beat is too silly or wild or grotesque. It is, without question, the pinnacle of Neveldine/Taylor’s filmmaking career together.
Ten years after Crank: High Voltage showed audiences a whole new world, Taylor remains incredibly proud of the movie. It’s only grown crazier over the years, too. How many action movies look and sound like this these days? Not many. The “love it or hate it” experience revels in itself, and it plays by no other movie’s rules than its own. Crank: High Voltage is just an explosion of grim and ridiculous creativity.
To celebrate the film turning ten years old this year, Brian Taylor recently spoke to us about the film.
You showed the movie at the Austin Film Society recently, right?
Yeah, it was really fun. Well, this is the first time I’ve watched it on a big screen since it came out, and probably I would say with 99% certainty, it’s the first time I’ve watched the movie all the way through in any format since it came out. So it was kind of fun. I’ve forgotten so much about the movie, and one of the main things I forgot was just how fucking great it looks.
To see it projected on a really nice screen that’s super big, damn! We shot that movie with prosumer cameras. Those are cameras you could just buy from Best Buy. These Canon prosumer cameras didn’t even have interchangeable lenses, you could get a screw-on wide-angle adapter, and a screw-on telephoto adapter. Which we were using here and there to get more cinematic looks out of it. But we did a lot of hot rodding of that camera to get the look. Not only does it hold up well on the big screen, it looks awesome.
How much do you think those cameras go for now?
Well, you can’t buy them anymore. With cameras, it’s like cameras go obsolete every year, at least. So you could probably get on eBay and find…those were 720p cameras. You could probably go on eBay and find a relic for $50 if you purchase it used, or something like that. They’re just not the shit anymore. Now, it’s like people are shooting in 4K, 5K, 8K, we were shooting 720p, and I guarantee you on a big screen it will just pop off the screen next to any of those movies. But there was a lot of little tricks to getting that look.
I have a vivid memory of seeing Crank: High Voltage in Chinatown on opening day, because in the first row, there was a baby in a stroller.
That is so great. That’s the person you need to interview, you need to find that child.
[Laughs] I’m curious if those images had an effect on him. Years later, what happened?
Yeah, just put out a personal ad, saying, “You, baby stroller front row, Crank 2, 2009.” I took my son to see Natural Born Killers when he was a toddler.
He loved it, there were so many bright colors, there was animated stuff. He didn’t know what the hell was going on, he just ran around the aisles of the movie theater annoying everybody, but he had a great time.
[Laughs] Looking back at the movie, do you see it all as a representation of your taste and who you were when you made it?
Yeah, totally. I think the most meaningful way to look at that movie is that was a charming grindhouse movie. It’s not like an homage to grindhouse, or a cute “wink, wink, wasn’t grindhouse great?” So it’s a true grindhouse movie, meaning it was a desperate scream for attention with no money. And how do you do that? You just do that by being wild with the crew, exploitive, strange, and just going full throttle at every impulse, because you have to, because you’re competing with the giant new releases.
It says a lot about where we were as filmmakers at that point. We were trying to make a mark. We didn’t really completely know what we were doing, which I think is also really apparent in the movie and it kind of makes it fun. But at the same time, it’s almost like I feel that movie broke ground almost just by accident. Because we weren’t these David Fincher architects of film that were crafting this particular style or point-of-view for this one piece of material or something. That was basically just us just going for it, and just trying to make it cool, and just trying to have fun.
We were pretty out of control making that movie. I think the fact that it was so unique, and there really is nothing like that movie, including even Crank 1, which I think pales before Crank 2. I mean there’s really nothing like it, and I think that’s just a product of guys who were just flying by the seat of their pants and just trying to make an impact any way that we could on a given day.
Was the movie your first instinct of where the sequel should go? Did you both just want to blow up the first movie?
Well, the thought was, I wanted to feel almost like a requel. Kind of the way Evil Dead 2 was to Evil Dead 1. Where it’s sort of the same movie, just done better, and just amplified in every way. So it functions as a sequel because it starts immediately, the second the last movie ends, and keeps going. But it functions as a remake in the Evil Dead 2 sense, of just following every beat of the first movie, but doing it more outrageously, and I think just better.
