Seeing 'RED': Anthony Hopkins and Catherine Zeta-Jones join Bruce Willis and Helen Mirren for action-comedy sequel


Standing for “Retired and Extremely Dangerous,” the original RED’s eclectic mix of comedy, action and wrinkles proved to be a formula for success when the film was released back in 2010. Based upon the DC graphic novel of the same name, the movie introduced us to a group of aging and quirky CIA operatives forced out of retirement when an assassination attempt is made on one of their members.
Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren return to the big screen on July 19 in Summit Entertainment’s RED 2, this time in a race across Europe to prevent a nuclear bomb from falling into the wrong hands. And if that list of actors doesn’t grab your attention, this time around they are joined by Catherine Zeta-Jones and Anthony Hopkins.
It was a bitterly cold day in December when Film Journal International was invited to visit the set of RED 2 in London’s Tobacco Docks, located in the heart of the East End. This was to be the last stop in the film’s production schedule, after earlier sojourns to Montreal and Paris.

As we do our best to keep warm in the winter temperature, we grab a quick five minutes between set-ups to chat with director Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest) and ask how the shoot has been so far. “It’s been fantastic, actually,” he responds with a broad smile, “For sure, it’s been hard work, but there’s a lot of amazing talent here in one movie. I don’t know how we can fit them all into one poster, it’s somewhat daunting. They’re not just amazing talents acting-wise, but they have so much experience between them all. I mean, Anthony Hopkins has done something like 60 movies. It’s incredible.”

Directing performers with that much experience isn’t as hard as one might imagine, Parisot confides. “Of course it’s intimidating, but you also have to remember that making a movie is a team sport. Everybody here is working together; it’s like a group of people who are all trying to figure it out together. The actors are all very sweet and kind, so I feel like I am part of their group. I like that kind of environment, and I encourage that kind of environment. That way we can all try different stuff and not be afraid of screwing up.”

The easygoing atmosphere resonates across the entire production. For example, for the purpose of today’s shoot, the huge warehouse where we are based has been transformed into the Kremlin headquarters that features at the end of the film. A scene is being shot in which Willis’ character, Frank, knocks out a hapless guard for accidently kissing his girlfriend (Parker). The crew spontaneously breaks into laughter when Malkovich utters the line “What happens in the Kremlin stays in the Kremlin” at the end. It’s that kind of set.

Anthony Hopkins claims that this is the most fun he has had on a movie set in years. “Dean has to be one of the best directors I have worked with, he is so relaxed,” the Silence of the Lambs Oscar winner tells us. “Bruce and everyone are all great guys to work with. It’s actually a great pleasure for me to be working with the likes of Bruce Willis and John Malkovich. It’s highly enjoyable.”

Hopkins turns out to be a big fan of Willis, and in particular a certain film franchise which he is best known for. “I’m a great fan of the Die Hard movies,” he confesses, “I remember watching Die Hard when it first came out; I’ve always enjoyed it.”

Leaving us with the rather random image of the veteran Welsh actor settling down to watch a t-shirt-clad Willis running around with all guns blazing, we ask the other newcomer, Catherine Zeta-Jones, if she is a fan of the action star as well. “Well, this is actually my third outing with Bruce. He basically played himself in Ocean’s Twelve, and I had one scene that we were in together. Then I did Lay the Favorite with him in which I played his wife,” the Chicago star recalls, “So it’s great to work with him, as I feel I know him so well. The process is very easy, but he’s an easygoing actor anyway. He turns up, he knows his lines and he has fun.”

Speaking of knowing your lines, Zeta-Jones, who plays a Russian spy named Miranda, tells us how mastering the Eastern European language has proved to be quite a challenge. “The hardest thing for me in the whole movie was when I had to speak Russian. I learn it, then I go to sleep, and when I wake up the next morning it is like my brain has gone blank. So there are lots of outtakes of me swearing,” she laughs.

Four-letter outbursts aside, she couldn’t be happier with her character—not only is she a sexy Russian spy, but she just so happens to be an old flame of Willis’ character. “They call her Frank’s kryptonite. I think that kind of sums it up, really. When she arrives, you know there’s going to be trouble.”

The brunt of most of this trouble is Frank’s girlfriend, played by Mary-Louise Parker. The “Weeds” star tells us about the simmering love triangle in store for the audience: “[Miranda is] everything that my character aspires to be in her fantasy life,” she explains, “She has a rich, fertile fantasy life, reading romance novels, and Catherine’s character is someone who’s walked right out of one. She embodies that sense of royalty, of something she’s always wanted to be, but she considers my character inconsequential and of no importance to her.”

In real life, we are happy to report things could not be any more different. The chance to work alongside the 43-year-old Welsh actress has been a unique experience for Parker. “It’s been fun to watch someone like Catherine Zeta-Jones at work,” she tells us, “She’s such a star, she has such glamour about her. I could honestly watch her all day long. I really feel honored to have worked with her, and it’s not often that you get to say that.”