Land of Bad is the newest action flick from director William Eubank. Starring Liam Hemsworth and Russell Crowe, the film follows Kinney (Hemsworth) and his squadron as a seasoned drone pilot Reaper (Crowe) guides them through the jungle after a mission gone wrong. It’s got explosions, guns, slo-mo, and most importantly a story of two men, on different sides of the military, supporting each other through life-changing moments.
Another in a recent line of interviews, I sat down with Eubank to ask him about what went into some of the more intricate action sequences, what it was like working with Russell Crowe, and which military man he would fare best as.
‘Land of Bad’ Finds a Unique Tone Amongst Military Action Films
ETHAN SIMMIE: Thanks for taking the time, man. I’ve got to start out by letting you know that I had a blast with this movie and I’m excited to go see it again in theaters because it warrants a theatrical experience.
WILLIAM EUBANK: Thank you so much. Yeah, I appreciate that. My editor (Todd E. Miller) and sound designer (Wayne Lemmer) who both worked with me on Underwater would be so happy to hear you say that. We were mixing the movie in kind of a short period of time but my sound mixer is such a genius. He’s so good. It’s got a great theatrical mix so I can’t wait for people to hear all the crazy stuff going on and the big sound.
ETHAN SIMMIE: This film kind of pulls elements from movies like Zero Dark Thirty, from the Extraction franchise — but it finds a way to really add its own distinct personality that I found. How were you able to find your own tone as an entry into this stalwart film genre?
WILLIAM EUBANK: Yeah, you know, it’s tricky. The thing is, the film, we wrote it a million years ago. We wrote it like when I made my first film, The Signal. When we made it we were writing it because I was kind of, as a new filmmaker, that was my first sort of real film after Love. I mean, they’re all real films, but that one was a little more like a normal film. I just was so scared at the time. I was like, man, I got to make something that’s more digestible and that I can just get somebody to finance and then we can go make this movie! And when you’re writing it, you can’t totally write like that. But we still tried to.
Then what ended up happening is we met real JTACS. This guy, Kinney — his name’s actually Kinney — invited us out to Fort Irwin and we spent two weeks with him out there with the guys. Really calling and talking, doing 9 lines to F35s, and blowing shit up. It was so wild. I can’t even begin to tell you. He was just like, “Yeah, call in the 9 Line!” And we had jets flying over and we’re trying to hit targets out in the frickin’ Mojave.
It was so wild that it kind of changed my perspective on what we were trying to do and it gave me a little bit better understanding of who some of the guys are and how they would really be. And so, I don’t know, it was just a real sort of weird experience. At that point, you’re just like, “Oh my God, how do we put some of this in the movie?” So it just kind of happened organically, I guess you could say.
ETHAN SIMMIE: That sounds incredible. To that effect, there’s a scene towards the end of the film that features a camera looking up through a small body of water. It’s pretty integral to the events transpiring. I won’t say anything more than that. I loved that shot. How did you come up with that shot? And then more broadly, what was it like filming those final 20-25 minutes that are exceptionally dark and very vicious and visceral?
WILLIAM EUBANK: Well, thank you. I appreciate everything you’re saying. I’ve learned over my career that it’s very difficult for me to tell stories that aren’t perspective-based. I have a very hard time just cutting to a bad guy doing something, even though there’s so many great movies that do that and I want to learn to do that better because naturally, in my heart, I’m always only interested in the main character’s perspective. It’s just in my brain. It’s like the way I see movies.
So shots like that shot make a lot of sense to go there and be in that moment and see it literally through his eyes. And that’s how I’m thinking of it when I write it. So then when you go to do the shot, you’re just trying to figure out how to do it. The shot itself is super crazy — it’s like in a crazy horse trough elevated like 10 feet off the ground with a fake ceiling and then we blew very fine cork dust out and then you quickly light it on fire so the fire travels through the cork dust.
If you’ve ever played with flour and tried to light flour on fire, it’s the same thing. But a blast to do. What happened was the camera lens kept fogging up! It’s an hour to take the camera out of the thing and take the shit off the lens and put it back and hope it doesn’t fog. Anyway, very difficult shot to get, but we finally did it.
Russell Crowe Brings His Own Special Sauce to the Movie
ETHAN SIMMIE: I’m glad that you finally got it because to me that is one of the coolest shots in the film. I’ve got to ask you about working with Russell Crowe. My wife is vegan and his ability to correctly identify the stress of going to the grocery store for a vegan partner is just so on point. It’s incredible. He’s also riffing incredible one-liners throughout the entire film that I just thought were fantastic. Was all of that scripted or did he kind of like bring his own special sauce to the mix?
WILLIAM EUBANK: No, he always brings in something. Of course, there’s scripted lines that I would fight to put in and they’re in there. But he also has such an amazing sense of humor. He’s so funny. I love Russell. I love Russell so much. He’s so funny. He has so much zest for life and he has so much knowledge of everything. Not because he wants to be a know-it-all about everything but just because he loves everything, like music and dance and art. He just loves to talk about everything.
It’s just fun to just sit there with him. A lot of those lines like where he’s just looking at all the food in the grocery store saying “Well they have real Mexican. Okay, I shouldn’t have said the word real.” Yeah, that’s all him. He’s making all that up. When you’re meeting him on that first day and you want to let people play if they want to play and so you say that to him and he responds, “No, no, no, no, I don’t. I don’t work like that. I’m prepared and I’m going to learn what I’m going to do.” And then you get on set and he’s a riping one-liners and zingers. And you’re like, “What are you talking about? You love to play! This is so funny.” Really a joy to work with him in that regard.
ETHAN SIMMIE: He did a fantastic job so let him know if you ever talked to him that I took great pride in his work identifying that. My one final question for you. If you had to do the job of one of these guys, who would it be? Would you rather be Russell Crowe’s character of Reaper behind the tech or Liam Hemsworth’s character of Kinney out in the field?
WILLIAM EUBANK: Gosh, that is a really tough question because they’re equally so stressful. I feel like maybe I’d be a field person but I don’t know. That’s so hard. My little brother is actually active military and has been in for quite some time and he’s more of a field-type person so maybe I would go that direction. But I don’t know. I also do love computers and tech and stuff, but they’re both very different and very, very hard jobs for numerous reasons. And my hat’s off to anyone in either one of those actual theaters.
ETHAN SIMMIE: Well, if you go the field, I’ll go behind the tech and then we can live this out. We’ll team up. Thanks so much for the time, William. I appreciate it. Congratulations on Land of Bad — an incredible movie.
WILLIAM EUBANK: Thank you so much, Ethan. I appreciate it.
ETHAN SIMMIE: Thanks, William.
WILLIAM EUBANK: Cheers!
Land of Bad releases in theaters nationwide on February 16, 2024. Follow the Agents of Fandom socials for the latest entertainment news, reviews, and interviews.