Gerard Butler as seen in OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN, a film directed by Antoine Fuqua. Photo credit: Phil Caruso. Picture courtesy FilmDistrict. All rights reserved.
- Angela Bassett
- Robert Forster
- Cole Hauser
- Finley Jacobsen
- Ashley Judd
- Melissa Leo
- Dylan McDermott
- Radha Mitchell
- Rick Yune
- Creighton Rothenberger
- Katrin Benedikt
* Most external filmography links go to The Internet Movie Database.Home/Social Media Links
Olympus Has Fallen (2013)
Opened: 03/22/2013 Wide
|AMC Empire 25||03/22/2013 - 05/30/2013||70 days|
|AMC Deer Valley||03/22/2013 - 05/23/2013||63 days|
|AMC Loews Meth...||03/22/2013 - 05/23/2013||63 days|
|Showcase Cinem...||03/22/2013 - 05/02/2013||42 days|
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Rated: R for strong violence and language throughout.
When Our Flag Falls, Our Nation Will Rise
When terrorists take down the White House (code name "Olympus"), a disgraced Secret Service agent attempts to rescue the president of the United States in Olympus Has Fallen, an electrifying and inspired action thriller from acclaimed director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day).
A small group of heavily armed, meticulously trained extremists launch a daring daylight ambush on the White House, overrunning the building and taking President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) and his staff hostage inside an impenetrable underground presidential bunker. As a pitched battle rages on the White House lawn, former presidential security officer Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) joins the fray, and finds his way into the besieged building to do the job he has trained for all his life: to protect the president -- at all costs.
Banning uses his extensive training and detailed knowledge of the presidential residence to become the eyes and ears of Acting President Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) and his key advisors. With tension rising, the radicals begin executing hostages and threaten to kill more unless their outrageous demands are met, our national security team must relay on Banning to locate the president's young son, who is being sought as the ultimate test of the president's loyalty to his country, and rescue the president before the terrorists can unleash their ultimate, terrifying plan.
Olympus Has Fallen stars Gerard Butler (300), Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight, Battle Los Angeles), Academy Award®-winners Morgan Freeman (Million Dollar Baby, The Dark Knight Rises) and Angela Bassett (What's Love Got To Do With It, This Means War) , Robert Forster (Jackie Brown), Cole Hauser (A Good Day To Die Hard), Ashley Judd (Kiss The Girls), Melissa Leo (The Fighter, Frozen River) ), Dylan McDermott ("American Horror Story," The Campaign), Radha Mitchell (Man On Fire) and Rick Yune (The Fast and the Furious).
Director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, King Arthur, Brooklyn's Finest) helms an original script written by newcomers Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt. The film is produced by Alan Siegel (Chasing Mavericks, Machine Gun Preacher), Gerard Butler, Danny Lerner (The Expendables 2) and Ed Cathell (Drive Angry, Playing for Keeps). Director of photography is Conrad W. Hall (The Punisher, Panic Room). Editor is John Refoua (Avatar, Safe House). Production designer is Derek R. Hill (W., Into the Wild). Costume designer is Doug Hall (Crazy Heart, A Walk to Remember). Stunt coordinator is Keith Woulard (Black Hawk Down, Iron Man 2). Executive producers are Avi Lerner (The Iceman, The Expendables 2), Heidi Jo Markel (Playing for Keeps, Lovelace), John Thompson (Brooklyn's Finest, Playing for Keeps), Trevor Short (The Mechanic) and Boaz Davidson (The Expendables 2). Peter Schlessel, Will French (Bullet to the Head, Killing Them Softly) and Stephen Roberts (Killing Them Softly, Killer Joe) are co-executive producers.
About the Production
"We don't negotiate with Terrorists"
"When executive producer Avi Lerner brought me the script, I knew immediately it was a great piece of material with unlimited potential," says Fuqua, a director known for his unflinching treatment of gritty urban stories like Training Day, which earned Denzel Washington an Oscar® for Best Actor. ). "It is classic hero's journey, right out of Joseph Campbell."
