The Losers Set Visit: Columbus Short

Columbus Short reteamed with Stomp the Yard director Sylvain White on The Losers and he also made an appearance in Warner Bros.’ comic adaptation Whiteout (which, at the time of the interview, was just about to hit theaters). Dressed in kevlar and a pair of batting gloves, Short is the first to admit that his depiction of Pooch is probably the biggest departure from the comic book; on the page, his Sergeant Linwood “Pooch” Porteous is a bit more out of shape than he will be in the film version.

Q: How are you liking Puerto Rico?

Columbus Short: I’ve got a little island fever right now.

Q: This looks like a super physical shoot. Can you talk about what you expected going in and what it really is?

Short: When you do an action movie, you’ve got to come prepared to do an action movie. I had no idea it was going to be this hot, and this is nothing compared to the jungle when we shot in El Yunque. Full gear, primary weapons, secondary weapons, backpacks and boots and then running uphill full speed 75 yards. It’s crazy. It’s been intense.

Q: Can you tell us a little about your character?

Short: I play Pooch, one of the Losers. Pooch is a family man. He has a wife back home, expecting a child. So when his mission goes awry, his basic motivation is to just to get home before his wife has the baby. You know, he’s kind of the heart of the group. The whole group is very witty, very cynical, very sarcastic in tone, so it’s fun.

Q: We were told it’s a really funny script.

Short: It is.

Q: Do you get a lot of jokes?

Short: I do. Me and Jason, the Chris Evans character, we get a lot of one-liners.

Q: Is a lot of the movie the group together?

Short: For the most part, from the beginning to the end, it’s pretty much the Losers together. There’s a lot of scenes of us just together having our natural banter, which plays wonderfully and it’s been great shooting with these guys because we had so much time to train and just get a natural chemistry. The camaraderie that I think rings true on camera.

Q: What’s going on in this shot we just saw?

Short: We tried to take this facility and we basically got caught. This is the scene where we’re basically getting lined up to get executed. And I get shot in both my legs, so yeah, pretty intense.

Q: I see the guards say “Cryons.” Is that like a single villainous force?

Short: Yeah, they’re like a military unit, highly trained operatives that are basically securing this facility that we’re trying to take down.

Q: Is there a significance to the batting gloves?

Short: Well yeah, we usually, most special forces and mercenaries, black ops, wear tactical gloves when they’re going in on a mission; keep their hands protected.

Q: Are you a comic book guy and did you get the series immediately when you got the part?

Short: I did, and it’s honestly one of the best comic book series to date of recent creation, because it just feels so real. What’s going to be so great about this movie is that, even though it’s based on a comic book, it’s not shot hyper-realistic. It’s actually shot very real and we play down the actual cheese that would come with a comic book picture and it’s very real, man. It feels like a “Bad Boys” or “Lethal Weapon” in tone and feel and the way that Sylvain [White] is shooting; very first person shooter or “Gears of War,” “Call of Duty,” so it’s going to be awesome.

Q: I know before everything got rolling, Jock, who did the comic, did a poster where he drew all of you guys in as the characters. Have you seen some of that and interacted with the guys who did the comic?

Short: I haven’t. All I’ve known of these guys is the comic they’ve written and the pictures they had illustrated of us. In the original comic, Pooch is a little more on the hefty side and a little older looking, so they gave him a little swag; a younger, better-looking Pooch.

Q: Was there anything from the comic you were able to take from Pooch?

Short: The wit. They wrote a very smart, witty graphic novel. I wanted to make sure it translated.

Q: Pooch is kind of the straight man, the heart and soul. Is that what you’ve had to play up, be the straight man of the group?

Short: Pooch is actually – I think he’s actually in the pantheon of the comedic roles in this film. I think it’s Jensen and then it’s Pooch. I think Jeffrey’s Clay and Aisha, they’re more straight in tone, a little darker. I think we lighten it up.

Q: Did you have to do a lot of training for the military stuff?

Short: We trained with Harry Humphries, who’s like a world-renowned special forces guy. We did the tactical training, which is great. I loved learning how to take apart a gun, learning how to take down a facility.

Q: Let’s talk about being in Puerto Rico. What can you do for fun here and what do you guys do as a group?

