Joe Carnahan Talks Killing Pablo and Continue, Described as ‘Groundhog Day as an Action Movie’
“Smokin’” Joe Carnahan (Narc, Smokin' Aces, The A-Team) has endured his fair share of ill-fated projects and setbacks, but his passion project Killing Pablo remains a priority. And while the fate of White Jazz remains opaque, Carnahan shared optimism for his long-gestating Pablo Escobar biopic while promoting his existential survival pic The Grey last weekend in Los Angeles. If all goes well and the Liam Neeson-led The Grey takes off upon release later this month, he says he hopes to make Pablo his next project.
The characteristically candid Carnahan, who recently dropped out of the director's chair on Umbra, expressed hope that a successful debut for The Grey will allow him to finally bring Killing Pablo to the screen after years of research. “I feel like Pablo’s the undernourished orphan that I’ve been looking after for years,” he said. “I’ve got to get this kid a meal. Yes, [Killing Pablo] would be, in a perfect world, the film that I’d want to make next. I still think it’s the best script I’ve written and I see these other kinds of things ramping up, and I just can’t get beat by these other movies.”
Adapted from Mark Bowden’s book of the same name, Killing Pablo chronicles the efforts of the United States and Colombian governments to wage war against drug lord Escobar, who was killed by Colombian forces in 1993. Escobar’s legend, and a lingering fascination with his death, kept Carnahan fixated on making the film even through years of development hell that saw his creative struggle mirrored on HBO’s Entourage.
“As much as The Grey is about attrition and going out and earning it, you know, I’ve been to Colombia three times, Medellin and Bogotá, I’ve done all this research,” Carnahan said. “I think what kind of crystallized it for me is I went to Los Olivos where he was killed, in Medellin, which is kind of a very modest middle-class neighborhood, and I was interviewing this 78-year-old man through an interpreter.”
“I was talking to him, because Pablo was killed December 2, 1993,” he continued. “I said to him, ‘Can you tell me about that day?’ Because I’d gone up on the roof where he was killed and it was very undramatic, where he wound up dying; it was like a terra cotta box that he died in. And the guy said to me, and I’ll never forget this: ‘The day it happened I thought it was an early winter thunderstorm,’ because the level of gunfire was so constant he could not discern individual shots. And I thought, ‘Fuck me, I’ve got to make this movie.’”
As for Carnahan’s career, which has traversed a range of projects from the modest, well-received Narc to the high-octane Smokin’ Aces, the big-budgeted A-Team, the cop drama Pride and Glory (which he co-wrote) and the sci-fi pic The Fourth Kind (which he produced), he sees no need to take a turn for the serious, necessarily, despite the philosophical and even metaphysical themes in the otherwise action-oriented The Grey. Doing the mainstream studio flick, The A-Team, for example, allowed Carnahan to scratch a certain itch while giving him the platform to make more personal films like The Grey, which he’s called his best film to date.
“I realized, especially after A-Team, ‘Wait a minute -- am I being viewed as a schmuck?’” he recalled. “Because my reasons for doing A-Team… there were a number of reasons, not the least was which I couldn’t make this or White Jazz or Killing Pablo. I couldn’t make those movies. And after Mission Impossible III, which again I left before I was fired, I had unfinished business. With The A-Team it was like, ‘Alright I’m going to do a big popcorn movie and see how that feels.’”
If all goes well Pablo might finally come to fruition, but in the meantime Carnahan’s currently at work on a project at Fox called Continue, which the filmmaker describes as “Groundhog Day as an action movie.”
“As much as I love Antonioni films, I love the Three Stooges,” he explained. “I think [Continue] is funny as shit. It’s completely, from DNA to bone structure, different from The Grey but that doesn’t mean it’s something I wouldn’t do because now [I’ve] got to make serious films. I think I made this film to kind of prove to myself and whatever people are going to hire me in the future and the public at large that there’s a lot of different things I can do. If I can do a romantic comedy with women, that’s Everest to me.”
The Grey is in theaters January 27.