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Matt Kennedy

Netflix remains one of the star players in Hollywood with their upcoming original movie, Bright, which is making history as the streaming platform's most expensive big-budget project. The film is directed by Suicide Squad's David Ayer, and stars Will Smith and Joel Edgerton. With a budget as massive as $90 million, it comes as no surprise that it's is one of the ambitious movies of the year.

We spoke to Ayer ahead of Bright's Netflix premiere on Dec. 22 about the tug o' war between Netflix and traditional theatrical releases, reconnecting with Smith after Suicide Squad and his input on the massive soundtrack (that features MigosSteve AokiCamila CabelloTy Dolla $ignA$AP Rocky, Portugal. The Man and more). Warning: there's light spoilers ahead.

FUSE: Location is always an important key in a film. Why did you decide to set it in Los Angeles?
David Ayer: It was about seeing a city we know in a totally different way. It was kind of the only way to go. I grew up here and it’s my town.

You had a hand in choosing the music as well. What was the process of choosing the artists for the soundtrack?
Yeah it’s a deep mix. It’s pretty crazy. I did the soundtrack for Suicide Squad with Kevin Weaver, who’s the head of Atlantic [Records]. It was such a success that we were like, “Okay, can we do it again?” [laughs] So I brought in Kevin and we just got to work. It was about finding artists who understood what we were trying to do with the movie and the themes of it, and who connected with it. We got lucky in a lot of ways because it’s 13 original pieces of music and they represent the movie. It’s incredible how it all came together.

Do you have a favorite song on the soundtrack? I love the Migos and Marshmello collaboration.
[Laughs] I don’t want to get myself in trouble, it’s like picking which is your favorite child. But “Home” [featuring Machine Gun Kelly, X Ambassadors and Bebe Rexha] is pretty incredible and “Broken People” [featuring Logic and Rag & Bone Man]. I mean, they’re all so different. One of the big sleepers is Camila Cabello’s “Crown.” Her vocals are just haunting and powerful. So there’s something I really love about each song.

You’ve worked with Will Smith on Suicide Squad, but how was that compared to working on Bright? They both have that action element but in the end they’re completely different movies.
Big time. One was just a big, fun comic book movie. And this is a little bit different. It’s a fun movie but it also has a message to it. I think that’s something Will connected with. To be able to say something that some people may not want to hear in a way that you’re not preaching. You’re just using allegory to talk about the world today a little bit. And it’s organic and part of the movie. But I love Will to death, and we have a short hand now and a trust. He’s a legit good dude.

Speaking of allegory, I noticed the movie has so many different races: the humans, orcs, elfs, fairies. Do you think humanizing all these races touch on a larger message as a whole?
Yeah that was kind of the intention there. It’s a message of illustration, you know? It’s a way of looking at our world a little bit differently. It’s definitely a technique and a lens. But at the end of the day, it’s a movie and it works as a movie. Joel [Edgerton] and Will have this amazing buddy relationship, which is just a pleasure to watch.

I also love that there’s so many women that kick ass in the movie. There’s a lot of badass female power.
Yeah that’s a great “bad guy” for a movie. The villain drives everything and Noomi [Rapace] is just so strong and haunting. She’s such a powerful actor and it was a pleasure to craft this character with her. It was a lot more than just a cartoon. She had some real depth to her. With Lucy [Fry], she discovers her voice. It’s a little bit of a dysfunctional family relationship between her and Noomi. She discovers her courage and who she is along the way.

I think some of the best parts of the movie come with the fight scenes. They’re choreographed so well and my favorite one is where Will and Joel’s characters are going through the strip club.
It’s tough, it’s a big process. You start out with the space and that becomes the sandbox you have to play in. [We had] an incredible stunt coordinator—this guy Rob Alonzo. We worked on Deadpool and he’s just a really cool and smart dude. You just start talking about it: how does an elf fight? What does an elf movement look like? That starts to give you a grammar and a language. Then you get silly, like okay what kind of stupid stuff can we do in here? It’s painstaking and it’s detailed, but it’s worth it. I’m really excited about the voice of the action in this film.

And there’s a lot of comedic moments too, especially from Will’s character. How did you balance that along with all the action and the fear?
That speaks to the tone of the film and I think that’s what any director’s biggest challenge is—having things be consistent. It’s the symbol of drama, the happy mask and the sad mask. The best movies have both the humor and joy of life, but also the pain that comes with it and the challenges. Will is just unbelievable comically; it’s so in his wheelhouse. Him and Joel have this great banner and it’s so much fun to watch them together. By doing that, it let’s you go into more heavy stuff without that taking over.

Where there any tough moments while being on set? Like if the makeup wasn’t working right or a scene was hard to get through?
We got lucky with the makeup. Coming off Suicide Squad, I kind of got a taste of all the challenges as a director. So it’s all things I’ve touched before. But making a movie is a marathon. You’re shooting nights and then it’s 4 a.m. and things are moving slow. There’s no real showstopper, it’s just the normal grind of filmmaking. I don’t think people really understand how brutal it can be. You’re working 14-16 hour days every day. It’s just a high level and I’m proud of the actors because they never complained. They just soldiered.

You’ve worked on a bunch of big blockbusters and Netflix is now setting the tone of having these major films premiere on their platform.
This is the first tent pole. What’s kind of cool here is they [Netflix] just let me do my thing. They just let me be who I am as a filmmaker and trust me to tell a story. What’s wild about this is that the movie enters the world at the exact same moment all around the globe in every language known. I think it’s something like 192 countries and territories it’s premiering in. It’s a bigger event than a traditional film release in a lot of ways. More people are gonna see this on Dec. 22 than ever would in the theater on that day. I feel like this is really the future.

Next, watch Jacob Latimore explain how he played the character of time in Will Smith's Collateral Beauty: