U.F.O. hits our UK cinema screens today, and to mark the release of this ambitious British sci-fi, we caught up with director Dominic Burns, and star performer Bianca Bree.
U.F.O. follows the adventure of five friends, who awake one morning to find there is no power or electricity, and a big alien aircraft hovering above their heads. As tensions grow, it soon becomes a case of survival of the fittest, as the human race is seemingly at threat thanks to their new visitors.
Bree – daughter of Belgian action hero Jean-Claude Van Damme – stars alongside Sean Brosnan – (son of Pierce) and she discusses with us what it was like working alongside her father, and in particular her dramatic fighting scene with him.
Meanwhile, Burns – who directed the comedy How to Stop Being a Loser – is becoming something of a jack of all trades, but admits his future lies predominantly in action thrillers. He also discusses with us the genre movie and why so many British independent filmmakers shy away from giving it a go…
So, tell us about U.F.O….
Dominic Burns: U.F.O. is basically told through the eyes of five ordinary people and we never cut away to the president’s point of view, or in our case the prime minister – we never cut to the God perspective. The only information you ever get is the information the protagonists receive. You never find out beyond our world what is going on, which I thought was a really cool and interesting concept. Effectively the film starts off with all the power cut off and communications cut off and they just wake up on a normal morning, with no panic or screaming, no chaos, but there’s just no power or communication. What would you do in that scenario?
You do nothing, there’s nothing you can do, you just play it out and see what happens and I found it really interesting to wait and see how long it would be before that scenario would start getting quite dangerous and start turning into chaos and ultimately, a survival of the fittest. I thought myself I don’t think it would be that long before that would happen, people tend to panic, lack of information is one of the worst things you can do. That led on to the idea that if aliens were to attack, or take us over, all they would actually need to do is turn up, hover above us and cut off power and communications and just sit and watch, they wouldn’t need to do anything else. That’s where the film came from, and effectively what the film is about.
It’s a very ambitious project – is that what attracted you to the role Bianca?
Bianca Bree: Well when I read the script, yeah. It was a fast read and if the script doesn’t catch my attention after ten pages then I don’t really want to deal with it, so, good job on that.
There aren’t many British filmmakers really attempting the genre movie, why do think that is?
DB: Part of what attracted me to it, is that not many British filmmakers do it. We had the attitude on this project that every time we got told we couldn’t or shouldn’t do something, we thought, right, let’s add that in. You know, we’ve got two fight scenes in the film that rival anything in any blockbuster. We’ve got Joey Ansah in the film, who fought Matt Damon in the third Bourne and that’s one of the best fights ever put on screen, and he thinks this one is better, which is a hell of a compliment. There is a 10 minute steady cam shot in the middle of the film that takes place over a supermarket riot with about 150 extras in it – 10 minutes we don’t cut, it’s all done live, and it’s just chaos. We just thought, I’d rather come up short and be ambitious than be safe and boring.
You always seem to be trying new genres – you’ve done comedy, horror and now sci-fi – what do you feel you’re most at ease with? What’s your calling?
DB: I really enjoy the thriller/action elements. Especially now after U.F.O. I feel very comfortable going and shooting that – I feel I’ve learnt loads and loads from that, and I know it sounds like a cliché, but I always feel like I’m learning and that I can improve, and that’s important. But I also feel quite comfortable in the darkly humour, darkly comic moments, and I think in U.F.O. it’s not a film that takes itself too seriously, there are some really dark scenes in it, but at the same time there are darkly comic scenes as well. I don’t really like pigeonholing films, I quite like the fact that you could cut a trailer out of U.F.O. and make it look like a comedy almost, you could cut a trailer out of it and make it look like a horror, it’s just a mash-up.
Is it fair to say that this isn’t about an alien invasion as such, but more about how the human race reacts to it, and how it could change us?
DB: Massively, yes. That is massively true, yes. Not that the poster would suggest that, but that is true.
You have assembled a good cast, not only Bianca, but the likes of Sean Brosnan, Sean Pertwee and Andrew Shim – you must have been thrilled to have them all on board? And Bianca it must have been great to work alongside them all as well?
BB: Yeah it was the first time I’ve met them all as well. They made it easy for me.
So now you’ve done one British film, would you like to come back and do another?
BB: Yeah, this is my first real film that I’ve actually really worked hard on, instead of just going in on set and being in the movie and walking out, I actually got a proposal, so that’s exciting.
DB: It’s difficult to gush because Bianca is sat next to me, but I was so massively impressed with her. She turned up, on her own, from LA, in Derby, middle of nowhere and she didn’t know anybody, and straight away she jumped in. Bianca is the sort of actress who turns up on set and says hello to the crew, hangs around with the grip and a crew really respond to that, particularly on an independent film, because everyone is sleeping on your mates sofa, and that kind of thing, that’s what happens on these type of movies, and obviously the actors are always treated a little bit differently, that’s just how it works. So the crew never begrudge it when you’re sitting there and hanging out with them, and having fun alongside them, and going out for a drink in the evening. The other thing is that Bianca’s performance is amazingly strong, and also, what’s really nice about it is that if you go back and watch the movie a second time, knowing the full film, it’s actually a lot smarter than you think it is. There’s a lot more to it than you think, with loads of little subtleties that we built in.
Despite being an independent film, you managed to get one of the worlds biggest action stars on board, albeit a cameo role. It must have been wonderful you to direct Jean-Claude Van Damme?
DB: Yeah it was. Same with Mark Hammil, and Richard E. Grant. I was starstruck when I first directed Dexter Fletcher, whenever you get someone you’ve grown up admiring you it’s wonderful and amazing. Unless they’re an arsehole, but luckily I’ve not had yet.
Bianca it must have been so nice to have such a familiar face around on set. What’s it like working alongside your own dad?
BB: I always get asked that question and I tell every single person it’s like working with you dad at the office. My dad has been in the industry a long time and I just learn from him and we hang out, he helped me go over some scenes in his trailer and stuff, and he’d go back to his room and I’d go back to mine. It’s just like working with another person.
You have a cool fight scene against him too, that must have been good fun to shoot?
BB: Yeah that I can’t wait to see.
DB: Did you enjoy kicking your dad’s ass?
BB: Yes, that was the best.
So given your upbringing Bianca, do you consider yourself an action star?
BB: I guess I can do it, but I’m more into the dramatic genre, but I guess I can do the action part, right?
DB: You’ll soon see, girl. You don’t have to take my word for it – you’re fearless.
BB: Yeah I live on the edge, that is something I do. It’s not good though, because I’ll do anything.
DB: It’s great when you’re shooting an action movie.
Another actor to mention is Simon Phillips, who has been in all four of your films now Dominic – can you imagine making a film without him?
DB: [Laughs] Si and I get on really well and I actually think this is the best I’ve seen him on screen in this film, because I really do think it’s a strong performance. But yeah totally, Si likes doing lots and lots of my movies and I try to be a little bit more, I guess for want of a better word, selective. It’s difficult to say without sounding like an arrogant dickhead, but I’ve turned down around seven films in the past 18 months to make sure U.F.O. is right and the next step is right. For me, U.F.O. is a marmite film, you’ll either love it or hate it, that’s the style of movie it is. But for me it’s a step up and I now want to step up again, I don’t want to dip.
And finally Bianca – how is Welcome to the Jungle coming along?
BB: We finished shooting that last January, February time. I don’t know what’s up with that now actually, but I know it’s done and I think they’re gonna put it out soon.
DB: I saw a clip of that in the States, it looks so funny.
BB: Being on set was funny, it was really good.
UFO is released in UK cinema today.