Interview with Josh Peck, star of Red Dawn
Back in 2008, actor Josh Peck established himself as a talent to take notice of with his star turn alongside Sir Ben Kingsley in The Wackness, in which he played a troubled young man who sells pot from an ice cream pushcart. This year, he’s back in the action film Red Dawn – a remake of the much-adored film from 1984 about a fictional Russian invasion and occupation of the United States and the small band of freedom fighters that fought against it. The new film makes North Korea the bad guys and is more action than reflection on the nature of warfare. Besides Peck, Red Dawn also features Chris Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Connor Cruise, Adrianne Palicki, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan.
Best known for his role on the Nickelodeon show Drake & Josh (2004-2008), Peck has been building an impressive resume of more adult fare recently and looks to continue this success with Red Dawn and the forthcoming Battle of the Year (in which he stars with Josh Holloway). Josh recently sat down with us and Rebecca Hillary of Real Detroit to discuss Red Dawn, shooting the film in Detroit, and his upcoming projects.
REAL DETROIT: In preparing for this role, did you go back and watch the old one at all?
JOSH PECK: You know, I actually hadn’t seen the original. As soon as Red Dawn sort of came into my life as far as reading the script and meeting the filmmakers involved, in sort of talking about it with friends they immediately put me on notice that I was walking on very sacred ground with them. They were kind of like “Don’t mess with my movie bro!” So I knew that we definitely had to be careful to pay homage to the original while trying to do what we could with all the sorts of tools we were afforded twenty-five years later. So, I tried to take a fresh approach and then as soon as we finished shooting, I watched the film and sort of understood what everyone loved about it.
REAL DETROIT: Did you, when comparing your performance with his, feel like it’s the same character or like a brand new character?
PECK: Charlie Sheen?
REAL DETROIT: Yeah.
PECK: Listen, I live in the shadow of Sheen. All of the performances in the original were so sort of true to the movie and sort of iconic for that time. I love eighties flicks. I love eighties movies and actors and all those things. So I feel as though I tried to put my own spin on it and give it sort of a fresh approach and I hope he approves.
CinemaNerdz: It does seem that the new approach, or fresh spin, you mentioned has been blanketed across the whole movie as this is more of an action movie than the look at the nature of war that the first one was….
CinemaNerdz: Speaking to that, it seems that this movie is more about your character’s journey and I was wondering if you were conscious of that when you were making it or if that was something that drew you to the role.
PECK: Right. I agree. I think that was also an aspect of the new approach that definitely was an attraction for me. I thought that the way that the script was constructed and the way the characters were set up, it sort of gave people this new side of the story. And I thought what was compelling about it was while you have this unbelievable action going on and what not in these fantastic circumstances is the relationship between the brothers. And I think that’s sort of a universal thread – the idea of the fight being brought to your front door, what would you do in an extraordinary circumstance? And also that part of it hit home for me, that we would be able to satisfy the needs of everyone as far as the action goes, but maybe we could incorporate a great story too.
REAL DETROIT: Can you talk about the dynamic between you and Chris [Hemsworth] and how did you guys prepare for that together?
PECK: We spent way too much time in the gym together. (Laughs.) Well, he was getting in shape for Thor and I was trying to stay in shape for the movie so we were like gym rats. You know, bonding over bicep curls and protein shakes and what not. But he’s just a real gem of a person and we became really fast friends. So, you know, any opportunity you have in preparation while shooting something to be able to build something that’s a part of your character that you don’t have to act. Be it like a physical transformation or an inherent relationship, then it’s such a bonus. So, having that familiarity with Chris and that relationship just freed us up in the moment when we were working.
REAL DETROIT: Do you guys still keep in touch?
PECK: Definitely. He sent me photos of his baby and he’s…I’m just crazy happy for him. It’s cool to be a fan of your friend.
CinemaNerdz: Touching on that, it seemed like the whole core group of you were very close in the movie, did that closeness spill beyond you and Chris off set?
PECK: Oh yeah, I mean there was nine of us in the cast and we all were from the age ranges of fourteen to twenty-six, so we were pretty close and we would all have our own little faction. Like Josh Hutcherson and Connor Cruise hung out a lot ‘cause they were like fourteen and sixteen and then the girls would hang out and then Chris and this other actor Julian [Alcaraz] and I, we were sort of like the gym rat/mall rat bunch. So we would all kind of split up into our own factions and then we’d meet up on a Saturday night at Benihana and really go crazy.