"What struck me about the material was that it was something that I felt that could happen "The title put me in the mind of the Roman Empire and the idea of the myth. Mount Olympus is the traditional home of the Greek and Roman gods. It's a symbol of limitless power. In our film the White House crumbles in an unthinkable manner. It had so much resonance for me. Rome, the great empire, becomes America, and its greatest monument collapses."
As producer, Butler was just as eager to sign Fuqua to the project. "When we got this script, I immediately thought of Antoine," he says. "Of all the great directors working today, I thought he was the one who would absolutely kill it. I love his movies from Training Day, which I think is one of the best movies ever made, to Tears of the Sun and Brooklyn's Finest. He does gritty action and realism like nobody else."
Butler's character, Secret Service Agent Mike Banning, becomes the only option for resolve after a group of North Korean commandoes takes control of the White House. Trapped without backup in the decimated building, Banning engages the terrorists in a game of cat-and-mouse with impossibly high stakes.
Fuqua loved the script's daring premise. "The White House has been attacked and the president taken hostage. My only question was, how would this really happen?"
He did some preliminary research on the script's main set piece and was alarmed to find that it was plausible for a relatively small, well-armed, well-trained militia to take the White House by surprise and inflict serious damage in a short time. Convinced he had a story that would be both compelling and riveting, the filmmaker commenced in-depth research of both the White House and the Secret Service to ensure that the story was absolutely genuine.
" We knew that if we got it right, it would blow the audience's mind and they would take this ride with the characters" states Butler. But every moment had to be justified and real."
"Never stronger than when tested"
When he started pre-production on Olympus Has Fallen, Fuqua knew relatively little about the inner workings and culture of the Secret Service. Making the movie opened his eyes to the dedication the agents have to bring to their work and the sacrifices they must be willing to make.
"I had no idea how important they are," he says. "The Secret Service has a training program that is completely separate from the military, the CIA and the FBI. They are always in prevention mode, making sure nothing happens, unlike the military, which trains to attack. They go in first to make sure everything's clear. They work with local police departments. In some ways they are in control of the president's schedule. They're really unique individuals in that sense."
Their job description also includes being willing to take a bullet for the office of the presidency. "Think about that for a second," says Fuqua. "Your job is to prevent the president and his family from being hurt. You are expected to step in front of a bullet, if necessary. I don't know too many people who would volunteer to do that. My appreciation for them is phenomenal. Their lives are constantly at risk and when I learned all of this, I wanted to honor them with this movie."
In an odd bit of convergence, the director had his first up-close-and-personal encounter with the Secret Service while making the film. "While we were shooting, I got a call from my wife saying the Secret Service was at our house," he remembers. "I freaked out, thinking it had something to do with the movie. It turned out there was someone special in my neighborhood that day and, apparently, from my house there's a vantage point of the house he was visiting, so they wanted to use my house for observation. I still don't know who was in that house, but I found it kind of ironic that, the day I'm shooting the big takeover of the White House, the Secret Service shows up on my doorstep."
"It's not a matter of if, but when"
Fuqua sat down with a team of consultants, including former Secret Service, FBI, CIA and law enforcement officials. "We brought in Joe Bannon, who was Secret Service, and as well as Ricky Bryant Jones and Daryl Connerton, who both have spent time in the White House, to establish the boundaries of realism.
Jones, who has an expert's knowledge of counterterrorism techniques, assured Fuqua that a direct attack on the presidential manor might not be a matter of "if", but when.
"And if the White House were occupied, it would take someone inside with an intimate knowledge of the building to eliminate the threat," he says. "Someone like Mike Banning would be able to infiltrate and systematically retake control. If he could also find a way to communicate with the outside world, he could aid in the government's response. It all seemed very, very believable to me."
Through his consultants, Fuqua learned that it would take an emergency military force at least 15 minutes to get to the White House and provide support to the agents already on the premises, making a successful siege of the White House even more plausible.
"The way that Washington, D.C. is laid out, there is no direct road to the White House," says Fuqua. "It would take a bit of time for any real force to arrive by land. In the air, it would be much shorter, but a well oiled-plan would still cause chaos. Even with all the security they have in place, the concept that someone could inflict serious damage is real. You get up to the fence with a backpack, how do they know what's in it? If you can get into our airspace, and you're willing to die, what kind of harm could you do first?"