There’s a lot of fun stuff in Crank, but there are a lot of things I thought we didn’t get right. And so Crank 2 is – one of my goals for it is I just wanted to get right a lot of stuff that we weren’t able to pull off on the first one.
Well, the general look and feeling of the movie is the way I wanted Crank 1 to be, but we just didn’t really have it yet. We were…I don’t think we really knew how to impose our will on the studio. And things as ridiculous as just Amy Smart’s hair and wardrobe. I thought the first movie was just very vanilla, and then in the second movie, we were able to just get her looking sexier, just grimier and dirtier, and cooler.
And just everything in the movie I wanted to feel grimy and sweaty, and just have more grit and attitude. So whereas certain things in the first movie – the first movie was pretty grimy, but there are certain things we just felt were too clean and too fake, too movie-like. So the idea of the tone in Crank 2 was let’s go for super elevated, outrageous action, the things that are happening are completely absurd and elevated, but let’s have the look really grounded and gritty, and see what that combination does. Because that’s just the combination that felt right. All the things that were happening wanted to be super elevated and insane, but the look wants to be just like very gritty. And I just love that combo.
It even came down to silly things like the stripper in the strip club who gets her silicon boobs shot out in the shootout. That was something we wanted to do in the first movie on the rooftop, and our special effects guys weren’t good enough on that movie. They showed up with a rig that didn’t work, and so we had to drop that. There was a lot of little things like that, we were like, “Man!” We left this on the table, like, “We’ve got to get it right in the second one.”
How did you achieve that effect the second time around?
We had better special effects guys. That’s all. Sometimes physical rigs, again, another thing that was funny watching those movies is they were all pre-CGI almost. Obviously, there were tons of CGI in movies back then, but these days everything is CGI, you can just…you’re out there shooting, any little thing that goes wrong, any little thing you want to add, any little thing that’s not quite good enough, you’re like, “Oh, it’s fine, we’ll just CGI it later.”
Back then, CGI was in the realm of more expensive movies, we didn’t really have that to play with so much. A lot of it, you had to just do physical gags, and physical gags can go wrong. It’s almost like it’s a given. Those Japanese movies where they do incredible high-pressure bloodstreams and all that stuff, I just used to watch those movies with such awe and envy because every single time we tried to do that it would be like, “Three, two, one, aww!” Then two little drops come out, it’s really lame. And then you’ve got to spend half an hour resetting everything and then try it again. It’s just so hard to get those right. So the first time on the rooftop, yeah, they showed up with the fake boobs and the bowl and tried to shoot it, but it just looked so bad and it just didn’t work. In the second movie, it’s like, “This time we’re bringing it.” Because this is the ultimate satirical takedown of L.A., right?
What’s funny to me about the movie is, it only gets more outlandish as the years ago by and people are becoming more sensitive or mindful in how they look at movies. Do you have a certain satisfaction in knowing that, as time goes on, the movie will only get crazier?
Yeah. It’ll definitely be looked at…it’s funny because if you watch something like Texas Chain Saw or Night of the Living Dead now, those movies, they were messing people up. People would run out of the theater, they just couldn’t deal with what they were seeing. Now, you look at it, it’s just like a movie. “Yeah, okay. I see 10 times worse than that on Netflix.” So there are certain things that just get softened with time. But yeah, you’re right, I think with the Crank movies, with the levels of political incorrectness, it’s something that’s only going to get worse with time. Already, I was squirming uncomfortably in many places in that movie. Just going, “Oh my god, what were we thinking? This absolutely positively would not fly right now.”
I’m really proud of what we did, considering the resources that we had, and how unique the movie is, and actually I think how influential it was on a lot of young filmmakers that came up in that generation. And also, it’s a movie that a lot of filmmakers who I really look up to and respect, like Quentin Tarantino and Edgar Wright, have come up and told me they love that movie, which is a great feeling.
But for all of that, and all the good things, I also found myself thinking maybe it was a good thing that that movie only made $12 in the box office. It really exists only for a small subset of film fandom who will get it and love it and appreciate it.
