“Mortdecai” seamlessly fuses action and comedy into one exciting ride directed by David Koepp and
action scenes were choreographed by U.K.’s busiest stunt coordinators and second-unit action directors, Rowley Irlam who also coordinated action sequences for blockbuster movies such as “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “The Legend of Hercules,” “Thor: Dark World,”” Captain Phillips,” “Prometheus” and “Skyfall,” for which he received a SAG Award® for Outstanding Action Performance in a Motion Picture.
Charlie Mortdecai is a connoisseur of good food, fine libations, beautiful women and the most elite trappings of wealth. He also frequently finds himself entangled in matters of an ambiguous legal nature. Asked by MI5, the British Security Service, to track down a missing Goya painting, Charlie hopes to discharge his debts to “Queen and country” by retrieving the purloined artwork.
“Actually, Charlie gets involved in finding the Goya because he sees an opportunity to sell it,” Depp says. “His aristocratic ways are intact, but his bank book is worn out and Charlie needs to rectify that.”
Badly behaved, violently snobbish and completely self-interested, Charlie was also endlessly appealing to the actor. “He is a blatant narcissist who has no relationship with the truth, except as he sees it,” says Depp. “What drew me to the character more than anything was the challenge of making this guy, who is a little bit shady and most definitely a con man, someone you can sympathize with.”
Although Mortdecai is a comedy, it is packed with action sequences, as Jock, his faithful assistant (played by Paul Bettany) constantly saves Charlie from outlandish mishaps. Irlam coordinated a motorbike and sidecar careening through Moscow, an unforgettable sword fight and a massive explosion sequence featuring virtually all of the key cast members.
“We also shot a big car chase in East London,” Irlam says. “There was lots of skidding around and we ended up crashing into a boulevard. We cannoned the back end for that comedy finale.”
Irlam and director Koepp had a specific strategy for the film’s action. “This movie is very much actor driven,” he says. “I see it as bit of an homage to Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. My work was not just about stunts. It was about making the whole piece quirky, interesting and different.”
One of the most challenging stunt sequences for Irlam and his team was the complicated sword fight between Mortdecai and Emil. Koepp, Depp and Irlam talked about finding the right balance between realistic combat and Mortdecai’s notorious cowardice and physical ineptitude. “Mortdecai is a blagger, so David and Johnny didn’t want him to look supremely skilled,” says Irlam. “It was more about his desire to avoid confrontation and run away.
“We had Johnny Depp and Jonny Pasvolsky in for some rehearsals for sword fighting and wire work,” he continues. “We showed them how it would play out with a stunt double first, then they’d have a go and put their own twist on it.’”
“Mortdecai” is now showing in cinemas nationwide.
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