With that 15-minute window as a starting point, the consultants helped plan a mock attack, down to the minimum number of fighters needed to take the White House, as well as what kinds of weaponry would be most effective. "We considered the smallest details," says Butler. "Nothing is simple conjecture. It's all about the genius of the plan, rather than just the level of action. Remember, 9/11 was as simple as some guys taking a box cutter onto a plane. That's what grabbed me about this, how relevant and how provocative it was."
Using toy soldiers, the team mapped it all out in meticulous detail. Fuqua's concept for the attack was that the North Korean commandoes would turn America's abundance against itself. "The concept of an enemy destroying the ultimate symbol of America with our own weapons is shocking," he says. "We considered what would realistically happen if terrorists got their hands on certain weapons, if they created a diversion, if they had someone on the inside. The terrorists put our own tools, our guns and all our equipment to devastating use. We used commonplace items, like garbage trucks, as well as sophisticated weaponry. Everything we take for granted can be used in some way by a terrorist."
"We thought a trash truck would be relatively easily available and could make a pretty solid bunker, so we started there," Jones says. "We set it on the 5th of July, so the trucks appear to be cleaning up after the holiday celebration. Antoine took that idea and added his own cinematic touches."
Even America's most basic freedoms are exploited by the commandoes in order to get close to their target, Fuqua explains. "Some of them are posing as tourists and moving around with impunity. The idea that people use our freedoms as a weapon is viable.
The attack scene takes place in real time, with the terrorists taking control of the White House in just 13 minutes. "It is ruthless, because it is so grounded in reality," says Fuqua. "We did a lot of research to make it authentic. We debated what kinds of weapons would be most effective
"We brought in the writers and went through the scene step by step," he continues. "They had already created a very thorough picture of what would be happening inside the building. We expanded that onto the lawn and the street outside. As far as the takeover goes, there's no scene in the film that could not happen in some way."
Seeing it all unfold on camera was chilling, says Jones. "Watching terrorists walk into the White House gave me goose bumps. The set is amazingly realistic, so it is a surreal and sobering thing to see. It took me completely aback. That's the most secure house anywhere, with the best-trained warriors in the world, the Secret Service, protecting it. To see it fall in battle is an emotional and sobering experience."
Once the small force has secured its target, they move to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (or PEOC), the bunker under the White House that the president is evacuated to in an emergency. Again, Fuqua diligently did his homework.
"That's where Dick Cheney and other high ranking officials were taken during the 9/11 attacks," he explains. "We did our best to get all the details right, including making sure doors are red, just like the real-life PEOC. Whatever inside information we got, I tried to put on the screen."
Just a few years ago, the scenario at the center of Olympus Has Fallen might have seemed impossible, the director says "The movie is extremely entertaining that unites audiences is a collective sense of patriotism, but it's also a cautionary tale. When we let our guard down, anything can happen."
At any given moment on the set of Olympus Has Fallen, says actor and producer Gerard Butler, he could look one way or the other and see some of the most honored and sought-after actors in Hollywood.
"We have a great script and a great director, which attracted great actors," he notes. "People really wanted to work with Antoine, so Aaron Eckhart came on board, and then Melissa Leo and then Morgan Freeman and Angela Bassett. And it didn't stop there. We have Ashley Judd, Dylan McDermott, Robert Forster, Cole Hauser and Rick Yune. We had this incredible cast."
Butler's character, Mike Banning, previously headed up the president's security team. "He is a man's man, says Fuqua. "At one time, he was very close to the president. Like the Secret Service guys I spoke with, he is extremely loyal. Then the tragedy happens with the first lady."
The president and his wife are in a car that plunges off a bridge into deep water. Banning follows procedure and saves the president, even though the chief executive orders the agent to take his wife. The first lady is lost and Banning is sidelined after the incident.