What was Lionsgate’s reaction to some of the dailies coming in? Obviously, they read the script, knew what you guys were up to, but what was the consensus at the studio about the movie?
That’s actually not so obvious. A story that I’ve told many times about Verona’s head floating in the tank at the end of the movie, that was literally a gag that I added to the script at about four in the morning, the day before we turned it in, just to see if anybody was reading it. Because if anybody at the studio had actually read the entire script and got to that, then it would have been called out, “Are you fucking kidding me? You can’t do that, it’s ridiculous.” But nobody ever said anything about that gag, which has me convinced that they just never read the script, they just green-lit it based on, “The first one made such and such, the second one doesn’t cost much, it’ll probably make X, Y or Z, it’s fine, whatever they want to do.”
To a certain extent, a movie like that is beyond notes. They’re not really going to give notes on that movie. Most studio notes are, number one is probably making the character more likable, rootable, redeemable, rootable and redeemable. And then number two is probably logic – what are the rules? Plausibility, things like that. All of that is completely…
It doesn’t apply.
Yeah, it doesn’t apply to Crank movies at all. I think A, they probably didn’t read it or watch the dailies, and B, if they did, what the hell are they going to say?
Sounds like you guys got to live in your own bubbles on the movie.
Yeah, and we had just finished Gamer, which was a much bigger movie, shot more in a traditional movie production behind it. It was actually, Gamer was actually the first proper movie shot on the Red camera. I don’t know if you know that?
No, I didn’t.
Yeah, the only other thing that had been shot on Red at that point was Steven Soderbergh did a Dogma 95 movie in Europe, which I don’t think was ever released or anything, it was like an experimental film. But Gamer was the first real movie shot on Red, and that was a big production with giant lights and big battles, and special effects. It was much more expensive and everything. And then before we could go into post [after] we wrapped Gamer, we took about two, three weeks off to decompress and then we started pre-production on Crank 2, and flew right into Crank 2, shot that, and then we edited both movies at the same time.
Which is, it’s just psychotic. So one of the ideas of Crank 2 was I knew we were going to be so shot, so beat and exhausted, and then we’ve got to go in and do this completely lunatic script. That was really what went into figuring out the style of the movie, the technique of the movie, and this idea of shooting it on those cameras. It was like, “We need cameras that we can just pick up and run with, no video village, no cabling, no focus pullers, no battery packs.” They needed to be lightweight, handheld, run around, if we break one we just go get another. You can tape it onto a car, you can throw it off the side of a building and no one’s going to get too mad, you just buy another.
Do it all with minimal lighting, but in order to achieve that we had to do a lot of tricks with the camera to pull it off and make it look good. But I figured if we can somehow find the look, where the movie will actually look like a real movie, it’s the only way we’re going to be able to shoot this thing because we were just so wrecked after doing Gamer. So that was how we decided on shooting it that way. “Let’s just do something that’s basically just like running around doing a student film with our friends.”
You and Mark would get so close to the action in those days. Were there ever any serious dangers involved? What made you guys want to be that close to it?
That was just how we learned how to do it. I think our theory at the time was if it looks dangerous or if it is dangerous, then it’s going to look dangerous. So if we put ourselves into danger then that will translate on the screen, just feel more urgent. I guess Road Warrior is an example of that, the original Mad Max. You watch those movies and you just know somebody got hurt. So that was the inspiration, it’s like, “Let’s just go out there and put our bodies on the line. If things are going to blow up or cars are going to crash, let’s just be right next to it, and hopefully, that very real danger that we were putting ourselves in will translate on screen, feel dangerous.”
That goes for what I was saying about this movie is a real grindhouse movie. Spielberg doesn’t do that because he doesn’t have to do that, he’s too smart for that. We’re not Spielberg, so we had to resort to desperate measures to try to get big effects on film. We don’t have the budget to do it with CG, so if we want it to be exciting and bold then we’re going to have to go the extra mile. We’re going to have to do things that other filmmakers aren’t willing to do, because they’re too smart to do them. When we did that helicopter scene at the end of Crank where Jason at the end of a helicopter, that’s not green screen, that was Jason Statham with one cable, hanging onto a helicopter, over Los Angeles, that was the real deal, man!
