GUNS AKIMBO – Jason Lei Howden Interview

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After working in the visual effects department on massive blockbuster movies like Avengers and The Hobbitt filmmaker Jason Lei Howden went out on his own in 2015 and made the cult classic action horror film Deathgasm. The film became a fan favourite at festivals right around the world and now Howden returns with his latest film – Guns Akimbo – which is going straight into Australian cinemas on February 28th.

Starring Daniel Radcliffe and Samara Weaving Guns Akimbo follows the story of a young games developer who suddenly finds himself in a cat and mouse game of survival with a psychopath after his interactions with an online, reality game go horribly wrong.

“The idea came from my love of 80s action movies,” says Howden when I get the opportunity to sit down and talk to him about all the ins and out of Guns Akimbo. “There were movies like Commando and Rambo of course, there were always those movies with the big buff action hero and they would be shooting like fifty people.”

“So I wanted to make an over-the-top action movie but instead of having Arnie as a hero I wanted to have the total opposite. So I ended up with a programming nerd with the guns on the hand. When I thought about I thought he would sit back or run away but then I thought what if he has the guns bolted to his hands so it is either shoot or die, it all kind of came from that.”

Then there is the smart-mouth psychopath Nix played by Samara Weaving who Howden also let his creativity run wild with. “I didn’t want her to be the standard femme fatale,” he explains. “I wanted her to be cool and fun but I felt her being a female baddie should not be her defining trait. I feel so many times when a female character is depicted that becomes the defining trait of the character, but she is not just a person she is a fucking psychopath.”

“Then there was some pressure from the producers to make her more sexy or to make her like Harley Quinn,” he goes on to say. “I had to keep saying ‘but she isn’t Harley Quinn, she hasn’t got time to sit there and make colourful clothes all day’, she puts on her jacket and jeans and goes and shoots fuckers all day. We ended up bleaching her eyebrows and putting tattoos and piercings on her and the producers were really freaking out and saying ‘she looks really un-appealing.’ But Samara and I just stuck to our guns… that is an awful pun… and I am glad we did.’”

That leads me to ask whether Samara Weaving was always in mind to play Nix. “No, we shopped around a little bit,” he admits. “I don’t think Nix was really written with anyone in mind because originally she was going to be a male character and I figured out really on that that didn’t really suit the story that I wanted to tell, it seemed to work better with Miles up against a female character. I had seen Samara in a couple of things – I thought she was great in The Babysitter so I knew she would bring something different to the role and that she had a great comedic timing which was cool.”

Of course the other big casting news around Guns Akimbo was Daniel Radcliffe being cast as Miles. And while some people maybe a little surprised that the actor who portrayed Harry Potter is now in an action film they should be reminded that this is the same actor who did films like Horns and Woman In Black. “I had a short list of about five actors and Dan was on the top of that list,” says Howden as we talk about how Radcliffe won the role. “I was really excited about Dan, but not because of the Harry Potter movies. I mean I like the Harry Potter movies but I loved him in Woman In Black, The Horns and especially Swiss Army Man which is a fantastic movie. So, I guess I really don’t get the whole Harry Potter thing around this film, but I see it has become a meme and we had people yelling it out on the street when we were trying to film which was really annoying.”

“But yeah I think he is like Elijah Wood,” he goes on to explain. “Or maybe it is a little worse for Dan because he did nine Harry Potter movies, Elijah Wood did three Lord Of The Rings movies and Kristen Stewart did five Twilight films but they don’t seem to be as related to their roles, plus Harry Potter movies were such a huge part of people’s childhoods as well. But as far as casting goes we went to Dan first and I heard back that he was interested which was quite mind-blowing because the casting process is a bit of a wing and prayer. You got out to people and they pass, so yeah it was a surprise that he was so excited by us and when I Skyped him he was like ‘dude I fucking love this movie man.’”

That statement alone shows what kind of man Daniel Radcliffe is because that seems to be what most people are saying after they have seen Guns Akimbo as well. It is a cult classic in the making and Howden has made another winner.

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