Twenty cops. One ruthless criminal. Thirty floors of hell. You really have to see The Raid to appreciate just how exciting and nail-bitingly intense the Indonesia-set action movie is. Its story is lean and simple – SWAT team versus criminals in a dingy Jakarta tower block – its action sequences shot and edited with the eye-watering aggression of a horror film. And as we mentioned in our review earlier this year, it’s one of the very best action movies of the past few years. The precision of Gareth Evans’ filmmaking is matched by the sinewy athleticism of its star Iko Uwais. If his chosen martial art, silat, was almost unknown in the west before The Raid, then the fearsome array of kicks, punches and elbows to the face packed into its 101 minutes will soon sear it into the film-going public’s consciousness, just as Tony Jaa’s Ong Bak provided a showcase for muay thai. With The Raid out in the UK on the 16th May, we thought we’d share the following question and answer session with you. Following a screening of the movie (which had the entire audience, including the director’s parents, gasping and yelping with shock and appreciation) Gareth Evans and Iko Uwais spoke entertainingly about the lengthy process of planning and filming The Raid’s numerous, kinetic fight scenes, stunts, injuries, and what we can expect from its sequel…Spoilers lie ahead… That final fight sequence. How long did it take to shoot? Gareth Evans: For a six-minute, non-stop sequence like that, normally you’d want two or three days for each minute of action. So ideally, we wanted 14 or 15 days to film it, but we only had eight. So the guys had to basically get beaten up relentlessly for, like, 14 hours a day. [Iko] was saying, when we did the fight scenes, we did, as much as we could, full body contact. If we could get away with it, we’d put padding on [the performers] but we couldn’t sometimes [laughs] He also said that a lot of the fighters got injured, but they’re all still alive! I just wondered how you guys met, because Iko, you were a phone company salesman. How did you get together? Iko Uwais: It was love at first sight! Gareth Evans: What happened was I got hired to do a documentary out in Indonesia, and that documentary was all about silat, the martial art we use in the film. I’d never seen that martial art before – I’d seen kung fu and muay thai in movies before, but never silat. And while we were making the documentary, I got to travel to five different cities and meet different masters – and one of the masters we met was Iko’s teacher. While we were filming the teacher, Iko was there doing a practise session. And when we saw that practise session – me and my wife were taping it for research – we noticed there was a real screen presence about him. Something just stood out. So we got together to make some films to promote him! He didn’t trust me at first, because he was like, who’s this white guy coming to this country, giving him false promises of films and things? It took a while to convince him. [to Iko] You said earlier you didn’t believe me until the first day of production! So what did you think, Iko, when this guy turns up and says, “Kid, I want to put you in the movies”? Iko: There are a lot of movies made in Indonesia every year – some of them action-based – but so few actually feature silat. So once I found out that [Gareth] wanted to promote silat as a martial arts discipline, that’s when my interest was piqued. [Questions go out to the audience] How much time did you spend in preproduction on choreographing those amazing fight scenes? Gareth Evans: Before we started preproduction properly with the rest of the cast and crew, we spent at least three months designing all the fights. So there was just me, Iko and Yayan Ruhian, the guy who played Mad Dog, with a bunch of crash mats and a Handycam. And then I can get down in detail how many opponents there are, what are their weapons, what’s their location. What the atmosphere of the fight scene is like – are they going really aggressive, or what? I can figure out exactly what the right tone of the fight scene should be. I give them all those elements, and they fill in the gaps. They decide this elbow, this punch, this block, this kick. We work it out together, and find the way to give the scenes certain peaks and troughs. At the end of that three months, we create a video storyboard, and that video storyboard allows us to previsualise the entire fight, with every single shot as it would be in the finished film. We have a template to work from. This is really beneficial for us, because then we have a safety net – we’re still in our infancy when it comes to doing martial arts action scenes, and so that’s a back up. We can give the video storyboard to all the different departments, so that the camera and lighting guys know exactly what’s required in every shot; art know where to put padding on the walls to stop people getting so hurt. Continuity