Writer & Director Matthew Reilly of Interceptor: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became A Filmmaker
SHOW BUSINESS IS ALL BUSINESS — HOLLYWOOD IS A BUSINESS FIRST. I think on some level I knew this when I started, but it’s only once you get inside Hollywood that you discover that show business is all business. Agents, executives, actors — when the stakes are as high as they are in movies, these insiders have no sense of humor. Like me, you might love story, but they don’t. Your story is often just dollar signs to them. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just how it is.
As a part of our series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became A Filmmaker”, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Matthew Reilly, Writer and Director of Interceptor.
Born in 1974, Matthew Reilly is the international bestselling author of high-octane action thrillers including Ice Station, Seven Deadly Wonders and The Tournament.
His books are published in over 20 languages, and he has sold over 8 million copies worldwide.
Since 2002, Matthew has optioned/sold the movie rights to many of his novels to various Hollywood studios including Paramount, Disney, Sony, Fox and Warner Bros.
Matthew was discovered after he (now famously) self-published his first novel Contest, printing 1000 copies and then selling them into bookshops, one shop at a time.
His books include the four Scarecrow novels; the seven Jack West novels; and the standalones Contest, Temple, Hover Car Racer, The Tournament, Troll Mountain, The Great Zoo of China and The Secret Runners of New York.
In 2007, Matthew sold a spec pilot screenplay “Literary Superstars” to Sony and Darren Star, only to see the show fall victim to the Writers Guild strike shortly after.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up?
I grew up in Sydney, Australia, building diorama-like movie sets for my Star Wars action-figures, so even then, I think I was destined to become a movie director.
My parents were in the local amateur theater group, so every year, twice a year, I would watch them in classic musicals like Okalahoma!, The Sound of Music and Les Mis. Believe it or not but seeing all those musicals taught me a lot about storytelling!
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
Sometime around 1984, I watched “The Making of Return of the Jedi” and I just marveled at how they created the big Sail Barge/Sarlacc Pit scene: it was a gigantic set built in the desert. From behind, it was five stories of wooden struts and supports, but from the “camera” side it looked so lifelike and real. It was the magic of movies, and I was struck right then and there with the goal of directing movies.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your filmmaking career?
The time a few years ago when my old agents told me my “time in Hollywood had run its course” and that my career was dead, so they no longer wanted to represent me. Now I’m the director of Interceptor, the №1 movie on Netflix around the world!
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
When I was first introduced to Matt Damon as the director of Interceptor, his face lit up and he told me how my star, Elsa Pataky, had told him that she’d had so much fun shooting my movie with me. It’s nice to know that I have that reputation as a director actors enjoy working with.
Chris Hemsworth did a cameo in Interceptor. He’s so interesting because while he is obviously very funny and charismatic, he is also laser-focused as an actor. He’s also very insightful when it comes to analyzing the “business” side of the movie business.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
The writer-director Stuart Beattie (Collateral, Pirates of the. Caribbean). Stuart read Interceptor and passed it on to some producers he knew (who ultimately produced it), along with vouching for me as a director. As a first-time director, you need someone to say, “Matthew can do it.” Stuart was the guy who did that for me.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“You didn’t come this far just to come this far.” If you’re chasing a dream and you’ve almost reached it, don’t give up! You didn’t do all that hard work to stop now!
This quote has been integral to my life in many ways. My first novel was rejected by every major publisher in Sydney, so I self-published it to get noticed. I’ve now sold over 8 million books worldwide.
With my film career, it took five years from writing Interceptor back in 2017 to filming it in 2021 and releasing it in 2022. At many times, it seemed dead, but I didn’t come all that way to stop then! So I kept going.
I am very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
- Voice is everything. Without diverse voices, we will just end up with the same “white-male stories” being told over and over again and our culture will become stale. In Interceptor, a Spanish-American female Army captain saves the day, aided by a Hindu-American corporal.
- The best new stories come from fresh perspectives. So much of what I’ve written over the last 25 years has come from lessons I learned from my parents. I like learning the lessons people from other backgrounds have learned from their childhoods.
