Eastern Film Fans is proud to present an Interview with James Nunn. One Shot is just about to be released with Scott Adkins and its much more than just another film, as we discuss, and as James directed one of my favourite films 'Tower Block' I explore some of his films and his ambitions for the future.
When did you first think I want to be a director, where did the journey start for you ?
It was actually watching Jurassic Park in the cinema when I was nine years old and I just fell in love with the idea of making movies and telling stories and bringing things to life. I guess I didn't know if I wanted to be an archaeologist or a film maker, but it was kind of a revelation that transcended the movie that this wasn't just amazing but it was like its something I want to do, tell stories. My Mom and Dad have always been very supportive and my mom said pick your career when you are young and make your hobby your career, pick something you love doing. I always wanted to make films and used to run around with my Dads super 8 camera so it was a no brainer I steered my education towards that and then I went to film studies at University of Westminster and met some of my greatest colleagues and friends and its been a journey that we've all been on together.
So I have always been very technically minded and logistical and I ended up falling into the role of 1st Assistant Directing (AD), which is kind of the managerial side of directing, they tell you their vision and then your one that facilities it, so that they can work on the performance etc while your running the show. I was always willing to learn and I was in the right place right time and I ended up 1st AD'ing from ages of 20 to 25 in alot of British Gangster films.
How did you come about making your first feature film 'Tower Block' as a Director ?
I was making 3 or 4 movies a year and amassed this big CV by the time I was 25 and then an investor on one of the movies said I know you want to direct, well do you want to have a go at doing your own film, have you got anything. Friend of mine a producer wanted to co direct and had access to Lionsgate and some money and we had access to this fabulous script 'Tower Block' by a guy called James Moran and that's where we got the script from. I was very blessed to have a truly tremendous cast so the heavy lifting was shared.
You did a film with Scott Adkins Green Street 3, were you aware of Scott or did you meet him before that movie ?
I met him before that movie, actually it was never supposed to be called Green Street 3, it was supposed to be a complete reboot of the Green Street franchise as a mixed Martial Arts film originally called Hooligan Underground and that's what i thought I was making. It was actually my producer and one of my oldest friends and doing great work, James Harris who suggested Scott and I was like were never going to get him, so James was like why don't we send a Tower Block screener and see if he likes it and he did and I met Scott in a casting office and I was like a bit of a fanboy at the time, I was just like a 25 year old kid and I've got a star in the room here who actually wants to work with me. I was like better not mess this up.
You also did another film with Scott and Stu Bennett The Eliminators, how did that come about?
We met on Green Street 3 and it did well for the money we spent and it went down well, then for a number of years i got into directing commercials and did 2/3 years doing that and then released I really need to concentrate on getting a film again, as that's my passion and this producer was making a deal with WWE studios and pitched them a James Nunn and Scott Adkins re-team and this producer said are you interested in this.
I really wanted to make something that showed off London but felt kind of Hollywood I suppose, all the London films I was seeing, especially in the UK scene, were these gritty dark gangster films, never really had the polish that I like to have on my movies, and I think you can have that grit, realism and violence and I love the 80's and Stallone Movies. Its like Green Street 3 was my Rocky all the Rocky's thrown into one, actually it was Might Ducks meets Rocky. We didn't have a huge amount of money but it was a chance to get in with an American Studio, a chance to work with Scott who I knew, loved and trusted and a chance to film something on home turf with friends along with get out of commercials and get back into a film.
One Shot, there is a lot of buzz on this movie, how did you get involved?
Its very much been my baby for 6 years. So what happened was there was a fight scene on the cable cars in The Eliminators and I was very passionate with the studios about doing this in one shot and I was kind of being met with a little resistance from studio as they want it to be shot with two cameras for editing. What I knew from working with Scott on Green Street is you don't need to do that with Scott, he is phenomenal and he is from my point of view the best on screen fighter in the world and I was like I want to showcase that. Before I went away to edit that move I went to the pub the night after we wrapped and said to my producer James Harris I want to make a movie where i capitalize on my technical ability and skills, and Scott being the best on screen fighter who can actually do all this stuff for real. I remember the pub I was in, The Green Man in Soho, and I said I've got it I'm gonna make a One Shot action movie with Scott Adkins for 90 minutes and hes gonna beat up all these people, and they looked at me and said that's a great idea, but they all went it'll never get done but a great idea, and they said go on then go write the pitch. So I had a week before I was going to America to edit The Eliminators and I wrote the Pitch document which was a much more comic book version to what you have now, much more Martial Arts and hand to hand the essence was very much the same.
I picked a writer, now friend, at the time Jamie Russell and we wrote that version tried to get it made and it ended up on a shelf for several years as we couldn't get it made for the finance. So it started to get dusty then Birdman came out then 1917 come out and I was like well that ideas been done. Then that company folded some years ago and my friend still had contact with them and I was having a beer with my friend on the film 47 Meters down and and I asked him if he could get my One Shot project back, he went, yeah probably, anyway a month later I got it back.
So we went to signature with it and then said this is brilliant why has no one made this yet, they loved the concept, Scott will be great but we don't want it to be so comic book and darker. So me and Jamie were like so that's no minor change, the original script had cannibals in it, it was so different. So me and Jamie took the original thing and just went new on it and it really shaped it, gave a fresh perspective and then took about another year to get Ryan attached and Ashley and then we shot it in March of 2021. Its been very much my baby for 6 years.
How do you approach a film like this as its challenging its different to how you usually shoot or act in a film ?
Well you are re-educating yourself, weirdly I don't want to say it was easy, but I come from a very technical background I learned from about 50 Directors and thousands of crew members and learnt how people operate and function its that experience and technical knowledge that allows me to treat it like chess and know how to do the moves. That's best way to describe it, that didn't make it easy but i was never sacred of it, I was never fearful of the challenge. (Ed: we want to see the Go Pro version 😉
When I first pitched the idea to Scott it was 6 years ago and I remember when we were filming a shot and Scott was like I wish I hadn't asked you to make the fight so long. The fights are genuinely not cut up, at one point Scott Adkins and Lee Charles are gong for it toe to toe for 4 minutes. You couldn't do this without Scott Adkins because you need the speed that's one thing you cannot manipulate in the one shot, you cant speed up punches kicks, there is genuine blood coming out of Scott's face at one stage.
He's got a great fight with Lee Charles, Ive had Lee in everything and on Green Street 3 Lee said to me I wanna be in the trailer for Green Street 3 and you can kick me in the head, I said no you don't need to, and he was like yeah I do and Lee and Scott trust each other and if you watch the Green Street 3 Trailer you can see Lee get kicked in the head and punched in the face and hes got a tremendous fight with Scott and its so fast. You cant do that kind of fight if they don't trust each other.
Whats next for James Nunn ?
Were now post on Jetksi I actually shot Jetski before One Shot and there was a window for me while the shark effects are being done and its all looking good and I'm very happy with that movie and that should be out next summer. I'm also spinning a few plates and I cant tell you everything but there is a re-team with Scott on the cards. I am excited to see what happens with One shot as everything I've targeted and tried to do with my career is to break out of DTV and into theatrical.
Finally the Eastern Film Fans question is if you were on a desert island and could take only 3 films with you, it can be any genre, what would you take?
My favourite three movies right now will be different from tomorrow, but today they are: Jurassic Park, Raging Bull and Collateral.
I want to thank James for taking time to speak with us and One Shot is out Friday 5th November GO SEE IT