Short: Offset, we go out. We have drinks. We listen to music. We do the normal thing, but we’ve been working so many hours that it’s like, we have our weekends on Monday and Tuesday so we can’t do anything. The city is kind of asleep on Monday and Tuesday. We’re here on Saturday, we’re here today and Sunday. There’s not much to do when we’re off, but we go out.

Q: Have you tried mofongo yet?

Short: (Laughs) I haven’t. I’m trying to eat right, man. I can’t eat mofongo. I’ll definitely try it once before I leave.

Q: You worked with Sylvain White before. What was it like to come back a second time around and have that connection?

Short: Well, when we did “Stomp the Yard,” I said to him, “We’re going to do an action movie. This is the beginning, this is the birth of the relationship and we’re going to have a very long relationship.” This is great. It’s exactly what I envisioned for our next movie, to get together, to be shooting bad guys and blowing up helicopters and running through the jungle. It’s exactly what I wanted.

Q: There seems to be a lot of action in this movie. What is the most challenging action sequence?

Short: Hmm, there’s been a few. I would say, we took down a compound in the jungle and, you know, it’s like us versus 50 guys, so it was like pulling in a humvee, busting through gates and jumping out tactically, running through this compound and taking guys out. So there was a lot of choreography in it, to be on time and deliver your lines and weapons firing.

Q: Something like that, how long does it take to shoot?

Short: A week, just on one scene.

Q: Can you tell me a little bit about working with Zoe Saldana because you’re also doing “Death at a Funeral” with her.

Short: Yeah, we did that literally right before we came here. She’s like my sister. We had a real juxtaposition between this and “Death and a Funeral.” “Death” is a pure comedy, straight and funny and then this. I guess it was a good set-up for this movie for me, mainly, because you get in the comedy chops watching Martin Lawrence, Chris Rock, Tracy Morgan and then dialing it down and bringing it to a realer aspect for this movie helped tremendously. I think it helped Zoe as well.

Q: The Losers are a very tight knit group. What was the relationship like with the other actors?

Short: Me and Chris are like ebony and ivory. I swear we’re birthed from the same person. We’re all tight. This is my second movie with Idris [Elba]. Jeffrey [Dean Morgan] is great. Oscar [Jaenada] is wonderful. We immediately became all tight. The chemistry is out there. You see it on screen. You feel it. Hopefully this franchise continues. I’d love to do another one with these guys.

Q: When you sign on for a comic movie, there’s always the potential for a franchise; were you apprehensive to sign a multi-picture deal?

Short: I’ve always been apprehensive about doing comic books period. It wasn’t necessarily my road I wanted to take, but this has such a real feel to it if you’re going to do something that has such a quality filmic sense to it, this is the one to do. So I’d love to do five. These are wonderful. I think it will play great. I hope audiences enjoy it as much as I’m enjoying shooting it.

Q: What rating are you looking at?

Short: It’s rated PG-13. We only get two ‘f*ck’s.’ It’s funny, everyone has ad-libbed a ‘fuck’ and we’re like, “Who’s gonna have the best one?” We’ve even battled. “I don’t know, that was a pretty good f*ck. Oh no, I think I had a good one the other day.” It’s pretty funny. And I just said “f*ck” like nine times in this interview.

Q: How does that work with the level of violence? Are you shooting scenes that could go a little further?

Short: I don’t know. It’s so weird to call that. You can shoot a baby in the face, but you can’t say the F-word. And I mean, you can blast a dude away, but you can’t smoke a cigarette. The rules are very real so I don’t know.

Q: Are you trying to say that the ratings system is f*cked?

Short: (Laughs) Let’s title this interview that.

Q: How many times have you worked for Joel Silver?

Short: This is my second time. “Whitout” is coming out next week and this.

Q: At the “Whiteout” junket, Joel was talking about how you couldn’t be at the junket because you were filming this. How is he as a producer? Have you had a lot of interaction with him?

Short: I have. He’s great, man. I think we’re going to have a longstanding relationship. There are few guys in town that have had the career he’s had. He knows how to make these movies. These movies are what he does great. To have a boss like that, there are no greater hands in the game.

Q: You mentioned being concerned about doing comic films. After “Whiteout,” were you concerned taking this?

