Scott Mann is quietly making a name for himself as a noteworthy action film director. A long-time veteran of the U.K. television scene. Mann took the step up into feature filmmaking with 2009's assassin versus assassin free for all THE TOURNAMENT (Starring Robert Carlyle and Scott Adkins). He then followed that up with the 2015 crime thriller HEIST (starring Robert DeNiro and Dave Bautista).
Wheels: What attracted you to want to make FINAL SCORE?
Scott Mann: Well it was a strange one, where I met up with the producer who was involved with the last film I'd done and he told me this strange scenario where there was a football stadium, or a soccer stadium, that they had access to. This very legendary stadium in London that was gonna be demolished. They'd gone about writing a script to make a film there [at that location], and would I like to take a look at it? It sounded bonkers, really. I loved the idea of doing a British action movie. I've always wanted to do a big British action movie. My first film was in similar territory, but I've always had an attraction to it.
Wheels: THE TOURNAMENT, right?
Scott Mann: Yeah, that's right.
Wheels: I love THE TOURNAMENT.
Scott Mann: Thank you. It's got a special place in my heart, [that one]. Especially since it's always hard to do a first one, but that one… it was a wonderful adventure. But I've always really wanted to do an action film that's worthy of being in that genre, but with that British sensibility. So really that was what attracted me. Then I read the script and it was surprisingly, despite similarities of other films, it was surprisingly original, with a lot of British sensibilities, and a lot of the humor in it.
So, that's how I came onboard. I really wanted to do something that was a lot of fun, and that embraced the uncertainty of [filmmaking], and it felt fresh because of where the world was then ... and where the world is now honestly, a bit of welcome relief from that. So, something that isn't heavy, 'cause you kinda want the opposite of reality I think, right? You want to escape to the movies. You don't want to be stripped down and reminded of all the bad stuff that's going on in the world. So that was refreshing. That's really what pulled me into it.
Wheels: I also think the throwback sensibilities of FINAL SCORE are what make it so fun and help it feel fresh. Because it's been a while since we've had just a traditional action film. Everything is so high concept nowadays. FINAL SCORE going back to those 80s sensibilities is refreshing.
Scott Mann: Yeah, 100%. it is. There are other movies that I grew up and loved. I think there's a worry sometimes to go back into that. There's almost a fear of it, that you might get judged harshly due to those sensibilities. But I think we've fully embraced that... I think, like you said, how do you standalone movie nowadays? It is very rare and having a film that isn't tied into some universe or kind of tentpole franchise or whatnot. It's almost like those big movies struggle at times to have freshness because they're so broad and they've gotta tick so many boxes [to appeal to a wide audience].
So what's really refreshing about a movie like this is that it's small enough to go places that other movies can't. I think that's what's really nice. There's a couple of riskier moments in there, and I think that you wouldn't normally get that in a broader movie because it just has to cater to too many people.
Going back to the throwback thing, you're 100% right. You know, myself, and one of the other writers on it, that's what we loved about it. We loved the fact that it was a throwback and we made little references to that throughout the movie. We were fully aware of doing that and just went with it. Hopefully, people enjoy it for it's throwback sensibilities
Wheels: Well that's certainly why I enjoyed it so much. These mid-range, standalone action movies are just so rare nowadays that it’s nice to see one. It's almost nostalgic in a way.
Scott Mann: I agree.
Wheels: You've got three great lead actors in FINAL SCORE, Pierce Brosnan, Ray Stevenson, and Dave Bautista. Can you talk about how the three of them became involved and some of your experiences working with them?
Scott Mann: Yeah, well actually the first on the movie actually was Pierce.
Scott Mann: Yeah! It kind of all happened in a very compact amount of time. Normally these things, and the projects I've been involved with before have always taken a number of years to kind of get into this stage, you know it goes through a casting stage and that can take at least months, …if not years to get a cast and because you have the gun to your head of that stadium is gonna get demolished whether you make a movie in it or not. So, it had this really tight turnaround. I remember we did a polish to the script, handed it over,and I at the time was producing a movie in Savannah so I was hooked into that production whilst this script got sent out and the casting process started
It was during that time, that they sent it to Pierce and Pierce responded really well to the script and I think he liked the anarchy and madness of it all [laughs] and it was one of those things where he came aboard and it kind of green lights the movie to an extent, and pushes it further down the line, right? And then that's when all the heavy work just starts. … You are in prep and it all kind of goes. It's funny actually, cause we ended up writing, there's a scene in there about his beloved chicken [laughs}, which we wrote ... The circumstances behind that scene are hilarious, so we had to write that in the lobby of a hotel, in Virginia, at 2 o'clock in the morning and there was a basketball team that got off the court who were like "Hey guys what're you doing?" And we were like "We're trying to write a screenplay".