"Mike is unable to save the president's wife," says Butler. "After that, he's transferred to the Treasury division. It's a dead-end job, especially for a guy like Mike who is also ex-Special Forces. He's struggling to find some kind of redemption. He's having serious issues with his wife, as well, because he was not an easy man to begin with and now there's this darkness all around him."
"For the Secret Service, there is no 'almost,'" says Fuqua. "It's a hundred percent success or a hundred percent failure. In this case, it's a hundred percent failure, even though he saves the president. Mike is a hero who has fallen from grace and he wants back in. He wants to be a part of that team again."
As events unfold, he once again has the president's life in his hands--but not in a way he ever would have hoped for. "Sometimes the universe thrusts you into the world you think you want, but not in the way you wanted. Banning goes through hell to earn his place at the president's side. He has to travel into the belly of the beast and get back out alive."
The role promised to be demanding, but Fuqua knew Butler was up to the challenges. "Gerry has the presence, and the weight to pull this role off," says Fuqua. "He's intense and totally dedicated. The guy didn't sleep. He called at three in the morning to talk about the next day's scenes. He was obsessed with getting it right and I had to love him for that."
With the president and the vice president of the United States in the hands of terrorists, the mantle of power falls to Speaker of the House Allan Trumbull, played by Oscar winner Morgan Freeman.
"Morgan brings a majesty to everything he does," says Fuqua. "He is one of our great actors. When he agreed to do the film, it immediately elevated the project. What I find special about him is that he brings so much power to a role, and yet there's always a gentleness about him. If the nation were falling, I would want someone like Morgan Freeman to take the helm. He's a national treasure and it was an honor to work with him."
Freeman, who earned an Academy Award for his work on Million Dollar Baby, along with four other Oscar nominations, has enjoyed a uniquely varied career, with starring roles in films that range from the blockbuster Dark Knight franchise to serious naturalistic dramas like Gone Baby Gone.
"This is a very exciting action movie and that is always fun to do," says the actor. "It's the vicarious thrill that pulls me to action. In real life, very few people get to be heroes. We never get to punch people out or kill bad guys. But in a movie like this, you can just go along with the good guy, or even the bad guy, if he turns you on."
Freeman says he found the story very true to life. "If a special group makes their way out of North Korea, how are we to know?" he points out. "It's easy to buy that part of the story. You can't tell North Koreans from South Koreans and South Koreans are our allies."
Fuqua was initially hesitant to give Freeman much input on his performance. "What does a director say to Morgan Freeman?" he asks. "Action! You let him do his thing. But he wanted to be directed and when Morgan Freeman looks at you and says 'what do you think?' you better have something good to say."
Freeman praises the director for being decisive but remaining open to the performers' input. "Antoine was very collaborative, which was awesome. A lot of directors don't pay much attention to the actors, but he's all ears. Whatever I mentioned, he was quick to acknowledge. And he is quick, which I just love, while still managing to be very easy going. He knows what he wants and when he's got it, he moves on."
To play President Benjamin Asher, Fuqua turned to another actor he had long wanted to work with, Aaron Eckhart. In addition to his pivotal role as Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight, Eckhart's recent credits include the espionage thriller, Erased, and Hunter S. Thompson's picaresque adventure, The Rum Diary, opposite Johnny Depp.
"Aaron has this unique energy about him," says the director. "He is another intense guy, a committed actor who disappears on set. He goes in deep. I wanted somebody who could play a youthful, contemporary president and I quickly realized that would be Aaron. He's very presidential and really handsome with that dimple."
Eckhart says he never expected to be asked to play the most powerful man in the world. "But as long as I was, I was interested in making him a heroic character. Asher is a tough guy, even though in this film he is pretty badly abused. I love action movies, and this is just a straight-up, full-on, full-tilt action, which I liked being a part of."
The most difficult aspect of the performance for Eckhart was that his character is handcuffed to a railing for a considerable portion of the film. "To be immobilized and yet stay so connected was a challenge," he explains. "We get hit and kicked around pretty good. It was important to me to maintain the integrity and strength of the office, while waiting for Gerry's character save the day."