REAL DETROIT: Can you talk about your experience in Detroit? How do you like it?
PECK: I loved it, especially being in Birmingham now. I mean we stayed in Troy. We hung out in Royal Oak and Birmingham and West Bloomfield and what not. I’ve been hit with a lot of nostalgia being back. This town was really good to us and the people are great and I dig it. It’s like my home away from home.
CinemaNerdz: On behalf of Detroit, thanks. In terms of making the film, how does doing a film like this differ from something like The Wackness? I assume the stunts were probably the biggest thing, but was there anything else?
PECK: Sure. Well, I’m not smoking weed in this film. (Laughs.) But you know, something like The Wackness, and with a lot of independent movies, you don’t have as big of a budget so you’re not afforded as much time, it’s really like a sprint and the people involved with The Wackness, be it Sir Ben Kingsley or the director Jonathan Levine and me, it was just like a dream. But it was six weeks of really hard work and a totally new challenge where this movie was three months of training and then four months of shooting. So, it was sort of like a marathon. Just getting through it was an accomplishment because we’d brave the elements and get beat up by the stunts a little bit and so, everything is a new challenge and you sort of take something away every time.
CinemaNerdz: Do you prefer one over the other or is it just the challenges?
PECK: I just love working with great actors and great filmmakers and in whichever regard it fits, you know, a $500,000 indie or it’s some gigantic blockbuster $50 million film. It’s sort of like, anything that poses a new challenge, although it is nice to have a trailer. Sometimes if you do stuff under a million bucks, they give you an apple box and they tell you McDonald’s is on us tonight.
REAL DETROIT: So now, do you feel you’re going to gear more towards action films or continue doing all different genres?
PECK: I’ll let the public decide. If they want to see me in more action movies, I’m in. I had a blast. I’ll take some more training because, you know, I’ve definitely lost any semblance of abs I once had while shooting this. (Laughs.)
CinemaNerdz: Any talk of a sequel? It does seem to set one up.
PECK: The second one is gonna be zombies. (Laughs.) No, I don’t know. I think if people really enjoy the film and go out and see it, then that definitely would be a conversation, because why not keep it going? I mean, I had a blast.
CinemaNerdz: I don’t see how people wouldn’t be entertained.
REAL DETROIT: Yeah. Did you have a favorite scene that you shot?
PECK: You know there would be these surreal moments when I would be running down the street in downtown Detroit, right near Coney Island on Lafayette and shooting a gun and having explosions going off and car crashes and a hundred stunt men shooting at me and I’d have like a surreal out of body experience where I’d be like “is this really happening? Am I getting everyone boyhood fantasy checklist checked off right now? This is so much better than when I used to play with action figures in my apartment in New York.” So, that kind of stuff was pretty cool.
CinemaNerdz: Was there something that you didn’t get to do that you want to do or is there a dream project for you or a dream director you want to work with?
PECK: God, I mean like, as far as dream directors go, sort of like watching The Master and P. T. Anderson and everything he’s ever done. Or, I love Jim Jarmusch films. In that respect, to do something like that…my friend Brian just worked with Robert Zemeckis and when you’re talking about icons like that, it doesn’t really get any better but, I don’t know. I’d be down to do some more stunts. You know, watching Tom Cruise in Mission:Impossible holding onto that building in Dubai, I’m like, I might be able to hang doing that.
CinemaNerdz: Whatever the public wants, right?
PECK: Whatever they want! If they want me to [do a] rom com that takes place in Burbank, California, I’ll do that too. Whatever they want!
REAL DETROIT: So, what’s next? Do you have any projects lined up?
PECK: I have a Sony 3D dance movie called Battle of the Year coming out in September.
REAL DETROIT: That sounds fun.
PECK: Listen, this body’s not just made for sitting.
CinemaNerdz: Anything else you want people to keep in mind?
PECK: That’s sort of like the big thing on my radar now and just [that] there might be some more stuff to come. But, I’ve seen the movie Battle of the Year and it’s just really fun and exciting and I think people will enjoy it.
CinemaNerdz: We’ll be looking forward to it.
Check out Josh Peck in Red Dawn in theaters beginning November 21st, 2012!