EXCLUSIVE xXx: Return of Xander Cage director DJ Caruso talks about India, Steven Spielberg and Hollywood action genre

EXCLUSIVE xXx: Return of Xander Cage director DJ Caruso talks about India, Steven Spielberg and Hollywood action genre.

DJ Caruso, director of Deepika Padukone maiden Hollywood film xXx Return of Xander Cage, spoke about working with Vin Diesel and how big an influence Spielberg has been in his life.

To understand the genius of Daniel John Caruso better known as D.J. Caruso, one has to either watch Disturbia, Eagle Eye or the television series High Incident which made Steven Spielberg take note of this immensely talented filmmaker. On his maiden trip to India, Caruso spoke to indianexpress.com about directing the xXx franchise for the first time, working with Vin Diesel and how big an influence Spielberg has been in his life. Excerpts from the interview.

What were the challenges involved in directing xXx: Return of Xander Cage considering that you have not directed the earlier two films of the franchise?

The challenge was to look at the first movie and say people loved that movie and they loved Xander. But it’s been 15 years. So in order to pay homage to that first movie my goal was to create a film that could be a starting point for whole new group of fans. So the challenge for me was to find a balance between paying homage to that character who was this rebel who became a patriot and then balancing that out with sort of how we could reintroduce for the first time Xander Cage in a whole new franchise. So that was the challenge.

How has Vin Diesel’s character evolved from 2002 to 2016?

I think in 2002 he was the selfish guy, the rebel who did what he wanted to do and ultimately decided to do the right thing. This time Vin and I talked about what would have happened to him. So we decided that he became disillusioned by the government and that he hid himself away and stepped out of the limelight and 15 years later when he is called back he is wiser, older still insane and still Xander but more willing to work with the team. The old Xander Cage would have said I don’t need anybody else but now he assembles his team and that is the biggest difference because this one is more of a collaborative effort.

How far have you pushed the envelope when it comes to action in this film?

I think it was fun doing that as the exuberance of Xander allows you to get as extreme and outrageous as you can with action. But I wanted to ground all action in reality. So when I started to do the research about what I can do to introduce Xander I found these guys who could ski in jungle without snow which is incredibly insane. So I said I wanted to do that. Robbie Madison the stuntman who rides motorcycles on water devised the scene. So my idea was to take real situations and crazy people from real world and apply that to Xander in the action. So it kind of gave me a license to push things that are familiar to the audience but to take them to the whole new world.

Despite the stupendous success of action films like Fast and Furious and xXx, we rarely see them win the best film award. Wouldn’t it be right to say that action films are yet to receive their due?

Yes, you can say that it hasn’t. And I don’t think it will ever. It has become that way. What I have noticed is people talk fondly of the 80s and 90s action movies now, which they never did back then. So there is appreciation now for action movies but as far as awards go I don’t know if it will ever get its due.

Finally talk to us about the influence Steven Spielberg has had on your career.

Steven Spielberg has had a huge influence on me. I grew up watching his movies like Indiana Jones, Jaws, ET. By that time I always fantasised that I will be a filmmaker and that I can get to work with Steven Spielberg one day. I directed a short film and that got me a TV show which Steven created called High Incident. When I finished directing my first episode and turned it in and someone knocked at the door and there was a letter from Steven saying it was the best directed episode and he wanted to meet. I met him and we developed that relationship. So it was like truly a dream come true when you meet your hero. And then I made Disturbia, Eagle Eye and I Am Number Four and as a partner and collaborator he is amazing.

What I have learnt from Steven is that one should always commit to your vision, believe in it and also be really economically responsible. He doesn’t just shoot forever. He shoots what he wants to shoot and always tells me know what you want to shoot, do that and get out. Don’t let anyone else influence you.

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