- People need to know about points of view that are different from their own. I was shocked when I read about the sexual harassment of women in the military and how the victims of such harassment suffered even more terrible online harassment afterward. I felt people should know about this, and so I included it in Interceptor.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I’m adapting my novel SEVEN ANCIENT WONDERS into a screenplay to direct. It’s a superfast adventure that is designed to take viewers on a rollercoaster ride through booby-trapped caverns and ancient places. Indiana Jones on steroids.
Which aspect of your work makes you most proud? Can you explain or give a story?
The gleefully escapist nature of it.
I once received a note from a young man who had a physical disability that prevented him was walking. But he said that when he read my books, he could run and jump and fall through the sky with my heroes on their adventures. It made me very proud to know that my work can help people escape.
10) Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- SHOW BUSINESS IS ALL BUSINESS — HOLLYWOOD IS A BUSINESS FIRST. I think on some level I knew this when I started, but it’s only once you get inside Hollywood that you discover that show business is all business. Agents, executives, actors — when the stakes are as high as they are in movies, these insiders have no sense of humor. Like me, you might love story, but they don’t. Your story is often just dollar signs to them. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just how it is.
- ACTORS ARE THE MOST INTERESTING CREATURES IN THE WORLD. For many years, I had read stories about actors being mercurial or “difficult”. Working with them closely on Interceptor, I discovered that they are just fascinating. Acting is really really hard. It’s also a very vulnerable profession — actors put themselves out there for criticism and in this age of social media and trolls, there’s plenty of that out there. And that’s not even mentioning the mental fortitude they must have to endure the fickle world of auditions. I discovered that every actor is different. Every actor has their own method of finding their character. As a director, you just have to figure out each actor’s method and embrace each actor’s personality. They are interesting and unusual — and most of us could never ever ever do what they do! — and that’s what makes working with actors so enjoyable.
- WRITING IS REWRITING. Actually, I did get told this when I started, but it’s worth sharing it! Whether it’s a book or a script, you will always be rewriting it. My co-writer, Stuart Beattie, and I were rewriting Interceptor even while I was shooting the movie. Some of our best scenes were written during the shoot!
- ALWAYS DO ANOTHER REVISION TO YOUR SCRIPT! This is in addition to №4, above. Never send your script to anyone until you can read it all the way through without touching a single thing. You only get one chance to make a good first impression and you can’t sit beside a reader when they read your screenplay. It has to fight all the battles, so make it as awesome as it can possibly be before you send it out into the world.
- NEVER BE AFRAID TO ASK. One of the main things I’ve learned as a director is just to ask if something is possible. You never know, it might be! Often, I meet people who are too afraid of appearing “stupid” and so they don’t ask about something. I had a lot of VFX in Interceptor, and even though the budget was tight, sometimes I would just ask my VFX team is an effect was possible. Often, they shrugged and said, “Sure, easy. We can do that.” Always ask!
When you create a film, which stakeholders have the greatest impact on the artistic and cinematic choices you make? Is it the viewers, the critics, the financiers, or your own personal artistic vision? Can you share a story with us or give an example about what you mean?
I’d say that it’s studio that has the biggest impact.
Netflix backed Interceptor after Elsa Pataky became attached to star in it. They also suggested Luke Bracey play the villain.
And when the movie was released, it was Netflix who created the trailer and the promotional posters — which were vitally important in “presenting” the movie to the world. They also promoted that trailer and the poster through their social media network, which is massive.
The key choice I made was to make the best and fastest action movie I could with the budget I had. If I did that, then Netflix would release it enthusiastically, which they did.
If your studio isn’t behind your movie, then you’re dead-on arrival. Netflix were totally behind Interceptor. They were the stakeholder who had the greatest impact.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Make all cars electric. This would have major flow-on effects around the world, especially with respect to climate, but it would also change many things geopolitically. I’d also start a dog rescue movement. I love dogs and would want every dog to have a loving home!
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
Steven Spielberg. He’s never done an audio commentary and, as a director, I would love to know what he thinks when he’s directing a movie, from reading the script to being on set to working with actors and managing all the editing and visual effects.
How can our readers further follow you online?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!
Writer & Director Matthew Reilly of Interceptor: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.