know when actors should bleed and how much [laughs], and the actors know how many times they’re going to get kicked and punched in every shot. So then, when we’re in production, we have that edited version on a laptop ready for us. Then, when we shoot the actual production footage, we’re dropping those shots into Final Cut Pro, so that we can slowly see it take shape – slowly become the version we want it to be in the end. The benefit is that, if we do that on location, at that time, we know that if the editing’s jarring or something doesn’t come together right, then we don’t have to pay for the location or the studio again – we can just go off and shoot something new in order to fix it. It was mentioned in the intro that this is the festival cut of the film. Will there be a different cut for release? Gareth Evans: Er, I hope not. It depends on what the BBFC say! This is the absolute, uncut version we sent to festivals, and it contains the original Indonesian soundtrack to the film as well. The only difference, so far, between this and the US version, is the soundtrack, because it’s been re-scored for the US. Will we ever see Iko and Tony Jaa together on screen? Gareth Evans: I don’t know. Maybe we can discuss something with him at some point, but we haven’t spoken to him about it. But sure, if there’s a way for the two of them to work together, I’m sure we’d be more than happy to oblige. And I’m sure he’d have fun with it as well. How does Iko regard Tony Jaa and his films? Iko: I have a hell of amount of respect for Tony Jaa, and I’ve been a fan of his for a long time. I see him as a legend, because Ong Bak really kicked the genre back into life. Do you have any other heroes, Iko? Any other actors you’d like to emulate? Iko: Jackie Chan! Is a sequel to The Raid inevitable, and what do you make of the news of a Hollywood remake? Gareth Evans: Is there a sequel? Yes. We start working on it in September. And we start shooting in January, fingers crossed. Basically, we’ve got promotional work now which will keep us busy until the end of May, and so I want a summer holiday as a break – and then we’ll start working on the sequel. In terms of the remake, that’s happening as well. I’m flattered by it – it’s great publicity for the original too, and for me it’s exciting, because the storyline is really stripped down in the original. There’s loads of different things they could do with it, loads of different ways they could explore it, but it needs a fresh pair of eyes to do it. I’ve exhausted my brain thinking of stuff to do in one building – I can’t think of any more ways to kill people with doors and stuff like that! But yeah, I’m glad it’s happening, and the approach Screen Gems have taken is very respectful, and they’ve brought Yayan on board to do the choreography for them as well, so that’s great for them, because they can go off and learn a new skillset, and bring that back to us in Indonesia. And what about Hollywood? Do you think this is going to raise your profile? Gareth Evans: We’ve had a couple of calls about some stuff, but nothing’s really jumped out at me yet. I’ll be honest; when it comes to doing stuff, either in the US or the UK – and I really want to do a project outside Indonesia at some point, so I can finally direct in English, which would be nice – the project’s got to be right. Not just because the opportunity arises. If it was something with a massive, massive budget, I might lose a certain amount of control over it, and it might not be the film I wanted to make. You spend so much time making a film, so it has to be something I can get behind 100 per cent for every line of dialogue and every single shot. We’ll see what happens. What about you, Iko? Is Hollywood interested in you now? Iko: It hasn’t really entered my mind yet, because that was never on the agenda when we made the film. When we’re making a film, we’re focused solely on it – when it comes to the release, all we can think, will the audience be happy? So I haven’t thought about it yet. Are you aware that the new Judge Dredd film has basically the same plot as The Raid? Gareth Evans: Yes. It was weird, because, while we were in post on The Raid, I was telling a friend what the story was about – a bunch of guys storming a building. And he said, that’s like the new Judge Dredd movie. And I said, “What?” He sent me a link that explained the story, and I said, “Oh God, we have to get this released very, very soon.” [Laughs] Is this the sort of film, given the health and safety, that could even get made in the west? Gareth Evans: Uh, yeah. It looks a lot more dangerous than it actually is. When we make these films, we do pay a lot of care and attention to how we execute the stunts. We make it look way more dangerous than it is. Like, for example, when the guy flips over and breaks his back on the wall, the way we did it, it was three shots stitched together. There’s one where the wall’s