Butler set a high bar for the rest of the cast, according to Eckhart. "Gerry was fully committed to this movie," says Eckhart. "As the producer, as well as the star, he has a very large stake in its success. He was 100 percent there every day and great to work opposite."
Fuqua also provided daily inspiration for the actor. "Antoine brings strength, knowledge and enormous experience to the table," says Eckhart. "He's very quiet, but he knows exactly what he wants, which is refreshing for an actor. He always allows you to experiment and push it to the next level. He works differently with every actor, because he wants to get the best from each of us."
Fuqua's unflinching, unwavering commitment to truth is what makes the movie believable, says Eckhart. "We are watching terrorists take the White House and we need the audience to believe that it is possible. We had great advisors and consultants on the film, helping us to be as truthful as possible. And Antoine is so good with action, so I think the audience is going to get a real kick in the pants."
To play President Asher's Secretary of Defense, Ruth McMillan, Fuqua made an offer to Oscar-winner Melissa Leo. "I never really thought we would get Melissa for this role, but I had to try," he says. "When her people said, 'she really respects you and wants to work with you,' I was thrilled. She's another one of those people that elevates the set. She's a serious craftsperson who will never let a director down."
The actress, who is best-known for her roles as hard-edged, down-on-their luck survivors, describes her first reaction to the script as "dazed and confused." "I knew I had an interest in working with Antoine," says Leo. "But in all honesty, I don't generally do this kind of action-driven film. It's very outside the box for me, and that was the thing that most intrigued me. It's a very different character than my usual trailer-park gals. When I read the script and put the story together in my head, the delicate intricacies of political realities seemed very interesting things to consider. The world is a complicated place. I'm a peacenik myself, but playing the secretary of defense made me look at things in a new way."
The realities of making an action film were equally enlightening for the star of Frozen River and The Fighter. "I realized the great joy of making a movie like this is that the director takes everything into the editing room and puts together two seconds from here and maybe three seconds from there," she says. "That's not the situation I'm used to. I grew to trust Antoine enormously in this process. It was really lovely to let him get the shots he wanted and trust him to cut them together."
The physicality of the role was also novel for Leo. "The staging was complicated and difficult. I kept asking Antoine to tell me exactly what he needed. He gave me golden words of advice, but I still didn't know the choreography of the fight. But he always had my back. He was 120 percent behind me."
The director describes Leo as a "very generous actress," always ready to make adjustments and do another take. "She wanted to make sure I got what I needed in the editing bay," he says. "Melissa was always asking for more details, from how the character would wear her hair to what her injuries would realistically be. How do you breathe when your ribs are broken? Her attention to things like that brought real magic to the character."
When it came time to cast the role of Banning's supervisor, the head of the Secret Service, Fuqua made an unconventional and timely decision. "I thought a woman would be great in that role," he says. "We've got female soldiers on the front lines now, and I thought a woman would actually be more interesting in that position. She didn't come up through the boys club. She had to be as tough as the men and sometimes tougher. Angela Bassett was just the type of female I needed, with the strength and intelligence to pull this off."
Basset, an Oscar nominee for her searing performance as Tina Turner in What's Love Got to Do with It? has long been a close friend of Fuqua's wife, but the two had never had the opportunity to work together before. "We reached out to Angela and she was there," Fuqua says. "As a director, I couldn't wait to put the camera on Angela. Even when the camera's on another actor, she's giving 110 percent."
Bassett was excited to play Secret Service Director Lynne Jacobs. "There's never in the history of the United States been a female head of the Secret Service," she says. "I don't think anyone has even considered it other than Antoine. The fact that it is a brave new world attracted me. My character provides the link between the speaker of the House and Banning while he is in the White House. As his longtime boss, she believes in him and trusts him implicitly, which is beautifully demonstrated in our first scene together."
Working with Fuqua provided Bassett with a new outlook on an old friend. "Antoine is so calm under pressure," she says. "He is tireless about achieving the best articulation of the script possible. His talent is for meshing the visual, the emotional and the action into an exciting, successful thriller. He's one of the best at that."
