Most Wanted: About The Production

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Although he has made comedy the touchstone of his prolific career, Keenen Ivory Wayans has always wanted to write, produce and star in an action-driven thriller. An auteur who likes to be in total control of his destiny, Wayans hit the books and the Internet, did his research and came up with the innovative screenplay for Most Wanted.

Most audiences expect Wayans to gravitate towards satirical material that generates laughter. However, where his feature film career is concerned, Wayans has been gradually moving towards the dramatic action genre, appearing opposite Steven Segal in films like Glimmer Man. Now, for his explosive debut as the leading star in a high-octane thriller, Wayans penned what he believes is "a smarter kind of action movie. It's very character driven. It has a compelling story with tight elements that convey suspense, intrigue and danger. But what I like most is that it's not the same formulaic kind of film in terms of two guys who don't like each other. I think we've seen enough of the mismatched buddies who are put together -- they get along, they crack jokes, and the movie's over. Of course, I've done that too. But I think this is different, because it's deeper than a lot of the films out there. The canvas is richer, and the storyline offers the characters room to maneuver. It's more along the lines of The Fugitive or Three Days of the Condor."

These comparisons do not diminish the fact that this is an original film by an original talent -- Keenen Ivory Wayans, who has drawn upon all his unique and diverse skills to create Most Wanted.

Perhaps best known for his eponymous late night talk show or as the Emmy Award-winning creator of the irreverent sketch comedy series "In Living Color," Wayans admits that "this is a transitional film for me. My fans have never seen me take the reigns of an action film before, and I've done everything I can to make Most Wanted an enjoyable and distinctive moviegoing experience."

Of course, the finished product is a collaboration of talents that involve some of Hollywood's most respected professionals. In front of the camera, co-stars Jon Voight and Paul Sorvino turned in roles that elevated the integrity of the film, while behind-the-scenes, award-winning director David Glenn Hogan and stunt coordinator Chuck Picerni, Jr. united to deliver an exciting, technically sound thriller.

"As the writer, producer and star, I have a lot vested in this production, and I did not want to sacrifice one iota," Wayans explains. "I wanted the best around me at all times, and I got what I wanted. It was really a great experience working with and learning from some of the best in the business. It's just been awesome."

Director David Glenn Hogan first met Wayans 12 years ago at Eddie Murphy's house in New Jersey. "I was doing a music video for Eddie, and Keenen happened to be there," Hogan explains. "We ended up having one of the most hilarious dinners I've ever experienced."

The two had remained friends since that meeting, and Wayans was instrumental in selecting Hogan to direct his screenplay. "David brings a great sense of scope and vision that really enhances the material a lot. His work has a signature, and I knew he could handle the action sequences," says Wayans.

One of the treats of this movie is the prolific number of groundbreaking stunts that pepper the film scene-by-scene. At the suggestion of director David Fincher, Hogan hired veteran stunt coordinator Chuck Picerni, Jr., a highly respected, second-generation stuntman who has worked on The Hunt for Red October, Die Hard 1 & 2, Lethal Weapon 1 & 2, Demolition Man and Seven.

Picerni was responsible for coordinating the endless barrage of stuntwork, including the scene where Keenen is being chased by a helicopter on the roof of a 45-story building. With nowhere to go but down, the script calls for the character to "improvise," and jump bravely off the side of the building. In industry parlance, the stunt is called a "base jump." As it turns out, this 45-story leap was historic and is the lowest base jump to ever be recorded on film.

Far from wreckless daredevils, "the guys I recruited were experts in this field, and they have already jumped a lot of the buildings in downtown Los Angeles -- legally or illegally," says Picerni. "I felt confident in my whole crew of jumpers. We did that stunt three times, and I couldn't have asked for the sequence to have gone any better."

Another unprecedented stunt was accomplished by Picerni's crew using a closed-off section of a freeway in downtown Los Angeles. The stunt involved 16 stunt people being hit by 20 cars all at once. In the scene, Keenen's character is being chased by a mob of bounty hunters onto a busy freeway. As Sgt. Dunn makes his way across the freeway, cars are sliding and banging into each other. "It was an incredible scene to choreograph because of all the stuntmen that were running around. Car hits are nothing special in our industry, but we're talking 20 drivers hitting 16 people at one time. It was a 10-camera shot that was captured to perfection. Pretty wild stuff. It was talked about in the industry for quite a while."

And what role did Keenen Ivory Wayans play in the extensive stuntwork? Picerni had worked with Wayans on Low Down Dirty Shame and knew the actor would insist on being an active part of the peril.

"Keenen, being as athletic as he is, just added to everything we had to do. He did quite a few of his own stunts. Mostly every fight sequence in the show he did himself. In one scene, we blow up a house, and the next thing you see is a car that breaks out of the garage. Keenen drove a good portion of that stunt with a fireball behind him. Everything he was attached to worked very well."

However, Wayans is modest about his athletic abilities on the set. "I do things I'm comfortable with. If I feel like I can do it, I'll do it. But if I have any sudden hesitation or I think it looks crazy, I'm not stupid. I'm not going to risk my whole career."

Keenen Ivory Wayans has worked his way to the top of his craft, and today, he enjoys the view from that respected pinnacle where colleagues liberally commend and praise his abilities as an actor, writer, director and producer.

As Paul Sorvino, the distinguished film, television and theater veteran who was called upon to portray the role of CIA deputy director Kenny Rackmill attests, "there's some really strong acting going on here, and there's a lot to be said for the excellence of the work. Most Wanted is much more accomplished than the average action-adventure movie might demand. Keenen has delivered a very good story and his performance is very exciting."

For Sorvino, playing Rackmill the powerful but affable CIA agent offered a new twist to his 35-year career. "What appealed to me was the strength of the character and the material effect he has on the story and on the other characters. He is guiding the whole thing. And it's very well written."

Jon Voight, who won an Academy Award for his performance opposite Jane Fonda in Coming Home, is equally pleased with the caliber of the acting. But, like all the participants, he was attracted especially by the quality of the script and the magnetism of its author. Says Voight, "I was excited to do this because the script was clever, and I wanted to work with Keenen. There's something very likable about this guy. I've enjoyed his work on television and film for many years, and I've always had a sense that he is a leading man -- someone that audiences would like to spend time watching."

When actors enjoy working together, their chemistry is evident on the screen. As General Adam Woodward (a.k.a. Lt. Col. Grant Casey), Voight created a multi-dimensional and memorable character according to Most Wanted's director, David Glenn Hogan. "The Woodward character in the script was begging for an actor with Jon's talents."

In other words, Voight took the role and ran with it, going deep into the maniacal nature of his character and developing a great monolithic beast with a cracker accent, a bloated sense of self and a knuckle-grinding mission -- to pursue Wayans' character, Sgt. James Dunn, to the end of the earth. Voight's characterization of General Woodward raises the stakes of the movie, giving the Sgt. Dunn character a truly worthy adversary.

With a long history as a top-rated music video and commercial director, Hogan honed his craft working with Joel Schumacher on Batman Forever. "David has done a lot of work with the camera," says Voight, "and he knows the visuals quite well. He has been a sensational director to work with because he's unruffled, calm and has a great sense of humor."

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