By Nikhil Ramsubramaniam, Bollywood Hungama News Network
Jack Gill is a name you may not instantly connect with. But in the West, Jack is a name to reckon with, when it comes to directing high-octane action sequences. Jack is one of the leading action directors in Hollywood having directed action scenes for films like Terminator-2, Wild Hogs, RoboCop, Bad Boys 2, Gone in 60 Seconds, Pearl Harbor and Dare Devil to name a few. Now the man who has worked with the Who's Who of Hollywood comes to Bollywood to direct the action sequences for Ajay Devgan- Kajol starrer Toonpur Ka Superhero. Produced by Kumar Mangat and presented by Eros International, Toonpur Ka Superhero is India's first live-action and 3D animation feature film which is directed by Kireet Khurana. In the midst of directing some never before seen action sequences at Mehboob Studios, Bollywood Hungama caught up with Jack Gill to find out his experiences after having worked with the biggest names in Hollywood.
After having directed some heavy duty action sequences for films like Déjà vu, The Day after Tomorrow, Dare Devil, Pearl Harbor, and Gone in 60 seconds, you are now making your debut in Bollywood with Toonpur Ka Superhero. How does it feel?
It's fantastic to be here. One of the perceptions that we had about India is that you still have elephants roaming on the streets and that it's a land of king cobras but I don't think that is the case. It's very civilized and you have the same equipments that we use in the States. So that's great
How did you get this offer and what made you say yes?
I was working on a film in Louisiana when I got a call from the makers and here I am.
What had you heard about Bollywood before you came down?
We didn't really know much except for the fact that the whole film industry is in one area. However, we figured out that it's not true and that Bollywood is spread across all over Mumbai. We thought there would be just one big gate, surrounded by walls (something like our Universal Studios in Hollywood) where all the action takes place but it is really spread out over here.
You are doing action sequences for Toonpur Ka Superhero which has a mix of real and animated characters. So what special action do we get to see in this film?
You get to see an amazing interaction between both the animated characters and real-life characters. We have action sequences with the regular characters and then you have the animated characters doing some action. So you get the best of both sequences.
Do we get to see the animated characters kick some butt a-la Kung Fu Panda?
They do...they kick some butt, they throw people around, they get squished and smashed. It's simply hilarious and a lot of fun
Which is your favorite animated character in the film?
Well...we have a lot of characters...they are all really good. If I pick anyone favorite and tell you why, I am going to give away the plot and don't want to do that.
Ajay Devgan started off as an action hero. Did you see any of his films? How has been the experience working with him?
Yes, I did see some of his films before I came here. He has done some amazing action stunts during his younger days but now that he has been kind of out of the action genre for a while and we had to get him back to the physical aspect of it. So it's good to get him back to doing some action and I must say he has adapted to it really well. It has been fantastic working with him. He is a very professional actor and knows exactly what he wants and how to do it. From an action director's point of view, you tell him what to do and he does it exactly in the first take which is fantastic.
Are you aware that Ajay's dad Veeru Devgan is a noted action director himself?
Yaa...he told me that his father was a noted action director of his times and it's great to know that Ajay comes from such a family
How many people have you got along with you for the shooting of Toonpur Ka Superhero?
We are a team of 6 including me.
How many days have you guys shot for and how much of it is left?
We have been here for about two and a half months and we have another week to go.
In the recent past, Bollywood films such as Tashan have seen new forms of action such as Parkour. Do we get to see any action of that sort in Toonpur Ka Superhero?
We have got some stunts in this film that has never been seen even in any American cinema. I can't tell you what it is but it is bigger and better and faster than any stunt which you have seen in American cinema.
The clichéd question, how different is it choreographing action sequences abroad and out here?
It's not that much different at all. The crews react exactly the same way they do in the United States as they do here. I haven't heard any problems at all from any of the crew members out here. So it's pretty much the same.