Bassett reveals that Freeman showcased his little-known musical talent during breaks in filming. "I wouldn't say Morgan is a dance man, but when they say cut, he's definitely a song man," says Bassett. "I had a lot of songs sung in my ear by Morgan Freeman. This is my first opportunity to work with him. To have that chance to sit next to him, look in his eyes, just a foot away, was a dream come true."
The world of the movie is dangerous and exciting, but not so outrageous as to be implausible, says the actress. "We've considered this world before, but not to the extent that we take it in this movie. The script had me on the edge of my seat as I was reading it. It's an opportunity to live vicariously. When you can ground all this great action with a great story, it just grabs your imagination and you are there."
As Kang, the putative head of security for the South Korean prime minister, Rick Yune brings the steely determination and stellar martial arts skills that made him a standout in earlier films including Die Another Day, The Fast and the Furious and The Man with the Iron Fists. This was his first opportunity to work with Gerard Butler, an old friend.
"Everything is exciting about this film," says Yune. "I've been a big fan of Antoine's since Replacement Killers and I loved Training Day, Tears of the Sun and King Arthur. He always incorporates old-school ideas about courage and camaraderie and what it takes to overcome great odds. I love those themes.
"And I've known Gerry Butler for about 12 years," he adds. "To be able to get on set with someone you know so well is a pretty rare thing. We have known each other since we were starting out in the business, so it was cool."
Yune compares directing a film to running a military operation and says Fuqua is an able leader. "You want somebody who understands risk, not just in a cerebral sense, but who has actually experienced it," says Yune. "Antoine grew up in an environment where there was a lot of risk in everyday life. He's lived through life-and-death situations, so he understands how to capture that and communicate the moments in a way that raises the stakes. That's what's necessary in an action film."
The majority of Yune's scenes are with Eckhart and Leo, as Kang and his henchman reveal themselves to be moles that take the president and his staff hostage. "Aaron took a very Method approach," he continues. "There were moments when I didn't know whether he was in character or not. And Melissa also works that way. That tends to create a lot of spontaneity when 'action' is called. Unexpected moments are always good in filmmaking."
While Yune appreciates the intensive preparation and thought that went into making Olympus Has Fallen an authentic experience. "I loved that every character in the script had a distinct identity," he says. "Even the heroes have dark sides. And those contrasts balance everything out. I look for the entry and the exit in a character. Kang, in particular, has a pretty interesting transformation from beginning to end.
But Kang says what he loves most about the film is the excitement and fun of it. "It's a kick-ass movie with great actors," he promises. "Gerry has great comedic sense as well as being a bad-ass action hero and when he brings that to a tense moment, it's really entertaining."
Butler says a dream cast like this one could have made even a flimsy story into something quite substantial. "But fortunately we had a great script and then we got these amazing actors," he adds. "It's really gripping and compelling to go from the bunker with Aaron Eckhart and Melissa Leo to the Crisis Room with Morgan Freeman and Robert Forster and Angela Bassett, And then to me roaming about the White House. You'll be kind of spoiled for choice, really."
The Taking Of The White House
Once Fuqua and his advisors had their plan of attack on the White House finalized, the director made a bold choice. Rather than use extensive CGI technology to recreate the Washington, D.C. landmark, they would build a replica and stage the siege with only judicious use of special effects.
"We physically take the White House down in this movie," he says. "That was a big conversation. We knew if we were going to do it this way, we would have to come out blazing. It's an event."
But Fuqua had assumed he would be shooting the film in the D.C. area and was shocked to hear that the producers were planning to construct his replica of the White House in Shreveport, Louisiana. "I said how are you going to do that? But we found the perfect production designer. Derek Hill had already built the White House once for Oliver Stone in W. I knew if anyone could do it, it would be Derek."
Hill created a massive and detailed set for the movie's most expansive scene. "I think the biggest moment for me on the entire shoot was walking on the set for the first time," says the director. "We actually built the White House in Louisiana. We built Pennsylvania Avenue. We built the water fountain. We built the whole front facade and the whole interior front lobby. I still can't believe they built so much so fast."