Short: That’s another thing, “Whiteout,” I didn’t even know it was a graphic novel. I just read the script and I was like, “Hey, this is great.” I signed on and they were like, “This is a graphic novel.” I had no idea. I’m not a huge graphic novel reader so I didn’t know. I definitely knew this was. Both of them, even “Whiteout,” it’s a real thriller. They just happen to be illustrated.

Q: Have you sort of come around to a new appreciation for comics?

Short: Absolutely.

Q: Are you going into comic book stores with a little less apprehension and looking at stuff?

Short: Absolutely. Because, when you think comic books, I was a little ignorant. Because you think it’s only DC and Marvel, Spider-Man and Batman. There’s some great, great graphic novels that have been done in the last five to ten years. That’s why I think you’re seeing more and more of them being made.

Q: Did you see “Watchmen” yet?

Short: Yes, I have. I love the sex scenes. Slow motion sex scenes. And the, like, floating things. That’s amazing. It’s a freaking sick movie. Jeffrey was great. My favorite character in the movie actually.

Q: It’s weird doing “Whiteout” all in the snow and then coming to Puerto Rico? Will you do a movie in space next?

Short: (Laughs) Space is the next venture. The next frontier for me has to be space. And then we’re going under the sea.

Q: Do you have a dream role, something you’ve always wanted to play?

Short: Yeah, in my perfect world I’d want to at some point play Martin Luther King. Do the real version. Spielberg is, I think, working on that as we speak and I’d love to really sink my teeth into that. Or to play Tupac. I really want to do something with credibility. I’d really love to switch between both worlds.

Q: I saw the British version of “Death at a Funeral.” How does your version compare?

Short: Just as smart. It’s just as witty. It’s borderline the same movie with what each of the cast members bring to make it their own. You know what Chris Rock does. You know what Martin Lawrence does. You know what Tracy Morgan does. He’s amazing. Danny Glover’s amazing. Luke Wilson is hilarious, Zoe’s fantastic. James Marsden is, I think by far – James Marsden is gonna steal this movie. He is hilarious. You know, I think it’s funny. I think it might be funnier. Just because everyone was alive. Every day everyone was doing improv. It was non-stop laughter every day.

Q: That’s a huge cast. As you’re preparing for that, are you thinking, “Man I’ve got to raise my game”?

Short: Of course, absolutely. All of my scenes are just with Martin, Chris and Tracy. I’m going, “Wow, I’m with the comedic titans. I have to raise my game.” That challenge, I feel like I rose to the occasion there, prepared me for this movie.

Q: Did you get them to break at all from anything you said?

Short: Oh yes I did, man. It was great. You guys will see in the outtakes. Great times.

Q: Are you already thinking about what you’re doing next?

Short: I am thinking about what I’m doing next. I’m going to rest after this. I’ve been going so hard for the past nine months. So I’m going to rest until the end of the year, let “Armored” come out in December and then kind of see what I’m up to after that.

Q: What was it like working on “Armored”?

Short: “Armored’s” great. The movie I’m most proud of to date. Working with Laurence Fishburne, Jean Reno, Matt Dillon, Skeet Ulrich, those guys. It was just fantastic and it’s my first lean role since “Stomp the Yard,” so to have a supporting cast like those guys is just a dream come true.

Q: That’s a pretty big action film too. How did that help you for this or did it prepare you?

Short: It did. That movie is more of a simple piece with complex emotions in these characters, so it’s not a lot of stuff blowing up all over the place. There is action but it’s more of a suspense action thriller, you know what I mean? It’s a completely different tone, there’s no laughter. We’re not cracking any jokes. It’s hardcore in the vein of “Heat,” in the vein of, you know, “Ali,” that type of movie.

Q: Your director on that is doing “Predators.”

Short: Nimrod [Antal] is a genius.

Q: Are you trying to pitch yourself?

Short: Absolutely not. I don’t want to do “Predators.” But Nimrod is fantastic and he has a huge future ahead of him. Like this guy. I think if I could work with the three guys in the game for the rest of my career it would be Sylvain White, Nimrod Antal and Len Wiseman. Those are my guys.

Q: Sylvain has “Ronin” lined up. Have you been checking that out and pitching yourself for that one?

Short: I’ve been just checking “Losers” out, man. I’m just in the moment, in the present, getting this movie done. It’s gonna be great.

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Source: Silas Lesnick