And it’s like, if we could have done that on a sound stage with just rad CG and had it look cool, maybe we would have done that. But we probably wouldn’t have done that anyway, because it was just more fun. We never had a second unit, ever. I don’t think I’ve ever used a second unit, a real second unit. The closest that I’ve ever come is one time they had a drone guy go out and get some shots. I don’t know how to fly a drone. But that’s about it.
Neither one of us have ever had a second unit, because that just seems like the most fun – why would we sit around just doing scenes with actors talking and then let somebody else go out and actually hang outside of helicopters and crash cars in the middle of downtown? That’s awesome. That’s what you dream of, right? Especially when you want to get into movies.
I think that was our way of competing. We’re just like, “Man, if we don’t have the budget to do the action then we’re just going to create as much danger as possible, and hope that because of that our stuff just feels a little more urgent, a little more dangerous and a little bit more intense than some of our big studio competition.”
Jason Statham hanging outside of a helicopter – was he just game for anything?
He’s great. First of all, he’s really, really professional. And he’s super funny, and he’s just a great guy to be around. So for us, with our first experience making a movie and having that be the number one on the call sheet, we were really lucky to get broke in that way. We were lucky that we didn’t have the opposite experience. You hear of so many directors where their first movie is with Bruce Willis or something, and they just get completely wrecked by the guy. We were really lucky to have a guy like Jason, who was relatively new to being a big star. He was very humble and grateful, but also just incredibly hardworking and just super fun to be around. But he wasn’t reckless.
I don’t want to make it seem like Jason was just some crazy dude like, “Yeah, fuck yeah! Let’s do this, let’s jump off a helicopter and do it.” He’s very calculated, he’s very professional about it. So with a stunt like that for instance, he just wants to know, exactly how are you doing it? He wants to look at everything, he wants to talk it over with the stunt coordinator, look at the rig, go all the way through it, understand exactly what the capacity and the tolerance of this thing is, what he can do, what he can’t do. Then just internalize that, then once he’s got all that in his head, and he feels like, “Okay, I feel like I’m safe, I get it.” Then he just goes all in and forgets about it and does it. Yeah, he’s not just going to jump on the side of the helicopter because Mark said so.
I can’t imagine anyone else playing Chev Chelios but Jason Statham.
Well, he was not our first choice at all actually.
No. Here’s the thing: at that point we loved Jason, we were fans of Jason, because of the Guy Ritchie movies. But at that point, we sort of saw Guy Ritchie as a peer and sort of competition. He was like one of those guys who we really looked up to. We wanted to be like Guy. So when they mentioned Statham to us we were just like, “But that’s Guy Ritchie’s guy. We want to break our own guy.” So we had a lot of ideas for that. We wanted to get Nic Cage, we wanted to get Robert Downey Jr. – this is before Iron Man, when he was kind of unbondable. Can you imagine Robert Downey Jr. in Crank, how crazy that would have been?
Yeah, we had an idea of doing it with Johnny Knoxville, but they wouldn’t okay that. They just didn’t think he was enough of a star. But can you imagine me and Mark doing it with Johnny Knoxville? Somebody would have died. So there were all these strange versions of the movie.
So finally we agreed to meet with Jason, with the reluctance, strictly because, well, this is L.A. and that’s a British guy, and it’s Guy Ritchie’s dude, right? But to sit down with him, the first thing he says is, “Dudes, I got to tell you, I don’t do comedy.” It’s like, “Well, first of all, we’ve seen you in Snatch, and Lock Stock, and actually you’re super funny, so I don’t believe you. And second of all, it’s actually perfect if you just play it completely straight and let all this stuff happen around you.” So it became a really great conversation with him, and after just having one conversation with the guy we were just like, “All right, he’s just so cool.”
So to say what were the qualities of Chelios that he embodied, we had no idea he was going to be that guy. So he just came in and made it his own. He wanted to know, should he do it with an American accent? We thought, “No, your accent is so cool.” Art is a melting pot, so it’s a guy with a British accent, what is it going to look like? Who cares? Just do your accent and just run with it.
