What's new
Signup for GameFly to rent the newest 4k UHD movies!

Interview Exclusive HTF Interview with Jo McLaren - "Annihilation" Stunt Coordinator (1 Viewer)

Neil Middlemiss

Premium
Reviewer
Senior HTF Member
Joined
Nov 15, 2001
Messages
5,330
Real Name
Neil Middlemiss
HTF_Interview_Jo_McLaren_AnnihilationV2.png

Veteran stunt performer and coordinator Jo McLaren has made her mark on projects big and small. Everything from British television drama (Grantchester, The Tunnel), to the globe-hopping stunt spectaculars on Fast & Furious 6, World War Z, Gravity, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and more, she has made her mark either performing or coordinating great stunt work.

For Annihilation, her first time working with gifted director Alex Garland, she and her team had the opportunity to help deliver Garland’s vision, creating psychologically intense and frightening sequences that very specifically serve the story. The results are a resounding success. The science-fiction tale is a deep examination of its fascinating core idea (which I don’t want to spoil here), punctuated by several intense moments where the stunt team, in partnership with the special and visual effects teams, delivers exceptionally well.

Annihilation is available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD and On Demand now from Paramount Home Entertainment.

91hmXn5ErqL._SL1500_.jpg
Annihilation - J.McLaren.G.Rodriquez.jpg

HTF: Annihilation was a great piece of cinema. You have worked as a stunt performer, a stunt double, a stunt coordinator, and served as Stunt Coordinator on Annihilation. As a bit of an explainer for readers, what exactly is a stunt coordinator?

Jo McLaren: A stunt coordinator is like the head of department of the stunts. We get a script and we work with the director's vision and design the stunts. It's not just the health and safety and how we're going to achieve all these stunts safely and dynamically, it’s creating the director's vision. It's lots of rehearsals, script breakdowns, doing pre-vis, working with the actors, training actors. As well as all the not so exciting stuff like all the risk assessments, booking all the equipment we need, or the cranes down to every little shackle and wire and pulley, harnesses. It's a busy job!

20844855.jpg

HTF: You have worked on projects big and small, from very modest British television and Doctor Who, all the way up to some of the biggest productions on the face of the planet. But, talk about working with Alex and how much flexibility or leeway you had to helping him execute on the vision he had for the stunt work that went into the film.

“I loved Ex Machina, so when I had the opportunity to work with Alex [Garland] on this, I jumped at it, because it's intelligent film making.”

Jo McLaren: I loved working with Alex, because he is just a very giving director. He explained everything that he wants. He's very scientific and hugely intelligent- the guy is a genius. So, he was very good at explaining his vision and giving us leeway to come up with some ideas for the dynamics of the action. It was a joy to work with him, it really was. I loved Ex Machina, so when I had the opportunity to work with Alex on this, I jumped at it, because it's intelligent film making. You don't sit there passively as an audience member; you have to engage in his movies. It was a joy to work with him.

annihilation-movie-image.jpg

HTF: When you work on a big budget action film, like a Fast and the Furious or even the action in a Paddington 2, it's primarily designed to be fun or exciting, but when you work on a film like Annihilation, the stunts fit much more snugly into their purpose into the film, if you get my meaning. Is that harder than it is on a big budget production, or something that has a humorous or adventurous side to it? Does it become more challenging?

“In a script like this, it's not just creating action for action's sake. It is action that enhances the script and is character-driven…”

Jo McLaren: You have to be careful, obviously. In a script like this, it's not just creating action for action's sake. It is action that enhances the script and is character-driven, be that from the strong females or from the bear. It's like, what is this bear? Its DNA has changed. So action wise, it was thinking about those elements-the size of the bear, the size of the alligator, the humanoid. It was thinking outside the box. Not making it too big, [but] just enough for the story and to create an intensity in the action.

untitled.png

HTF: You mentioned Ex Machina, another incredible piece of cinema, and so clearly Alex Garland is a gifted storyteller and he knows what he's going for and is not afraid to tackle deep subjects. So, when there is action or violence, which requires stunt coordination and stunt performers, it tends to be a much more visceral experience from the viewer's perspective. It’s a more intense kind of violence versus a car crash or something that's more intended for adventure or fun, is it more intense working on that kind of piece?

“For us, as a stunt team, it was thinking about everything we designed, working with art department, working with visual effects, and making sure it was all on track and in line with what you see on the screen now…”

Jo McLaren: It was intense, but in a good way. A different kind of intense, not intense pressure or anything, but we made sure we pitched everything just right in keeping with his vision. It was making sure we were listening to everything that he was saying, because he was so clear, and his vision was so clear. So, for us, it was giving his vision justice. It was a great challenge and an enjoyable one because it was thinking outside the box. It wasn't just T-boning a car. For us, as a stunt team, it was thinking about everything we designed, working with art department, working with visual effects, and making sure it was all on track and in line with what you see on the screen now.

HTF: Do you ever reach out to other coordinators or have they ever reached out to you on a particularly impressive or bold stunt? I interviewed Wade Eastwood a few years ago for Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation and asked him about that crazy stunt where Tom Cruise is hanging on the side of a plane. I just cannot imagine people did not reach out and say either, "Congratulations on pulling that off," or "What in the heck were you thinking?" [chuckles] Do you reach out, or have you had people reach out to you, and say congratulations on a particularly well executed piece of stunt work?

247160647-3.jpg

Jo McLaren: Yeah, definitely. This community's fairly small, so invariably we all know each other and obviously you have your friends and your closer colleagues, and Wade's a good friend of mine. So if you see something and you think, "Wow, that was fantastic, that was so slick and faultless," absolutely we reach out to people. I've had people message me all the time. And with Annihilation, people messaged me saying how much they enjoyed it and how they wanted to go back and watch it again to figure out in their own mind [and] to go on that journey again because you can't sit there and be passive to watch it, you've got to engage in the story. We're pretty supportive of each other and congratulate and help each other.

HTF: Most of your IMDb entries indicate that you work very closely in and around the UK. Do you get to travel much to do your work, or are you based predominantly in the UK for projects?

“When I was performing, I used to travel everywhere, Morocco and all over Europe. As a coordinator, I mostly work in the UK. There is so much movie-making going on over here…”

Jo McLaren: When I was performing, I used to travel everywhere, Morocco and all over Europe. As a coordinator, I mostly work in the UK. There is so much movie-making going on over here. It's partly a little bit of choice at the moment. I have a thirteen-year-old son, I'm a single parent, and its about making sure that I give him time, as well as my career. But we are so blessed over here with so many fantastic movies made. I'm not against working anywhere else, I love traveling, there are some great filmmakers around the world and locations, but the last few years it's just the way that it's gone working here in the UK.

annihilation-movie-image-12.jpg

HTF: Congratulations on Annihilation, it is such a fantastic piece of cinema and every cylinder firing across the board, so congratulations. It was a real pleasure talking to you. I can't wait to see your future work.

Jo McLaren: Yeah, lovely to talk to you, too!

9D7E11DF-A8A5-4B23-8E44-B6ADE221563D-e1506547694685.jpg
 
Last edited:

Users who are viewing this thread

Sign up for our newsletter

and receive essential news, curated deals, and much more







You will only receive emails from us. We will never sell or distribute your email address to third party companies at any time.

Latest Articles

Forum statistics

Threads
357,323
Messages
5,135,719
Members
144,355
Latest member
RobertTheBob
Recent bookmarks
1
SVS Outlet Sale
Top