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Exclusive: James McTeigue Talks Ninja Assassin and The Raven





James McTeigueDirector James McTeigue has built the reputation of working on some of the more visually engaging projects over the last ten years - The Matrix, V for Vendetta and Speed Racer. So, the question is, will his latest project, Ninja Assassin, deliver on the visuals? The director seems to think so.

I wanted to make sure the ninjas in this movie felt a little superhuman but still realistic,” explained McTeigue. “When making stylized action films, you can’t always use 100% of real-life logic. I mean, where’s the fun in that? But what I liked about what we did with Ninja Assassin was that we put together some really amazing, jaw-dropping action sequences but still made it feel like any of what you see on the screen could actually happen. I think balancing the two approaches worked really well for us.

McTeigue himself was a huge fan of the 80s wave of martial arts films, so the director was more than thrilled to work with the legendary Sho Kosugi (Enter the Ninja is just one of the cult classic titles on his resume) for Ninja Assassin.

Working with Sho is like working with a walking ninja encyclopedia. Having him in our film is like the perfect homage to past martial arts films because he WAS what those films in the 80s were all about. His performance in Ninja Assassin as the torturous, father figure still gives me chills,” said McTeigue.

While McTeigue had the pleasure of working with a martial arts film legend like Kosugi, he also had to balance that out with working with the unknown (at least in the US) star Rain, whose character of Raizo is front and center for all of Ninja Assassin.

With Rain, we knew exactly what he'd be able to do with his performance coming into Ninja Assassin,” explained McTeigue. “What we got was so much more though. I think some people have innate acting ability and he definitely has it. His dancing abilities helped with his ability to handle the fight choreography on set and I know he worked for months before we started shooting training in martial arts so he was more than prepared when he walked on set.

I definitely think the more you act and hone your skills, the more you improve. I think Rain gave a great performance in Ninja Assassin, but I am definitely excited to see where he goes in his acting career,” McTeigue added.

So with Ninja Assassin set to hit theaters on November 25th, has the team behind the project already started discussing a sequel? The director says “sort of.

McTiegue said, “We haven't specifically discussed what we’d want to do in a sequel, but it's kind of like the elephant in the room so of course we’ve thought about it. But you always want to see how the film performs first before we start looking at putting together a sequel. But I know I’d love to come back for more Ninja Assassin fun.

One project that McTeigue is definitely moving forward on is The Raven, based on the world of Edgar Allan Poe. What approach does the director plan on using to bring one of horror’s most influential writers ever to the big screen? “We are planning for a lot of gore,” says McTeigue.

With Poe, I would be remiss in not including some gory stuff especially within the context of his work,” explained McTeigue. “There are so many incredible macabre and paranoid elements in what Poe accomplished as a writer so I want to bring those to the big screen. I want to put audiences in 1850s Baltimore but the twist is that I want it to come from the way I imagined Poe saw the world, not necessarily what was really happening at that time and give it a bit of a pop twist on top of that.

The Raven will look at a serial killer that uses Poe’s work as inspiration so there will be fictionalized elements to the film. I would still like to stay true to the character he was, but I also don’t want to make a Poe biopic either. So there will be some dark themes running throughout the movie that may just touch on some of what we know about Poe’s life,” McTeigue added.

Look for more on both of these projects really soon.

- Heather Wixson

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