On the first day of shooting for the epic battle scene, Fuqua was able to take full measure of Hills' accomplishment as he watched a crowd of people playing terrorists, Secret Service agents and bystanders swarming the set. "It was pretty impressive to see," he says. "I felt like I was a kid watching a David Lean movie. The scene had such scope. The crane was up and we had this big battle going on. I thought: this is why I wanted to make movies."
To help choreograph the action, Fuqua brought in Keith Woulard, a former Navy SEAL who had worked with the director on an earlier film, Tears of the Sun. "I knew Keith could make it exciting and authentic," he says. "The violence looks so real that it can be very disturbing. We worked out the choreography based on what the SEALs might actually do in that situation and then we tweaked it with a little movie twist."
Woulard and his team simulated the corridors of the White House using cardboard boxes, laying everything out with a video camera for Fuqua. "That's how I was able to prep it so fast," the director says. "I didn't have time to storyboard everything like I normally do.
They were really creative about using things you might actually find in the White House as weapons. They made it authentic and fun, but nasty and brutal, because that is the way it would be."
Woulard, who has worked on other blockbuster action films, including Black Hawk Down (for director Ridley Scott), Iron Man (Jon Favreau) and GI Joe: Rise of the Cobra (Stephen Sommers), was instructed to make everything seem as genuine as possible. "Antoine was extremely particular about making things look real," he says. "He doesn't like phony fighting. We worked with a lot of martial artists who were adept at impact work, so they could actually tap each other, which makes it look even better."
The stunt crew was enormous, totaling about 130 people. "That's a pretty big crew," says Woulard. "We used about 100 people at one time for the battle outside the White House. It was all happening simultaneously, so there were a lot of people to deal with. It's pretty spectacular to see Korean commandoes taking over the White House. I'm proud to be a part of making the whole thing happen."
The film's enemy combatants include a number of women, which Fuqua says reflects the reality of modern warfare. "I don't treat the women as if they're victims or damsels in distress," he says. "They're fighting. They're part of the battle. When they get kidnapped, they get beat just like a man. A terrorist wouldn't be gentle just because a captive is female."
Melissa Leo's character is a case in point. As secretary of defense, she has information vital to the terrorists and they use whatever means necessary to get it out of her. "We don't show any mercy to Melissa Leo," says Fuqua. "She gets physically beat. And she's tough. She stands up to her captors as boldly as any man. Once they're kidnapped, it's all about demoralizing them in order to get what's needed and so that they don't even think about trying to escape. When we go into the PEOC, it gets intense. Some people may find it shocking, but when we did a test screening, women thanked me for not making the character just a victim."
But it was Butler who took the brunt of the abuse in a role that requires him to be in almost constant physical danger. "He's pretty athletic and he doesn't whine about anything," says Woulard. "He just goes for it and he's a perfectionist. He doesn't want to miss a single move. When he stepped on set, he was always good to go."
Fuqua says that Butler could have used a stunt double for many scenes, but preferred to do it himself. "He is extremely dedicated. We could have done a wide shot and let a stunt man do it, but he wanted to do it all. He took a few bruises, because he and Rick Yune would just go at it, slamming each other against the walls. And because those walls aren't real, we had to keep stopping to fix them!"
As a filmmaker, Fuqua says he always tries to make movies he would want to see. "I made this because it's something I wanted to see it. It will keep surprising the audience. There are so many different aspects to be entertained by. It's very emotional. It's also quite intimate in places. There are great characters and all these different dynamics going on."
But most of all, he says, it's packed with over-the-top, high stakes action that he hopes will thrill audiences. "I love movies," Fuqua says. "I love to push a story as far as it can go. I think movies should live out on the edge, with characters and events that are larger than life. Watching a big screen movie, you should be able to disappear into this other world.
"Any time we have to confront danger, there is something exciting about that," he concludes. "Putting yourself on the edge creates adrenaline. Adrenaline makes you feel more alive. A movie like Olympus Has Fallen makes you think about life and the dangers it holds. In this case, it is possible for the White House to be taken, for hostages to be taken and the world held for ransom. It is mind-boggling and yet it's not that far away from reality."