So on the first movie, he was reading dialogue that was written with no particular actor in mind, but someone who was definitely not him. So once he did the first movie, now all of a sudden he’s awesome, he’s Chev Chelios, you can’t possibly think of anybody else in the role. So in Crank 2, we were in a situation where now we could write dialogue for Jason Statham. So that’s why in the second movie there’s a lot more little rhyming slang moments, and a lot of stuff that just plays right into him.
Yeah, exactly, and just plays right into his cadence. So we were writing dialogue that we knew would be awesome coming out of his mouth.
Now being a fan of his music, Dwight Yoakam in the Crank movies is all the funnier to me. How was working with him?
I was actually familiar with his music before I ever saw him act. So when we were trying to cast that part of Doc Miles I just thought man, let’s get Dwight Yoakam, because I was just such a fan of his music, and I heard he acted a little bit too.
Yeah, he’s really great. I don’t even think I had seen him in Sling Blade when we cast him, I just figured he’s the coolest dude in the world, and he looks great in a cowboy hat. And he wears the tightest jeans of anybody I’ve ever seen. Dwight Yoakam, he sort of has painted-on jeans. I didn’t even know he was wearing jeans, but I thought his legs were painted. Man, his jeans are tight. He has an assistant that comes with him all the time, his job is to get down on the ground and suck the air out of his jeans, that’s what it felt like [Laughs]. They were like shrink-wrapped.
[Laughs] I used to see him at my grocery store, and he looked like he didn’t want to be bothered, but even in a frozen food section, he had a presence like no one else.
Well, I was with him one time when somebody came up and it was great. I can’t remember where we were, but somebody walked up to him and said, “Hey, you’re Dwight Yoakam.” And he says, “What’s left of him.” [Laughs] That was his standard line. So you probably would have gotten that one if you came up.
In the first movie, actually, he showed up and he had just had some teeth extractions done, so he was completely doped up on painkillers from the dentist and he was almost incoherent. So I feel like we got him to do a lot of stuff in the first movie when he didn’t really know what he was doing. We kind of took advantage of the fact that he was completely compromised by dental meds. But then in the second movie, he didn’t have that, he just kind of showed up and went for it. But he had a lot of fun.
Bai Ling, she just has so much energy in this movie. How was she as a collaborator?
Just randomness, just complete chaos. I mean, Bai Ling is like the Neveldine/Taylor of actors. She was so unpredictable. We ended up subtitling all of her dialogue, just because you couldn’t understand what she was saying. That was never part of the plan. It wasn’t until we cut the movie in the editorial and realized that there wasn’t one line of dialogue she said that was coherent, that we realized, “Wow, we have to subtitle all of her stuff.”
I think it was the scene where she wakes up because she had been knocked out by a car or something and she wakes up and starts dancing around and screaming like she’s nuts or something. Then we had her in one of the takes, we had a car that’s crashed into a fire hydrant, so there was a fire hydrant shooting water up into the air, there was a car that was on three wheels, crashed into it in the background. We did a take, and on the first take, randomly, she got so into it that she just ran over to that car and got into it, and started it, and started driving it down the street on three wheels with sparks coming out the back of the car. Driving past PAs. She actually left the protected street and just drove away. Everybody’s just looking at each other like, “What the fuck just happened? Nobody told her to do that, what’s going on?”
[Laughs] Was she improvising a lot too?
All of the dialogue that she did was scripted, she just couldn’t understand any of it. But there was a thing where she jumps over a wall at the end of the movie and she’s got two machine guns and I was right down on the ground with a camera right in front of her because I wanted to do that low-angle. Really close, I’m probably four feet away from her. I’m just like, “The gun has blanks in it. It’s still not completely safe, so I’m going to be really close to you, so please just aim the gun anywhere up there. That gives you a full 720 degrees of any place you want to point the gun, just don’t point it at me. Literally do not play around, don’t point it at me, point it anywhere else but me.” She’s like, “Okay, okay, okay.”
Then it’s like, “Action!” She jumps over and just starts spraying everywhere, not just at me but literally in every possible direction. We’re just like, “Okay, do you want to do another take?” “Nope, we got it, we got it, let’s just move on.” She was definitely like an anime character come to life, she’s just got those awesome eyes. I actually really love her interactions with Amy, the scene in the club where Amy clocks her and they’re fighting with each [other], it’s great.