been taken out and replaced with crash mats, so when he’s controlled on a wire, he flips over and lands on the crash mats. Then we lock the camera into position, and we put the wall back in, put the actor back on the wire, and drop him on his back so his legs come down on one side. Then we drop him so his body hangs down the other side. Then we stitch all those shots together. So he doesn’t actually get hurt at all. Well, that’s how we were planning to do it. When the actor was flipped over the wall, the guys controlling his path on the wire got a little overzealous, and they pulled it too hard. They yanked him, and instead of him coming down on a nice trajectory, as he was supposed to, he went straight across and smashed his head against the wall and bounced off. Then the guys who were pulling the wires were caught off balance by the impact, and the wire went ‘whoosh’, and the actor fell down five metres, missing the crash mats we’d lovingly put out for him, and he landed on the concrete below. But he was okay, after bit of medical treatment. Four days later, he was back and ready to shoot again. But yeah, on this film we had, we had a lot of masseurs, paramedics and doctors. We take the safety of all the stunt guys very, very seriously. Because even if it’s a small thing they’re doing, it’s still risking their life and their health for two seconds where people can go ‘Oof!”, you know? Iko you still have a bruise from one of the fight scenes, don’t you? How did that happen? Iko: Yeah. There’s a moment where one guy comes up and starts swinging at me with a machete. It wasn’t a sharp weapon, but it was metal. And I kept getting hit on the forearm. Gareth Evans: We did about 15 takes from one angle, and 17 from another. It’s fading now, but that bruise was there through the whole shoot. He ruined my continuity! Is there an outtake reel somewhere? Will we get to see it? Gareth Evans: There’s quite a lot of footage to go through, but I’ll see what we’ve got. Is there a death you’re most proud of?Gareth Evans: [Chuckles] My parents are in the room… but yes. I think it’s the three gunshots to the face. The reason, though, isn’t because it’s violent, but because of the way we worked out that it had to be three shots. When we designed the choreography, it’s always based on a certain rhythm, so it’s kind of like percussion. It’s the same with all the blocks, kicks and punches – it’s always based on the timing and percussion. So the way we’ll work out whether we need a block or a punch is, we’ll clap it out – [claps] dum, dum, dum. When we did the whole thing with Iko being pulled to the floor, we acted it out, and the gun goes “bang”. So we tried two shots – “bang, bang” – and it still doesn’t feel right. Then we did three shots, and it was like, “Ah! Music.” [Laughs] It had to be three gunshots! Where did the idea of the assault on the building come from? It sort of reminded me a bit of Assault On Precinct 13, but in reverse. Gareth Evans: Again, I knew nothing about Judge Dredd until post-production, but yeah, all the influences came from stuff like Die Hard. Assault On Precinct 13 was amazing – a big influence. Escape From New York as well. But the thing that pushed me to make this as a SWAT team film, was the video for Born Free by MIA. I just fell in love with that video – the way it was shot and edited was very informative to how we approached the film. That was the video we showed to every cast and crewmember as soon as they came through the door. After about fifteen minutes, we said, have a look at this video. The Raid was actually put together fairly quickly, wasn’t it? You talk about the sequel, Berandal which you’re doing next, but that story was originally going to go first. Were the two stories always linked? Gareth Evans: It was more as we developed The Raid, because we had to abandon that previous project [Berandal], and I didn’t want to let it drift away and not do anything with it. So when I was working on the script for The Raid I was thinking about how I can link these two films together in some way. Because after Merantau [Evans’ second feature, released in 2009], we’d already done all the choreography for Berandal, and we’d already made the transition to doing more aggressive choreography. So Berandal and The Raid started sharing this similar atmosphere and tone, so they were linked in that way, and I was also looking at ways I could link the stories together. All the problems I had with the script for Berandal were to do with the lead character and his motivation. I wanted to switch that round, so maybe it could be a continuation of the cop’s story [Rama, Iko’s character in The Raid]. Then it all started to fit into place – I could add all these scenes and elements. So now I’ve got about five per cent left to write on that sequel. It’s almost done! The Raid is out in the UK on Friday.Follow Den Of Geek on Twitter right here. And be our Facebook chum here.