Unstoppable: Interview with director Tony Scott

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Tony Scott is the director of "Unstoppable," about a runaway train carrying a cargo of toxic chemicals. The film, which stars Denzel Washington and Chris Pine, is being released by Twentieth Century Fox on November 12.

His toughest project yet


“It’s a movie that starts out at fifty miles an hour and ends up at 150 mph; it’s speed-on-speed,” says Scott, who admits UNSTOPPABLE was the toughest project, mentally and physically, he’s undertaken.   But Scott is referring to more than the logistical challenges of filming aboard a vehicle hurtling down a railroad track at 50 miles per hour or the film’s heart-stopping stunt sequences. Sitting in the same 6 x 9 foot space aboard the blue and yellow 1206 for most of the film brought its own set of obstacles and keeping the characters interesting inside that box was one of the most daunting tasks for the director.  “This was the most challenging and brilliant adventure I’ve ever encountered because I had to tell a character story inside something going very, very fast,” says Scott. “It’s always about the performances – how I look at these two characters in a way I haven’t done before and be honest to who they are.”


“The real challenge with UNSTOPPABLE was capturing the character evolutions of Frank [Denzel Washington] and Will [Chris Pine], who are undertaking this monumental journey trying to stop this runaway train,” says the director.  “But first, they must come to terms with one another and resolve their differences.” 


The best page-turner he's ever read


Screenwriter Mark Bomback worked on the script on and off for two years before Tony Scott came aboard.  The director says it was the first, and likely the only time, in his career when a studio took on his first draft with no notes before beginning to assemble their cast and crew. “Mark’s script was the best page-turner I’ve ever read,” says Scott.  “I flew through it.  The characters became stronger as the story unfolded and the action took care of itself; it has a forward momentum and it never lets up.”


Working with Denzel for a fifth time


Scott turned once again to his muse, Academy Award winner Denzel Washington, to headline his small but select cast.  UNSTOPPABLE is their fifth collaboration, following “Crimson Tide,” “Man on Fire,” “Déjà Vu” and “The Taking of Pelham 123.”  Says Scott of Washington: “In every movie Denzel and I have done together, he’s always tapped into a different aspect of his personality.  “Within each of us, and at a given point in our lives, are different personalities, and Denzel is brilliant in tapping into the personality right for a given project.”


Shooting real trains


“I was lucky to have all those toys to be able to shoot in as real a situation as possible,” says Scott.  “We also had plenty of helicopters in many scenes, two of which had cameras filming all the time.  Shooting on the actual train helps the audience to sense what it’s like for the characters out in the real elements.  You can’t get that kind of energy shooting on a stage.”


“We call [the train] ‘The Beast Triple-7,” he says. “It has a voice.  It’s like the shark in ‘Jaws’ or the car in [Stephen King’s tale of a haunted vehicle that terrorizes a community] ‘Christine’.  We created a voice for The Beast in post-production.”


Scott concludes, “I think this is a movie where you start out sitting in the back of your seat, and very soon you’re at the edge of your seat.  UNSTOPPABLE has a momentum that never lets you go.”