Scott Mann: And it's in these strange circumstances and we were on and on about what kind of stories to give this character played by Pierce… what would work in the film and it's universe and in the fun of it all we put in this story that we'd had, and we came up with something else funny enough, about this one-eyed chicken which is basically one of the writer's mother's chickens. It's kinda semi-true. She had this chicken called “Clara”, a one-eyed chicken and we put it there and we were like "this is fun". Cause the film's bonkers and this story is bonkers, it was the morning after that, we were driving down to Savannah for prep on this other movie and we handed the script over.
When we went into production on FINAL SCORE, Pierce wanted to get on the phone with me to discuss it. So, I get on the phone with Pierce and one of the first things he says to me is how much he loves the story of Clara and the one-eyed chicken.
And then you can't change it, right? And then it's in the movie and you can't change a word of it, because he loves it, so we just laughed. Myself and John, another one of the writers, we were laughing so much when we were filming that scene with Pierce a few weeks later we were like "Can you fucking believe where are and how this has come about?". Yeah, it was funny and yeah Pierce just went with it.
I think Ray and Dave joined around the same time. I' had done a movie with Dave a year or two back (Note: HEIST with Robert DeNiro) and had a really good experience with him there and I always felt like he had more to give and he was very humble in his talent. People would judge him, prejudge him, on who he is and what he is and I think they really underestimate how talented Dave is.
In the original draft, it was a British guy. He was a British football fan, who loved the game and that was the original angle we were going for but then Dave suggested, "what if you took it and turned it on its head and you make it an American guy, and you make it a guy who hates soccer?" And funny enough, for me, it was almost easier to identify with that guy than the original because I don’t like football. [laughs] We loved this idea that, traditionally, you go into these movies with a weaker underdog, right? Who kind of has to rise to the occasion and that kind of thing, but what we loved about Dave is that you can have this guy who is kind of like sizzling underneath whose ready to pop and you can see just by his size and who he is and what he is that he’s a force.
He's the kind of guy who can mulch through the bad guys when he wants. And that's the fun of the movie and I remember walking around Upton Park and around the stadium talking with Dave about the film and getting excited about the idea of, just running with it, having fun with it and saying when Dave blasts off as the character, he's gonna do some serious damage. It was a constant work in progress, truthfully, because of the time frame and because of constantly working on the script. It made it crazy, but really enjoyable to work on because we were kind of adapting and moving to things in ways that meant things were fresh and right for the scene and Dave was a huge part of that and always had his eye on doing the right thing and making the film what we wanted it to be; which is a fun, bonkers, 80's throwback. We had a lot of fun doing that and creating that together. It was great.
And Ray... Yeah Ray. I talked to a few actors, but Ray was very ... The excitement of Ray is he's very “method” and he really gets into it and, obviously, I've seen a lot of his work and he's awesome. He totally got into the role, walking around that stadium doing all these crazy bad guy things and lived in that character so it was a very ... It was almost like theater because we kept it very live on set, if you know what I mean. If you look at the movie, you know how it’s kind of intricate in that it cuts back and forth to his stuff against the rest of the film. It allows you to just let it play out in a way like theater.
I often would film his scenes in one long take. Rather than do it bit by bit, it was like, lets push it all into one scene and experience this as one moment and I would kind of throw direction at Ray as we went to kind of mirror the off-screen stuff that was going to happen or was happening and it was a really enjoyable experience. He was great. We had some intense days, but so much fun and we both came away laughing and loving it. It was intense but crazy and he was amazing. Great guy to work with.
Wheels: So our time is starting to wind down. I wanted to ask you just a fun question. What are some of your favorite action films?
Scott Mann: My favorite of all time is probably TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY. If I had to pick one to go with, it'd be that. I love how it combines so many great elements and has a real heart to it. I also think it kind of got me at an age where it should have got me. I was 14/15 years old and for me it was so perfectly executed on and action and filmmaking front , of course Cameron tends to do that. He's certainly someone that I admire. The heart of it and the debate and the central question of humans and love and everything. The way it’s all tied together is such a ... now I look at it and I’m stunned by it. It's so hard to pull that off properly. The fact that he did such a great job is why it had such an impact on me, I think.
ROBOCOP's another big influence of mine, actually. ROBOCOP is the other one that kind of stands out quite a lot. The original one, of course!
Wheels: Of course!
Scott Mann: Which is one of the best tonal references I can think of in terms of, that marries violence with humor and the heart at the center of it and I always look at that as a great reference as a way that you can find a tone through very disparate emotional angles. I can watch those films anytime and just hugely enjoy them. There's a bunch. BACK TO THE FUTURE, again, if you want I could name a bunch that I loved growing up and they subconsciously influence you when you are filmmaking, right?
Wheels: That's exactly why I asked.
[We are informed by the public relations rep that our time is almost up.]
Scott Mann: Oh no, one minute! It's a very tight interview. I could ramble on all day about this stuff!
Wheels: I just want to tell you it's been a real pleasure to talk to you today. I really appreciate it. Thank you.
Scott Mann: Thank you. You guys are great! We'll talk soon. Thank you very much! It was brilliant! Cheers!
FINAL SCORE is out now in theaters and on VOD and Digital HD!
- Matthew Essary