Amy got in on a lot more of the fun in the sequel.
She was just kind of perfect for the role. In the second movie, she was asked to do a lot more than in the first. The first one she’s a pretty straight ahead, sweet, a little ditsy girlfriend who’s always a little bit behind the action, very innocent. And the idea of her is just to give Chev some sort of bit of redeemable…there’s something redeemable about the guy. He might be just a complete scumbag, terrible person, but this girl loves him and she seems really nice. So he can’t be all bad.
The little soft side he has is all relating to her, she’s the one he calls when he’s falling out of the helicopter and all that. So in the second movie, it was just like, “All right, so let’s just turn that upside down.” We wanted to give her more to do, let’s not have her be a foil to all the action, let’s just have her be right in the middle and be a part of it, there’s no one who’s a foil to the action. Everybody now lives in the Crank world in that movie.
What work went into shooting the racetrack scene?
Not only is she doing all of that stuff, but she’s doing it on a horse track basically covered with manure. She walks out on the set and she’s just like, “You guys replaced all of this with clean dirt, right? This isn’t just horse manure?” And Toby [Holguin, one of the stunt people] was like, “I mean, no.” She said, “Jesus Christ, okay, let’s just do this.” But you’ve got to have fun. She ended up having a lot of fun. At first, as you can imagine, even in the strip club scene, she had a lot of anxiety, but pretty perfect about doing that.
We just kept encouraging her and just saying…it’s just like the Chinatown scene in the first movie, if you just read it on the page you might think that it’s super dark and problematic. And maybe it is, in the abstract, but once they actually shoot it, with all of us having so much fun with it, I think it comes across as being fun and silly.
So we kept pointing it out, “The Chinatown scene seemed pretty crazy too, but look how it came out.” It’s really the same thing. So we had her work with a choreographer, get all of her stripper moves down. It was kind of like Jason agreeing to get up on a helicopter: as long as she’s done the appropriate prep work and feels comfortable and comfortable with us, then when we actually do it, she can totally cut loose.
She had a ton of fun with those scenes and completely delivered. I don’t think in any of those scenes you feel like she’s just bringing it halfway or she’s censoring herself. She really went for it. And you can only do that if you’re in an environment with friends, we’re all in it together having a lot of fun. So, yeah, I was really stoked with her in the second movie.
Like you said, the Chinatown scene might’ve read as problematic, but being problematic, that’s kind of a part of the DNA of these movies. You still make transgressive content, but how do you see the Neveldine/Taylor movies in light of today?
I don’t think you could make those movies now without people getting pretty mad. But times are just different, they just are. Times are just different, man. It’s really hard to say. One of the things, watching those old movies for me is it’s just sort of a time capsule. You look back and it was just things were different back then. Because obviously, our intent was to offend, that’s the thing.
Take a comic like Don Rickles, who made a career out of being offensive, but nobody really got offended. Because it was so over-the-top that you didn’t feel that it was mean-spirited, you felt like it was almost a satire of being offensive. So there was a way back then when, actually, it wasn’t mean-spirited. It was just kind of ridiculous and fun, and more than that, in a grindhouse-y way, it was trying to get noticed. So we were happy if people got mad, we would have loved if people protested the movie.
It’s free press.
It would have been free press. Well, it’s just the world we live in now. While we were making those movies, James Gun was tweeting about little boys. And he was doing those tweets for the same reason we were making those movies, because it was so over-the-top and ridiculous. And it was the sort of, that was his brand, right? That was our brand. Our brand was just like, fuck everyone. The movie ends with our hero on fire, flipping the finger towards everybody, towards the world. It should have been called Crank 2: Fuck You! Fuck everyone, that was our motto. But the world has moved on, and I think maybe now, if you try to make it, you’d better make it even ten times more offensive than that.
