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Undisputed: Interview

Interview By Clint Morris

Interview with Walter Hill
Director of Undisputed, 48 Hours, Red Heat.

Undisputed, the latest film from legendary filmmaker Walter Hill, is quite a departure from the fare he usually delivers. Sure, it's as fast and action-packed as 48 Hours and Red Heat, it's definitely got just as much character depth as The Long Riders and Geronimo had, but it's also the first time the illustrious writer-director has worked a boxing movie template into his world. As Hill explained to Clint Morris, it was a conscious decision to do a movie about something he has always had passion for.


Geronimo - directed by Walter Hill

"I think it's fair to say I've always been a boxing fan. It's in the family. My Father was a great boxer, and I grew up watching the fights, live and on TV too," says Hill.

"I've always wanted to do a boxing movie. Some say Hollywood movies that are made about boxing are just metaphors for other things, I think I've made one that's actually about boxing and not a metaphor."

In the film, Ving Rhames plays an undefeated boxing champion who is convicted of rape and sent to prison, where he must confront and ultimately fight the reigning prison-boxing champion, played by Wesley Snipes.

"Naturally we need black men to give this movie serious credibility," says Hill.

"We took the treatment to Wesley because one, he had credibility, and two, he could get the movie made. He was interested despite the full movie not even being written yet.

"I told him it was conceivable that he could play either role, but what will not change is the fight and who wins in the end," he says.

Rhames wasn't a hard man to convince that this was a good move for him either. "I sent the script and he immediately called back the next day and said I want to play 'Ice Man'. Not a problem there, since Wesley wanted to play the other role."

Walter Hill's career has been quite a mixed bag, made up of endless action movies, cult dramas and more than a few westerns; it's inevitable he does have a few soft spots. "48 Hours was fun. Back then Eddie Murphy was very inexperienced, and Nick Nolte was. Eddie wasn't an actor; he was just being an actor. Also, Nick is extremely talented and together they just clicked. It was a marvelous experience. Nick is someone I can call one of my best friends today," says Hill.

But despite Hill's hefty back catalogue, he's adamant it's not worth looking back and picking favorites and least favorites. "I always say the next one is my favorite. I tend not to look back. It's confusing. You as an audience can look at these things as films, but I remember them as social experiences.

"Some were great experiences, some weren't. I guess I never had a better experience than working on The Long Riders, and at the same time, I never had a harder time than what I did making Southern Comfort," he says.

"If I could go back I might change Geronimo a bit. If I do, it will be made a longer version."

Aliens - inked by Walker Hill

Hill's talent also expands to the page, working as a celebrated screenwriter. "I get a great high from writing. It's so abstract. Directing's all about the visual style, the glamour, and the performances. Still fun, both different.

"I wouldn't not want to be a director and write as I wouldn't not to want to be a writer and direct movies." Hill wrote the story for the first three Alien movies. "I wrote the 2nd one less than the third. My Partner and I worked on the story, hence the scripts, and also produced. I did have an offer to direct one of the Alien movies but I wasn't too excited about all the effects work.

"They had three wonderful directors anyway, starting with Ridley, then Jim and David Fincher. The fourth Alien film I had nothing to do with, but I was listed in the credits under some contractual obligation. We've been bought out so if they want us to work on Alien 5 we would have to be bought back. But I don't know if it's something I'd really want to do," he says.

And where does he stand on the much-rumoured Aliens vs. Predator project? "Yeah - they're talking about it. Let's just say we have a saying in Hollywood 'Talk is Cheap'."

Hill's next movie is a film called Vengeance of Mine. "It's over at Morgan Creek. It's a contemporary thriller set in Vegas. We have to decide on a cast - and we've got a big list of people we'd love to see in it," he says.

One of those names is Nick Nolte, who Hill says he'd like to see cast in a major role, if only so he can catch up with his good friend again. "I would cherish the chance to work with Nick again," he says. Surprisingly, he could have the chance to work with Nolte again sooner if he decided to do 48 hours 3. "I don't think I'll do it. The movies have been copied so much since, there's nothing left to do."

On a much smaller scale, Hill is behind a new TV western called Everwood. "I'm preparing to shoot the pilot. As far as I'm concerned, all my movies could be westerns, so this is good stuff."

For the meantime, he's quite content with his latest movie, Undisputed. "I am very happy about it. I mean no film is beyond criticism, but I think we've made a very modest movie. Heck, we did it in 39 days, it cost $20 million dollars, which is very cheap for Hollywood standards, and tells a good story. I guess it's the literary equivalent of a short story," he says.

Hill is the first to admit that his new film won't appeal to everyone though: "With all the action in it and the tough guy aspects, it's going to appeal mainly to a young male audience. But, also the nostalgia of the sport might appeal to older males. Based on some of the reviews I've read already, the women don't seem to be enjoying it as much. But you hope for the best."

Funnily enough, there's only one other thing on Hill's mind at the moment, and it's a holiday. "Get Miramax to send me down to Australia. I'd like to see it."

Undisputed website: Click here.

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