Gal Gadot (left) and Dwayne Johnson at the press con —PHOTOS COURTESY OF NETFLIX

While we enjoyed watching “Red Notice” as much as we loved our interview with Ryan Reynolds and the separate press con with his costars Dwayne Johnson and Gal Gadot, we also had as much fun in our one-on-one chat with Rawson Marshall Thurber, the Netflix film’s 46-year-old writer-director—who looks just as dashing as his male actors.

We had a good laugh when we ribbed the 46-year-old filmmaker about his cameo (that bills him as Handsome Pants Catcher) in Dwayne’s 2016 action-comedy caper “Central Intelligence,” which he also helmed. We asked Rawson, “So, why not pursue acting and take advantage of your good looks?”

“That was Dwayne’s idea of a joke,” the filmmaker quipped, looking a little embarrassed by our question. “No, I’m not an actor … by any stretch! The few times I’ve done it were as a joke or as a favor to a friend, who was just trying to give me a hard time (laughs). So, I think the technical word for me would be ‘awful’—I’m an awful actor. And I would never, never, never force that level of torture on the viewing public (laughs). That would be cruel.”

Daunting challenges

But while Rawson is pretty confident that he’s much better at his day job as a screenwriter-cum-director, shooting “Red Notice” in the middle of a pandemic did present daunting challenges. “We were halfway through shooting when COVID struck, and we had to shut down for six months and come back retooling everything creatively—which no one had done before. That, without question, was the biggest challenge for this particular project.

“As far as its rewarding moments are concerned, there were so many small moments along the way. But, there’s one shot in particular where I had Ryan, Gal and Dwayne all in the same frame—together for the first time—and that was very special for me!

“As for the task of balancing individual highlights among three superstars, that’s partly my job as writer-director … to kind of create those situations for them. Having said that, they’re movie stars for a reason—you could put them in almost any scene and they would still shine! “In terms of on-set improvisation, I have an open-door policy toward improv. I would say that 85-90 percent of the movie was scripted, but that 10 to 15 percent of brilliant improv makes all the difference. Ryan is so good at it, but Dwayne and Gal are no slouch either. I don’t care if it’s my job or somebody else’s, but the best line wins. I get all the credit in the end anyway, right?”

Given Rawson’s penchant for fusing breezy action with potent comedy, we told the director how much of a snug fit he would be for a superhero film—like DC’s “Green Lantern” with humor or, ehem, Marvel’s “Ant-Man” (for which he was once attached to direct, but the deal didn’t materialize).

“Oh, thank you. I’m a big fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DC universe,” he said. “I grew up reading comics, so I probably know more about comic books than anything my wife would talk about at a dinner. But yeah, they have my phone number, and I would certainly answer the call should it ring.”

For their part, Dwayne, Gal and Ryan were instantly hooked by the story of “Red Notice”—about an FBI agent (Dwayne) chasing two rival art thieves (Gal and Ryan) all over the globe—the moment it was pitched to them by Rawson.

Director-writer Rawson Marshall Thurber

Crucial sequence

While the stellar trio is used to flexing their movie-star muscle in their respective blockbuster action flicks, Gal and Dwayne singled out a crucial sequence that provided a measure of levity to “Red Notice’s” action-packed sequences: A tango scene!“I was blown away by the film’s ambition, as well as that twist at the end,” Gal admitted at the press conference last Friday. “But I was also very intrigued by the prospect of playing a character who’s different from the ones I usually essay.

“For this film, we didn’t just train [for the action scenes], we also needed to rehearse because we had a dance scene—which was new to me! DJ (as she calls Dwayne) worked together in ‘Fast and Furious,’ but that film didn’t require some dancing.

“At first, I was a bit nervous for my poor feet because DJ is a giant—and I wasn’t sure it was going to happen! I kept telling him, ‘We have to rehearse … we have to practice!’ But he was super cool about it. He tried to calm me down by saying, ‘Don’t worry, it’s going to be great.’ Of course, that just made me more nervous! “Then, he showed up, and he turns out to be a freaking ballerina! He’s very light on his feet. I don’t know how the rules of physics can explain all that (laughs), but DJ is so talented! (Turns to Dwayne) It was so much fun to shoot the scene with you.” Beside Gal, Dwayne looked visibly amused as he listened to his lovely costar talk about the scene and its accompanying terpsichorean hurdle.

The action superstar quipped, “Gal thought she’d be dancing with a velociraptor (laughs)! But seriously, the experience of working with Gal and Ryan was great. A lot of times with something of this magnitude, the content of the script will dictate how the movie is going to turn out—it’s fun, ambitious and, as Gal said, it also has some twists and turns and surprises. “We also had to buckle down because we shot it during COVID, so that part of the shoot was very challenging! But we made the best movie we could.”

Gal described the experience of shooting the movie “one of the most memorable ones for me.”

She added, “Another favorite scene of mine is the one in the Russian prison. It was such a funny day, and we wasted so many takes! I got to say that I feel super grateful and lucky that I was able to work with such amazing talents.”

‘Raise the bar’

Dwayne likewise pointed out that “Red Notice’s” exhilarating combination of action and comedy is something viewers shouldn’t miss.

“The intention was to raise the bar with our action sequences,” he explained. “We three are no stranger to action. But what we did was try to thread the needle of great action with a little bit of levity in every piece of it. That’s why you’ll see in our movie that, as heightened as our action sequences are, there’s also a lot of great comedy.” Gal added, “And it has a lot of style, too—the film looks so beautiful! I’m known for playing Wonder Woman, but I had a lot of fun playing this character on the other side, with a villainous role. As an actor, you want to be able to explore a character’s different colors and qualities—and the role of the elusive Bishop certainly gave me that opportunity!”

At this point, Dwayne brought up Gal’s much-buzzed-about latest project. “Let’s just take a moment now and talk about Gal portraying the Evil Queen in ‘Snow White.’ That’s back-to-back villains—how exciting is that?” To which, Gal answered, “Well, ‘Red Notice’ really opened up my appetite to play a villain for a change. That’s the truth.”

When the duo was asked which of their costars they’d like to take on a heist as his or her partner in crime, Gal quickly replied, “DJ … because he’s sitting next to me. So, if I’m with Ryan, I’d pick Ryan (laughs). I think DJ would pick me, because we work well together.”

“I would choose Gal, for sure,” Dwayne answered with a grin. “Nope, I’m not going to get stuck on some heist with Ryan Reynolds (laughs)!”

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