Yeah, you’ve got to double down if you want to play in those waters again, and you’d better be ready to take the heat. So today, it’s like you have to find different ways to break through. Maybe some of the ways that we tried to break through back then, admittedly cheap, stuff was cheap, right? Maybe that doesn’t work now, maybe you have to find other ways to break through. Maybe you have to break through the way that Ari Aster Hereditary, Midsommar is breaking through. He’s doing it a completely different way. It’s like, what if we just take this ultimate grief and hurt and just show it to you so unflinchingly that you almost can’t bear to look at it? That’s great, maybe that’s the new version of shock cinema.
This is making me wonder what a Crank 3 would look like today. What do you think, if Crank 3 came out in 2020, it’d look like?
That’s rough, because to me…again, Crank 2 was not a huge financial success, so it’s not like there’s a big groundswell to make Crank 3, and it’s not like there’s a lot of money in making a Crank 3 or anything like that. So the only reason I could think of where you would ever want to make it is for the true fans of that franchise. In order to do that right, Crank 3 I believe would have to be exponentially more bizarre and fucked up to 2 as 2 was to 1. I just don’t know if there’s much appetite for anybody to make that movie.
I might disagree.
Well, I know, that’s two of us that would like to see that, but the proposals that have been brought to us for a potential Crank 3 have not been that. They’ve been, “Why don’t we try to mainstream it? Let’s call it Crank, but it shouldn’t be so offensive, let’s call it Crank but let’s make it more grounded, and maybe something that’ll appeal to a wider audience.” That just sort of makes the hairs on my neck stand up. It’s just so wrong. It’s just gross. So, I don’t have any great desire to make a Crank 3. Everything, because of those reasons – it’s like it needs to be completely creatively driven and not at all driven by business.
That surprises me a little because Statham has only become a bigger star since then. I wondered if his status would afford that creative freedom.
Yeah, it’s possible. It’s possible. It’s not something that I’ll ever shut down, because you never know.
Did you and Mark ever have a story in mind for a Crank 3?
Yeah. We came up with all kinds of ideas for Crank 3. But that’s the thing about the Crank movies: the first movie ends with a guy falling out of a helicopter and landing. He falls 2,000 feet and lands on a busy city street, bounces off a car. If we can do a sequel to that movie, with the same character that picks up where they left off, then anything is possible.
Ten years later, what about Crank: High Voltage makes you the proudest?
Well, I think it’s one of the weirdest movies to get a wide release. When you think about it, there’s definitely weirder movies that have played the arthouse circuit, but for a movie that completely batshit insane to actually be released in malls and multiplexes, as if it was a real movie [Laughs]…it was a really great scam sort of pulled on everybody. I can’t imagine…I mean, for all the people like you or Patton Osw, who wrote a really great blog about seeing Crank 2, for all the people like us who went to the movie and had our expectations satisfied, just imagine all the people who walked in who didn’t know what to imagine. Like, “Oh, it looks like a cool movie,” then it was just a complete feeling of confusion for a large percentage of that audience [Laughs]. Then the word-of-mouth afterward of, “I don’t know what I just saw, but I did not like it all.”
[Laughs] Did you experience that ever during test screenings?
We didn’t test Crank 2, I don’t believe. I mean, what’s the point? I saw it in a theater on the first day, and it’s almost difficult for me to watch movies with audiences anyway. I get super freaked out and weirded by the experience. I don’t really love it. Anytime the audience is silent I sort of interpreted it as nervous hostility or something [Laughs]. Probably the best experience I’ve had watching one of the Crank movies was a screening we just did because, after all this time, there are no stakes. Nothing is riding on it. I’m just with people who thought it was cool and enjoying it together. People were laughing and clapping in the right places, so it was super fun. The actual opening night experience, and as soon as the opening weekend numbers were coming in and we were at sixth place or something, it was a pretty grim experience all in all [Laughs].
Does its box office performance mean anything to you now? Are you just happy it exists?
No. No, I feel the same as you. Like I said, the filmmakers I respect and admire, and the critics I respect and admire, it seems like all the cool kids know about Crank 2. Whenever we meet fans into the Crank movies, I always ask them, “Which one is your favorite, C rank or Crank 2?” If they say, “ Crank 2 was okay, but I really like 1,” then I’m like, “Hmm. Okay.” [Laughs]. It’s always the guys who answer Crank 2 that make me go, “Yeah, you get it.”