Interview: John Erick and Drew Dowdle talk No Escape
The brothers Dowdle saw their movie get picked up and dropped again, with years and years passing from inception to fruition. Studio backing and distribution would turn out to be among the least threatening problems, as cobras, coups, and a call for the arrest of a leading actor would eventually spring up during the making of No Escape.
It’s been a long slog for filmmaking brothers John Erick and Drew Dowdle; while first conceived almost a decade ago, it took some time for No Escape to be picked up and held. It all started on a trip to Thailand, which is the closest relative to the fictionalized Third World country in the film.
“There was a coup, and no advanced warning,” recalled John on a vacation he took years back. That started the impetus film, and it was buoyed by another scary trip from his past. “One time in Egypt, a bunch of people were killed outside of a temple, and tourists had been killed two weeks prior to me arriving,” he explained. “Because I’m an idiot,” he says, he booked a cheap flight and ended up visiting a country right after something tragic, and was often met with police blocking off areas or places where Americans weren’t welcome.
“I couldn’t find my hotel, and my passport was in the hotel,” continues John. “I’m walking up and down the streets, it’s somewhere unfamiliar, and I know I shouldn’t be here.”
That’s what happens to Jack Dwyer (Owen Wilson), the morning after he has relocated his family halfway around the world to start a new job. Wilson was joined by Lake Bell, who plays his wife, making her first trip to Thailand.
What they produced is something intimate and authentic, bloody and at times brutal. Some of the scenes, it would seem, didn’t require a ton of acting.
“This is not shooting on the Sony backdrop,” John jokes. “The heat and humidity are really affecting the performances, and when the family is on a rooftop, they’re really on a rooftop. Drew and I tried to shoot with as little or no green screen as possible.”
Another incident saw the crew encounter a cobra in the mud, fighting it back into the water with sticks.
The government though was especially curious and concerned, with the possibility of a real coup brewing hanging in the backdrop of filming. “We had to shut down at one point because police didn’t want a bystander to shoot a viral video of a conflict and have people thin it’s real,” says Drew. “We had to be very careful.”
Wilson, however, wasn’t careful. The actor generously took a picture with a fan, but unknowingly was wearing a necklace with a symbol of rebellion.
“The prime minister called, they were going to take him into custody,” said Drew. “Thankfully he had got back on a plane to L.A.”