From Paris With Love: Interview with Director Pierre Morel

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Pierre Morel (Taken) is the director of "From Paris With Love," which stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers and John Travolta. The film is being released February 5 by Lionsgate.

Working with John Travolta

Pierre Morel on his actor, “When you see all the movies John has done in his career, you always see him change. He likes to play with his image. Wax is a larger-than-life, over-the-top, itchy trigger-finger agent and we had a lot of fun creating the character with him.”

When directing Travolta, Morel encouraged the actor to perform takes that varied widely, with an eye toward further shaping Wax’s character during the editing process. “What I tried to do, which is something we talked a lot about with John, was to have John play the scene in a very logical straight-forward way and then have him do it in a funny way, almost over-acted, and then a much darker way,” explains Morel. “By taking bits and pieces from one take to the other, in editing we were able to build the character, who is a guy you never really know what to think of – is he someone you can trust or not?”

Two Different Actors/Characters

According to Morel, the difference between the two characters was reflected in the actors themselves. “John is very American in his approach to acting – he likes to play with the character on set but it takes time and rehearsals to make it evolve. Jonathan, on the other hand, is very British in his approach. He works a lot beforehand, knows all his lines, so once he gets on set he knows precisely where to go. It’s not so far from the characters they play. Wax is the crazy guy who improvises all the time, while Reese is a very meticulous, do-everything-by-the-book type of guy

Taking advantage of the fact that Travolta and Rhys Meyers didn’t know each other before filming began, Morel arranged for the two actors to meet for the first time on camera.  “They didn’t know what to expect from each other,” explains Morel.  “So when their characters first meet in that French custom office, they are getting to know each other as actors too, and that was very helpful for the scene.”

Genre Hybridity: Action and Comedy

After directing Liam Neeson in the dark thriller, TAKEN, director Pierre Morel looked forward to combining action and comedy in FROM PARIS WITH LOVE. “cc

Morel’s balancing act with the film’s tone also extended to the action scenes themselves. He was careful to choreograph sequences that were less dark than those featured in TAKEN, while adding a subtle comic touch to the action. With this in mind, Morel sought to take advantage of Travolta’s skills as a dancer, featured most notably in his iconic performances in SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER and GREASE. “We choreographed all his fights and moves and stuff in a very swinging and dancing way,” the director says. “It really is more like choreography in the dance sense than fight choreography.”

Shooting in Paris


Born and bred in Paris, Morel had to consider how to shoot his native city in a manner that was appealing to foreigners, while remaining grounded in the gritty, every day reality of the story. “You’re always torn between making Paris look like a postcard and making it like Paris really is,” he admits. “In the beginning, we go to the Eiffel Tower and the nice parts of Paris and then, slowly but surely, we drift towards the edges, the places in Paris that people don’t want to see.”