Lawrence Bender first made his name in the film world when he produced Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs back in 1992, catapulting both their names into the limelight and setting in motion a lengthy career that includes some of the most memorable films of the 90′s and 2000′s. Pulp Fiction, Good Will Hunting, Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2, An Inconvenient Truth, From Dusk Till Dawn, and Killing Zoe are just some of the titles that would never have seen the light of day if it wasn’t for Bender’s involvement. His latest film, the action-thriller Safe, stars Jason Statham as a man on the verge of suicide when he sees a young girl in trouble. He decides to save the girl and soon fists and bullets are flying as he tries to keep them both alive.
Criticize This! spoke with Bender about the film and what it is a producer does. Read our Q&A below.
Most people don’t know how important a producer is in getting a movie made. How do you explain what it is you do?
It’s very hard to understand what a producer does because there’s so many intangibles. And there’s different types of producers who do things differently and have different strengths. Generally a producer finds a piece of material or comes up with an idea and develops that into a screenplay or finds a script. Creatively, a producer has to know how a movie is put together and how to bring a story to life on the screen and he has to be able to do the nuts and bolts business side as well.
In the case of Safe, [director Boaz Yakin] wrote the script and gave it to me. I loved it but had some thoughts about things that needed tweaking here and there. We talked about who should be in it and I gave the script to Jason. I found the financing, which ended up being IM Global and then I had to make sure things happened. You almost become a CEO at that point. Obviously the director takes the lead, but the producer is involved in the casting and crewing and day-to-day problem-solving helping to make sure the base moves smoothly and that everyone has what they need.
Then in post-production it’s really the director and the editor in the room, but with so much going on, especially with visual effects, there’s a lot for the producer to look at to make sure it looks good and is done on time. Then there’s the marketing and distribution, and although the studio has the final word on all that, you look at the materials and give your input. So from beginning to end there is always involvement.
Specifically with Safe, what was it about the idea that grabbed you?
I loved the script. I like these action-thriller type movies. They’re fun. And Boaz is a strong writer and has an elevated sense. I tend to make movies that have something special about them. I love the character that Jason plays. He’s a guy on his last leg in life and ready to kill himself when he sees this girl, and instead of killing himself, he goes and saves her. And by saving this girl he saves himself.
Have you ever considered switching hats and directing a movie yourself?
Yeah, absolutely. I’ve definitely had that thought. But it’s hard to really switch gears. I’d need to find the right material because I don’t want to just direct anything and obviously I would be a first-time director and it’s not easy for a first-time director to get a good piece of material [laughs]. I don’t know if it will ever happen but it is something I’d like to do.
After making so many movies, is there a genre you have yet to work in that you’d like to?
I’d love to make a musical. When I was a young guy I was a dancer and a singer and I’d love to do a musical. And I’d like to do a balls-out comedy because I haven’t done a comedy yet.
How is it to work with someone as energized as Jason Statham appears to be?
He’s great. He’s a guy’s guy and everyone loves him. He’s a very real person with a good sense of himself. And a real team player. He also has a strong sense of what works. He does a lot of his own stunts and his own fighting and that stuff is not easy. It takes an enormous amount of physical work to do what he does all day long. He’s very passionate about what he does.
What do you hope the audience gets out of Safe?
It’s a pure adrenaline rush of entertainment. There’s something for women, with the relationship between Jason and the girl, and the guys are going to love it for the really cool and inventive action sequences that Boaz came up with.
Can you talk about the status of Kill Bill Vol. 3 at all?
I don’t really know anything about Kill Bill Vol. 3 to be honest with you. Quentin is still shooting Django Unchained and he’s focused on that. So I don’t really know anything about it other than what I read in the press.
Safe is available on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital download on September 4. Check out the trailer below.
Top image: Jason Statham in a scene from Safe. Courtesy Alliance Films.