You have directed the action sequences for some really big Hollywood films and have been in the industry for nearly 30 odd years. So how did it all start for you?
Well...I started out as a stuntman in the business and was also an actor. After I prospered as a stunt director, I felt that I wanted to direct actors only in action sequences. For the last 11-12 years that's all that I have been doing- directing action sequences.
After having done so many big films which have been 3 of your most memorable films that you have worked on?
The most fun was Austin Powers. That has a lot on tongue-in-cheek humor with a lot of stunts and was really good fun. Austin Powers in Goldmember (the most recent one had some really big action sequences in the beginning and getting to design all of that and the whole post-production was a lot of fun. Besides Austin Powers, I also enjoyed working on Bad Boys 2 and Terminator 2
Having been an action director for most your life, what precautions and safety measures do you take as an action director?
In the US, you have to be really careful about each and every stunt so when I brought my team here, that was one of the main aspects of that we brought along with us. The Indian cinema and entertainment industry had to adapt to our safety guidelines. We brought over a lot more safety measures from what I they that are used to here. But I think they have adapted well to out safety standards. One of the reasons why we are too safety conscious in the US is that we have a lot of lawyers so we don't want to get into any litigation case (laughs).
Out here a lot of our Bollywood stars like Akshay Kumar, Suneil Shetty, Ajay Devgan do their own stunts. What's the scene in the West? Do stars do their own stunts?
They all say they do their own stunts. There are a few stars like Tom Cruise, Keanu Reeves who do their own stunts but I like said because of the litigation issue in the US, the entertainment industry can't afford to have a star with a scar or a scrape. So, they really don't want the stars to do their own stunts. The few stars who do their own stunts are taking their liability in their own hands.
Which Hollywood actors have you enjoyed working with the most in your illustrious career?
I really enjoyed working with Nick Nolte, Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise is really in-tuned to his character. Even after finishing the shot, he still remains in character.
Since you said that your initial days were as a stuntman, which has been the most death-defying stunt that you have done?
There have been a lot of them. I have broken my back twice and my neck once. I have fallen from 12 storey buildings, jumped off exploding boats and have flown through the air hanging from a helicopter. But I guess the 12 storey fall was the most exciting although I was lucky that I didn't get hurt (laughs)
How are stuntman treated and paid in Hollywood? Are there any associations to look after their safety and welfare?
There are associations for stuntman. I belong to Stunts Unlimited which is the premiere stunts organization in the world. We only have 52 members. No matter which country you go to, you kind of have certain camaraderie with the people there as they have all heard of Stunts Unlimited. So everybody comes together as a team and we work together because in the line of work that we are in, nobody wants to get hurt as your life is at stake.
I believe you are also the President of Stunts Unlimited. So what are your roles and responsibilities as President of Stunts Unlimited?
Yes that's true...Being President of Stunts Unlimited means you have to try and oversee all the other members that you have and the films which the members are working on. We usually have 10 -12 films at a time, so I have to go through and make sure that all of the films are on paper and step in if my help is needed at any point of time
Out here some action directors have directed films (Tinu Verma, Veeru Devgan). Do you have any plans to direct?
I have already directed 2 films. One of them is called Body Armor. But what I tend to do is go back to the action. The action scenes are so much fun and I get so much of it that I don't really feel like doing anything else now. That's my livelihood now.
You are in your early 50's yet are so fit...so what is your work-out regime like?
I have a trampoline at home. I work on the trampoline all the time, it keeps my cardio up and is as good as running on the treadmill. I also have a park across the street so I do a lot of running as well (smiles).
What are the projects that you are working on?
I have got Wild Hogs 2 coming up. Wild Hogs is a film that I had worked on earlier and we are now doing Wild Hogs 2 in Europe. I'll be doing that in January 2009.
Any plans to come back and do some more films in Bollywood?
Of course...we have plans to do another film in Bollywood after Toonpur Ka Superhero. I hope I can come back again as I have had a lot of fun here.