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October 2011

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director's chair Gary McKendry: Killer Elite N By IAIN BLAIR EW YORK — Stylish Irish writer/ director Gary McKendry cut his teeth in the advertising industry, where his award-winning work at Chiat Day on Reebok and Nynex campaigns established his reputation and led to a position as a cre- ative director with Ogilvy and Mather. At Ogilvy, he wrote and directed international campaigns for American Express and went on to direct acclaimed commercials for clients including Porsche, Coca-Cola, De Beers, AT&T, Budweiser, Nike, Chrysler and Ikea. In 2004 he shot his debut film Everything Must Go, nominated for an Academy Award in 2005. His new film, Killer Elite, which he co- wrote, stars Jason Statham, Clive Owen and Robert DeNiro. Based on a true story, the taut thriller races across the globe from Aus- tralia to Paris, London and the Middle East, and tells the story of an ex-special ops agent (Statham) lured out of retirement to rescue his mentor (De Niro), who is being held hos- tage in the Middle East. To make the rescue, he must complete a near-impossible mission of killing three tough-as-nails assassins with a ruthless cunning leader (Owen). But all is not quite as it seems. Here, in an exclusive Post interview, Mc- Kendry talks about making the film, his love of post, and how his career in commercials pre- pared him for the big time. POST: Your last film was seven years ago. What took so long? GARY MCKENDRY: "I had another smaller Irish thriller that was a $2 million pro- duction that was meant to be a stepping stone to this, but it fell apart and I got plunged right into the deep end — I mean, working with De Niro, Clive and Jason? It's intimidating, but you just jump in." POST: What sort of film did you set out to make? Iloura in Melbourne provided the post work on Killer Elite. John Gilbert edited on an Avid system. MCKENDRY: "It's a reality-based thriller, and what appealed to me is that this fantastic, outlandish story seems so unreal, yet these things actually happened. I grew up in North- ern Ireland, so the idea of secret societies, killers-for-hire, ex-soldiers working for shad- owy organizations was all very familiar." POST: What were the biggest challenges? MCKENDRY: "The first was financing, as we began on this at the start of the financial crash. We had it set up twice, it fell through 12 Post • October 2011 Gary McKendry (inset): "Post is just you and the editor and the effects people, and I love that." rakesh, Morocco and Paris, France. How tough was that logistically? MCKENDRY: "It was really tough, mainly as you're combining all that with the availabil- ity of actors of this caliber. You only get them in one place — two if you're lucky. So you're often greenscreening to blend worlds, and that was the huge challenge — to blend all the locations invisibly. Some of the scenes were shot with foregrounds in Australia and backgrounds in Morocco, so it was like a magic stunt, keeping the hands moving and keeping the story and pace moving. Each loca- tion has its own color palette and texture, so the audience doesn't get confused where they are in the story, and there was a real discipline there." POST: You began as a storyboard artist. Did that help? but no one wants to hang out in a dingy post room at the back of some facility, and I like that. And then I love the way you can change a scene and really make it shine and make it live the way you initially saw it. I'm very used to post after doing so many commercials, though they're like a sprint and a movie's like a marathon." POST: Where did you do the post? MCKENDRY: "We did it all at Iloura in Melbourne, which was part of the deal. I worked mainly with their post supervisor Julian Dimsey, who was fantastic, and Iloura were brilliant too. The great thing is we got in early on post. We'd originally planned to shoot it in Morocco, England and Australia, but when we moved at the last minute to make it almost all in Australia, that com- pletely threw off our schedule. So we had to twice, and the third time we got Australian financing. But the story is set in England and Saudi Arabia, which put a lot of difficulties in our way, as we had to do a lot of it in Mel- bourne. It's a period film, set in 1980, and that's not easy to do with a small budget as so much has changed since then. It's an unplugged thriller — without satellites, cell phones, track- ing devices and computers." POST: You filmed in locations ranging from Melbourne, Australia, to the Brecon Beacons and Cardiff, Wales, Aqaba and Amman, Jordan, Mar- MCKENDRY: "It was invaluable since I had to storyboard everything. It was the only way I could control all the shots, switching from country to country within a shot. It was like a very intricate puzzle." POST: Do you like the post process? MCKENDRY: "I like it very much because my background is art and I like being left alone to work. Post is just you and the editor and the effects people, and I love that. Pro- ducers and executives love to hang around the stage with actors or an exotic location, PHOTO: DAN SMITH/GARY MCKENDRY

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