Non-Stop producer Joel Silver knows how to make blockbusters. When he first came to Hollywood from New Jersey, studios weren’t making big budget action movies. He changed that with his first solo produced film, 48 Hours, and has not looked back since.
Just a sampling of his filmography reveals some of the film world’s biggest hits from Lethal Weapon and Die Hard to The Matrix and Sherlock Holmes, and now he’s sure to have a new hit with Non-Stop starring Liam Neeson.
We caught up with Silver for an exclusive interview where he gives us insight into what he looks for in a film that more often than not turns into a blockbuster. He also chimes in on the action movie resurgence of Non-Stop star Neeson, as well as how the super-producer even got into this business in the first place.
Movie Fanatic: You could choose any movie at this point in your career to put your time and talents into, so what was it about Non-Stop that it had to have the Joel Silver name on it?
Joel Silver: The script. Right away I thought it would be something that would be fun to see. It’s like Murder on the Orient Express, but you’re on a plane traveling at tremendous amounts of speed at that height. And you are in a situation that you don’t know who the bad guy is and if we do our job right – and I think we did – you don’t know who the bad guy is until we tell you. I thought it was a good yarn, a good story, and when I let Liam read it, he said, “I want to make this movie.” It became real very quickly.
Movie Fanatic: What was it about Jaume Collet-Serra (director) and Mr. Neeson that they make such a good team? They were great with Unknown and now this.
Joel Silver: On Unknown, which was the first thing we did together, we all enjoyed the experience and we felt that there was an opportunity to do other movies together. Jaume’s a great director. He has a great ability to collect great actors. The cast in this movie is unbelievable. It’s a unique opportunity to work with a director who knows what he wants and knows how to get there and really takes the time to tell the story and have all the footage to get everything clear and concise to have the movie make sense.
Movie Fanatic: Your filmography is quite varied, from action and blockbusters to it being all over the place. What do you look for in a film to attach yourself to?
Joel Silver: It’s the old story, if I read a script that I want to see, that pushes me to go that extra mile to get it made. It’s hard to get movies made. When I feel that, I think people will feel that too.
Movie Fanatic: Going back to the beginning, all those decades ago, what made you want to get into the world of storytelling that is moviemaking?
Joel Silver: I grew up in South Orange, New Jersey. I was far from Hollywood. I grew up in the 1960s and there were a lot of movies on TV. It was a heyday for watching movies on television. My parents felt I watched too much television. But, I kept saying to them, “This is what I want to do! I want to make movies.” I went to NYU to film school and I was able to see a lot of movies that we could study. It was the 1970s and that was a great time for movies. When I arrived in L.A. in 1975, I already had a great knowledge of movies that I liked. I not only knew about the movies, but how they were made. I was passionate about trying to make action movies that weren’t like the kind that were being made back then. When I made 48 Hours in 1982, that movie was very similar to Non-Stop. It was an action movie with humor. It had thrills and chills. I’ve been able to make the kind of movies that I’ve always wanted to see and like and I’m going to keep doing it until they tell me I can’t do it anymore.
Movie Fanatic: Liam is not new to being an action star… we could go back to Darkman or The Phantom Menace. And now he’s found action success quite often with Taken. What do you think it is about Mr. Neeson that audiences are compelled by him in action?
Joel Silver: He knows his way around a lightsaber [laughs]! He’s like Robert Downey Jr. You had to put Downey in an iron suit to have people realize he can do anything. Liam can do anything. Audiences just love Liam. They believe him in anything. They don’t want him to get hurt. They want him to succeed. He’s an actor and a persona that we can truly pull for, time and time again. And a lot of Non-Stop is a close-up on Liam’s face. You watch him see and think and figure things out… people are wowed by him.
Movie Fanatic: What do you think it is about the movie on a plane idea, whether it’s Air Force One or even Airplane! that is so attractive?
Joel Silver: Many people in our world have been on airplanes. It’s a shared experience. It is fraught with concern and potential danger. I think when you tell a story like this, it’s easy for people to appreciate and understand. You make it in such a way that people are intrigued, you have a great, successful venture, which I think this is and I hope this will be.
You can check out one of Silver’s classic films right now and watch The Matrix online!
Click through and discover what other plane movies thrill!