EXCLUSIVE: Steven E. De Souza Interview – ManlyMovie

EXCLUSIVE: Steven E. De Souza Interview

We don’t need to introduce the legendary Steven E. De Souza.  If you’re reading this site, you already know who he is and are in possession of the movies he has directed and been involved with.  Our types of movies.  Die Hard, Commando, 48 Hrs.  The hand of Steven E. De Souza is on many of them.  We could really use a busy De Souza again and he tells us that he is once again, but for what, we’ll have to wait and see.  That news is for the future, but this weekend, here is our quick chat with Steven.

Your resume in tooling up some of the best action movies we’ve ever seen is impeccable. For example, not one but two Die Hards have been written by you. Why do you think we’re still waiting for another movie as ground breaking to the action genre as Die Hard, all these years later?

Die Hard was a corrective to years of movies with bigger-than-life, indestructible killing machines as heroes (Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Steven Seagal, Chuck Norris, et al.) So a normal sized protagonist who – although a trained and experienced police officer – still showed fear and trepidation, was a breath of fresh air. In my honest opinion now after so many over the top movies with robots and aliens and Jaegars, I think the course correction will be a protagonist who isn’t “just” a cop, but a civilian who is in way over his head in the manner of Hitchcock’s heroes in “North by Northwest” or “Saboteur”.

48 Hrs is another classic penned by you (and directed by one of our favourites, Walter Hill). The sequel came in 1990, and I’m wondering, do you know anything about the Walter Hill cut of that movie? Apparently a longer, superior verson of the movie exists or existed, but the studio cut down the movie to 90 minutes. Characters who appeared in the first movie had their screentime significantly reduced.

Neither I or producer Joel Silver returned for the sequel – which may account for why it seems to be more of a warmed over reboot than a sequel – so I have no knowledge of what went on in production or post production. However it is very common for directors to have a longer first cut. And, contrary to what the hype about “director’s cuts” is on Blu-Ray special releases, sometimes the first cut ain’t the best version – just the longest!

So you probably weren’t ever part of a prospective third movie at any stage? Nick Nolte once said he had an idea for a third 48 Hrs movie, where Jack Cates was locked up and Reggy Hammond had to secure his release. If you weren’t involved, what do you think about it?

That sounds like a much fresher idea than the actual sequel. By the way, had Joel Silver and I been involved, the sequel would have had Jack Cates retired and partnered with an out of prison Reggie Hammond as mismatched private detectives.

That sounds even better! Was it just bar-talk, or was it in the oven at some point?!
It wasn’t in the oven, but it got as far as the kitchen!

Looking at Commando, was there originally a lengthy and expensive opening sequence filmed on a highway? Or is this an urban legend like the Die Hard/Commando 2 story?

No, the finished movie is virtually identical to the script except for the deletion of the original ending mano-a-mano final fight: You will realise that 2/3 of the way through the picture Rae Dawn gets a radio call from the US Navy warning her not to fly over the San Clemente Naval artillery range (a real thing on an uninhabited island off the California coast.) This moment is famous because the guy at the Navy end of the call was Bill Paxton in an early film role.) Anyway, that scene was a set up for the final fight, because Bennett was going to flee Arius’ private island in one of the speed boats that can be seen tied up at Arius’ dock, and Matrix was going to pursue him, and both ended up beached on that very same island, during the US Navy artillery practice which had been mentioned earlier.

So the climax of the movie was going to be a knife fight on a beach while bombs were going off all over, sort of like Saving Private Ryan. As it turned out, our director Mark Lester saw a sneak preview of “Rambo” and came into work the next day and said, “Arnold has to kill more guys on screen to outdo Stallone”, and he expanded and escalated the script, where Matrix took out Arius’ dozen or so security team, and made it a giant battle against a small army… which took extra days and ate up the budget for the island finale… which is why the final fight is in the (actual) basement of the 20th Century Fox executive building – which was convenient, and cheap!

Steven E. De Souza is currently working on a new project and we’ll be hearing more from him about that soon.