Adrian Grunberg talks Get the Gringo
In April, Mel Gibson‘s Get the Gringo was released on DirecTV Video on Demand. Gibson stars as Driver, an American criminal who crashes his car into the border wall while being chased by police. He learns his way through the town-like prison, “El Pueblito,” with help from “The Kid,” a 10-year-old boy. The Kid (Kevin Hernandez) is special, because he has the same rare blood-type as a Mexican crime boss in the prison who needs a liver transplant. Driver takes it upon himself to save the Kid’s life and break out of El Pueblito.
Get the Gringo is Adrian Grunberg‘s directorial debut after having been First Assistant Director on various films, including Man on Fire, The Legend of Zorro, and Edge of Darkness. Grunberg talked about what it was like directing his first film, the research that went into creating El Pueblito, and what you can expect on the DVD, BluRay and digital download combo pack which hits stores on July 17, 2012.
AG: Hi Adrian, how are you?
Grunberg: Very well. Yourself?
AG: I’m good! Thank you for taking the time to talk to me today.
Adrian: On the contrary, thank you.
AG: You’ve been assistant director on some great movies like Traffic, Jarhead, Apocalypto, and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, just to name a few. What was it like finally directing your own film?
Grunberg: It was great. It felt amazing. I had wanted to for a while, and I finally got the chance, which was an incredible chance. It felt great.
AG: Is there anything you took from your experience as an assistant director that you applied to this film?
Grunberg: Oh, I’m sure there are many, many, many things. I don’t think I can pinpoint any now. There is nothing overt or conscious about it, but I’m sure I picked up plenty of things from all of those directors.
AG: How did this opportunity come about?
Grunberg: It was Mel’s idea. He had been reading about some prisons in various parts of the world, and he had this idea about putting an American in a Mexican prison. He offered me to direct it, and that’s how it all began.
AG: This movie’s release was different in that it was through an agreement with DirecTV and Video on Demand. More and more films are starting to do this, so how did that happen and what did you do differently?
Grunberg: Differently, nothing. I mean, that happened way after the movie was finished. Mel is known in the past to have boarded different distribution platforms for his movies. He’s done it before, obviously not on DirecTV, but with alternative means of distribution. Like you said, it’s slowly becoming a very feasible way for many movies to come out with the size of the screens at home and the quality of them. It is now more than just a valid way, it’s a part of the future for a large number of movies. I think Mel took a chance by doing it that way. I don’t think any movie of this size or this type of movie had ever done it. He took a chance, and we’ll see if it pays off or not. I think it definitely was a ballsy and gutsy move on his part to decide to come out this way.
AG: What drew you to this story?
Grunberg: Well, like I said, originally it was Mel’s idea, and the more we started to develop and research and everything, it just became a cooler story. All along that whole process, it grew into our own. It became a very personal project. It has elements of a lot of people in there who were involved, and that’s very satisfying.
AG: What kind of research did you all have to do for this film?
Grunberg: The main story, the original idea was Mel’s, and then Stacy Perskie, who’s the main producer and co-writer and myself basically took it from there. We would all get together and sort of throw ideas around, but it was basically up to us to get more involved in the research. We researched prisons all over the world, like in Thailand, Colombia, and obviously Mexico, because this is where we live, and found some amazing places to base this story on. The research was actually of great help in writing the script, because the prison itself created scenarios and scenes on its own. Interviews with people who were inmates or prison officials created characters and events within the movie. So in this kind of movie, it’s really important to have done good research.
AG: With all of the violence and controversy in and around Mexico these days, how important is it to release a film like this? Was it tricky in any way filming over there?
Grunberg: Not really. I mean, the movie was shot two and a half to three years ago. The first thing to understand is that it’s a fictional movie, and the thing is that the backdrop for the story is a very real place and active reality in the Mexico that we live in today. I think every shoot ends up having its own little quirks and things that happen during the shoot. It was a peaceful event, and we had a great time doing it.
AG: What would you like people to walk away from this movie with?
Grunberg: Hopefully they’re entertained, because that’s the main attribute of the movie. Then I think they’re going to see a world and characters that they probably have never seen portrayed like this before, an interesting symbiosis between the Mexican and the American that is, I think, usually not created in this way very often.
AG: Is there anything that is going to be included on the DVD that we didn’t get to see in the film when it was released?
Grunberg: Oh, for sure. Definitely. There are certain things you will find of interest, but I’ll leave it up to you to buy it and see it. One thing we did that we were eager to, is we had a behind-the-scenes crew the whole shoot. They were able to build some amazing pieces around this prison setting. Interviews and stories with some of the lesser players, the extras, people who were in the prison, ex-convicts who have life stories that were beautifully documented by the behind-the-scenes crew. You’re going to see some of that there, which would be very hard for you to see in any other scenario.
AG: Any last words for the readers here in Houston about you, the movie, or the DVD?
Grunberg: I think that the big thing about the DVD and the fact that it’s coming out on other platforms like iTunes and Amazon to download, is I think that a lot more people are going to have a chance to see it than they did when the movie came out. Take a chance, you’re really going to enjoy it. It’s a different kind of movie, and it’s very entertaining. You won’t miss anything.
AG: Well thank you so much for your time, it was a pleasure speaking with you.
Grunberg: Thank you, same here.